Monday, 30 September 2013

Sarong Refashions

In UK charity shops at least there is always a rack of donated sarongs. I guess people buy them for holidays abroad and have no use for them here! It's another place I look for discarded fabric - often sarongs are soft and light and make lovely summer tops or skirts, and the nice thing is that unlike other refashions you are basically just getting straight yardage.

The fabric for my latest garment is taken from a sarong, but not from a charity shop. When my children were little I went a bit crazy and bought the whole family, yes husband and son included, matching sarongs from People Tree. They are a fair trade/organic clothing company still very much in business whose website you can find here. There is some information on how cloth and clothes are manufactured as well as some cute items for sale.

Anyway, I digress. We had a lot of fun for a few summers running around the garden in our sarongs. Then the children began to grow up and no longer found it amusing to match their parents ;) The sarongs are made from beautifully soft, organic, fair trade, tie-dyed cotton, far too good to discard! Pre-blog I already made this bag, lined with one of the sarongs...

Bag exterior

Trying to show bag interior. The red lining inside the straps is from an old
linen skirt I used to wear

The pattern is from a book called Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross. It's one of those bags that just expands and expands - I have used it constantly since I made it, mostly for lugging crafty stuff to and fro but it's good for stuffing with books and shopping too. The pattern was easy and fun - highly recommended!

...and two scarves, one wide and one thin which I wear several times a week. As you can see the fabric takes on a different texture, un-ironed and crumpled. These were made by cutting the sarong 2/3rds 1/3rd, so if you find a sarong in a colour that suits your skin tone, this works really well with no waste.

Now I have made this top, my third based on Simplicity 1920. (I think these are what I wear instead of t-shirts.) I did a different order of construction this time (shoulders and neckline first), so that I could try out the length for a high-low hem. I have three inches added to the extension lines on the pattern to allow me to experiment and also because the first top came up quite short. (Other versions here with some comments on the pattern, and seen here although this was made pre-blog.) The fabric is quite fine so I used French seams again (still enamored of the lovely neat interior finish these give!)

I'm not done with sarong refashions yet, although there is only a scrap of this fabric left now. My friend has given me another beautiful one, which I am making into a lined A-line skirt.

What are you working on at the moment?

Happy sewing, 'til next time!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Using Up Every Last Bit & Pattern Review Kwik Sew 2498

I have a new resolution, because of this:

Unfinished cushion project - furry scraps (what on earth will I do with these) - dressmaking scraps

My scraps are becoming a health and safety issue and also being ruthlessly logical it is better to use up scraps while the machine is threaded with the right colour and has the right needle in etc. Rather than stashing the bits and never using them, but thinking things like, "Gosh, I really must use up some scraps", every time I see the teetering pile...

I love making things to wear and am not so keen on making anything homey (although I do quite enjoy making small gifts). To increase the likelihood of using up scraps I need to start making small garments (well obviously they have to fit someone or that would be pointless). Knickers, maybe? Camisoles?

Anyway I searched the internet to try to find appropriate patterns. I didn't find many, maybe I was tired and I missed the patterns or maybe there really aren't many that fit this particular need. I found that Kwik Sew had a lot of basic styles and I want things I have made to be reasonably timeless and lasting so this pattern seemed like a good fit for using small pieces.

I have never sewn with a Kwik Sew pattern before so I had a surprise when I undid the packet.

Where are the miles of flimsy crumpled tissue I usually struggle with? Where are the tiny indistinguishable size lines all printed in the same colour? This pattern is one I hope to use over and over again (and since I won't trace a pattern like I "should" unless I absolutely have to for some vital alteration reasons), the extra strength is appreciated and made me mind less that it cost a little more than the other big pattern brands. Sometimes you just want to cut and sew, especially if you are using up scraps!

Another surprise was the seam allowance. Only quarter of an inch, which being used to 5/8ths inch felt a bit scary. Not much to play with. Then it occurred to me that it was probably this width so that the seams could be finished faster.

I began to get the idea that this pattern might be, well, kwik.

Here is my finished camisole. I made it from white broderie anglaise scraps left over from the peasant top I made in the summer. I was worried the fabric would be too see through on a closer fitting design, so I backed it with a thin white cotton lining harvested from a kaftan I have thrifted that is destined to become something else one day. Buying lining to use up scraps would defeat the object to my mind!

Literally as I was finishing the camisole I realised there was no need for me to use facings as I could have just lined it instead of treating the fabrics as one. For some reason I just blindly followed the instructions WHERE WAS MY BRAIN. So I have facings that show through the fabric needlessly, arghh! I have been consoling myself by saying this was an experiment with scraps and at least I have tried the pattern as intended, but truth be told I am a little cross with myself.

Excuse blurry pic & squint - sun in eyes

So anyway the instructions were clear and there was no difficulty with method, but fitting was more tricky. I made the pattern according to my bust measurement and the front fits how I think it is meant to. That is the problem with artists impressions, I would so much prefer a photo of every style. They leave too much open to interpretation. Anyway I see a relatively straight style fitted across the bust with looseness under. I think this is what I made. However the back was enormous. I just took a couple of inches (seriously!) off each side of the back piece and called it done, but I could have gone down at least two sizes across the back. My thoughts are:

1. It could be the style as the only view photographed does seem quite loose under the model's arm (the same pieces are used for views C & D) and thinking about it if the camisole was too fitted it wouldn't slip over the head and shoulders.

2. I could have made the smaller size and done a FBA. It would be a good pattern to experiment with this alteration since it is so simple BUT since I got the fit I wanted would there be any advantage in doing an FBA? I am unsure whether I should just do what works or try to do things "properly". Any thoughts?

I have just a couple of small scraps left of this fabric now. I think they would make a lovely contrast collar for a blouse/shirt so I am hanging on to them. (No I am not crazy enough to make a shirt especially to use up these scraps as where will it end. Possibly with insanity.) Do you know of any clothing patterns that are good for using up those awkward bits left after cutting out your garment (particularly wovens)? Any/all suggestions gratefully received!

Happy sewing,

'til next time!

Friday, 6 September 2013

September Giveaway!

Yay, September! After a fabulously sunny summer (this only happens about once every 7 years in Britain so expect to read plenty more about it in UK blogs!), we are entering the month of change! I'm feeling quite motivated after some lovely seaside days and am continuing my attempts to live only with what I use and generally clear up. There's plenty to do!

With this goal in mind, this month's giveaway is a book, A Perfect Fit by Lynne Garner, ideal for those looking to kick their pattern habit (ahem!) and make some perfectly fitting garments from their own measurements. It's a beginner level pattern drafting book with clear line drawings and photographs, but does include some style details such as making a different shaped collar or style of sleeve. True: this giveaway nearly didn't happen, as I couldn't find the book! That's how badly my sewing area needs clearing out.

Front cover

Back cover

Contents (might have been given away by heading at top of page!)

Sample Page

In case you are wondering why I don't keep this book. I basically ordered it in error along with some other sewing supplies, thinking it was a guide to achieving the perfect fit using commercial patterns and I wasn't sure how to phrase, "Can I return this since I didn't check out what I was buying thoroughly". I now have this book,

I strongly recommend this book if like me you don't always want to wade through lots of information and just want a clear and quick answer to a pattern alteration query. Here's an example of how the book is laid out.

Truly, a useful page!

I honestly prefer this  to the point approach to any of my other sewing reference books. The only thing I would change is a spiral spine would be useful so that it could be opened out flat while working from it - they're ideal for how-to books, I think.

Anyhow one day I might do some drafting again, but I have more than enough resources - I am going to write a post about my sewing history soon and I will show some of them then.

In the meantime if you would like 'A Perfect Fit' leave a comment below and your email address so that I can contact you. Since this giveaway is for a book, I am going to leave it open until Monday 30th September to give everyone a chance to enter, when a winner will be drawn at random. Good luck and

Happy sewing, 'til next time!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A Vintage Day Out In A Handmade Top!

Vintage: "denoting something of high quality, especially something from the past". If you would like a gentle family day out, with cups of tea, ice-cream, cake, craft stalls and so on, a traditional village fete as held throughout the summer in England will surely delight you!

My very favorite is held on or around my birth date in August and I like to go every year.

I had a long cherished ambition wear an outfit that has a sense of celebration and a hint of vintage to this fun event. I made a top, Butterick B4685 'Fast & Easy', which I also used as a base for my men's shirt refashion here.


I love this pattern! It IS fast and easy and I have discovered for myself why peasant styles have survived the test of time, popping into fashion at times during every decade of the 20th Century and still going strong in the 21st: quick to construct, more flattering than you might expect, comfortable to wear. I used totally unnecessary French seams in mine as I am practicing for the fear-inducing Vogue 1247 which I hope to attempt this autumn. Anyway, constructed normally this is the perfect beginners top. The only alteration I made was to reduce the length of the neckline elastic (by a little less than an inch), as I thought my bra straps might be on display otherwise.

Anyway, next time I will make this top an inch longer. Tops from commercial patterns always come up short on me which could be a long body issue or a pattern drafting issue, but I really need to measure every time. The bottom hem on this top is shaped and has a split at the sides which means it looks lovely untucked as well as tucked in, but the side splits sit a little higher than I would like.

Top untucked, maybe you can see a glimpse of the shaped sides.

My first idea was to make this in an original 50's floral fabric with a complementary semi-circular skirt, and I ordered what I thought was the perfect fabric for the top from Donna Flower (UK vintage fabric seller). It was listed as being suitable for dressmaking and crafts but when it arrived it was clearly furnishing fabric. I have been refunded, but be warned, be careful when ordering vintage fabric from the internet for sewing! (As far as I can see, samples are not offered on the site). It may not be cataloged by people who know what "suitable for dressmaking" really is. I still love the fabrics on the site and I would order from there another time, but I would look for keywords like "voile" or "lightweight" and would ring or email to check fabric suitability first.

All this meant time was becoming short, so I had a rifle through my trusty stash and made my top from a white cotton (or maybe polycotton) broderie anglaise that I bought from my local charity shop several years ago. I had no idea what I would do with it at the time, but it was such as classic fabric I thought I would want to use it eventually...I think it cost 50p, and there is still enough left over for a camisole! Positive proof that 1. Sewing does not need to be expensive, in fact it can still be cheaper than buying your clothes if you have some lucky finds. 2. Keeping a stash is not as indulgent as I believed (especially if well curated), because emergencies do happen!!

We loved this traditional black London taxi.

There was no time to make a skirt, so I thrifted this one because it seemed to fit the celebratory mood. It was £3. It's out of my comfort zone in both style and colour, I try to make or thrift stuff that works with most of what I already have, and red and white stripes on my bottom half are realistically never going to be a staple. But I really did have a fun day and I can always make something else from it if I never wear it again!

Skirt fabric complete with co-ordinating 'Jubilee' pancake!

The top pattern has been added to my short list of TNT's. I didn't progress my sewing skills much making this top, but I am aiming to make clothes I can wear everyday that make me happy, and this simple pattern scores on both those accounts.

Did I mention there were kites?

Thank you to my youngest daughter for patiently taking my picture. I rely on my family members to take photos for my blog, so thank you all again and particularly to my daughters to whom the task tends to fall!

My birthday treat was rounded off with a lovely evening watching an Audrey Hepburn film. Truly, a vintage day! I hope you are all having fun this season, and wish you,

Happy sewing, 'til next time!