Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Curvy Sewing Collective Holiday Swap!

Hi Everyone and a very Merry Christmas to you all! Or if you don't celebrate Christmas then I hope you have the opportunity to take a nice break with family and friends.

Today I want to write about the kindness of strangers, and some curvy sewing of course.
I recently took part in the Curvy Sewing Collective Holiday Swap. This was where you gave your details on the Curvy Sewing Collective website and were partnered with another member of the online sewing community. The idea was to send a pattern, and perhaps a few notions, to your swap partner. I thought that this was a lovely idea so signed myself up.

I was partnered with Friedericke, who has a terrific blog at Naehenisttherapie (Sewing is Therapy). If you haven't read her blog before you should really give it a read. I was blown away by her chic, modern style and her sewing skills. I mean look at this amazing coat.


And this fabulous Washi dress looks effortlessly stylish.

Chic, modern and stylish are three words that would never ever come up if you were asked to describe me so I was really intrigued to what pattern Friedericke would choose as our styles couldn't have been more opposite if we tried. 

Anyway, a couple of days ago I received my parcel and I couldn't have been more delighted with my present. I was really touched by the thoughtful pattern choice as when we had written to each other about what we liked or disliked I had mentioned that I was frightened of sewing knits. I received a Mabel sewing pattern from Colette Patterns with some stretch needles and a twin needle! How great is that! I have been looking for a twin needle for ages and thought that I might have to order one online.

Look at this bad girl! That skirt is smokin' hot (as they say. Definitely not down with the kids here). The Mabel is a skirt pattern designed for stretch fabrics and comes in sizes from XS to 3XL. 

It also comes in three styles. One of them a bit longer than the other two. I have to say that this is completely out of my comfort zone but in a very good way, I think that that is great and one of the things that makes these swaps so much fun. We can get stuck in a style rut and the Mabel has such great instructions and reviews that I am sure I will be whipping one up in no time. I have even bought fabric, a heavy grey ponte knit with textured black flowers on it. I can't wait to give it a go.

So yet again I have been touched by the kindness of strangers, thanks Friedericke, and just how much the online sewing community is just that, a community. Thanks go to Tanya too for organizing the swap. 
Friedericke, if you are reading this I really hope you liked your parcel!

Finally, if you haven't yet visited the CSC you really should give it a look. It is a great resource for anyone that sews but has a definite focus on us more *ahem* generously proportioned sewers.

So just closing off with some festive best wishes for you all and a classic (non-festive) tune!

K xx

Edited to say that my brother's rugby game got put off due to the weather so they are not going out until January now. Typical after all that rushing!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Book Review: The Overlocker Technique Manual

Do you sew with knit fabrics? I never do as I am a bit scared of working with them. I have had an overlocker (serger) for about the past 10 years which I used to use for finishing the insides of Sprogzilla's dresses when she was small. I stopped using it, forgot everything and now I have lost my confidence. So, after a few abortive attempts to get my machine threaded up, with much added swears,  I decided to cut my losses and give it up for a dead loss. However, part of me REALLY wants to sew with knits again. I used to run up leggings and sew skirts from stretch fabrics with ease and have a lot of great knit fabrics kicking about growing old.

So I do what I always do when I need to learn something? Buy a book! I had a good look on Amazon and this one seemed to get the best reviews. The book in question is " The Overlocker Technique Manual" by Julia Hincks, published this year and in paperback. The cover price was £12.99 but it was on offer for less than £10. The  contents are divided into three main sections: Chapter 1 - Overlocker Basics; Chapter 2 - Techniques and Chapter 3 - Quick Constructions.

One of the things that I love about this book is that it is chock full of photos (good for a visual learner like me ) that is balanced out with the informative text. This makes it so easy to see where your stitches are going wrong and how they should look, Plus, it gives you the confidence to fiddle with all the little dials and knobs as now you know what they do. Guess who forgot to take any book photos? Yep, so you will have to take my word for it.

It looks awful but I was delighted that it was actually stitching

However glossy a sewing book it still needs to live up to its hype so I dusted down the machine and fired it up. Threading took me about 20 minutes and I could see from the start that the tension was a bit wonky and that the stitch width was probably off (thanks to the book).

Different fabric but looks SO much better (I used 3 different coloured threads)

After 5 minutes of fiddling I had another go and now it was stitching perfectly. (it looks like the fabric is rolled but it is just the stripes, it was dead flat). I only had three threads on my 4-thread machine as I couldn't find the box with all the spare feet, needles and stuff but will be converting this back to a 4-thread as soon as possible and changing the needles to ballpoints or stretches so I can sew knits. I have the Cake Patterns "Tiramisu" and the Holy Grail of knit dress patterns, the Palmer/Pletsch  "Perfect Knit Dress" from McCalls (M5974) waiting to be made up. I have pre-washed fabric and everything.

So am I glad that I bought this book? A big, fat resounding yes! I have conquered my fear, actually threaded my machine properly, can pinpoint where I was and am going wrong, and am now looking forward to the holidays so that I can get some knit sewing done. The only thing that would have improved this book for me was a spiral-binding so that I could have it open flat next to my machine when I was working through. 

I would heartily recommend this book to anyone with an overlocker, especially if you are thinking about buying one and would like a book to hold your hand through the learning process. I know that I am going to refer to it a lot.

Anyway, that was the sum of my productive output yesterday and I couldn't be more chuffed. I am off on my travels again tomorrow and have a couple of hours spare so will try to find fabric shops new.

Have a great week!


Sunday, 30 November 2014

A Dress for My Brother Pt 1.

Ha, that got you looking! Well this weekend I have actually almost finished a dress for my brother who is 6' 8" and built like the proverbial brick outside toilet. Just to satisfy your curiosity he is going on a night out with the rugby club that he plays for and they are all going dressed as women. What are they like? Why do big burly blokes feel the need to don ladies attire at the least opportunity for such events?  
As an aside and before I am flamed to death, don't get me wrong I think that anyone can wear anything that they damn well like and as a corset maker have made many garments for people of both genders in all manner of silhouettes. Just commenting on this, especially in a traditionally very masculine sport like rugby. I see this as a kind of pantomime with humorous elements, there is after all a lot of good precedents in the theatre: pantomime dames and men playing women in traditions like Kabuki, etc.. As a Scot, our national dress, the Kilt could be construed as a skirt too but only if you are a) a very good runner and b) probably not English.  I have been told it is very comfy. 

I wonder when/why dress became so prescribed according to gender? Many cultures have, what appears to be, unisex *styles* of garments like robes and kaftans. Anyway enough, I am digressing from the subject as usual. So finally as you can imagine he would have found it quite hard getting something to fit him so he asked me to make him a dress.

The pattern that I chose to start with was Burda 6947, a plus-sized dress pattern for a dress in two lengths and a matching bolero. I made the long version in a size 30 (to fit a 54 chest). I cut the pattern apart in the middle of the armhole and added 3cm, tapering to 2cm at the front and 3 cm on the back piece. I also added 2.5 inches at each of the two other lengthen/shorten points on the pattern. Yes, I am terrible for mixing metric and imperial on a whim but hey, that's just how I roll.

 Don't get me wrong, this dress was plenty long to begin with. I am almost 6" in my socks and when I held the unaltered pattern up to me it was pretty close to the floor, so if you are shorter then please bear this in mind.

I had to lay out the fabric on the (8ft) print table in the Print Room at the studios. I did smooth out all the pattern wrinkles, honest. Apologies for the mess but I was not precious about this fabric as this dress is one-wear only and the crushed velvet that I used was only about £3-4 a metre. Luckily, I had about 10 metres of this in black that I had bought in for making Halloween costumes a few years ago. Appropriate as this stuff is the Devil's own to work with. It is slippery, it rolls, it won't lay flat without wrinkles and it looks awful. Still a million hot, sweaty and statically-charged goths can't be wrong.

Poor defenseless hydrocarbons died for this stuff! (Photo nicked from here)

I did not cut out the facings. I used 1" black bias cotton binding and sewed one edge down on the outside, turned it, basted it flat (haha) and stitched it down. It looks okay from a distance. I didn't bother with any of the darts, smoothed out a little of the curve on the front pattern piece as it looked a bit strange without the dart there, made the front a bit more of a pronounced sweetheart which I then gathered by zig-zagging over a piece of 1" elastic to ruche it. Then I ran out of thread!  I started with a big spool from Gutterman that was half full and also used two bobbins full. This dress is a thread hungry beast. Probably because I used a fine zig-zag to stitch each seam then used that stitch that looks like an overlocker stitch, just in case of self-destruction.

Anyway, since I ran out of thread Part II will have to wait until later in the week. I have to still attach some sparkles and some feather trim so watch this space.

Before I go though, I have to say that the pattern was very easy to put together and that everything fitted beautifully. As a general rule I really like Burda patterns and this is no exception. I can't comment on the sizing or the fit though. 

Have a great week!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Vintage Book Review: McCall's Sewing in Colour (1964)

To be honest my life is overrun with books. Since I was a tiny child (I learned to read very early) I have been a voracious reader, devouring every tome that I could lay my grubby little hands on. Since then not a lot has changed - still got the grubby hands - except I no longer scare myself with books of ghost stories just buy mostly sewing books. I have quite a few now and like to pick them up on my travels as often as I can. 

McCall's vintage sewing - written when brown polyester ruled the world

My copy of  "McCall's Sewing in Colour" is from 1964. I picked it up on eBay for a song. It is quite a thick hardback book, about 300 pages, and as the tag line states covers " Home Dressmaking, Tailoring, Mending and Soft Furnishings". There are lots of line drawings and several colour plates with great photos.

60's sheets for the win!

The contents of this book are a bit different to some others that I own from the same period. There is a lot of emphasis at the beginning of the book on picking the right pattern for your lifestyle and figure type which just goes to show that nothing much changes, even from 50 years ago. We were still fretting about whether a pattern would be right or not. There is even the age old discussion about stripes. I love a horizontal stripe and wear them often. Ain't nothing going to make me look smaller so might just go with it. I want to be stripey!

Would our bums look big in those spots?

There is quite a lot of pages on choosing fabrics. This is useful and I suppose that apart from fit it is one of the major culprits in pattern failure. Plus a section on colour.

I am in love with this colour palette. No black too. Very strange

To give you a flavour of the book the chapters headings are listed as:

1) Building a New You
2) Keystone to Fashion
3) The Raw Materials

4) Fabric Facts

Yes, I keep my stash in my spice cupboard.

5) The Tools of the Trade
6) The Easy Rules of Pattern Alteration
7) Groundwork for Action

Feelin' hot, hot hot!

8) Blueprint for the Professional
9) Construction Data - Stitches and Seams
10) Construction Data
11) Design Details
12) Important Closings
13) The Personal Touch

14) Tailoring Talk
15) The Three R's- Repairing, Remodelling and Remaking
16) The Decorator's Touch

My eyes! It burns my eyes! Could you sleep in this room?

So the big question is would I buy this again? The answer is yes. There are better books with regard to sewing process tuition and the styling is obviously from the land that Pinterest forgot but it is a nice read and I am glad that I bought it.There is something in this book for everyone, beginners and seasoned hands alike and not a "how to a make a pillowcase" or pair of PJ pants to be found. Something a lot of modern books should keep in mind. There is a lot of info to be had in sewing books from this era, especially if you want to take your techniques to the next level, and you could easily buy two or three for the costs of one new one. Plus, I think reading these old books is fun but then again I read sewing patterns on the train!

Hope you are having the best time.

K xx

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Prison Drawings and Funky Fabric

Hi All, sorry for not posting for a couple of weeks. It was Mum's 81st birthday last weekend so Sprogzilla and I were in Edinburgh. However, no trip out with Mum is complete without an assault on the shops so we hit Glasgow for a wander about.  I left a shattered Mum and Sprogzilla having a very welcome cup of coffee and snuck in a quick foray to Mandor's fabric shop, my spiritual home. I love this place so much. If you are interested the lovely blog, Kestrel Makes has a very comprehensive and recent review which you can see here,

The ladies are about 10 inches high. Subtle it is not.

I bought this fabric. It is awesome, in every sense of the word. It has had mixed reactions from the people I have showed it to but I love it and that is what counts. Someday it will be a pencil skirt, when or if I ever get some sewing time again.  Work is a bit mental at the moment but I asked if I can work from home a bit so my first day was Friday. Not a train in sight! Yipee! 

Another reason that I wanted to work from home was that we were hosting an exhibition down at the Studios on Friday night. Earlier this year we had a bit of a shake up down there which very sadly left us directorless. Three of us put in a proposal to take over, out of necessity, and have been running the place for the last 3-4 months.. One of the things we have done is to use one of the big empty studios for a "pop up" workshop and/or gallery space. This was our first event since taking over and it was a great success.

"The Prison Drawings" was an exhibition by graffiti artist, The Taffy (yes, he is Welsh) who
was arrested and sent to prison for 22 months for spray painting trains. I am sure that there are many conflicting views on the rights and wrongs of graffiti but to me this seems a little extreme when rapists and murderers walk away with little more or less in the UK every day. Anyway, enough of my views and back to the event.

The studios were transformed for the night with our big blackboard wall at the entrance, normally reserved for notices and stuff, completely transformed. It was beautiful, although I think that it ended up decorating the back of many unwitting people's jackets as the night went on.

There is actually a door in this wall!

I was amazed at just how tiny and detailed the drawings were. I had a lovely discussion with accessories designer, Melanie Kyles about how they would be fantastic embroidery designs. Apologies for the rather rubbish camera phone photos, I didn't have my glasses on, big mistake as I was squinting at people all night.

The windows of the space were decorated too. I think that this is a much better view than normal.

There was a very cool video installation of a scrapped bus being spray painted and a pretty fabulous ghetto house DJ playing a specially chosen soundtrack. I felt a bit old to be honest, with the place being mobbed by young hipster-types but the music was great.
There was even a little mock-up of a prison cell that you had to peep through a window to see.

Anyway, another completely non-sewing related post but at least it has fabric in it. We will be doing more stuff and I promise that one of the first exhibitions of the New Year will be sewing-related, honest.

Hope you are all having a great week!
K xx


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Fractals, Crystals and Tiny Stitches

Hi Everyone, well there has been some sewing this week but it is slow progress for me. I actually had a chance to slope off yesterday for a couple of hours and do some more work on my neck corsets. I know that it seems like I have been sewing them forever, well it does at least to me, but I stitch everything together very carefully by hand before it gets machined and I am not very fast or confident with my handwork.

Hopefully these will sink into the fabric once it has had a press.

I have put in the boning on the red one and lined both the red and the orange making sure that all the seams of the outer shell and the lining line up. Then they were tacked together and I sewed on the bias binding, finishing it on the inside with lots of tiny prick stitches to try to make it as unobtrusive as possible. Hand sewing is definitely not my strongest suit.

The fraying will be covered by tiny flowers and is where I am going to attach some strings of vintage pearls.

I have added in some Swarovski crystals that I had lying around in four shades of cream and brown. I think that they pick up the colours of the motifs well although both the colours and the sparkle are proving elusive to capture in a photo. Here the dark ones look too brown but in reality they have an orangey glow when they are hit by the light. I still need to bind the top of each one and find some silk flowers in the right size and colour. I did have a cheap one from Primark kicking about so pinned it on to see how it might look. It is of course too big and not quite the right colour but it gives the general impression of how this will be worn. No wallflowers in this one. 

Gosh, she looks a bit grumpy from this angle but I would be too with a flower pinned to my neck.

So, apart from that this week has just been all about work. It is pretty mental at the moment as I have a product launch on Friday next week. Am really excited about it but it is going to be a bit bonkers for the next few days, as if it is not normally!

Anyway, I hope that you have been having a good time, creating loads, having fun and here's to getting life back to normal again. I will leave you with a picture of a cauliflower that looks like a fractal (and now looks like a curry), just because I can. 

Mandelbrot Cauli. What an awesome beastie! Maths and curry in one dish.

 Vegetable rights and peace!
K xx

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Heart of Glass

Hello! Well things have been stupidly busy here at MOR. We went for a big drive yesterday and ended up going to the beach as it was Sprogzilla's Dad's 50th birthday so he got to choose.  Of course I took this as a good opportunity to nag them into taking a pic of my newly knitted scarf. 

Thought that this lipstick was a bit bright but I like it. MAC's Ruby Woo.

The day did not start too well as we had a bit of a crazy rain storm when we had been out of the house about 10 mins.

Only Happy When It Rains?

 However, later on the weather was lovely, real t-shirt weather so the scarf was a bit inappropriate, and hence the sunglasses. Otherwise, all the other shots had me screwing my face up against the glare from the sun and the sea. We had a lovely walk along the sands at Seaham on a hunt for some of their famous sea glass.
Vintage Sea Glass

Seaham had a glassworks there from the 1800's to the 1920's and story goes that at works closing each day the "end of days" glass would just be turfed into the sea. It gets washed up and can be found in a whole kaleidoscope of colours, but mostly green and white. The most prized pieces are the multicoloured ones. We found a cobalt blue with deeper stripes and a black and clear glass combo. Most of the bits are very small but we are going to use them to make something  for the house which I will share when I have enough bits. We found 2 pockets full yesterday in about 2 hours and a good couple of mile walk.

Apart from that I have not done any sewing as with things from work being as they are I have had no time although I have bought some new wool. At least I can knit while I am commuting.

Sirdar Divine. It has Lurex sparkles in it!

It is from Sirdar and the colurs remind me of Monet's Garden. I bought the fabric underneath too as a remnant . It is a cotton batik and a couple of metres long x 112cm.

You can see the colours a bit better in the shot above. 

One of Monet's Waterlilies series.

Definitely a touch of "waterlilies" in this palette.
We ended the day with the obligatory fish and chips and an ice cream. Seems a bit wrong to go to the seaside and not indulge. We went to South Shields for these and they were very good. The light there was fantastic and we had another long stroll along the shore. 

Lovely Light

Boy are my knees feeling it today though. Joys of age!
Well I had better dash as I am off down the Studio for a meeting. No time to breath this week.
Have a great time!
K xx

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Review/Tutorial: Prym Bias Binding Tool, Me-Made Corsetry Plus Some Sneaky Sewing Time

 Bear with me sewing people. This post is going to be quite long as it has some sewing with loads of pics plus a product review for a tool that I find to be one of the most useful that I own. Now to start off I was at the Studio yesterday and managed to sneak in a  little sewing time, in between moving furniture and mini-meetings.

Totally rocking shot  of Lois Wetherup by the awesome  Tom Farmer @ Glasgow Photographer, Knickers and fascinator by the super-taleneted Marie @ Amuse Bouche. Corset by me.

There is much going on at the moment, everything is in a state of flux, so loads to do.

Recognize this fabric? Yep, it is the leftovers from my Flea Market Fancy shirt. Nothing wasted in Kitty Towers.

More on that when it is all finalized. However despite all the too-ing and fro-ing I managed to complete the lining for the orange neck corset and make the outer and lining for a red one.

Lovely super thick silk, so many pieces.

The red one will match the corset above that I was commissioned to make for a Miss Scotland to be featured in a Christmas-themed shoot for The Sun newspaper a year or so ago. I am trying not to look at my wrinkly fabric. Nice fit though for only having the rough measurements.

I am going to use the two of these in the upcoming photo-shoot and am looking forward to getting them finished. I have to say that making a neck corset probably takes me as long as making a bigger one.

I always line in quilting cottons. They are so pretty and the cotton is nice to wear next to the skin.

My pattern has 12 pieces to cut out in the outer silk fabric, interfacing, corset coutil and then a lining. the shell is sewn up from the interfaced silk flat-lined to the coutil. The boning is sewn to the shell and the lining will be hand-stitched onto that to keep it in place. They don't lie flat as they are both shaped to be three-dimensional. Plus I will steam them into shape and leave them to cool down in the same way that you would do a coat collar.

Once that is done I will  tidy up the edges and cover them with bias binding, sandwiching all the layers together and unpicking the holding stitches. This is where one of my favorite wee gadgets comes in - my Prym bias binding tool.

NB.To be fair I also have ones from Clover and they are equally as useful but this is the one I will always reach for first as I like the little handle and the size.

One of my favourite tools, ever!

The tools are simplicity itself to use and they come with pretty good instructions but here is my method.

Here are my bias strips. I have ironed them flat. Look how the grain is on the diagonal. That is the bias and will allow it to curve round edges easily.

You will want to cut out strips ON THE BIAS that are twice the width as stated on the tool e.g for a 12mm tool cut 24mm, for an 18mm tool cut 36mm, etc. If I am using silk (as I am here) I cut out 40mm strips instead of 36mm just because they will shrink widthways when you pull them through the maker. You won't need to do this with a thicker fabric like cotton.

Plus you need to be quite accurate in your cutting or your will get wonky binding.

The back of the tool. Right side of fabric facing this way.

An easy way to get your first cutting line is to fold over one end of your fabric so that the selvedge is at 90 degrees to the selvedge on the other side to form a right-angled triangle. Give this an iron and, hey-ho, your cutting line. The pointy ends of your strips make it easy to push through the maker but if they don't you can pull it through gently with a pin.
To make your binding you will need to push your fabric through the tool with the right side facing downwards. The fabric will be folded round as it goes through to create the little flaps on the back of the bias as illustrated below.

Please ignore the stray thread. Never noticed that one when I was taking the pic.

It helps to secure the end of your strip to your ironing board with a pin so that you can pull against it gently when you are ironing. Use loads of steam (test your fabric first) and keep the point of the iron quite close to where the binding comes out. you should then end up with beautiful "single-fold" flat binding that you can either use as is or iron over double to create "double-fold" tape.

Easy peasy! Now you have no excuse for finding matching binding, plus the design options are endless. I really recommend buying one of these if you use binding at all. They come in lots of widths too and are only about £7 or £8 depending on size & brand.

Apologies for the wonky photo editing and hopefully will have a few more things to show next week.
Take care,  lovelies!

P.S. I won a sewing pattern  giveaway from the brilliant "Pendle Stitches" blog so will be making a much needed bag at some point. Huge thanks for the pattern. Am chuffed to bits. xx

Disclaimer: The views above are totally my own and this is definitely not a sponsored post.