That moment when you ruin a garment right before the end

Please tell me I’m not the only one who this happens to? When you are almost almost finished and then you just… ruin it? (This is why I hate putting button holes in as the last step. So small, so much potential for disaster…)

I think about two years ago, my birthday present to my older sister was that I would transform a dress of hers that she loved but didn’t wear anymore, into a skirt. It has a lovely borderprint, as you can see here:

IMG_7490It took me ages to get round to it, and I was almost finished when she told me she was pregnant, and I figured I’d somehow adapt it into a maternity skirt. That never happened, so apparently I just waited until now when she’s not pregnant, so I don’t have to adapt it. (I know. I’m a terrible un-selfish-sewer).

Also, we’re moving house in two weeks, and I figured if I can finish the skirt before then, I don’t have to move it. Right? So, I settled down, looked at the project – literally two steps to go – and finished the zipper. So far, so good. Lovely afternoon off work, coffee in hand, Sewing Affair podcast on…

I then decided to stitch down the waistband instead of just leaving it, because, you know, present etc. But the skirt had been lying around for a while, and the waistband wasn’t behaving, so I took it over to iron it into compliance. Which is where it all went wrong. Because either a) my iron is broken and irons wayyy way hotter than it should, or b) I completely forgot that the fabric I used for the waistband wasn’t completely cotton, or heatproof, or whatever, and ironed it too hot. Logic (and a niggling memory) tells me that it was probably b), but there’s a part of me that wants to blame the iron (I’m sure it’s broken. It does weird things to my fabric!). (Also, next time, I will totally write notes about fabric before leaving a project for almost two years. Of course I will…)

So, the front of the waistband facing has shrunk, and because it’s interfaced and the interfacing didn’t shrink, it’s bubbled. Urgh. I mean – really? Right at the very end?

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I was very, very close to cutting out the entire waistband facing, but the zip is partially attached to it, and I was worried that the waistband fabric would be see-through. Not ideal. So, as a compromise, I settled on top-stitching the waistband at the top, and will send it off to my sister in the hope that it’s wearable. (I know there are wrinkles. I just don’t really dare go near it with an iron now.)

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Dearest, dear sister: if it’s not wearable or comfortable, or it doesn’t fit or wear well, this is your voucher for another summer skirt, or top, or anything of your choice. I’m sorry! And, if it’s wearable: don’t iron it on the cotton setting. Wool should do nicely for the top section.

Anyway, about the finished skirt: I still rather like the idea behind it. Much more than the execution. I used the sewaholic Crescent skirt pattern for the waistband/yoke and facing, and used the skirt section of the dress for the rest.

Not much more to say other than that I feel rather deflated. I’ll have consolation coffee now. And maybe some chocolate. And sew some nephew clothes for instant gratification, where I might skip the last step in the process to avoid ruining it.

Anybody else dread the last steps in the sewing process for forp (fear of ruining project)?

Me-Made-May ’15, and life vs. sewing

Does anyone else do this thing where, in their head, you’re about a month behind the actual calendar date? I was convinced April was going to last for another really long time, and then I checked the date, and somehow it was the first of May?? I swear part of it is the weather – not to be stereotypical, but on about 75% of the days, it’s kind of grey, cold-ish and, um, grey, so it really doesn’t help my seasonal confusion (sometimes I take a while to figure out where I am in relation to Christmas – just gone? coming up? just behind? – or summer vacations, as well). Please tell me it’s not just me?

The reason I’ve noticed this today is because Me-Made-May has started, and I haven’t pledged anything yet, until just now. Ahem.

This year, instead of forcing myself to up my game from last year in terms of numbers, I’m trying to use MMM to think more about what I wear, and what I want to wear. I know there’s items in my wardrobe I don’t wear, and I know there’s items I wish I had, or wear all the time. I just can’t quite keep track of it. So, this year, I’m going to use MMM as a life experiment to see what I actually wear. I’ll aim for one garment a day that I’ve made, but more importantly, I’m going to keep track of what I wear, how I feel about it, and what I wish I had. Here’s the pledge I put on Zoe’s blog:

I, Thea of Sewingland*, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’15. I endevavour to wear one me-made item a day throughout May, but I will also use Me-Made-May as a time to figure out how much me-made stuff I actually wear, and what the biggest gaps in my wardrobe are. I’ll keep track of what I wear**.

*I’m not sure how this happened, but apparently I’m now Thea of Sewingland. Promotion?

**I’m hoping for some pie charts at the end of this.

And the other reason I don’t want to up my numbers is because life keeps getting in the way of sewing. I’m not currently in a place to beat life, so I’ll have to live with less sewing time, and not all handmade things, until I can. Hopefully, that’ll be the end of May, but we’ll see! (We’re moving house, I’m changing jobs, but apart from that, you know, nothing major going on…).  And life is kind of crazy enough at the moment without limiting my wardrobe to a small amount, and also – I noticed last year – the shop boughts I have? I quite like them. I don’t like being limited in wearing them for a month!

So – have you signed up to MMM? And where are you in your mental calendar at the moment?

A very belated Christmas dress: Dolores Batwing Pattern

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a relaxing break. I had a few weeks off in which I meant to post this, but then my parents’ internet decided that I needed some non-internet time, and that went by the wayside. So, with any more delay, here’s my favourite not-so-new dress: The Dolores Batwing Dress!

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When Zoe released this, I was a lucky non-tester, i.e. one of the people who got this pattern to spread the word about it truthfully. So, truthfully, I will now tell you that this is my new favourite dress. I definitely always need one of these in my wardrobe, since it fills a gap I didn’t know I had, and has a different shape to my usual Ladyskater dresses and big skirts, which makes it interesting.

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I hate taping things together, so I timed that aspect. It took a grand total of ten minutes. So, if you have ten minutes, you can start this. I trialled this in different configurations – T-shirt first, then a jumper (trials with a few errors), and last a dress, but the dress is my absolute favourite, so I’ll talk about that here. After my first two items from this pattern, I settled on a mixed size with the arms in a size 12, the neckline in a size 10 and the waist a size 8, and I added an extra 5cms to the sleeves as they were a bit short.

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At first I thought I wouldn’t ever make the dress – it being a different style to what I wear and all that, but after the jumper, I could totally see the potential, so I made it up from a fabric in my stash (yay, stashbusting!). I needed all of 115 cms (but had to cut the lower arm in two pieces instead of on fold) and maybe, um, two hours maximum? That probably is a conservative estimate. It’s seriously quick.

As you can probably tell, I absolutely love it. The fabric is quite a chunky cotton-knit, so it’s pretty stable, but still drapes well. I could have probably tapered the skirt slightly further, but I’m not too bothered. The dress is an absolute staple now – it’s supercomfy, took a felt three seconds to make, and is really easy to dress up for the office with a nice necklace and shoes. For the weekend, though, I can wear it with comfy boots and be snuggly all day. It doesn’t get more comfy than this dress, a chunky cardigan and some nice warm socks. I’m so sold on this that I’ve already cut out another one. (Same fabric, different colour, and I cut it easily from 1.25ms – I thought I’d splash out on the extra 10cms to avoid cutting the sleeve bottom in two pieces).

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Overall, for the dress, I would say – great success! You might want to watch out with sleeve length and the tightness of the sleeve band, but apart from that, this is a great pattern to make. Also, if you find any fit issues, or want to make the jumper and the dress, it’s really quick to re-tape and print thanks to the good layout. The only change I made apart from lengthening the sleeves is that I topstitched the neck bands down to keep them lying nicely flat (the fabric didn’t take to the iron kindly).

Stylewise, it’s a bit of a departure from my usual style, but I really love it. I feel really put together in this at work, I’ve also trialled it travelling and lounging around and it’s just a great all-rounder for me. This is definitely sewing cake, but of the best kind. My only gripe with my dress is that I wear it so often it’s already starting to pill. Sniff. At some point, I might also experiment with cutting the front of the dress a bit lower – sometimes I catch myself getting irritated at the front neckline being quite high up, and fiddling with the dress, so maybe in the future I’ll try to fix that. If I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

So, for 2015, this was my last revelation – a superquick dress I didn’t know I was missing, that’s supercomfy. This was the dress I wore on Christmas day. Which meant I put on a dress which looked like effort, but felt like pyjamas. Hoorah!

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Breaking news: The Very Slow Quilt is finished!

Breaking news: The Very Slow Quilt is finished!

Readers, I hope you fell off your chairs at that. You read it right: The quilt-guilt got the better of me, and I finished the Very Slow Quilt. Lo and Behold:

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Just for context – I started this quilt at least in 2012, if not 2011. It’s losely based on Elizabeth Hartman’s book, “The practical guide to patchwork”. Mind you, I could have read more of her book before actually starting the quilting, or the binding, or… Anyways.

In the end, it didn’t take as long as I’d thought it would to put the quilt top together. When sorting through my fabrics (yet again), I found it and realized I was being ridiculous: a) I had almost everything ready cut out to finish it, b) it was really getting on my nerves, c) it was the perfect size to finish up as a baby blanket, in happy colours, and d) I had a nephew on the way. Happy coincidences!

But, of course I couldn’t just make my life easy. First, I finished off the front, which was fine, apart from the fact that I used scraps, and some of them were very very soft and became distorted in this process. Grrr. Secondly, I decided that just using plain fabric on the back would be boring. So, I settled on some left-over fabrics I had from pj-bottoms (nice and soft), but wanted it spruced up with colourful things. So, I took some cookie cutters and traced them off and appliqued this to the back:

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Now, this would have been easy, had I bothered to read the instructions on appliquing in my great quilting book first. Spoiler: I didn’t, so they were a little misbehaved. We got there in the end, and I hear babies aren’t all about the detail, so we’re probably alright. And who knew I had so many bizarre cookie cutters? Or that they’d be so useful for sewing?

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But, the biggest hurdle was actually the quilting itself. My sister and husband live in a flat with wooden and tiled floors, so I wanted this blanket to be a super-soft crawling-and-lying-on-the-floor blanky. So, I picked extra thick wadding in John Lewis. Now, while I can attest to the fact that it’s supersoft, let me tell you, when you’ve never quilted before, starting with something superthick is probably not the best way to learn. The stitches sunk in so much they distorted the fabric, the back puckered, there were folds, then the fabric didn’t match up. I don’t think I’ve ripped out so many stitches in a long time. It probably didn’t help that this was my first time working with a walking foot, and I’m not sure that my walking foot and my feed dogs feed the fabric through at the same rate. In the end, I stitched around the animals to hold everything in place, stitched around the rim, and realized that pins are my best friends ever, apart from when they disappear into the very soft cotton with loose weave I should never have used in the first place. I had nightmares about my nephew choking on the one needle I might accidentally loose track of. I also walked around for a few days with a lot of pinpricks and scratches in my hands from trying to get the quilt all done (and not loose needles). Once it was vaguely well-behaved and together, I then quilted in straight lines along the seamlines. I was a very happy bunny when I was done. It’s still not perfect (you can see the sides and corners are a bit wobbly), but I decided that it’s perfect for my nephew-blanket, and it didn’t have any leftover pins in it in the end.

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The stitching around the animals from the front

I used some leftover wax print cotton for the binding. Stitching this down by hand to finish it off was also a challenge – I’m not convinced it’ll hold up, because the fabric on the back is very soft, and it didn’t seem to be very tight. I assured my sister that the blanket comes with a lifetime guarantee, so I hope it’ll be ok. If I ever do another quilt, I’ll need to work on my corners though – they’re a bit wonky. Ahem.

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Overall, I’m really happy with it though – I wanted it to be supercheerful for my nephew, and happy colours, and I think that worked. It’s fluffy and cosy for him to lie around on, colourful enough that a few babyjuices won’t ruin it immediately, and hopefully a little bit robust as well. It even matches his new mobile plaything over the bed:

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He’s tested it and given it his approval. Horrah! And the very slow quilt is now no longer in my stash. Double Hoorah!I have a nephew – Many Hoorahs!

This quilt, even though small, made me appreciate what my mum told me: Quilting is a lot of work. (Hats off to all you quilters!). If there ever is a next quilt for me, I’ll stick to very big squares. And instructions.

Now, I can’t be the only one with a project that took multiple years (and wasn’t couture) – which skeletons lurked in your closets that you eventually finished off?  How many years did you manage to drag it out over? And was it as bad as my quilt-guilt and Very Slow Quilt?

Stashbusting and last summer sewing: A Maxi-skirt

Today in London was absolutely gorgeous – blue sky, sunshine, lovely temperatures. Lucky me, I thought, that I’d just finished some stashbusting-sewing yesterday: my (summer-weight) maxi skirt. Totally appropriate for almost October, right?

My maxidress convinced me that I needed more skirts and dresses maxi in my life. And there were 2m of black jersey in my stash that I’d never gotten round to doing much anything with. It was quite thin and floaty, so really annoying to stitch necklines down in. Perfect though, I thought, for a maxidress. Originally I used the same principle that I’d used for the other one – only this one with the Birgitte T-shirt as a top, with a waistband with elastic inserted for strength, and a gathered skirt. After some misadventures in cutting (I cut the skirt with the stretch lengthwise, rather than width-wise – not a great idea for a long heavy skirt!), I assembled the dress and realized it looked… odd. Not bad, just weird. It just didn’t work together. So off I hacked the top, and the waistband, before cutting a new waistband, gathering the skirt section again, stitching it all together, and cutting the hem off to be straight. That was it.

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I have to say, I’m still not entirely used to wearing long skirts, but I do like that they feel slightly dramatic, so I think there might be more to come! I just have to figure out what to wear this with – I’ve sewn it so it sits just below my waist, which means most of my tops are actually a bit too long for it, and I don’t like the tucked-in look much, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out (or sew something to go with it). I’m hoping that with tights or leggings, this can transition into autumn.

The skirt is essentially a marriage of two rectangles and some elastic. The skirt section is 150cms wide and probably just over 100cm long, sewn into a tube and then gathered to the waistband. The waistband was twice the width of the elastic (so, 4cms in total) plus 2 cms for seam allowances, and the width of my waist. That’s it. If I hadn’t tried to make it into a dress first, it would have been superquick, but even as it is, this worked out fairly quickly. The gathering is a bit faffy (there’s a lot of fabric!) and there’s a few inaccurate corners, but that’s fine.

If I make this again, I’d probably cut the skirt panels a bit flared, so that there’s a bit less fabric to gather at the top (which then sits on the hips – not the biggest fan), and a bit more of an A-line shape to it. Even though I’m not sure how well a drapey knit-fabric would hold an A-line.

Overall, a wardrobe success (once I figure out what to wear it with) and a stashbusting success – one big piece of fabric less in my stash! Now, I only need to figure out what to do with the black crop-top I have left over from the dress…

Did you do any last-minute summer sewing?

 

 

Successful summer sewing: Maria Denmark Tanktop-Maxidress Hack

Successful summer sewing: Maria Denmark Tanktop-Maxidress Hack

Readers, I’ve over-indulged in sewing this summer. I feel like I sewed almost manically, and for quite a few deadlines, and once late August rolled round, breathed a sigh of relief at turning my back on my sewing machine. This week, I’m mainly sewing very short, straight lines, if at all. I’m trying to not put pressure onto myself.

But, the positive of the frantic summer sewing is that for once, I had seasonally appropriate clothes to wear, and I really liked them. Score! This is one of my favourites. Back in spring, I went fabric shopping and fell in love with a black, but colourfully printed jersey which I decided would be perfect for a maxidress. I told myself I would sew it up soon, so therefore it didn’t count for the stash diet (har har har), and then I sat on it for three months. Since making the ‘just a tank top’-top by Maria Denmark last summer, I had the idea that you could make a maxi dress from the same pattern by just extending it for a skirt. The ideal plan would have been to make it during Indie Pattern Month (cough May cough), but hey, better late than never!

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There’s two things I spent a bit more time fussing over:

1. I actually put in a waist seam (which you probably can’t see, cause I patternmatched like crazy). I was slightly terrified that if I didn’t, the whole dress would just slowly pull out of shape due to the weight of the fabric. In the end, I traced the top (very very quick job!) and then tried on a tank top I’d already made to decide where I wanted the waist seam to hit. For me, it was about 20cm underneath the arm scye (? not sure that’s what I mean. Essentially, the bit under my arm pit where the tank top fabric starts. ahem). I marked this, put a curved line in with my lovely french curve, and added a seam allowance. Next, I traced the now bottom-half of the top, added a seam allowance to the top of that, and then calculated how long I wanted the skirt to be (hold a tape measure where you think your waist seam will be and drop one end to the floor. Step on it, retrieve and read. Crude, but it works.). I then calculated how much more hip width I needed. In the end, I only added 2.5 cms on either side (which adds up to 10cms in total). Then I measured how far below my soon-to-be waist seam this would have to hit, and again, drew this in with my french curve. Then I just drew a long curve down to the bottom. It really was fairly straightforward. If this makes no sense and you’re keen to know more, I can dig out the pattern pieces and take photos (at the moment, they’ve gone awol).

I meant to put some invivible elastic into the waist seam, and I even bought some, but then I misplaced it so thoroughly I only just found it again yesterday, so that didn’t happen, and I was on a deadline – to make this for a weekend with friends in Lisbon – and I ran out of time as well. Oops.

2. Pattern placement: I was terrified that I would end up with some strategically placed nipple- or crotch flowers. The terror that possessed me every time I thought of cutting my fabric, you would not believe. In the end, a friend came to the rescue. I held up the fabric, and she assessed whether there were any danger zones. Once I’d establish which bit of the pattern on the fabric could go where, I then marked the areas with pins and matched them to the paper pattern. Crisis averted!

Once those two things were out of the way, it was a really easy make. Having not worn maxidresses before (I guess the last time must have been when I was about, um, 11 or so??), I have to say, I love it. It’s great for weekends away and travelling, as it roles up surprisingly small, and is rather versatile. Score! It’s a bit dramatic though, so I can’t say I wear it all the time. When I make another one, I want to gather the fabric a bit more at the waist to give me some more room for movement (and to make me feel slightly less self-conscious!).

Overall – great success: It fits, I still love the fabric, and I’m incredibly impressed I managed to make the pattern alteration – even though it was relatively straightforward, it was a first for me. And I pattern-matched the fabric pieces!

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What’s been your most successful summer make (or wear) this year?

Spring is coming, so I’ll show you my winter jumpers!

I don’t know about where you are, but here in London, my Minoru jacket has taken over regular duty from my winter coat over a week ago, a good sign that spring is on the way. I’m already dreaming up lots of spring outfits, so I thought, what better things to write about on my blog than my winter jumpers? Here they are…

The Blue Jumper

Look, I found some daylight for you! In February!
Look, I found some daylight for you! In February!

Fun things to do with your jumper

This is very loosely based on Francis Revisited, but I think it’s fair to say that the end result doesn’t have much to do with the original inspiration. From the beginning, my gage was off, but this being my first ever knitted jumper, I had no way of fixing it that I understood, so it was a lot of trial and error (loooots of errors) to get it to fit. I think I restarted the jumper three times, then knit it down to the bottom band, bound it off, realized the fit around my chest was way too lose and looked bizarre, opened most of it up again, and started again. This time round, I then started the decreases straight below the armholes – turns out that for my body, the widest point at my chest is my shoulders, not my chest. Let’s not dwell on that😉 This time round, it fit. By the end I had made it to the bottom of the main body, I was out of energy though, so I just stopped. No arms, no collar. I unceremoniously gave up for the time being, and started Miette instead.

And then? Miette taught me that hey, I can knit sleeves. I started to understand a little bit more about taking up stitches where before, there was only a bound edge, decreases and so on, which alltogether just made me more comfortable tackling the sleeves. So the sleeves I knit. It was slooooow, but I got there eventually. Then I tackled the collar, and I finished it over Christmas – it took far longer than expected. In total, this jumper took me nine months (!) to finish, but at least I finished it. I am glad to report that I actually also wear it. Somewhat disappointingly for this jumper, this winter was not as cold as last winter, but the jumper still filled the chunky-jumper shaped hole in my wardrobe a little bit. Given the current weather, it might be out of the rotation soon though for another, hmm, nine months? Maybe only six.

As you can see, the front and back differ in exactly... nothing. I didn't even block it, and the only way I can tell which way round I'm wearing it is from a small mistake on one of the arms.

As you can see, the front and back differ in exactly… nothing. I didn’t even block it, and the only way I can tell which way round I’m wearing it is from a small mistake on one of the arms.

Last picture of the blue jumper, I promise

 You can see the arms are not as fitted as they could be, but I really didn’t care anymore by then.

So, before really finishing this jumper, I knitted Miette. This was much easier to jump into – Rachel (at MyMessings), at last year’s summer blogger meet-up in London, let me try hers on, so I knew it would fit (she inspired at least three Miette’s to be knit that day! Mine, Ela’s, and Rachel’s.). The instructions were easy to follow, which definitely was a bonus. I didn’t really make any changes, apart from making the sleeves full length.

The daylight above was short lived. Sorry! But, can you see how nicely it goes with Mrs Ladyskater?

The daylight above was short lived. Sorry! But, can you see how nicely it goes with Mrs Ladyskater?

Not much to say about this – the body knit up really quickly, the sleeves took forevaaaaaaaaa (and then longer). I used DROPS Nepal wool, which I’d used before for Andy’s scarf, so I knew my gauge would be spot on without even knitting a proper test square. Yay! I wish I’d made it an inch longer – I do this with my sewing patterns, but strangely didn’t even think of it for Miette! I’m currently thinking of re-blocking it to make it longer, but really, I haven’t done that yet, so apparently it’s not that important. The next one will be longer. And yes, I’m boring and predictable enough to want another one of these (D’uh, I bet you expected that. After all, this is me!).

Better view of the lace pattern

Better view of the lace pattern. The wool was fairly thick, so you don’t see the pattern as well as on some of the other Miette’s I’ve seen.

Miette neatly fills the gap in my wardrobe for short jumpers and cardigans – I’m pleased to report that it works excellently with my Cambie dress, as well as with my lady skaters. Sadly, that’s about it, and it doesn’t really work with anything else. Woops. At least it does one thing well, and will probably force me to make more cambies/other high waisted dresses.

I’m currently blocking and seaming and then knitting the last bits of my new knit. When working on it in my lunchbreak, my colleagues have been joking that by the time it’s finished I won’t get to wear it much. Being out of synch with the seasons in knitting and blogging seems to be a pattern for me – anybody else do that? Are you still finishing a winter coat, jumper, scarf or hat? Some nice warm wooly skirts? Or in Australia and just getting round to that summer dress or those shorts? Spill the beans, and we can share some motivation!