Sunday, 20 January 2013

A colourful skirt made using a pattern

Since receiving my sewing machine for Christmas 2011, I have been experimenting with all sorts of projects. I've made embroidered cards, laptop cases, ipad casesbunting, endless cushions, a printer cover and a baby patchwork quilt. I also signed up for a workshop where I made a skirt using DIY Couture's no-pattern technique. But I've always been a little scared of dress patterns.

However, this Christmas I received a book on Dressmaking from Al and, in thanks for making their daughter a pillowcase, a voucher for the Village Haberdashery from some friends. Both of which led me to make the resolution that if I could become confident using a machine for all sorts of projects in 2012, I could learn how to use patterns in 2013.

So I started with a simple skirt pattern from the Village Haberdashery. It promised to be a simply explained pattern for beginners. It arrived, in the Haberdashery's lovely spotty packaging, along with the material I had chosen.

Brightly coloured material!
On the back of the pattern it tells you what else you need to make up the skirt. In this case it told me I needed fusible interfacing. A look in my dressmaking book told me that this was some iron on material, that could be woven or synthetic, that you used to add structure to parts of the garment - in my case the waistband. You could also get non fusible interfacing which was sew in - but I went for the iron on one from Our Patterned Hand on Broadway Market. In fact Alex popped in to get it for me, thanks very much to the lady in there who helpfully responded to his enquiries and made suggestions.

The next thing to do is to decide what size you want the skirt - the pattern gives you cutting options for sizes 8-16. It also tells you what the measurements are in inches for each of these sizes. On doing a bit of measuring, it turned out that, for this pattern, I was size 11. Pah. This often happens in shops too. Luckily, being a pattern, I was able to make this work by cutting between the lines for the sizes 10 and 12. This was something that the dressmaking book also told me was possible. That was the limits of the pattern adjustments I made - although really, when you are more confident, the sky is the limit for adjustment and personalisation.

The next step was cutting out the flimsy tissue paper outline of the pieces I needed for my skirt and pinning these pieces to the material.

My material had what is called a nap (another thing I learned from my dressmaking book). This basically means that there is something about the material which meant that it had a definite top and bottom. In my case it was due to the one way design of the pattern - I had peacocks whom I wanted to be the right way up all the way round. In some cases the nap can be caused by the pile of the material.

This meant that I had to fold the material lengthways and put the pieces one above the other. If I had been using plain fabric, I could have folded the material as it arrived, in more of a square.

Each piece of the pattern had lines on that told me where to cut and which way up it should go - and black triangles along the edges which pointed to where a seam started. As recommended in my book, I marked these when cutting out by snipping a little triangle tab that poked out from the material where the black triangle poked in. The pieces also told me how many of each piece I needed - two of everything except the waistband. The waistband only needed one piece, but also needed a similar piece cut out of the interfacing. After cutting out, the next stage was to sew the pockets to the front pieces and sew these together - as seen in this slightly blurry picture here;

After this, I added the back pieces in the same way which made a semi circle of skirt. This was the stage where I went slightly off pattern. Although promising myself that the best way to learn was to follow it exactly, I decided I really wanted a lining. Much of the material you can buy is reasonably thin cotton - and can be pretty see through in certain lights. This is ok if you are always going to be wearing leggings, but not so good if you want to wear it with bare legs in summer too.

I had some pink material left over from making table runners for two friends' wedding. It was pretty thin stuff, but good enough for a lining. I pinned the skirt to the material to cut around it.

At this point, I also decided that I wanted to shorten the length. At the moment it seemed to sit at an awkward, just past the knee length - and I prefer them shorter or full length. So I decided to cut out the lining and the pattern together and shorter.

I marked the length I wanted it all the way round with tailors chalk by measuring the distance from the waistband at regular frequencies and then joining the marks I made together.  I then cut it out with pinking shears.

After this came the initially complicated step of adding the waistband. I studied the instructions that came with the pattern for a long time, and came to the conclusion (as one so often does with new and confusing instructions) that they MUST have printed it wrong as it just didn't make any SENSE the way they had shown it. I sometimes get this feeling with crosswords too...

Luckily, when I next came back to the project a few days later, it made more sense and I pinned the skirt to the waistband (onto which I had ironed the fusible interfacing).

This is shown here by another speedily snapped phone picture. Initially I tried to force the straight waistband to pin around the curve of the skirt waist (as seen above) - but then I realised that there was supposed to be a more material in the skirt and pinning it straight created these folds.

Nevertheless, I had to remove a little material from each end.

After sewing the first side of the waistband in place I sewed the two sides together halfway up the back, leaving space for the zip.

I added the zip using my zip foot on my machine - of course! Once the zip is in place, as seen in the picture (almost), you sew down from the top, over the bottom, reinforcing it a few times, and up the other side.

The next step was to fold over the waistband and iron it so it created a folded bank with the interfacing in the middle and the pattern on both sides.

I then sewed round the place where the waistband meets the skirt to keep everything (including the newly added lining) in place.

Finally, the last thing to do was to hem it round the bottom. The skirt I made with DIY Couture suggested using bias binding around the base - but this pattern suggested hemming so I gave that a go this time.

I hemmed the lining and the outside of the skirt separately, pinning them first. As you can see, I did the outside hem quite a lot neater than the lining one!

And that was it done. Trying it on again (I had done this a few times throughout the process, don't worry) I found it fit excellently. Hooray for making my own size 11 clothes :)

And here's the finished skirt, hanging on my door.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Lush buttons and bead pots

A birthday present project I thought of in the shower after finishing off some Lush hair conditioner...

Take some empty and cleaned out Lush pots. Soaking them for while helps you to peel of the labels.

And some buttons (mine are from Broadway Market and eBay)..

And some beads - from all over, including a shop in Brighton and the London Bead Shop in Covent Garden;

Stick the buttons and beads all over the pot. I used a combination of spray glue and UHU in a tube. When the glue is dry, varnish. I used spray matt varnish and did two coats on each.

Don't forget to do the lid too.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A long and tasseled scarf

This was one I knitted with the wool remaining after doing this scarf - you'll see it's a reversal of the colours. I started it at Christmas but it sat half done until this week when I had plenty of time in bed after a small operation. It doesn't have a home to go to at the moment but I'm sure I'll find it a chilly neck to warm soon.

All knit stich

I've also finally decided that it's time to have a go doing some more adventurous knitting. I can't even purl at the moment. I'm having a go at sewing a skirt from a pattern first, and then I'm going to try socks - maybe with a class at Fabrications to get me going.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

A printer cover and some memories

Digital Giant
I've been promising Al I'll make him a printer cover for months now, but other more interesting projects always got in the way. Today, him and my brother spent all day in the garden putting up a fence. I couldn't help due to a recent mini operation so as well as keeping them in tea and biscuits I thought it was about time I got it made.

I bought some green fabric for him initially, but he asked for grey to match the logo of his business Digital Giant.  I quilted the top and four sides to make it slightly protective and then sewed them into shape and added a yellow binding around the bottom.

Taking a picture of it (currently on the printer at home) it looks pretty unexciting (the room isn't decorated yet either!) - and would have made for a rather dull blog entry.

In retrospect, I should have ironed the fabric!

However, next to the printer I rediscovered the box I made for Al for Christmas 2009, after our first six months together.

It contains a scene, made from balsa wood, modelling grass, acrylic paint, clay, fimo, a red bus (from ebay) and some model trees.

It captures all the things we did on our first dates and weeks and months together in London; whiskey mac in a thermos, conkers and walks on Hampstead Heath (with the fimo green parrot on the tree of course); the strange dinosaur models, the sphinx and the maze of Crystal Palace; the Rootmaster bus which used to be a restaurant parked near Brick Lane; the little tin soldier in his paper boat - a story we both love;  a Narnia lampost behind the wardrobe (we watched a lot of Narnia); Darwin and a photo from Wildlife Photographer of the Year - from when we went to the Natural History Museum; the Enormous Crocodile pretending to be a seesaw - whom we saw at the Quentin Blake/Roald Dahl exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green - and mugs of tea by the fire and the Christmas tree in his new house. It was really cool to find it again and look at it and remember everything. And it makes this blog entry a little more interesting too.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A zig zag pillowcase for Christmas presents

A friend of mine Tash Judd recently asked me to make a pillowcase for her daughter. She had made her a wonderful advent calendar full of mini toys in little red and green zig zagged paper bags.

She wanted a large pillow case in a similar design for the 25th - Christmas Day presents!

I found some zig zag material on the Village Haberdashery site and Tash ordered two fat quarters of each which was delivered in very pretty spotty packaging. I made the pillowcase green on one side and red on the other, with a fold at the top to secure the pillow (if it ends up containing a pillow not presents in the end).

Here's the pillowcase filled by Father Christmas;

And here's an excited toddler looking forward to opening them;

Apparently now every time she sees the pillowcase, she says a hopeful 'More Santa?'. Maybe next year Isabella...

Tash and Matt gave me some lovely chocolates and a Village Haberdashery voucher as a Christmas thank you. I've yet to decide what fabric to spend it on but there's loads of pretty options to choose from. Thanks you two!