The case for the prosecution

The case

Over the last few months I’ve been noticing something strange in amongst my usual sewing projects. Namely that there’s been things that haven’t been made by me for me. It seems that – unwittingly – I may have become an unselfish sewer.

Clue 1 – Christmas waistcoats


It started off casually enough when, building on our Christmas card, I made matching waistcoats for the boy’s brothers for Christmas. Yes, it’s a gift but well, they’re part of a joke, nothing more. Plus I’d already made a white one for the boy, so making two more wasn’t much of a hassle.

Clue 2 – A very loud shirt

© Photography by Khris Cowley for Here & Now (www.fb.com/wearehereandnow)

My brother is a lover of loud vintage shirts and I figured what could be better than a loud vintage shirt chosen by your sister but a loud vintage-esque shirt made by your sister? This train of thought led to my making a Negroni shirt for him for Christmas using the most insanely loud Liberty fabric I’ve ever seen from the rag market (and man do I love that fabric).

It was a dream to make up and even more of a dream when, on Christmas day, not only did he love it as soon as he opened it but it was a perfect fit (I’d been a bit worried about making something without any measurements).

© Photography by Khris Cowley for Here & Now (www.fb.com/wearehereandnow)

As for the particularly professional photos with this one, my brother’s a DJ and he also runs amazing events in Bristol, so the fact he wore the shirt to one of their events is pretty much the highest honour I could ask for!

Clue 3 – Secret Valentine’s Exchange


In mid-January sign ups went live for this year’s Secret Valentine Exchange. I’d not taken part before, but I know a lot of people who really love it as a swap, so thought I’d get on board. Besides, it’s not really selfish sewing if you’re going to get something in return, right?


My gift went to Nina, and based on her love of orange and blue and her frankly awesome knitting skills I made her a knitting needle roll using this tutorial from Guthrie & Ghani. The chambray was in my stash from my shirt dress, whilst the orange came from a single fat quarter. I made the piping out of some bias binding I had. I also sent some yarn and knitting needles, because you can’t have an empty needle holder or needles with nothing to go on them!


In return I received a wonderful gift from Amy, you can find out more on my Instagram feed.

Clue 4 – sewing for a baby

The boy’s sister-in-law has just had a baby, making me an auntie by proxy, so of course I sewed something up for the little baby, I mean, he’s so cute (baby not boy) that it would have been cruel not to. Plus, I already had the bib pattern from the sewing I’ve been doing as a part of The Big Sew (which, yes, is also unselfish, but shh, or rather, click through and find out how you can help!) so it wasn’t even like it was that big of a deal. Honest.Verdict

It seems it’s confirmed. I am a handmade gift giver, no two ways about it. Still, given that my next few projects are all for me, I don’t think the title will stick too hard!

x

Time pressures? What time pressures?

New Year’s Eve is a strange thing; for some people there’s nothing they like more than staying out into the wee small hours, giddy and drunk on the promise of a new year, whilst for others they couldn’t care less and are happily tucked up in bed like on most other nights of the year.

I am not one of the latter people.

And as one of those who like a good party on NYE, I also like to have a fancy dress to wear.

This year (16 into 17) I was thinking about my dress for months. Not on purpose. It was more that I had a vision in my head of the perfect dress that I wanted to make but no opportunity to wear it. A leopard print wiggle dress. Outrageous but, for NYE, just outrageous enough.

I found a pattern, I found some amazing leopard print scuba in Dalston, I was away.

And then, at 4:30pm on New Year’s Eve I actually tried on the dress (I’d not had a chance to before then because of various Christmas crafting projects and Christmas being social projects).

It was a disaster. Not unsalvageable. But certainly not something that could be sorted before heading out to a party.

I had less than two and a half hours before we headed out, and I needed to eat in that time. It would have been madness to try and make something new in that time, right?

Right.

I did it anyway…..


What is it?

A slash neck dress with a three quarter circle skirt.

Is it blue?

No, but it is a turquoisey green which can sometimes count….

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

A gorgeous African wax print that I bought from the rag market during Sew Brum.

What’s the pattern?

The By Hand London Anna dress with the three quarter circle skirt I drafted for my Christmas dress

What was good about making this?

Erm, getting it done in two hours (allowing for the break for dinner)? I cut the fabric out not really sure if I would actually manage to get it done in time, so getting it all sorted felt pretty good. Plus, in amongst the mild mania of the creation, I managed to get a neat pattern match on the bodice back and I’m really pleased with the pattern placement of the yellow spiral on the bodice.

Would you look at the pattern placement on that….

What was bad about making this?

I did feel pretty rude when our friends turned up for pre-drinks and I went “can’t talk, got to hem!”. They all went and played some weird game about Vikings (so weird, a half hour of googling can’t find it…) with the boy instead. To be honest, based on the sounds of confusion they were making, I’m not sure who got the worst deal there….

SWOOOOOOSH

Would you make it again?

I would. I’m smitten with this dress and have worn it a couple of times already in the last month. It swooshes ever so nicely and is dressy without feeling over the top.

Although next time, I might try to take my time with it.

x

Sofa so good*

27 August 2013.

According to the internet, it’s the day an Australian journalist, a Chinese director and a Welsh golfer died. It’s also the day that I posted this picture on Twitter (yes, Twitter. These were pre-Instagram days as far as I was concerned)

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(Yes, I was blonde then)

I’d just bought (more than) enough fabric to cover the sofa in my flat.

9 October 2016.

I finally did something about it.

What is it?

A sofa cover; more accurately, a cover for a base, and two covers for back cushions.

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So proud of this!

Is it blue?

No, it’s green. This was a conscious decision for a flat two homes ago, but remarkably still works in the place we live in now.

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

The fabric is green corduroy that I bought from Fancy Silk Store. I’m fairly certain that they couldn’t believe I wanted to buy as much as I did (if memory serves, I predicted I’d need about 7 metres. I didn’t).

What’s the pattern?

It’s a DIY / self-draft, based on a net for the base and two sausage shapes with pillow case closures for the back cushion.

imageBefore and after. The difference is amazing.

What was good about making this?

It has made such a difference to the living room to put a new cover on the sofa, I really underestimated the impact it would have. I’m also amazed at both how quickly it came together (4 hours from measuring out pieces to being finished) and at how little fabric I actually needed (I reckon about 4m in total).

Well, these things, but mainly the fact that the boy will stop nagging me to make the sofa cover now)

What was bad about making this?

That it took me so long to get around to doing something so simple. I could have made one a year and had three different sofa covers in between times if I’d just pulled my finger out.

Would you make it again?

Now I know how easy it is, I think I would, although it’ll be at least a year or two before I do as these things are designed to be long lasting.

As an additional plus, all those extra metres of fabric mean that I might finally get around to making the dungaree dress I’ve been dreaming of all autumn (although, I hasten to add, I’m planning to dye it first so that I don’t disappear when I sit down!)

x

*I’m so sorry for how bad this pun is. It was literally the best I could come up with. If I had a school report for pun writing, right now it would say “must try harder”. Except the teacher would have come up with a punnier way to express that.

The green dress of doom….

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Well it had to happen. Sometimes you have an idea in your head and it’s wonderful and amazing and however hard you try it just doesn’t happen. This is that dress.

The tears.

The anguish.

The general nightmare.

Maybe I’m being over the top. Or maybe I’m not. You decide….

What is it?

A hellish nightmare. Or, if you want to be precise, theoretically a wrap dress with a scooped neck and capped sleeves.

Is it blue?

No.

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

The most gorgeous, soft green viscose bought from somewhere in the depths of ebay.img_9968

Drowning in viscose. Might have gone mad by this point…

What’s the pattern?

The Colette Crepe wrap dress, something I’ve had my eye on for ages and that I tested out with the fastest wearable toile ever.

What was good about making this?

I liked the colour. And that’s it.

What was bad about making this?

Oh god. Where to begin? There’s a lot of things that were less than fun, so, for ease for everyone I’ll use that old favourite, a bullet point list:

  • Viscose is a lovely fabric. It’s also really slippery making cutting out a pain in the arse.
  • I’d had a few excusable fitting issues with the toile, so figured the best approach would be to take the bodice down a size. It did not help. If anything, the fitting was worse and somehow bigger than the first one? The front had a weird hang, the back, which should be taut against my back was sloppy and loose, and I felt like a sack of potatoes.
  • The facing. Oh god the facing. Flappy and horrible, no amount of anything would make the facing work. Especially not on…
  • The cap sleeves. Which were basically hideous and wrong. I don’t know how they went from “kinda cute” on the toile to “why would you ever do that?” on this version.

img_0565I think my face says it all

Would you make it again?

HELL NO.

I was really gutted with this. It’s something I’d wanted to make for ages, I’d planned to make it for a friend’s wedding, and when it went to pieces, I lost all confidence in it. As much as some people might look at it and think “oh it’s not that bad”, the point was that it felt bad, and I think we can all agree that a fancy dress is not one that you’re meant to feel bad in.

I’ve got some ideas of ways I can salvage it (cut those sleeves off for a start…) which I’d like to do, especially as the fabric is so lovely. But right now, the idea makes me want to cry, so I think I’ll just leave it in my fabric box until I can face it (read: some point in the far future).

THAT SAID: this was, despite the frustration, a good experience as it was a reminder that it doesn’t always go right and that doesn’t matter. I ended up wearing the Nani Iro dress of dreams to the wedding and felt absolutely great in it (and had some lovely compliments to boot). Plus, the next thing I made was about a million times better and made up for all the hurt. Result.

So, was I being over dramatic?

x

 

Green floral dress

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I love this dress, and not just because I get to spin around whilst wearing it…

I initially bought this fabric about a year ago to make a Lilou dress, but it ended up sitting in my stash box, unused and a bit unloved. Then I wanted to make a wearable toile and it seemed a good fabric fit; I wasn’t wrong!

What is it?

A sleeveless shift dress with a pleated skirt

Is it blue?

No

What’s the fabric and where is it from?

A floral midweight cotton. I think I got it in the Fancy Silk Store, but I’ve seen it in a couple of places and multiple colourways.

What’s the pattern?

The Mortmain dress by Gather patterns in the sleeveless variation.

What was good about making this?

I couldn’t get over how quickly this came together, nor how neatly the seams all looked. Not having to make a lining for a dress was a bit of a revelation!

What was bad about making this?

I misjudged the ease so had to lose two inches off the bodice once I’d made it (i.e. drop it a dress size with some seam pinching). Although, from another angle, that just means there’s two inches less of me than I thought!

Would you make it again?

Yes I would, and indeed I have.

Gingham Cambie dress

IMG_6152I love gingham. It’s amazing and summery and makes me feel like holidays are just around the corner (almost certainly due to gingham dresses being summer uniform at school). Coupled with the sweetheart neckline loveliness of the Cambie dress pattern, it was a match made in heaven, and to be honest, the main surprise is that it took me so long to make it!

What is it?

A dress with a sweetheart neckline and a gathered skirt

Is it blue?

Nope

What’s the fabric and where is it from?

The fabric is a cotton gingham that I got as part of the stash swap at Sew Brum

What’s the pattern?

The Cambie dress by Sewaholic Patterns in variation B

What was good about making this?

I really enjoyed the simple way that this pattern came together, and had a surprisingly good time trying to pattern match the gingham up. I didn’t have any faith in the description of the way that the skirt would gather up, but actually it was lovely and the pockets are a delight (seriously, who doesn’t love a dress with pockets?

What was bad about making this?

I had a nightmare getting the lining to attach to the bodice at the waist, and in the end I made the decision to leave it unattached except for a small section in the centre. It worked well and is definitely how I’d do this if I made another cambie without a skirt lining.

Would you make it again?

Yes as this was a wearable toile for the unicorn dress….

x

Sparkly mermaid skirt

Sparkly mermaid skirt

Remember that time I went to London and got enabled into buying several metres of sequin fabric?

I knew at the time that I wanted to make it into a super sparkly skirt for my work Christmas do, and so it was that one evening in November, having used the super handy By Hand London circle skirt calculator, I found myself on my hands and knees in the dining room, preparing for the flood of sequin babies that even now we’re sweeping up…

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What is it?

A teal green sequin circle skirt, which Elle has christened a mermaid skirt (and who am I to argue?)

Is it blue?

No, although pretty close on the colour wheel

What’s the fabric?

SEQUINS!

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What’s the pattern?

A simple full circle skirt

Where’s the fabric from?

One of the first bricks and mortar shops you come to in Walthamstow Market, although I can’t remember what it’s called…

What was good about making this?

The shininess and testing out the swooshiness once it was sewn up (although I’ve no GIF for you this time as my trusty assistant was visiting friends)

What was bad about making this?

I read Lauren’s incredibly helpful blog about sewing with sequins. And promptly forgot everything I read, apart from the bit about using a teeny needle. So whilst I didn’t suffer a broken needle at any point, I did have to endure a LOT of snapping threads. Cue frustrated face.

Would you make it again?

I would make a circle skirt again; I like that it’s swooshy and big without being quite so gathered. I would sew with sequins again too, as now I’ve done it once, it can only get better. Would I make a sequin circle skirt though? I’m not so sure (but I don’t think that’s a bad thing)

x

 

 

Speedy spooky sewing

1-green dress 1Ok, so I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what counts as spooky sewing, however this definitely counts as speedy sewing; in under three hours this morning/afternoon I managed to sew up a whole dress!

What is it?

A green shift dress that forms the basis for my Halloween costume next week; I’m going to go as Poison Ivy although I’m going for more of a 50s theme Ivy and a bit less flesh-revealing than the traditional comic book character…. I’ll be cutting a load of ivy down from out garden to wrap around myself and into my hair and making my eyes all green and sparkly to complete the look.

Is it blue?

Nope, green. How many ivy plants have you seen that are blue?

What’s the fabric?

Really nasty cheap polycotton that I bought for a previous costume

What’s the pattern?

The pattern is one I drafted myself in a copy-your-clothes class. The original dress is one of my favourite ever RTW items. What you can’t see in this photo (not least because I haven’t sewn them on yet…) is that there’s a false opening on the back held together by buttons. The only difference I made was to the skirt which is a bit tighter than the original, not least due to the limited amount of fabric I had!

Where’s the fabric from?

I think it was from Fancy Silk?

What was good about making this?

I was really pleased with a couple of things with this. The first was how quickly it came together. I didn’t have any bias binding but managed to figure out a bodge for hemming the neckline which I was chuffed with.

green dress 2Basically, I sewed baste stitches at the 5/8  seam, then used these to help me turn the hem, cutting notches as necessary on any curved lines. I then pressed it all and resewed at 3/8. I was also pleased with the gathers connecting the skirt to the bodice, especially as the back pieces don’t connect so I had to make sure they lined up as neatly as possible without actually joining them (that doesn’t make sense but would if you saw the back)

What was bad about making this?

Despite being a copy of a dress I already have, I don’t like the way the armholes sit when the dress is on, nor do I like where the bust darts are. It also seems tighter than expected, which is a bit of a worry.

Ultimately, although it’s a bit rough around the edges, I’m pleased with the speed that this came together. Besides which, once I’ve dressed it up with ivy and the like (and I’ll share pictures next week after the party) all the bodges and rough bits will be hidden and no-one will know!

How about you? Are you making a costume for the spookiest night of the year (possibly)?

Plotting and planning

This weekend has been one of plotting and planning for my next couple of projects. So, in a cryptic, not so cryptic way, here’s what I’ve been up to…

1) Green thread

3-threadMANY moons ago I measured up my sofa to make a new sofa cover and bought a load of fabric to make the sofa cover. This is what I looked like when I’d just bought all the fabric. To give you an idea of how long ago it was, this wasn’t taken in our old flat, it was taken in my old flat (i.e. over two years ago….).
sofa whoopsAnd since then it’s just sat in a bag. However, yesterday I finally bought some thread that matches the fabric. So maybe, just maybe there’ll be a sofa cover somewhere in the future

2) Orla

1-orlaI fell in love with Orla pretty much as soon as Tilly published it, and I’m pretty convinced it’s going to be perfect for some gorgeous Nani Iro double guaze I picked up in Japan over the summer. In a strange move for me, I’m going to make a muslin this time around.as I’m terrified about cutting into the fabric and want to make sure I have it absolutely right before I make the first scary cut.

3) Super secret secretness

blurryI had a planning brunch about this today. All I can say about this is it’s very secret, I’m excited about making it, and think it will be pretty darned amazing if I manage to pull it off!

4) Toiletry bags

2-filled toiletry bagsSo these are a bit different. A local group has been collecting a whole heap of items to send to those needing aid in Calais, Kos, Lesbos and Syria. Rather than just send the toiletries in huge boxes, they decided to make them into individual packs, each in a reusable drawstring bag containing a message of hope and peace. I volunteered to help make some of the bags, so this afternoon went along to take those I’d made so far and sew up another batch of 14 over the course of a couple of hours. Whilst we were sewing, other people were filling those bags already made and it was amazing at the end of the session to see just how generous people had been with their time and their resources (253 are being sent off this week!).

If you’re in the Birmingham area and would like to help, this is the group I’m helping with: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Kingsheathcollects/
Rosie (who is co-ordinating the work) may be able to help you find a collection nearer to you if you aren’t able to make it to the Kings Heath area

If you’re in the wider world and would like to help, I’d recommend using facebook as a way to find a grassroots collection near you, or alternatively take a look at the website of any of the many charities and organisations working in these areas, including the UN Refugee Agency, Save the Children and Oxfam

Green skirt

Green skirt

What is it?

A bright green dirndl skirt. I think of it as being my apple skirt.

Is it blue?

No!

What’s the fabric?

Incredibly cheap polyester. Amazingly it actually works really well!

What’s the pattern?

The Clemence skirt from Tilly Walnes’ Love at First StitchI made it 60cm long as I wanted something  that hit below rather than above the knee

Where’s the fabric from?

The Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham

What was good about making this?

It was so quick and easy! Definitely a go-to skirt; I like how easy it is to change the pattern

What was bad about making this?

Unpicking three rows of gathering stitches and a row of basting stitches. I hate unpicking stitches.

Would you make it again?

Yes. Lots. See the polar bear skirt as the first of what I expect to be many other versions.