Thursday 14 April 2016

A New Meaning to One Directional Print.

I have read quite a few sewing blogs written by people that are happy with their size and shape and that is great. I however am less happy with mine and I can change that and I am working on that but I appreciate it will take time. This blog is about making something pretty with beautiful fabric to boost my own confidence when wearing it and that being ok too. I feel that making a few fun pieces that could be adjusted in the future as I change shape would be a good thing to do. It also allows me to learn more about alterations. Although I accept that I wont look the way I want to in them, I hope it still beats badly fitted jeans and over sized jumpers.

I have dabbled with making clothes in the past I started with transforming a tee shirt and then moved to making  skirts, a dress for my daughter and a fancy dress outfit for my friend. I liked the idea of a shift dress, something simple, not too challenging that can show off nice fabric. I got a free pattern with issue thirteen of Simply Sewing magazine. It was just what I was looking for, it has no zip or fasteners and just two darts to fit it. It is a really versatile pattern and can be used with a lot of different fabrics. In terms of the fabric I was looking for something light weight. I started looking for a pretty silk and came across an online shop that sells vintage saris from India. I loved the idea of sewing with sari fabric - it is light and there were some stunning colours and patterns. Although second hand, the shop started that any imperfections would be advertised. It was also not very expensive which gave me the confidence to have a play with the pattern. I could not decide between two designs so I the end I chose both. One purple and blue, the second green and peach. This gave me 7 yards of each beautiful fabric at a good price. It arrived in under 2 weeks and was perfectly packaged. I opened it to find it was even prettier than the photographs online. A sari tends to have one end with a more elaborate patterned section and then a slightly simpler pattern for the rest. I chose to cut the front out of the complicated pattern section and the simpler pattern on the back. I have a lot of the simpler pattern fabric left so I am planning more projects with that.

As pointed out on the shop I bought it from if it is held up to the light it is slightly opaque, so I decided that I would need to line it. This meant that the pattern I had would need to be changed. I looked up a lot of different ways to line a shift dress and the one that made most sense came from this excellent tutorial. I think this is because a colour coded picture tutorial is a good way to explain things and that the turning out reminds me of bag making.

Practise fabric
Although my beautiful sari was not expensive it is one of a kind and would be practically impossible to replace so I had similar cutting anxiety as with spoonflower fabric. I was eager to get the dress fitted and size sorted using practise fabric. A lot of people use muslin for this, my Mum always used an old sheet or whatever was to hand. I went in search or the cheapest thinnest fabric I could find and ended up with a One Direction bed spread. It worked really well although if I am honest it was very distracting wearing a giant head....

The pattern was easy to follow and all of the pieces clear. I measured myself and found my bust to be one size and my hips another which is not unusual so I went for the larger size accepting that  would need to adjust. I had to divide the back section into two as it meant that I could use the lining method I liked and, more importantly, understood. I found the mock dress far too big so I cut it again the size smaller and then gradually took in the sides. It was starting to look better, however the back was not sitting right so I took some off the back seam that I had inserted for the lining process. This helped it sit better. In the end I was making a dress 3 sizes smaller than the measurements indicated.

Mock dress making

Despite the pattern being taken in significantly the darts were sitting where I wanted them to. I didn't want to cut the pattern smaller and move the darts. I decided to put it together in an unconventional way but one that made sense to me. I made the dress the same as my pattern had been cut and put the darts in the same place - I then took it in the same amount as the mock up. This worked well. I liked the lining process and had no issues with it. I also liked the finish it gave the neck and arm holes.

My Sari shift dress

The dress making itself came together quickly with just the hem to put in. I decided to use the same hem method I have used in my 2 hour top. I hemmed the dress itself with no problems, I hemmed the lining with fun spotty bias binding only to realise the binding was facing out towards the dress and not in towards my legs. I contemplated unpicking it but decided not to as it was fun and I liked "flashing my binding".

Cheeky spotty bias binding on lining
Overall I was pleased with my dress I love the colours and the simple design really allowed me to show off the design on the fabric. The pattern did need taking in a lot, however, and I worry if you were inexperienced and starting on the smallest size it would be difficult to keep taking in. I have worn it twice so far, once with purple heels for a night out and the other with thick tights and ankle boots for lunch. I love that it is versatile in that respect. It is fun and comfortable and I am pleased I decided not to hold off any longer.

Showing off  my sleeves - and my concentrating face...
A casual approach to my sari dress

Thursday 7 April 2016

Trials and tribulations of playing Easter Bunny

For Christmas I got A year in crafts 52 seasonal projects by Clare Youngs this is a beautiful hard back, ring bound book, packed full of lovely ideas, some of which went straight onto my "to do list" and others made me keep an eye out for supplies. The book is essentially divided into seasons with a really handy pocket for each section so you can add your own ideas or inspiration, which is a really lovely touch. Although season-led it doesn't rely too heavily on religious holidays and merely takes the essence of the time of year.  On my first look through I instantly fell in love with the bunny bag. It is such a simple yet effective design, I was drawn to the embroidery on the face and the fact there was no elaborate clasps or fastening . I like Easter gifts, nobody expects an Easter gift so it does not carry the pressure of a Christmas gift. I adore spring with the days getting lighter and for me my sewing took off with surprise Easter gifts. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea of using it to make an Easter themed goodie bag that could be personalised with the lining fabric. In all honesty I could have made one for every child in the village but I decided to stick to the children whose parents knew me well enough to know that this is not an 'out of character' thing to do... I had 13 children on my list, which did not seem like a good number, so I added in my friend as well.

Bunny bags with embroidered faces and pom pom tails.

I had a look through the instructions, which seemed straight forward, and then found the pattern in the back of the book. I enlarged the pattern by 400%. Some people get annoyed at having to photocopy patterns but I don't mind it and our library is really helpful for that kind of thing. I used calico for the outsides which I enjoy working with so I pressed it and cut out 14 bunny bag fronts. I traced the eyes and nose using a light pencil and embroidered them on. In the book she uses red but I chose to go with dark grey for the eyes and pink for the noses. I also chose to use back stitch instead of slip stitch as I personally prefer the cleaner line you get with backstitch. I then got to match the lining fabric with the recipient, I loved sorting through my fabric stash for this. Some were obvious, I had a really soft blue fabric for the youngest as it turned the bag into a more sensory toy and I used pretty and more abstract fabric for the older ones; my daughter got Paw Patrol fabric and I had some amazing DC Comics fabric. Soon I had a pile of different fabrics reflecting favourite colours, personalities or popular cartoon characters and I then cut out 14 bunny bag linings.

Fun lining fabric
The following step was the dreaded 'pressing' so out came my iron. By this stage I was very much in mass production mode so I sewed the top seam on all of them, clipped my seams and turned the ears. This is when things started to go wrong... I read through the instructions again and my pattern did not match the diagram in the book at all. It was straight at the bottom in the book and had notches in the pattern. I went back to the pattern and I had copied and cut it correctly (I have no idea how I would not have done so, but I checked all the same). At this point I was feeling very stressed and, in all honesty, a bit frantic. I was mostly annoyed at myself; How had I not noticed? Why didn't I make a mock up first? - at what point did I get cocky enough to jump into making 14 of anything, especially with hand embroidery?.... I was annoyed because in my head the pattern had made sense and I felt it was right and I could not sew it together despite a few panicked efforts. At this point I didn't think things could get much worse so I cut a giant chunk of the bottom to straighten it up. I then followed the instructions. Unsurprisingly this looked awful as all of the dimensions were wrong. I had angry, frustrated tears in my eyes as I unpicked the latest mess, and as I looked at it I began to laugh... It looked just like the pattern I had cut. What appears to have happened in the book is that the process was written as the original was made up, but then the pattern was made up by taking the finished bag apart. There is a stage where you fold sew and cut. If you follow the cut pattern you just fold and sew...... A few hours later over a nice cup of tea I realised it was familiar when I started as it was a lot like a Cath Kidston bag I made a few years ago. With this sorted I cut and embroidered a new front and salvaged the lining piece and put it back together.

Having figured this out I made up the 14 bags quickly and turned them the right way out, I closed the turning gaps and they looked good. I did feel they needed little tails so I decided to make pom poms. In the past I have always used the cardboard rings method but I decided to try using a fork. It took a few attempts to get them tight enough, and some extra trimming, but they looked fun. Twelve of the recipients were aged between 3-10 but one is just 1 so I was very aware that the pom pom tail would probably get shredded and bits of wool may get eaten so instead of a pom pom I made a fleece tail, using a strip of fleece with slits in either side which is then rolled up. This was a lot more secure and ''one year old friendly''.
Fleece tail for smaller child

I didn't want to send other peoples children lots of chocolate as it seemed irresponsible so for the 12 over 3's I put together colour your own book marks, chicks, scratch Easter magnets, a chick bouncy ball and a little bit of chocolate. The craft bits came from Baker Ross.  For the over 30 year old it was just chocolate and the one year old got a wow toy and a little bit of white chocolate. I popped them into bags and my husband added some balloon modelled bunnies for good measure. My daughter loved helping deliver them to her friends and she was then very excited to come home and find one of her own.
Filled with Easter goodies

I made a lot of mistakes during this, I should have compared my pattern and the diagrams in the instructions, I should have made up a test using scrap and when it all want wrong and I should have walked away, drank some tea and thought it through. The information I needed was in my memory I was just too stressed to figure it out. It is also a fault in the book and I am sure others could be caught out by it too. Despite all of the drama - I love the bags, had a lot of fun making them and they seemed well received. I like the fact despite being Easter gifts they can be used all year round and like the idea of them holding hair bobbles, toy cars or, most likely, in our house stones and shells.