Friday, 31 January 2014

Scrap Challenge with Crab & Bee

It dawned on me towards the end of last year, that I was getting a substantial scrap collection...this seemed a waste of fabric as well as space! Morgan over at Crab & Bee also had scraps on her mind, and was already undertaking a scrap busting challenge for the year.

The time was right for a challenge! We would both make a garment only from woven scraps. Sounds easy? Read on!

Firstly I wanted to make a patchwork peasant top, so I made patchwork fabric from my scraps using this tutorial from Susan at Living with Punks.

Uncut patchwork fabric
It's an excellent tutorial but I didn't follow it to the letter. Turns out I do not have the patience to get very small patchwork lined up just so (pinning every piece would have driven me crazy).

Quilters and patchworkers everywhere cover your eyes...

Worries about fraying led me to overlock the pieces together! 

I failed to appreciate small patchwork pieces + overlocking = quite sturdy fabric, but even I know quite sturdy fabric + peasant blouse pattern = a top that looks like a box. So, I decided on that 'enduring classic', the patchwork panel skirt which also utilised a small piece of left over denim from the scrap bag.

Skirt as originally conceived
Skirt was marginally better worn this way

Of course this wasn't straightforward, either. Turns out most side panel skirt patterns include side seams (i.e. I would have had to try to pattern match patchwork, and at that point I thought my brain would explode!).

Fortunately, I remembered I had this pattern, kindly gifted to me in the Spring Sewing Swap by my lovely swapee

As you can see it has side panels that wrap around in one unbroken piece. It's designed for knits, so I made the skirt a size larger after pinning the pattern pieces to my tailors dummy and guesstimating it would come out OK (pieces from view A minus the bits around the bottom). There wouldn't have been much patchwork left to play with if it hadn't fit so I'm very pleased it went over my hips.

I orignally cut the patchwork as the larger (side wrapping) panels but the contrast centre looked very strange on. Kind of like having three legs:

Patchwork front and back is marginally better:

The thifted boots and top look quite nice although seeing it on a picture made me realise the top is waaay too big. Perhaps it's just as well it developed a hole on the last wash. The boots started to leak today too now I think of it (I have had them 3 years though). In summary: this outfit is not meant to be.

Back to construction. I didn't follow the waistband instructions, I made a pyjama style casing and threaded elastic through (I think this would work fine if the pattern was made for real, too). I also went my own way with the hem (as the skirt in the pattern uses the lining to form the hem, kind of like a bag). I used some shiny blue bias tape that I can't imagine for the life of me why I bought now and am therefore counting that as a scrap too!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my patchwork adventures/disasters. I learnt A LOT! In summary, patchwork is for people who take pleasure in precision. Small patchwork looks best on small people (future scrap garments will utilise large scraps)...and finally challenges are fun because I really did enjoy figuring this out and learning something new. I will treasure my new cushion cover skirt.

THANK YOU MORGAN for being my pal in our scrappy adventure. Don't forget to hop on over to her blog to see the gorgeous and classy garment she made!!!

Happy sewing, 'til next time!

Monday, 27 January 2014


For the background to this week's worksheet please visit Coletterie here.

Uncover the styles that make you feel like yourself and attach words and images to them.

When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy, poised, powerful, etc)?
Comfortable, relaxed. Sometimes 'cool', very occasionally smart/stylish.

When you're wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?
Fidgety...out of sorts. Silly.

Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?
I'm not much of an icon person. I tend to admire real people who have fantastic style whose blogs I read these days :) But these women are pretty cool, too:

Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel in her early years -

Was my earliest style crush, representing for me freedom (of movement and behaviour), smart colour combinations, looking stylish at the beach (surely a difficult feat), and of course, bobbed hair!

Image from

Frieda Kahlo -
Original, vibrant, lived life on her own terms despite having very painful health problems.

Image from

Isabella Rossellini -
Another short/bobbed dark haired beauty who has aged so gracefully and never departed from her signature style.

Image from

What are some words that describe styles you like in theory, but are not quite you?
Frilly, ultra-feminine.

Look over your answers from last week on history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location, and body. List at least 15 words that you associate with your answers. Think about descriptive words, moods, and feelings you associate with these things:
Practical, relaxed, appropriate, special, restricted/suppressed, rebellious, edgy, cool, square peg in round hole, relaxed (again), gentle, non-pressurised, unconflicted, outside the norm, prepared, sensitive (to feelings of body).

Are there other words you would like to add to this list? What other words describe your core style?
I'm gravitating towards more classic styles as I age.

Look over the answers to all of the questions above. If you had to narrow your list to only 3 - 5 words to describe you, which words would you choose?
Practical and relaxed would top the list. Not sure about the others.


Collect 15 - 20 images that represent these 3 - 5 words for you. You could create a pinterest board, a folder on your computer, a moodboard or a collage. Be creative and have fun!

Penwith Smock

I thought about this exercise a lot. It's already helping me identify what I really like and besides, it was fun!

Happy sewing, 'til next time!

Thursday, 23 January 2014


Following worksheet from Coletterie

"On average, we are exposed to over x ads a day, all designed to elicit responses and get you to buy and to want.

On top of that, if you're spending time on the internet, you're likely also being treated to a barrage of images of trends, status and desire. You find yourself comparing your home, wardrobe and life to the seemingly perfect ones you see online.

Is it any wonder we lose the sense of what our tastes actually are?

This week, let's look a little bit deeper than the flashy and new. Let's think about how we're different, and how that affects our aesthetic choices.


How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystalize? How have they changed over the years, and why?

* I was born and raised in the country and as a child had practical clothes (jeans, wellies), school uniform and 'best dresses'. Nothing trendy!

Image from

Image from

Image from

The images above sum up my childhood. Tradition was the name of the game!

* My parents had a religious conversion when I was a teenager and after that they emphasised modesty in dress.
* I've had many style phases including an androgynous one where I had my hair cut to an inch all over teamed with all black and studded belts, a 'hippy' one where I grew my hair as long as possible and wore crochet waistcoats and Indian skirts/smocks, and a super-career woman one characterised by fitted dresses and suits.

Picture of Annie Lennox
Image from
Annie Lennox was the inspiration behind my very short haircut. Still a fan now!

Conclusion Looking back, I may have rebelled at little, then when I went to work I needed to fit in. As my life has stabilised my tastes have crystalized a little. At least, I know what I don't like.


How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?

* My motto is, "People, not things". 
* I also try not to cause harm. It's complex as I do not live in a monastery. There are many conflicts.
* I'm aware that I am very lucky to be born in a country with super-abundance and I don't need all the things that are on offer.
* I also bear in mind that shopping is not a hobby (for me) and I can only wear one outfit at a time! 

Conclusion My philosophy means I need to choose clothes that are adaptable to different circumstances and preferably hard wearing.


How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?

* Despite my rebellious phases I have ultimately absorbed quite a lot of my mum's tastes. I don't think I look any different from most women my age and background.
* I prefer 'quieter' looks.

Conclusion I'm mature now (mostly)!


How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you're involved in?

* I tend to socialise with those who accept me as I am, although I have received funny looks outside the school gate occasionally (caused by some of my more hippy gear).
* My family offer opinions - mostly asked for, often ignored!

Conclusion I like to get others opinions because I then instantly know what I want (frequently the opposite of their suggestions!).


How do your day to day activities influence your choices?

* My life is very active - I need clothes I can move about in and wash easily.


Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?

* I live in the country - I think it's more conservative than the city, but country life does require practical clothing and I can't avoid that (see below).
* I live in a four season climate but these seasons can merge and swirl unpredictably.
* Damp and wind are my two overriding concerns.

Conclusion I always take a top layer with me, either a cardigan or waterproof. Wool based-fibres are unrivalled for dealing with aches caused by damp conditions!


In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

* I've worked hard to accept my body shape (mentally, I mean. Not in the gym!). I'm almost there, save being conscious of being top heavy.
* Health is more important to me than shape these days. As I have daily pain, I'm grateful when I'm having a good day.
* Comfort is my main requirement with warmth and sufficient ease top of my list.

If you stuck out that long post, thank you! What do you think? Any of this have any resonance for you?

Happy sewing, 'til next time!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Talking About Real Style For My Life and the Colette 'Wardrobe Architect' Project

A belated Happy New Year everyone!

It's been a while since I posted anything up here. Partly, I've been busy. Partly, I didn't have anything to say. But every once in a while something comes along that fits right in to the kind of thing you've been trying to do yourself...the Colette 'Wardrobe Architect' project is one of those things.

Read more about it on the Colette blog, but in a nutshell it's a wardrobe planning project that aims to help sewers identify what clothes to sew that will be the most personal and most-used for them. I know what I need (see my list here with all the gory details), and true to type I've been working my way faithfully through the list (and will be posting some finished stuff soon I hope!). 

But within that very basic list of needs are a lot of possibilities. Since I started blog reading these possibilities have ballooned, at times to the point of paralysis when it comes to choosing something to make. I like a lot of different styles. I follow sewers who go for cutting edge designs and those who will only sew with vintage patterns, and occasionally these groups disparage one another's taste slightly (why?) only leaving me more conflicted and confused! (I should add this is quite rare - the sewing community as a whole is very non-judgmental and welcoming.) One of the most fun and soothing posts I've read this year is Jessica's on this very subject. There should be no judgment attached to the fashion choices of others, but we do ultimately all have to make a choice or walk around naked, which I think we can agree is not the best option (especially in January)!

By the way, I know it's OK to have wide-ranging tastes and actually it can be fun to juxtapose unexpected elements together. Recently for example, I've been thinking about experimenting with fuller, longer more vintage-y skirts, but pairing them with sleeker modern jersey tops and I think that could work quite well.

Since starting this blog I've actually written a few posts on the topic of choosing and building a wardrobe, but have always deleted them before publishing. They felt kind of messy and I was concerned they might not be interesting to anyone else. However, the 'Wardrobe Architect' project is organised into a series of exercises which I hope will give me some focus that I will be posting here. Looking at the first worksheet I think it will be quite personal, so if you just like to see what I've been making, these posts will be clearly marked and you can skip them. Or you might like to follow my process or even join in yourself!

Happy sewing, 'til next time!