Sunday, 16 June 2013

Back to the wild

So, you may be pleased to know that I have finally emerged from a lengthy period of hibernation in my darkened room (see Another week, another skirt...).*

However, on discovering the 49-step pattern for this slouch top I almost retreated back inside it. I say 'almost', because after a stern talking to myself in the mirror (yes, that's how I roll) I resolved to complete the project. This would be my sewing Everest.**

It being summer (well, supposedly), I decided an injection of colour and playfulness was required. This zebra print fabric certainly did the job, and was inspired (in no small part) by the kooky new Basement Jaxx tune, Back 2 The Wild. If a psychedelic mash-up of a cartoon jungle with scary animal dancing and eye-watering 80s graphics is your thing, then go wild for this.

(Viewers of a nervous disposition are advised to move swiftly on.)

Sadly, this is where the fun ended. Not even a woman with a flowerbed on her head doing the robot dance could save me from this one.

1. Central to this project's woes was a lack of any 'proper' pattern. Now, I'm aware that I have championed the creative process of 'trial and error' in a previous post; on reflection, however, I may have been a tad hasty... 

The slouch top is constructed around the premise that existing garments can be traced to make new ones. On paper, this looks to be a cracking idea. In practice, it resulted in arm-holes flailing helplessly down past my waist.

2. This tracing (once corrected) was to be used to make identical front and back pieces. It was at this point, during the customary 'cutting-out', that I encountered my second glitch (regular readers will notice a recurring theme here; scissors are NOT my friend). Suffice to say my pieces were far from 'identical'.

3. All this culminated in a somewhat futile attempt to sew together four mismatched cuts of fabric; the end product not too dissimilar to an over-sized, wonky curtain.

Despite such epic set-backs, however, I'm comforted by messages of support from seasoned bloggers who assure me that the only way is up. I shall cling on (by the proverbial thread, of course) to this hope. 


*Very cosy it was too.

**Now that I've reached the summit, and completed the 49th step, I'm able to jovially shrug off any stitching misadventure. At step 7, though, I was not quite as smiley.

Friday, 31 May 2013

'DIY Couture' by Rosie Martin - the dressmaker's holy grail

A little something for fellow sewing newbies (you're welcome).

Dubbed the "antidote to fast fashion", Rosie Martin's DIY Couture marks a revolution in amateur dressmaking. Complex patterns and mind-numbing number crunching are ditched in favour of creativity and self-expression.*

With eight 'collections' to choose from, this book's genius is in its versatility. Wardrobe staples can be "endlessly reinvented" to suit personal style and shape. Go back to the 60s with a vintage dress from the american road trip collection, or give your romper a preppy update in the tea picnic collection.**

The easy-to-follow instructions assume no previous knowledge, making every project inviting and accessible. Experimentation is encouraged throughout, with free-hand drawing readily used as a tool for garment construction. 

DIY Couture is as much about the process as the end-product, indulging the inner-designer in every one of us.


*Yes, sewing CAN be 'fun'. Stranger things HAVE happened (although, admittedly, I fail to think of any just now...).

**My favourite has to be the 'jungle punk' collection. The crazy prints and funky colour scheme are SOMETHING ELSE.  

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Another week, another skirt...

You'd have thought I might have learned from the mistakes of the last sewing debacle, and chosen to make something (anything) other than a skirt. Alas, no. My logic being that I had, at least, some foundation in skirt-making on which to build.*

This half-hour pattern (cough) is taken from Geneva's wonderful blog, a pair & a spare (please check it out at It has a more sophisticated cut than the previous make, due to the simple waistband (no elastic!) and circular hem. However, with sophistication comes headaches. This project certainly gave me a few...

1. I'm beginning to understand that the 'simple' task of cutting out is never quite as it seems. Unlike the good ol' school days where cutting out was a carefree and joyous affair, in dressmaking it is a SERIOUS BUSINESS. If the cut is even marginally inaccurate, you will inevitably end up wearing a bin-bag (and that's if you're lucky). There must be few shapes harder to cut out of flimsy fabric than a circle... I was going for the 'ring-doughnut' look, but instead produced a four-leaf clover.

2. This led to my second problem. Rounding the clover shape off meant cutting further inland (i.e. my skirt was beginning to look worryingly short).

3. Now, there comes a moment in every sewing venture (for me anyway...) where you reach BREAKING POINT. Like a bolt from the sky, you are suddenly hit with the realisation that everything you have done is wrong, and there is just NO. GOING. BACK. Well, this was my POINT. Not only had the 'skirt' become a belt, but the waist was too big. So big, that three (much shorter versions) of me could fit inside it.

I took a deep breath. 

It dawned on me that, against all odds, this could yet be salvaged. Some revised measurements and a couple of cheeky pleats later, I had made THE SKIRT. I even managed to sew in my first zip (something I'm particularly chuffed about!).

Phew. Don't be expecting another skirt for a while folks. I'm off for a long lie down in a very dark room...

*Albeit considerably rocky, and prone to collapse at any moment. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

FUNKARRIFIC new trousers!! :-D

Some serious leg decoration...


I purchased them from fabulous high street behemoth, Topshop. I didn't initially plan to feature shop-bought clothes on here, as I'm attempting to ease my way into (and show support for) the home-made underworld. However, I realise that supporting independent sewists does not necessarily mean opposing The High Street. Both can live happily side-by-side. In fact, they can take inspiration from each other... These funkarrific trousers (yes, that is the only word to describe them) have definitely inspired my next project. They are JUST. TOO. COOL. I'm thinking lots of bright colours and bold patterns to get into the summer vibe!*

*Some crazy zebra print fabric soon to be delivered. Watch this space...!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A somewhat eventful introduction to sewing...

There is a common saying; if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Well, the pattern for this one hour seventeen hour skirt was most definitely a case in point. I could, quite easily, fill an essay with the problems I encountered. However, this being a 'blog', I decided a list would be more user-friendly (it also saves me the work!).

1. Ok, the first thing I had to do was cut out two identical rectangles of fabric in accordance with my measurements... 'Simples!' I hear you say. No. Sadly, not. 

The issue was with the scissors (I know - a bad work woman always blames her tools, but these scissors were seriously odd). Despite my best efforts, they refused to cut in a straight line. Instead, they veered to the left. It was a while before I realised that the blades were curved. Their stubborn determination to cut in a circle was, therefore, no surprise. If someone can explain to me why this is, I would be eternally grateful!

2. Armed with both wavy-edged rectangles, I proceeded to sew the side-seams of my skirt. Now, of all the seams in the world, this pattern required french seams (apparently renowned for being incredibly small and discreet). Needless to say, my seams fell a fair way short of this brief. 

3. I went on to sew the hem, pausing intermittently to indulge in the moreish morsels that are Ritz crackers*. At this point, things seemed to be going swimmingly (always a dangerous sign...). That is, until, ELASTIC WAISTBAND-GATE. Do not be deceived; threading a length of elastic through a waistband casing is surely one of the most frustrating tasks known to man. The images were too distressing to show.

So, there you have it. A decidedly shaky first step into sewing. I had hoped that if all else failed (and a lot did), I would at least be able to take a decent photo of me wearing the skirt. As you can see, I look like I'm praying... I'm not (I just mistimed the self-time feature on the camera), but in effect a miracle did occur; I managed to create a wearable item of clothing. The fact that it reminds me of a toilet roll cover is irrelevant.

* Other scrumptious savoury snacks are available. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The sewing machine has arrived!

My Janome J3-24 in all its glory

So, this is it - my first sewing machine! Just waiting on some fabric and other essential bits, and then I can start playing!!