A place where a wee Scot can talk about the stuff she bores other folk with. Sewing, The Beatles, cats, and zumba may feature...

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

2015: Things are going to start happening to me now!

This is a long overdue catch-up and therefore a long blog post. Feel free to scroll down to the end for the Babs & Donna disco classic, it's what I would do! But I started this blog as a way to record (and remember) the things I make, so I have a few projects to talk about below.

My last blog post was prior to starting Project Mrs Santa and Lady Elf, which is going to have to be blogged separately, cos I can't be arsed writing about it today and I've got loads of pics to go through for that one.

I didn't sew a lot after the costumes were done and dusted because a) I was knackered and b) my t-shirt etsy shop was mental during December and I spent more time at the post office than any human really should in the run up to xmas. Thankfully the staff are mega nice! In fact, I just have to veer off the sewing path here to recall the day that I was making my daily pilgrimage to the post office and I'd just been reading, and watching, about the terrible tragedy which happened in my hometown of Glasgow days before christmas (and which several of my friends narrowly escaped). I'd been crying but had to get to the post office to meet a postal deadline. When the lady behind the counter asked how I was today, well I just blurted out that I had been crying all morning, and why. We chatted a bit about it (aware that there were hunners of people waiting in the queue behind me) and I left. I was crossing the road from the post office when I heard a shout (I had got a fair distance before I heard her)....well had the wee woman from the postie not ran after me out the shop, came up to me and gave me a Starbucks gift card and said 'that's so you can get a hot drink to help you feel better', and ran back as soon as I blurted out a huge heartfelt thank you. It was cold and dark and she was just in her short sleeves. I still can't believe she did that. Tearing up thinking about it now! She was only in to cover the xmas post rush, so I will need to track her down to say thank you properly. The kindness of strangers indeed...

Anyway, back to the sewing update. The big news is that I got a Singer Stylist II Serger (or overlocker, as we Brits say) for chrimble with money my mum and dad sent me (thank you both!). I actually ordered it off Ebay, feeling very guilty at not supporting my local shops here, but I can't argue with getting it half the price than I would pay in town. Sorry, my finances are just too tight not to save hundreds of dollars when I can! The machine arrived on time and is spanking new, so I am pleased with the transaction. Only drawback is that I don't get the benefit of a free learner lesson, which I would do if I had bought local.

During early December the Curvy Sewing Collective had organised a Santa Swap gift-giving thing, where you got partnered up with a fellow sewer (you could choose someone from your own country or not - I did choose from Canada to ensure that I could meet the deadline for posting the gift). I got paired with a cool lady called Sandi, who lives way over on the other side of this gigantic land. She doesn't have a blog (yet, but I think she should start one!) and has been sewing for much longer than I. She gave me a few ideas for things that she has been thinking of buying for herself, and with the set budget of 15 american dollars which we all had to stick to, no matter what country you were in, I was able to get her a kaftan pattern from designer Tina Givens, who is one of her favourite pattern designers.
It was a digital pattern and within 20 minutes of receiving it, she was working on her garment. Pure wee Speedy Gonzalez! In return, she got me possibly the most perfect present....a Craftsy class for Beginner Serging! I had told her that I was getting a serger but wouldn't be getting classes as I'd bought it off Ebay. I am so grateful, and I still don't quite believe she stuck to budget....even though she promises me that she did! Thank you again Sandi, and thanks to Tanya of the Curvy Sewing Collective for organising our bunch of rabble rowsers. I hope they run it again this year! (hint, hint)

Even Miss Havisham got the sewing blues sometimes
Despite having access to the Craftsy class (and another that I bought a few months before, called Sewing With Knits), my overlocker gathered dust till just recently.

I got my sew-jo back in the second week of January thanks to The Makehouse, my wee sewing home from home, and a leggings workshop that I attended. In the space of a few hours (the fabric had been pre-cut in my size, and was ready to sew), I made a pair of leggings which fit pretty much perfectly (I might need to put more of an arse curve in the next time to accommodate my Kardashian) from gorgeously comfy bamboo jersey knit.
Triple zig-zag stitch used to attach elastic directly to leggings (ie not in a casing)
I have worn them a zillion times, and can wear them days in a row without them bagging at the knees. Will definitely have to try to get more of that fabric! Best thing is that the fabric comes free with the workshop. The leggings were made using the overlocker, and so it was a great way to get to try using it with a teacher by my side. 
I love this way of finishing the leggings at the ankles - that's knicker elastic!
A few days later and it was the weekend. At the last minute, my boyfriend managed to score tickets for an Abba/Bee Gees tribute at our local theatre. Probably sound pathetic to you dear reader, but I was ecstatic! I love the Bee Gees and any chance to hear their music played live is going to be a cause for celebration. With nothing to wear, I very cavalierly (is that a word? It is now) grabbed a vintage stretchy knit from my stash, which I bought on Ebay last year) and wondered if I could whip up a dress on my new overlocker in time to wear that night.
By the time I was ready to actually work on making something, it was 1pm. The theatre show started at 7pm, this very same day! I knew I wanted to copy a favourite Primark dress of mine (that is too wee to wear right now! Damn you christmas overindulgence), which is basically a stretchy shift with boob and back darts, boat neck, and three-quarter length sleeves. There are probably 20 patterns out there in the sewing universe that I could have used, or amended, to produce this kind of dress but I had no time to even look. 
After: yeah, I know it looks the same as the before picture!
So I set about tracing round my Primark dress. By the time I had done that, tried to measure and draft the darts, I only had a few hours left to construct it, using an overlocker which for all intents and purposes I really had no idea how to work, not to mention it had come pre-threaded with colours that were no match for my fabric. Cue much terrible stitching and gnashing of teeth.

I'll cut an already over-long blog post short by saying I literally finished it with 7 minutes to slap some semblance of make-up on my face and get out the door. To which I was faced with pouring rain, having not registered it in my total head-down state of the past few hours, and only a denim jacket on. My dress' boob darts are mis-aligned and my hems were held together with Wonder Tape (yes, I didn't even have time to sew them!), but I made it through the theatre show and drinks at a pub afterwards (and no I didn't even get a photo with it on). Talk about fast fashion. And which way to Project Runway, by the way? 
Look at that fabric...weird wild stuff!
(My dress has lain forlorn since that night, with the hems now completely come undone and that wonky boob dart is just staring me out). I'm not sure how I'll fix it but there must be a way. I still have about a metre and a half left of the fabric so can even start afresh if need be. I also want to try adding a peter pan collar and cuffs to make it more 60s. I've been following a fellow blogger, Lazy Seamstress, who is drafting her first pattern and I think it would be a close match for what I wanted to achieve with my Primark copy, so I am looking forward to her announcing the official release of her Weekend Doris.

Wearing my heart on my sleeve, kind of
My next project was back on my sewing machine when I decided to make some wee mindings (scottish word for wee gifts) to take to my friends' who were hosting a Burns Supper. I had some scraps of tartan in a box of fabrics that a lovely Zumba instructor lady gave me last year, and set to making 13 wee tartan heart wristlets for all the women who would be at the Burns night. 
And then there were thirteen
They went down well and the ladies found some creative uses for them (wish I had taken pics) of wearing them as a hair band to make a pony tail and as a tumbler warmer/marker. I'm going to make more to send home. I would have liked to have made brooches but couldn't find any brooch backs in my local shops here. I've also to make a dickie (or it seems it can also be called a 'jabot' but that sounds too much like a posh jobby to me!) for one of my friends who was at the Burns Supper, for her highland dancing outfit. I'm still trying to work out how to make it so it looks something like this:
What a dickie looks like
January is a good time for starting the year off right...just a pity I didn't get that memo! So it wasn't till last week I officially sealed the friendship with my overlocker, at long last! I moved my laptop over to beside my overlocker and settled down to watch the Craftsy class 'Beginner Serging with Amy Alan' which Santa Sandi so kindly bought me. I must confess that I've only made it as far as the end of the 3rd lesson (of 9) so far, because I wanted to get started on a project from my other Craftsy class: Meg McElwee's Sewing With Knits. I know I can, and will, go back to Amy's class though. I love her calm and well-paced teaching style. However, it is a bit confusing to be shown things on an overlocker which is different to your own, particularly when you're a complete novice. But they can't feature every single make of machine, so I totally get it.

So the next day I started watching Sewing With Knits. Meg is bubbly and very sweet but a wee bit long-winded. Doesn't bother me as I can fast forward if I really want to, and find her style to be quite charming and personable which is even more important. Again, I got as far as Lesson 3 (of 10) before I wanted to stop watching and just get on with sewing.

Among the introductory sections, the fabric primer is most useful and I'll be re-watching that. I still struggle with telling the difference between different types of knit fabric and it makes a world of difference as to how your garment turns out: use something with not enough stretch and no 'recovery' and your item will bag out; use something with too much stretch and it may sag and lengthen your garment ('mini to maxi dress in 3 easy steps!').

Different clothing items demand different knits, eg what will work for a stretchy skirt, won't work for a hoodie, etc. Anyway, I'd recently scored 5.5 metres of a gorgeous turqoise sweatshirt fleece for 7 dollars and fleece is a nice stable knit (not too droopy or stretchy) to get started with...and let's face it, I could mess it up and not have wasted too much money! 
My first finished overlocked garment, yay!
The first garment from the 5 free PDF patterns that come with this Craftsy class is a no-zip hoodie. Having looked at the completed projects of other class-takers, I thought the hoodie looked awfy plain and home-made so I thought I would jazz it up a bit by adding ribbed cuffs, a contrast lining for the hood, and a kangaroo pocket. I wanted to add rib hem too and had cut it out, but when I finished sewing I realised that the hoodie is very flared (which I love) and wouldn't suit a ribbed hem after all. The design won out and that's cool with me. 
I left a gap in my serging so I could turn the hood inside out, because I serged the bottom hem of the hood which I didn't need to do, as the hood will be closed up when attached to the bodice. Perils of working the process out myself!
That magic Wonder Tape again! Followed by top-stitching which I realised after is too close to the seam

Had to remember not to sew the curved parts onto the bodice front, or else wee hands won't get in to the pocketses, will it my precious?
Meg's class is all about sewing knits with your sewing machine, rather than an overlocker (which is why I bought the class in the first place, being overlocker-less at the time), so I had to just figure out the stitching myself, as well as how to add the kangaroo pocket, the cuffs, and the lining. All in all, it elongated the project for me but produced a great looking item, which I've worn daily since! I broke a needle and had to re-thread numerous times (my threads kept breaking so I think I had the tension too high?) so all-in-all, my overlocker cherry is well and truly popped! I also used a twin needle on my sewing machine for the first time. My top stitching is not Oscar-worthy for sure, but I can only get better. I also need to buy a wider twin needle as the 2.5/75 gives off two lines of sewing that are just a wee bit too narrow for the look I wanted (especially on the kangaroo pocket).
The topstitching is a bit too narrow for my liking

Can't see it much in this pic but the back is  much longer than the front, maybe I need an FBA?

The hood is a bit Jedi, could do with reducing it next time
I love the navy with the turquoise, it was just navy cotton jersey I had in my stash
Look at those serged seams, bloody love it!
The only seam I didn't serge. Can't remember why, think it was just cos the wrist opening was too small
The most comfy of comfies!
My boyfriend now wants a hoodie, so rather than adapt this lady-bits oriented pattern, I've ordered the McCall's M6614 pattern. I considered purchasing Thread Theory's Finlayson sweatshirt or Newcastle cardigan, but can't afford them right now (I am pretty sure I will purchase them in the near future though). I managed to snag some maroon sweatshirt fleece and black sweatshirt fleece from the thrift shop last weekend for future hoodie makes (as well as for the Jasper hoodie/top/dress from Paprika Patterns which I bought recently).

Completely engrossed in drafting our skirt blocks
Last week I was also back at The Makehouse to do the first night of a two-night introduction to Patternmaking. This class is for creating your own skirt block, or sloper, and is a good basic way in to patternmaking. As basic as it was, it was still waaaaaaay over my head and completely blew my mind. But it was very interesting and a great string to my bow in terms of gathering knowledge. In terms of skills, it will definitely be something that I will either need to re-do or practice a few times because it was a lot of information to take in and I fear it will slip away from my memory like mercury.....

There were two girls in class who had taken the Bodice Patternmaking class previously and they found it all making much more sense, being able to practice drafting again during the Skirt class. So I think it's one of those things that clicks the more you do it. I am definitely interested in the principles and theories behind patternmaking, without feeling any great need to draft anything yet....although it might save me trying in vain to trace round a favourite piece of clothing in future!

The next big project on my list is to make the Jade skirt, also from Paprika Patterns. I bought this PDF pattern last year after seeing it blogged on the Curvy Sewing Collective by Sylvie, but I was right at the edge of the sizing at that time. This week the pattern designer, Lisa, has updated Jade to include plus-sizing going up to 41.5" waist, which reflects the sizing that Jasper already goes up to. I'm not sure the skirt will suit me, but I would like to try the technique involved in creating the folded effect, and can always make it for friends and family if I don't like it on myself.

Okay, enough is enough. Till next time!
Bow before your queens!


  1. Yay! You've made some awesome stuff, Shirls! Keep up the good work! x

    1. Thanks me dear! I will try to keep it more up to date though so it's not a bloody novel each time...Bad blogger ;(