Author Archives: Debbie

This Post is About Last Year

Bye 2015

Hello! It’s a year since my last post and my third New Year post. Reading my last, it was never my intention for the gap to be so long but hey, life happens *shrugs*. However, I really, really do want to make a go of blogging and sewing so 2016 will be the decider. If I don’t make something of this I’ll close the blog. Easy enough as no one is reading it right now anyway..!

12 months ago I was excited about travel plans and sewing… my job was made redundant in March and although this wasn’t bad news to me (there a long while and time to move on) it prompted one of those long view, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life-type-periods. I still want to travel and weighing up a holiday vs. working aboard later this year but right now – still kind of undecided. I hate not having an answer but for now ‘I don’t know’ it is. Anyway, on with the sewing… there’s something about Christmas – the chunk of time off work and being home makes for my most productive sewing time of the year. For 2015 I made my family their Christmas presents – a nightdress for my Mum and pyjama bottoms for Dad and brother using these two patterns:

Sewing Patterns

They loved their presents and were impressed with my ‘Sew Seeds’ label and ‘Handmade by Debbie’ stamped gift tags. I really enjoyed doing it for them. I started planning in October, buying the patterns early in a sale and the brushed/flannel cotton from Goldhawk Road. That said, gifts were finished and received on New Year’s Eve! Not much to say about the patterns – instructions clear and easy to follow. For the pjs I did increased the length by 5cm and lowered the buttonholes for the waist tie by 1cm so that the waist band was a little wider.

Although I didn’t stick to it in 2015, I think the sewing 1 garment per month is still reasonable and something I will hopefully fulfil this year. I didn’t sew a great deal in 2015 but my outstanding make has to be my first Colette Moneta dress, I wear it about once a week, sometimes with a white shirt underneath like in these pictures. It is easy to wash and wear – no ironing required. The fabric I bought (about £2 a metre I think..) is from a shop in Walthamstow.

moneta dress 1

moneta dress 1b

This dress represents a few firsts for me: use of a twin needle, sewing with jersey fabric, use of clear elastic and overlocker. I love this dress for all of these things. I’ve got a lovely cherry red jersey ready to make my second and I’ll show you this soon.

As mentioned earlier I want to blog more and this goes hand in hand with the habit of regular sewing. I’ve procrastinated a lot on sharing this blog and commenting on the many other sewing blogs I read in case someone searches for this and is disappointed. I knoowww. Nonsense thinking. Not keen on posting pics of myself but a good sewing blog requires it so.. annnnddd more blogging eliminates these annual introspective, explanatory, sorry posts. Hurrah!!

Plans for 2016? I’ve started this year thinking about my work wardrobe, personal style and reducing my stash of fabric. I received Chinelo Bally’s book for Christmas #thanksbro and looking forward to using it once I’ve got a few other makes done. I intentionally avoided the post-Christmas sales as I wanted to sew new clothes instead (on Boxing Day my brother and I saw Star Wars in an almost empty cinema – nice). In case you don’t know Chinelo, she was a runner up on the second series of The Great British Sewing Bee. She sews without using a pattern, just using a person’s measurements. This is a technique common in places like Nigeria where Chinelo is from and the Caribbean (where my parents are from).

Just to close off 2015, I’ll tell you about my favourite film of the year and recent visit to the Fashion and Textiles Museum.

Dior and I

dior and i

source: diorandimovie.com

This was a film I really enjoyed. I love watching programmes on what goes on behind-the-scenes of fashion houses. The skill of the ateliers and how designs are turned into wearable clothing is just so interesting. This documentary follows the new head designer at Christian Dior, Raf Simons and his development of the new Spring/Summer collection in 2012. The tension between the treadmill of profit making vs. the time for creativity thinking and exploration is clear to see. I liked how Raf involved the team in generating ideas and he doesn’t sketch – gasp! He is a quiet, calm and introverted man that appreciates working with his team. The interactions between the staff, particularly in the atelier were some of my favourite parts. He visits Christian Dior’s house, the archives and modern art for inspiration. When the time comes the set for the long anticipated catwalk show is stunning, rooms full of thousands and thousands of fresh flowers (so beautiful but wow the expense and what happened to them after…!??) The clothes were lovely but it’s the other parts of the film that are more memorable for me (I saw the film in May). Anyway, a good film to watch if this kind of thing interests you.

The other notable sewing related film out was The Dressmaker starring Kate Winslet, which I’ll see once out on DVD.

Liberty in Fashion Exhibition

Source: Fashion and Textiles Museum

Source: Fashion and Textiles Museum

A couple of days before the New Year I went to the Liberty in Fashion exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in Bedmonsey. Liberty is celebrating its 140th anniversary and this exhibition provides a snapshot of its history in British fashion e.g. creating trends and collaborations with some wonderful designers. I knew of Liberty of London of course, the iconic store on Regent Street before I took up sewing and had a mild awareness of its mumsy, famous fabrics. However not until I saw the work of Emma Mawston, Head Designer and her team on the Channel 4 series about the store and this video and this on Youtube, did I develop a new appreciation for the fabrics and its heritage. I could write about how it all got started in 1875 but a couple of recent blog posts have already done so e.g. Fabrickated so won’t here.
I went to the exhibition on a Wednesday as a free guided tour is provide by one of the museum’s team. This made it much more enjoyable. This made me think of Downton Abbey, having watched the Christmas special the week before (so happy for Edith!):

ftm1

I love the detail on the sleeves.

This collection of Liberty dresses are from the 1950-70s:

1950-70

Below is a close up of my favourite, hidden in the above pic:

diamante dress

It’s silk with diamante trim and made in the late 1950s.

A lot of the dresses were on loan from Cleo and Mark Butterfield, this couple have been buying vintage dresses and accessories for many years and hire them out to the TV/film industry. Way before vintage clothing was big with the masses.

smocks

These smocks from 1910 represent a detail that Liberty made fashionable. Smocks were originally worn by men working in rural parts of England e.g. shepherds. Made of linen, the smocking across the chest made the shirt long lasting as well as stretchy. It amused me a little to imagine such a class indicator at the time years later was a fashionable detail applied pretty outfits for women and children. Inspiration, swings and roundabouts eh?

My favourite dress, one that I think I would most like to make myself, is this lovely 1970s cotton dress made by Marion Donaldson, a young designer at the time from Glasgow:

liberty glasgow dress

liberty glasgow dress 2

The ticket price is £9 which I think is a bit steep but I appreciate the view on contemporary fashion history this museum provides. For me, the guided talk really added to my enjoyment and so my recommendation to see it but go on a Wednesday or Friday afternoon and hear the talk too. The exhibition is on until 28th February 2016.

That’s a wrap 2015. Here’s to an exciting and surprising 2016. Bye for now…!

Happy New Year 2016

Happy New Year!

2015

 

I hope you had a good Christmas and New Year? Mine was very much about family time, there’s not many of us and all in London so it was a relaxed and easy time together.

I won’t review items sewn in 2014 as I sort of did that in the post before last. Suffice to say garments completed were few: 3 dresses, 1 skirt and 2 cushion covers for my brother. I’ve 3 unfinished pieces: 2 dresses and new lining for my black RTW coat. The old lining was removed back in the Summer and so I’ve worn my very warm wool green coat instead even when the weather hasn’t been chilly as its my only other coat. Result = boiling tube journeys. 2014 was an up and down year and I won’t miss it but by the grace of God I’ve made it to 2015 which means He has things for me to do! This year will be exciting as I take a 6 month sabbatical and do a bit of travelling.

Sewing is frustrating at times – I get really excited by patterns and fabric and then annoyed with myself when I can’t sew as fast as I’d like. When I make haste avoidable mistakes are made or I get stuck on fitting issues I want to ignore (but can’t) so I can hurry up and finish the thing and wear it. Like, now! This attitude surprised me as I’m not impatient like this in other areas of my life. When I think of when I last spent significant time on creative activities i.e. my childhood I was so patient at it – drawing, making notebooks etc. I used to do beadweaving afterall – that took ages.

Sewing goals for 2015? Naaahh, well, maybe one..no two.. hand made presents for family and friends (for me this requires lots of planning and was lacking in 2014) and to sew one complete wearable garment each month, excluding the periods when I’m away – Ha! Cheat I hear you cry :-)

Here’s to a fun filled 2015 with lots of learning, personal growth and adventures. God bless!

Bernina, Bernina

Last month I had some time off work and decided to go shopping in Kingston with my Mum. My first shopping trip there was last year to seek out Fabricland – the website for this fabric shop is a bit wacky. Thankfully not reflected in real life but I didn’t buy any fabric this time (I’ve enough already!).

Anyhow, look what I found in a charity shop:

bernina

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was so excited and surprised to find it. It came with a bag containing the original manual, spare bobbins and 7 feet! 7!

bernina_feet

Now a Bernina isn’t a light machine so I paused for a few seconds to think about how to get this beauty home since we’d travelled by train but with not very encouragement needed from my Mum I decided it was too good to leave behind.

The sales assistant kindly provided a large Ikea bag to put it in. Reader, it was heavy but I found a comfortable enough place on my shoulder to carry it home. Mum offered to help a few times bless her, but she’s retired, so no.

There was. One. Crucial. Thing I had forgotten to do – test it! My heart sank a little when once home and plugged in the machine didn’t work. Poo. However I knew the Battersea Sewing Centre (BSC) could take a look and probably fix it. In the meantime I gave the sewing machine and all the feet and other stuff that it came with a thorough clean and searched online for any info about this particular Bernina. All that I found was its a model from the 1990s and no longer made in Switzerland.

The next weekend I bubbled wrapped and placed in a suitcase the Bernina and off I went to south London. Two working days later BSC called to say the circuit board was the problem and could be replaced. Hurrah! I now have a working machine which reminds me of the textile lessons I had in secondary school. It sews really well and I look forward to making my first handmade item with it.

Knitting and Stitching Show 2014

Someone told me the Knitting and Stitching Show in October is the ‘big one’. To say I was looking forward to it is an understatement. I’m glad I bought my tickets early and didn’t hold out for a potential discount code or Groupon offer for Saturday because it sold out!

I can’t remember if I’ve been to Alexandra Palace or the Ally Pally in north London before. Possibly on a school trip but what an amazing view over London. I don’t have pics – sorry! I’ve not got used to carrying a camera to take pics for this blog. Use your phone I hear you say – its a quite old BlackBerry. Oh. Yes indeed. What I do have is a pic of what I bought:

knit_stitch_14
The colourful fabric on the left is stretch cotton sateen and lovely to touch. I’ve since seen it for sale in John Lewis for £18.50 per metre. I DID NOT PAY THAT MUCH. The blue fabric is a type of cotton linen (I think) and is embroidered with little sailing boats. I hope to make a blouse/shirt with it. A couple of Sew Over It patterns and a Vogue pattern I can remove from my Amazon wish-list, bought for £4 at the show – yay! Finally the tartan is cotton, like the brushed sort but I think too thick for PJs or a shirt, maybe another Megan dress but the idea of matching up plaid correctly is putting me off.

I went to the show with my Mum and we really enjoyed ourselves. She also bought some fabric and stopped for a head and shoulder massage there too. It was very busy – lots of people and lots to see. I would definitely like to go next year.

Restart

I’ve not posted for many months as studies or the guilt of not studying and sewing instead became too much. It has been a trying year and at times I questioned whether spending many hours indoors sewing was the best idea for a new hobby. This was back in the Spring after the Saturday pattern making classes had finished. Classes that I had concluded was not efficient sewing time because I enjoyed the social side of discussing where to buy fabric and the Great British Sewing Bee too much and not getting enough done in class!

tilly_birthdaygift

Anyhow, sewing came to a stop in May after an intense Bank Holiday weekend desperately trying to finish to making a Megan dress from Tilly’s newly published book ‘Love at First Stitch’. This was a lovely birthday present from work colleagues and I was using fabric given to me at work also some years ago. I really, really wanted to finish it to show my appreciation for the kind gifts. I had half inserted the invisible zip (200 metres to go, finish line in sight…) then a check in the mirror wearing the dress showed there was just too much excess fabric below the waist. I pinned and tacked the sides to be taken in and stopped right there. This month I finished it.

Between Christmas and April I sewed two dresses – By Hand London’s Anna and Colette’s Hazel dress (sorry about the pics, there’s not been a good time to go outside and take pics wearing these. I’ll replace in time).

anna_hazel

The Anna dress (left) was an easy sew and I really like the bodice. The fabric is viscose (I think!?) and cost £4 per metre in a shop in Walthamstow market. This fabric was tricky! At first the zip bent away from my back, giving me a hump so I unpicked  and reinserted the zip but taking in the excess fabric either side. I don’t know why that happened, could the fabric have stretched that much? Well, it worked and I wore it the next week to Easter/Resurrection Sunday service.

The Hazel dress (right) was much more straight forward, made using African print/Dutch Wax fabric bought in Petticoat Lane market a few years ago. Unfortunately I ruined it by over enthusiastically trimming the waist seams with pinking shears…

hole_hazel

Eek! I carried out emergency first aid with some interfacing and a patch of fabric. This seemed an OK fix until I wore it to work and it fell off. Yep, my cardie stayed on for the rest of the day. I’ve not  worn it again but it is my first ever handmade dress so I still love it.

This post is long so just to tie things up in case you’re wondering what happened with my 2014 sewing goals and the pattern-making classes…yeah..er..well…

1. Participate in a sew-along. Not happened and not sure it will before the end of the year. If you know of any coming up let me know!

2. Sew gifts for friends and family. Again, nothing to see here. I’ve just not had the time or motivation.

3. Make clothes to wear regularly and buy less RTW stuff. Nope to the first and yes to the second. Having a sewing machine, patterns and fabric and ‘technically able to sew anything’ I’ve shopped for clothes a lot less this year. For my short holiday in Dublin I only bought a maxi dress (I’d like to copy) to wear and just wore good stuff I already owned.

Pattern-making class – I got as far as cutting sleeves, skirt and bodice to make a dress but had trouble with fit because I changed my mind about the style of the skirt late and became too scatty about it all i.e. completing my homework late on Friday night or early Saturday morn before class frazzled my nerves. The pieces are in a bag waiting for my return.  What I liked about the class was learning how to use a block to make a bodice to fit my (or someone else’s) measurements. What I liked the least and reflects my skill level at the time was the little structure to the course. It was more like a workshop with the tutor on hand if students got stuck rather than stage by stage teaching in garment construction. All of us were making different things at the same time. Since then I’ve made a few things and I think I’ll appreciate this way of learning more if I sign up for classes next year (will finish dress first). Back in January I wouldn’t cut any fabric without first understanding thoroughly how to make whatever it was from start to finish. Now I’m more relaxed and OK with figuring it out as I go.

I’m really enjoying getting back into sewing and writing this blog. Well, that’s enough from me!

First Skirt Complete!

blanketskirt_1I’ve finished my first skirt on Saturday – YIPPPEEE! It’s taken weeks to turn what seemed like masses of fabric into this cute skirt.

To create it I followed the instructions on Tilly and the Buttons’ blog on how to make a blanket skirt. I searched online for guidance on how to line it but only found one mention of sewing the lining and skirt fabric together when adding gathering stitiches. So I cut the front and back skirt pieces out in the lining fabric. I say lining fabric but it was a pink polyester fabric bought for £2 per metre in Ridley Road, not the usual thin lining stuff.

When I had made up the gathers and pinned to the waistband the skirt was massive! Fullness of the skirt plus fullness of the lining made for quite a bulky skirt. It didn’t look nice.

So I cut out the lining as close to the seams as possible without disturbing the gathering stitches. As the side seams were already done I couldn’t cut the lining without unpicking the skirt. I really didn’t want to do this. I wanted to finish my skirt! As you can see:

blanketskirt_5Trimmed as close as possible to the stitching.

This does affect how the skirt hangs, sticking out at the sides, giving it a slight trapezium shaping (that’s an a-line skirt right?). I can live with that (and the small guilt of a job less than perfectly done), this is the first skirt I’ve ever made afterall!

Without the lining the skirt looked better but still too bulky so I chopped a lot off the bottom. Then I was happy.

I sewed buttonholes on my machine for the first time and it was easy! Only glitch was lots of looping (is there a technical term for this?) at the back but re-threading the bobbin and top thread fixed this.

Once done and twirling round in front of the mirror I see the checks don’t match. That the pattern doesn’t flow all the way round the skirt. Grrr! I hadn’t thought about this at all but far too late to fix. I can imagine what Patrick Grant would say.

blanketskirt_3

blanketskirt_4 If its possible to line a gathered skirt let me know!?

The fabric is cotton, bought in Paris while on holiday there in September. I spent ages in the shop, unable to decide which colour to buy, I’m glad I went with this red-pink one.

What did I learn?

Made a placket and used the buttonhole foot for the first time
Made a gathered skirt that I can wear (yippee!). Although experienced sewists will spot the mismatch.
Next time match pattern fabric precisely for a more professional finish and maybe lower the waist, it’s higher than what I would usually wear and I kinda look wide in it.

It’s my first completed garment so I will always love it but the imperfections are niggling me. I love to buy skirts that fit really well and made from nice fabric so this is the first of many I hope. I will make this skirt again improving on this first version.

Enjoy your weekend!

Pattern Cutting Class: Week 4

Bethnal_Green

It’s the penultimate week of my my course! One more Saturday morning sewing session left. Eeek! How much have I done? Not enough that’s what! Above you can see my African print cotton – mustard yellow, red curved lines and cherry pink swirls. It is a lovely pattern and (I hope) turn into a lovely dress for me to wear. Yep, I’ve opted for something that’ll stretch my skills i.e. sewing sleeves and using an overlocker for the first time. So far I’ve made the bodice and sleeves (to be attached) out of calico so I can test the fit. I want to attach a gathered skirt to the bodice but having done this before I won’t make a test piece in calico. The bodice fits really well. How exciting to make something completely from my measurements and it fits!?!

My thoughts about the course are mixed. I would have liked to spend more time on creating blocks but the  goal is to have a finished garment by the end of the course therefore more time is spent on construction than understanding blocks. I feel like I don’t know what I don’t know. Pivoting blocks to add darts in the correct place still confuses me. I think I’ll have to buy the recommended course book: Metric Pattern Cutting for Womens Wear by Winifred Aldrich to learn more.

What’s really nice is seeing what the students that started last term  are making and get their advice. The class gives you freedom to make whatever you like and get support from the tutor and class mates along the way. Knowing how to use a sewing machine or have an idea how one works is needed this course so not for absolute beginners.

Did you notice in the pic that the sewing machine is a Bernina? Threading this beauty felt so familar I must have used one similar when I was a school.

The class takes place upstairs in Bethnal Green Library and its a lovely bright space with large tables, surrounded by thick reference books and dark wooden furniture. I could work in there all day.

There’s a possibility of the class running again soon after half-term and although I didn’t learn a lot about blocks the dedicated time to sew on a Saturday morning is under serious consideration.

My plan is to work on the dress during the week so I’ll have minimal to do in the final class and think about when I’ll wear it for the first time *squeal*. Sorry, I am new to sewing and it delights me so.

 

Artist Textiles Exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum

Southwark-3

At the end of last year Channel 4 showed a short fly-on-the-wall documentary series about Liberty – the high end luxury store established in the West End of London since 1875. The series gave an insight to its staff and preparations for Christmas. For me, the most interesting part by far was how the in-house design team (see a short clip) create the beautiful printed cottons and silks that Liberty is  famous for. Did you know that every employee at Liberty gets to have a print named after them? What a perk! *swoon* I’d love to have a print named after me.

Watching the programme I realised I hadn’t much thought about where print designs come from – be it florals, animals, fruit or geometric shapes and the colour combinations. Whether bought in an expensive shop like Liberty or the local market, the print design started off as an idea drawn by someone, somewhere. That’s obvious isn’t it? But not the first thing that comes to mind when fabric shopping.

I was again reminded of this when visiting the Artist Textiles Picasso to Warhol Exhibition yesterday after my pattern cutting class (expect an update on this next week) which has just opened at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, South London. The exhibition looks at the work of 20th Century artists (futurist, constructivist, pop, cubism, surrealism to a name a few tribes)  translated to fabric for garment making and centred on the post-war womens wear (mens clothing featured very little, 2-3 ties – I guess men didn’t wear ‘colour’ back then). with background jazz and swing music to match.

Post WWII, the British economy was in a poor state and trade needed reviving. The government supported the Cotton Board to increase exports of textiles. To help with this manufacturers commissioned artists like Henry Moore to create designs for printed fabrics. In France the same was done with Henri Matisse and the surrealist artist Salvador Dali did likewise for the New York based textile company Wesley Simpson. There are examples of their work and others such as the dress above (poorly captured by my camera phone, sorry).

Also on display are prints by well known artists Andy Warhol, Raoul Dufy, Pablo Picasso and fashion designer Zhandra Rhondes.

There is also a exhibition of the journey from an idea to printed fabric or greeting card by British textile designer Sarah Campbell. See how once briefed e.g. by Marks & Spencer, Sarah develops her ideas from drawings to test prints on fabric to the eventual final product sold in shops. This is one of her designs:

sarahcampbelldesign

Is it worth a visit? I think so. I would have liked more detail, more history but perhaps that’s stepping into the V&A Museum’s terriority. It was good time thinking less about my sewing to do list and taking a different view of the fabric I stash and sew.

The Artist Textiles Exhibition is on until 17 May 2014.

Pattern Cutting Class: Week 1

sewingclass_wk1bd

Today I attended week 1 of a pattern cutting class at Bethnal Green Library, east London and I really enjoyed it!

Over 5 weeks I’ll learn how to create a pattern to suit my measurements. No commerical patterns will be used. I love this as I think it’s true dressmaking.

We were introduced to using blocks to make patterns and pivoting these for correct dart placement the waist, shoulder or bust line. I found this a little confusing, pivoting the wrong bit or to the wrong place. I hope to grasp this in the coming weeks!

The tutor and class mates are all lovely and keen to learn. I’ve got some homework before the next lesson which I must do if I’m to make a dress.

 

 

And If You Ever… Fall In Love Again…*

Thanks to the 90s boy band E17 I’ve never forgotten that this postcode equals Walthamstow – the home of the longest street market in Europe.

When asked where’s the best place to buy cheap fabric the first response is usually this market. There are many blog posts about it for example here, here and here. I’ve been meaning to visit for ages and thought a trip there this weekend before going back to work would be a good idea.

I should have waited. Too soon after the New Year, the market lacked atmosphere and the weather was a miserable grey. The TMOS (The Man Outside Sainsbury’s) I had read so much about wasn’t there with his marvellous stall. In fact there were no fabric stalls out but all of the fabric shops minus one were open.

Wandering listlessly between shops I realised when not buying cotton fabric I’m really unsure about what to buy. I’m not a fan of jersey, polyester or anything like nylon. Although I was persuaded by the reeaallly cheap prices to some fabric…

e17_fabric

Both are variations of polyester I think. Yes, I did just say I don’t like polyester but the light pink was 50p a metre! The other (to use for lining?) was £1 a metre. Bargain!

Hmm…what shall I make…?

I plan to return to Walthamstow market later in the year, when the weather is warmer.

*Go here to see one of E17’s best hits (a cover of a fab rnb song).