Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I'd like to thank my parents, my boyfriend, my stylist, my primary school teacher...

...Oh my, I got an award! Thanks to the lovely Carly over at Carly Makes Stuff I was passed on the Stylish Blogger Award:

As I'm sure you all know, with this award comes 7 facts about it's recipient. So without further ado, I give you ME:

1. I guess my most interesting fact is that, although my parents are both from Northern Ireland, I was born in Kuwait. When I was 1 and half we moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where I spent most of my childhood. I am really grateful to have such an unusual childhood and I do feel 'at home' whenever I'm in Asia.

2. Following on from number 1 - I went to a British International School in Jakarta, but when I was 15 my parents decided I should study my GCSE's and A-Levels back in the UK so I went off to boarding school in Belfast, while my parents stayed in Jakarta. Everyone was always jealous of where I got to spend my Summer holidays! I have to say I really enjoyed boarding school. Yes it was bitchy at times, but I was never part of that, so I generally just had a lot of fun! (No, it wasn't like Malory Towers! lol)

3. Since I seem to be telling my 'life story' as my facts, lets keep with that theme with fact number 3: I went to Edinburgh University and graduated with Honors BSc Geology! And nope, I'm not working in that field in the slightest!

4. After university I travelled for 20 months. 1 year of that was spent working and travelling around Australia, but the rest was spent in Asia. I went to: India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand (numerous times!), Loas, Cambodia and Vietnam. As I said earlier - I really do feel at home in Asia. And, I'm off to Thailand for three weeks this summer - can't wait!

5. While I was travelling I learnt to Scuba Dive...and fell in love with it! I've now done over 6o dives and am an Advance diver. Unfortunately because I learnt in the turquoise warm tropical waters of Thailand and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the icy cold, silver grey waters of Strangford Lough (N.I) just don't cut it for me! So I don't get to dive as much as I would like to anymore. But I do try to build my holidays around it....so there will definitely be a few dives this summer in Thailand.

6. My boyfriend is almost 10 years older than me. Some people think that's a bit much, but for us, age is just a number. He's my best friend and that's the most important thing. He's turning 40 next month (eek - a big one!)...so I'm buying him his Divers cert so we can go diving together in Thailand (yeay!). (Sorry for the cheesy pic guys!)

7. And a very random one - I cannot watch scary movies. At all. I get spooked so easily even by someone coming up behind me, so scary movies are a definite no no for me!

So there you go, a little insight into what makes me me! And to keep the award going, I nominate the following 7 lovely bloggers, in no particular order (and apologies if you have already got this award - consider yourself extra stylish!):

Katie @ Katie's Creative Saga
Karen @ Did You Make That
Trisha @ Made By Trisha
June @ House of Spoon
Ashley @ Refurl
Kayla @ Heart on my Sleeve
Katherine @ Something In The Way She Sews

Monday, 21 February 2011

Mode Mondays - Kate Spade

One of the style blogs I follow is What Would Emma Pillsbury Wear? (WWEPW) which is a fun look at the fashion styles that Emma Pillsbury wears, a character from Glee. Like many many others out there, I do love her style - her colour blocking pencil skirts and cardies, cute brooches and jewellery and floral shift dresses.

WWEPW recently drew my attention to Kate Spade's website and her new spring collection, and I have to say I am in love. I ended up putting nearly all of it into my 'style inspiration' folder (come on, we all have one of these right?!). Here is just a taster:

Love the nautical feel of this skirt - and the red shoes!

You can never go wrong with hounds tooth

Apparently the waist band of this skirt is a ribbon - has anyone ever made a skirt with a waist band like this? I'm curious as to how secure/stable this would be.

Polka dots and pink tights!

The colours in this dress remind me of a lot of the colours kicking around in peoples Colette Spring Palette Challenge.

You can't tell in this picture, but the design of this cute ruffle top is little flowers with heart shaped heads

Polka dots and ruffles!

There is so much more on the website, including gorgeous shoes and cute belts with fun buckles. I want it all - but not at the prices they are going for...there is nothing under £100! I think it's fashion like this that inspires me to sew...stylish, clean 'simple' lines that (in my head-in-the-clouds mind) I think I could perhaps make myself!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The FASTEST and easiest fitting advice for garment sewing

Still on the sewers high after finishing my tartan dress I wanted to make another quick and easy project (the first was my boyfriends pjs) to keep up the sewing momentum. I have had a vintage pattern for a simple top in my stash for a while now, and thought it was time to give it a go. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the pattern (bad bad blogger!) but I'll get one and post it up soon. It's very basic, with two main pattern pieces (a front and a back) and then corresponding facings, and you have four different neck options.

My main worry was that it's a bust size 32. Now I'm not blessed with Christina Hendricks-esque assets (or anywhere near...in fact I would almost be inverted! lol) but I knew that if the bust size was small, the rest of the fit would be rater small too. So I whipped up a quick muslin to find out if I would even be able to get into this top (there are no fasteners in it). After trimming off the seams allowances from the neck and arm holes I was delighted to discover that I could indeed get myself into it....but it was pretty tight around the bust. Er...WHAT?! How?! Check out the pulling:

I stated tucking and pulling and pinning and this and that and other fitting options (after consulting my trusted Vogue Sewing book), but it just seemed like far too much work for a quick fix top. Then I realised I was wearing my old faithful bra which might perhaps have a little bit of extra oomph in it! So a quick bra change and:

Ta-da! Perhaps still a little tight over the bust, but much more acceptable! How easy was that?!

Here's the side view. The side bust dart (if you squint you can see it) is just ever slightly too high, but really not too far off for me to care at this point in time. Yes, I am a lazy sewer...but only at the moment. If I make this top again I may put in the effort to make it 'perfect'. There seem to be a few pulls on this view but I think that's because I am standing up ridiculously straight!

So there you have it....having fitting problems? Try a different bra!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Pyjama Party

So after completing my tartan dress I was filled with the excitement (sewers adrenaline?!!) finishing a project that I wanted to make more - and fast! I needed another fix of that immense satisfaction of finishing something* but that would be easy and not take the um...5ish months that the dress took me! Enter PJ bottoms for my boyfriend!

 I didn't have a pattern, and to be honest, I knew they would be easy so I didn't want to buy a pattern either. Then I remembered that I bought the Sew Everything Workshop book last year (never actually made anything from it) and wondered if they might have a pattern I could use. Result - they had a pattern for 'foxy boxers' (their name, not mine!) which I thought would be easy enough to lengthen into pj bottoms.

Turns out it wasn't quite as straight forward was I thought it would be. I cut along the 'lengthen here' line and inserted a loooong piece of tracing paper and put the bottom section of the pattern underneath.. Hmm...if you cut a diagonal line, extend it and try and match it up, it's impossible! Here my diabolical attempt to explain via diagrams:

The image on the left is the example pattern piece for the boxer shorts. The image on the right is me scratching my head over how you are suppose to join up pattern pieces after you have cut along the lengthening line and made it the length you want!
A = continuing the bottom piece at the same angle....it goes on for infinity
B = the top edge of the bottom piece joining with the top edge of the top piece
C = continuing the top piece at the same angle....you would end up with barely any room to squeeze your foot through at the bottom!
D = joining the top edge of the top piece with the bottom edge of the bottom piece

There were a few more options but I think that's enough to get my point across! So much for a quick fix sewing project! In the end (after a lot of swearing** and huffing and puffing) I did a sort of option D but with a lot of fudging. I decided that since they were pj bottoms the fit wasn't really a big issue (thank god!). I'm sure there is a correct way to do this, but I wanted to get it done there and then and not trail the internet for the answer!
The sewing section of the pj's was nice and simple (phew!) and I even made a fly front (or placket? Which is it? I've forgotten! lol) which I thought was going to be tricky but was actually very simple and gave it quite a professional finish.

The top is just elastic but I wanted to do a faux drawstring front by putting in a button hole on either side, securing ties on the inside and have them come out through the holes. I hadn't done buttonholes since I got my machine so this was actually going to be my first garment with them! So of course I did a practice run first - it turned out a beauty. So onto the real thing......BIG BIG MESS! (Cue LOTS of swearing) For some reason the machine stopped moving the fabric so I just got a gigantic ball of thread sewn in one place. I couldn't even unpick it. And it was right at the front of the pjs!!! Disaster! I thought I could maybe do another one right next to it and have the tie come out over the crap one to conceal it. So another test - another perfect button hole. Onto the real thing - ANOTHER big MESS! Well I was just getting fed-up now, but I wanted to finish the pjs that day (coz they were my Valentines pressie to my man!) so in the end I sewed the ties straight onto the front of the pj bottoms. It looks fine, but just not as slick as I had planned (damn it!). I'm really annoyed at my sewing machine for messing up the buttonholes...and I don't even know why it did it.

Anyway, enough words - here's the goods (modelled by moi since my boyf is off skiing down mountains in Bulgaria at the moment!):

Cheesy shot of my relaxing in the pj's reading the Sew Everything Workshop book that the pattern (sort-of) came from!.

I have to say, these are the comfiest pj bottoms I've ever had on (yes, I've been road testing them this week!). They are a bit too baggy and a bit long (long is easy to fix) so next time I make them I will narrow the pattern a good bit. I have another lovely plaid fabric in my stash which is destined to become my own pj bottoms.

Regarding the Sew Everything Workshop as a sewing book - I don't love the patterns that she gives you, they seem a bit shapeless and a bit boring for me, but the step-by-step instructions were very good. I guess the patterns are a little shapeless because they are simple and suitable for the beginner sewer which is fair enough really.

* This is quite a novel feeling for me as I have the bad habit of starting new projects before another one is complete!! Here is the proof!
** My boyfriend is always baffled and bemused by how much swearing my so-called 'hobby' makes me do. How can something I enjoy doing cause me so much anguish?!!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Tartan 'Sewing Class' Dress - FINISHED!

Woo! It feels like so so long since I last posted a finished garment on this blog - I'm so bad at finished projects!!! But I am delighted to say that I have finally completed the dress that I started sewing in my sewing class (see here and here):

(the flower is just a hairclip - it matches in 'real' light, but the flash has made it look a lot lighter!)

McCall's M5923

This was a long and sometimes rather stressful journey - but I learnt a lot. I think the biggest thing I learnt was that my sewing class wasn't teaching me enough fast enough!! I mentioned in another post that I decided not to bother going back to the class because I knew I could spend the two hours at home more productively...and I was right. Now, I'm not saying that I know everything about sewing - far far from it! But the class was unfortunately too basic and everyone was working on a different project, so the teacher was spread to thin.

The next important thing I learnt was that commercial patterns are made with WAY too much ease. You measure your actual body and look at the chart and go by what size they say you should cut, right? - wrong!! This is something I will just never understand. Everyone complains about it, but apparently that's 'just the way it is'. Er...why?!!! I cut a 16 in the skirt and graded up to a 14 in the top for this pattern and here is what it looked like straight from those sizes:

A giant SACK! I took a full inch off each side (that's already sewn seams...so does that not equate to 4 inches off the pattern?) - that's just crazy! Had I not have started this in the sewing class I would have made a muslin and been able to rectify all these sizing issues before cutting my expensive wool fabric, but the teacher told us we wouldn't have enough time to make muslins so I trusted her knowledge in pattern sizing (ah well, I guess you live and learn!). I also had to take in two seams at the back - these were princess seams at the top which I was very nervous about resizing, but I think I did a good enough job. I didn't touch the invisible zip, which I had already sewn in, because I had spent so long ensuring the tartan matched up and I didn't want to ruin that. I was so pleased with my tartan/plaid matching:

Yes - there is a zip down the middle!!!

Anyway, after I dealt with the sizing issue, everything else came together quite quickly. The top is self-faced and I edged it with pretty lilac bias binding (actually my teachers idea, so I definitely give her credit there - it looks really sweet, even if it's only me who sees this.). My final issue was the hem...I am so scared of hems - am I the only one?!! I just hate to see a hem bulging or to see the stitches coming through. This is quite heavy wool so I didn't want to do a doubled up hem. I ended up sewing some of the left over bias binding to the edge, turning it up once and then doing the smallest hand sewing I have every done in my life to secure it in place. I was really pleased with how it turned out. It's so funny, I was so excited making those last few stitches on the hem and clipping the thread - my dress was finally DONE!!! What a feeling!

My next issue is how to style it. I wore it to my Mum's like this: 
With a long black cardi

The shoes go perfectly with it - but they are sky scrapers and its still far too cold for that kind of foot wear so I won't be wearing it like this for a good while yet. I think it works well over thick black tights and a polo neck:

Oh, and the highest accolade of all - my mum was visibly impressed and told me I had created a 'masterpiece' and never thought in a million years when she bought me a sewing machine that I would end up making something this difficult! That is high praise indeed - praise is not given lightly from her, believe me! And you know what felt great, when I showed her the pattern and the fabric she really thought it was going to be too difficult for me....so it was a great feeling to show her I could do it.

Oh dear - I really didn't mean to sound so boastful! Apologies for that!

On another note I made my boyfriend an pair of pj's on Saturday. I needed an 'easy' and 'instant gratification' project after making the dress! I'll post pics of it later in the week. But it will be me wearing them because he has jetted off to Bulgaria this week to go skiing - yes, without me! The cheek! lol.

Oh, and I also made up a quick muslin for a vintage top. Another easy project, or so I thought. It's not quite the right size for me, so I think I may need your help with fitting it!!
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