Tuesday, 29 April 2014


I haven't written about this recently because there wasn't enough material for weekly posts. I am completing the project though - it's been amazingly helpful filtering what I want to make and wear (as opposed to love on other people). So for me and anyone following along, here is a brief run down of my weeks 9 - 12. Click on the headings to take you back to the original Coletterie post.

I'm starting from a base of few clothes so a bit of planning helps with my feeling of 'I need to make everything'. My capsule needs to have a mixture of cooler and warmer weather clothes to cope with the climate where I live. The first exercise suggested was to pick some silhouettes. My two main ones will be oversized top/slimmer bottom for casual days and an old-fashioned cardi/A-line skirt/wider trousers for everything else (I'm not excited by discussing silhouettes, sorry!).

One of the things I hoped to get from this project was a definitive and strong sense of 'my style'. I admire so many different looks, from vintage inspired to the truly avant garde. I am often impressed when a fellow blogger puts together an outfit that is completely 'them'. However, trying to come up with 'style icons' really cemented in my mind that what I admire in other women is the strength of character they have to overcome adversity or live creatively, and only in the very smallest part how they dress :) So while I genuinely enjoy admiring all those who are fabulously stylish, I am happily giving up the search for 'my look'. I'm going to make what I need and (later) what I fancy - sometimes something vintage, sometimes something modern - focus on living creatively, and accept I have eclectic taste.

I've photographed the fabrics I plan to work with that I have so far, for my capsule wardrobe.

The green isn't my palette at all (and is way brighter IRL) but it came my way secondhand, and if a decent fabric comes my way secondhand I don't argue. Plus I like it against navy. (All these fabrics are secondhand. I'm hoping the majority of my capsule wardrobe fabrics will be.)

By the way, I will also be making other stuff that's not part of this project from fabric I already own, so there will still be a fair bit of randomness (as hinted at above). The capsule will be a base so I actually have enough coordinating clothes to wear.

I followed the steps suggested of seeing what I have that matches the colours and silhouettes I've chosen, finding the holes, shopping for inspiration (in my pattern collection:) ) and making a list. 

I'm fortunate enough to have what I need/want. (Although I would like some vintage style sunglasses, thinking about it.) I love bracelets, bangles, scarves and shoes the best of all accessories right now.

I've done such a lot of planning, I'm really looking forward to the fruits of this project. I intend to photograph all the clothes I make together when they are done, so I can see what I've achieved!

Happy sewing, 'til next time,

Philippa x

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Mistake, and a Giveaway

Do you ever think starting a sewing blog was one of the best things you ever did for yourself? That's the way I've been feeling since my last post - I've had some really great suggestions to help with my zip issues that I wouldn't have thought of by myself. I really do appreciate each and every answer - thank you.

Now for this:

A thrift store 'find' from the Easter holidays. I liked the muted colours and the peasant-y style top. I didn't try it on but when I got home I did. Disaster. Too short, semi-transparent, and the gathered waist made my bust look HUGE. Even my loyal daughters laughed (and I did a bit, too).

Anyway it has well and truly put paid to any illusions that this is a style I can pull off and the dress now looks like this :)
Infinity scarf, hair tie, fabric covered bangle, elastic and button saved for a future project.

I wanted to re-use the fabric because I really like the colours, but after seeing myself in the dress I knew I'd never wear it as a t-shirt or vest top.

For the infinity scarf, I just made a long tube, turned it, twisted it once and sewed the ends up.
I've worn it all afternoon and really like it.

The hair tie was formerly the dress belt and can be worn a couple of ways. I will use it for bad hair days/when it is hot.

The bangle was one of those fairground fluorescent ones that no longer fluoresces (my daughter found it in her drawer). I carefully unpicked the stitching around the inside of the dress waist and reused the fabric from the casing (previously for the elastic) that had been on the inside of the dress to cover it.

These projects were easy, quick and the only cost was the dress (£7). The colours all co-ordinate with stuff I already have. And I promise not to wear them all at once ;)

As a consequence of trying this style - which I still think is cute, just not for me - I am giving away these patterns:

Simplicity 1972 - stretch knits only UK sizes 6 - 18

New Look 6936 - stretch knits only UK sizes 8 - 18

Butterick 5612 - lightweight wovens sizes XS - M  (approx UK size 4 - 14 maximum)

If you would like one, please leave a comment with your email address so that I can contact you for your postal address. 

I'm leaving this giveaway open for a fortnight. In the case of more than one person wanting a pattern, one of my DD's will draw on Sunday, May 11th, and I will post out as soon as possible after that date. Thanks for reading and happy sewing, 'til next time!

Philippa x

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Zips And Nickel

I only buy new plastic zips these days as vintage zips set off my nickel allergy, however they still have a tiny amount of (coated) metal at the back of the pull. I was really disappointed when I wore my new (shorter) corduroy skirt without a tucked in top for the first time and the itching, redness and weeping began. It's a small area but the sensation is like being burnt - enough to make me very uncomfortable!

I currently buy standard YKK zips. The only specifically nickel free ones I have been able to find are metal open ended ones - also YKK, which obviously have limited applications (from here). 

I can't find a reference to this problem on any other sewing blog.

Does anyone know of a supplier of plastic zips with nickel free tabs and other nickel free habby for sewers? 

If not, I will stick to buttons, lapped zippers and tied garments. It will be a learning experience for me as lapped zippers are without doubt my least proficient type of zip insertion - I guess I'm about to become pretty good at it!

Just in case anyone else reading this has had an unpleasant reaction, this article has some self-help tips and links to follow, although from personal experience I would advise never coat cheap jewellery with clear nail varnish. It wears off too quickly and if your allergy is severe like mine it won't work. Sterling silver is not too expensive (avoid the blackened and uncertified silvers) and is used quite commonly for earring posts these days. Paying a couple of pounds more is well worth it in this case.

I'm not sure whether I will replace the zip on my skirt. It's very neat and the stitches have disappeared in to the fabric. I'm going to see how I feel and in the meantime keep it for tucked in tops.

Happy sewing 'til next time,

Philippa x

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Long And Short Of It

Hello friends! I'm just back from a holiday which was very special for me as I've been to visit my brother and his family. I've been too ill to make the trip for four years. I'm so happy I made it again at at last! While I was away, I didn't use the internet. I like the change on holiday, especially if I'm visiting. A side benefit is that I really look forward to having a week's worth of blog reading to catch up on when I get home - what a treat! Time for me to get blogging again, too :)

Today I'm keeping to my previous theme of 'how I'm getting on with my needs list'. These are some of the basics I've made - I can sling them on with virtually anything and walk out of the house looking vaguely respectable. Sorry, but it is unlikely I will ever I will never be a fashionista! 

I mentioned in a post somewhere I wanted try longer skirts (something I've rarely worn since a teenager), and thought one would be good for those days I didn't want to 'get my legs out'. My idea was to make the simplest possible then if I don't like and wear it, I haven't wasted hours of sewing time and fabric. In theory.

Here's what I made. It's Skirt 6a from 'Simple Modern Sewing' book.

It would have been more logical to extend my (already excellently fitting) vintage A-line skirt pattern, but I wanted to pretend I was this cool Japanese girl.

I also wanted to try using this book which I have had for a while, rather than just looking at it.

This is like a beginner's book for starting with Japanese sewing books. All the styles are fairly simple and there are instructions as well as the diagrams that come with the more advanced ones. (Personally I like diagrams, so I think I will enjoy graduating.)

Anyway the patterns are in an envelope in the back of the book and you trace them off like Ottobre (although there are less patterns per sheet, in this case anyway). You then add whatever seam allowance is specified, but I added 5/8ths inch as I would forget If I added a smaller allowance (1/2 inch suggested). I also added 2.5" length as I wanted a really long skirt and the pattern piece looked shorter than I was expecting. Bear in mind I am only 5'3", so if you are any taller you would need to add to/extend the pattern piece by even more.

Umbrella - check, huge scarf - check, showing decorative
waistband - nope. Career in modelling even less likely.

The fabric is corduroy from someone's stash they were selling off on eBay. I guess it's been folded a long time as there was a permanent dirty looking crease down the centre (not mentioned in the description, just saying), but fortunately I was able to cut around it easily, so I didn't complain. It was also a much wider piece of fabric than I had expected which had certain major advantages (see later). I've never sewn with corduroy before and really enjoyed it - it pressed so nicely, I will definitely sew with it again. 

The bias waistband is finished with a scrap of cotton from the charity shop which was too small to make into a garment but I really love and was saving for the right project. I didn't have any Liberty print like in the book, but this is a fine substitute I think. One day I would like to treat myself to some Liberty cotton as I hear it's really great quality.

finished the waistband with one of my daughter's old hair bobbles and a button - I got this tip from here but I am really sorry I couldn't find the link. Update: here is the link: http://spottydogsocialclub.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/24-hours-earlier.html You can probably figure it out! The advantages are it gives a perfect professional loop with a bit of added flexibility! The book said use a hook and eye, but as it would bridge a little gap and be near my skin I didn't dare. I am so very extremely allergic to nickel. Does anyone know if hooks and eyes and press studs contain nickel? I know vintage zips do!

That's the long bit.

Now for the short bit.

I cut the wrong size. I don't know why but I went by my hip rather than my waist measurement and as soon as I had cut out the pieces (not when I was tracing them) I could see that they would never, ever do up at the waist. (The hips fit fine.)

Please don't tell me that's what a tape measure is for (measuring pattern pieces).

So I retraced and recut the larger size and completed it as you have already seen, feeling grateful it was a fairly quick and simple make.

The too small pieces are the kind of thing that can languish for a long time (we're talking years) in my refashion/stash pile reminding me of my stupidity, so I polished up my halo and got on with making a short skirt from the fail. It was difficult to select a style as I hadn't desired or planned a shorter corduroy skirt.

In the end I made this:

Guess which pattern I used ;) Of course the fit of this one is just perfect! 

The length was dictated by my pieces as was the repositioning of the zip to the side, two piece waistband and faux pocket thingies. (Try as I might I could not find enough fabric off cuts to make any kind of real pocket.) Fortunately I keep two little wallets full of ideas and scraps from other garments (like interesting collars and pockets) and I found a sample of these I'd made before. I don't know where I first saw them, but they are very easy to do.

The large metal object I'm leaning against is a very old cannon.

felt as though it should have been in a museum! 

This is the tin I keep my metal buttons in, where I found the ones for the top of the pockets:

It was my grandma's, and one of the many treasures I inherited with her sewing box. It depicts a scene of the Thames bygone times. The writing inside the lid says it is a toffee tin. I think of my grandma whenever I use it. 

Anyway, I sulked my way through the making of this skirt. I kept thinking of all the other stuff I could/should have been sewing, and I still doubt I really need two blue corduroy skirts. Maybe I should have made a bag, or dyed it purple (would that have even worked?). Still, now it's complete I quite like it and have worn it twice, so that's something.

Any sewing saves round your way recently?

Happy sewing 'til next time,

Philippa x

Friday, 4 April 2014

Sewing Update & Little Gifts For Special People

Back in November I made some winter sewing plans. This post is a quick update on how I'm doing.

Necessities - vests, pyjamas and aprons.
- I made the vests here.
- My daughter bought me some lovely flannel pyjamas for Christmas so they are temporarily off the sewing list.
- Aprons - I wanted 3 for different tasks - I've made 2 so far and 1 as a gift for my Mum - post coming soon.

Basics - long sleeved t-shirts, versatile bottom halves for chores and dog walking.
- I wanted 2 or 3. I've made 1 and will post it when I've made it's friend(s).
- Versatile bottom halves - I wanted 2 or 3. I've made 2 corduroy skirts and would like a denim one that is better executed than my last one. These will likely be the next items to be blogged.

I love making things for other people but I'm pretty selective about who I make for. Basically I only make for people who will really appreciate the effort and love that goes in to a handmade gift! I cross stitched this card for my friend's birthday this year - the same one I made this apron for.

She is fascinated by Japanese culture, cooking and the country in general so it seemed like an appropriate choice.

I also made these little sponge/toiletries bags for my nephews and nieces.

This might seem like a strange present to give to children (rather than say toys) but as they live so far away they go to stay at both sets of grandparent's regularly and I know these will see a lot of use. I popped in some little odds and ends like flannels, toothbrushes etc. in co-ordinating colours too.

I didn't follow a pattern to make them, I copied a bag of my daughter's. They are the kind of bags that scrunch up when you pull the cords on either end. 

For the two above the outer fabric is from Debbie's So Grateful Giveaway. Thank you Debbie! This is what I had in mind for these fabrics when I saw them on her blog. I don't like to enter giveaways unless I can see an immediate use for a fabric/pattern because of hoarding (say no more). I know the boy who will receive the turtles will be very, very happy and I plan to use the remaining shell fabric on something for me, to remind me of how fabulous the sewing community is each time I wear it!

The red fabric is from the 1950's or '60's and was given to me by my mother-in-law many, many moons ago. I had to buy the pirate fabric ('Pirate Labels', The Henley Studio for Makower, £3 locally), so that I could continue the sea theme.

The bags are lined with a soft cream shower curtain that I kept when I redecorated the bathroom (it's now blue). Never throw a shower curtain away!! The fabric type are ideal for lining cosmetic and swim bags, and the plastic ones make great table cloths for messy art and sculpture. That's what I used our plastic one for anyway, when it got too tatty looking to stay in the bathroom.

The cords are from my cord tub. (Doesn't everyone have one!) If I'm recycling a hoodie or one of those fancy carrier bags with a drawstring, I always pull out and keep the drawstrings. I've never known why until now!

So only one new scrap of fabric was used making these and a modest amount of scrap reduction :)

I still have plans for more gifts. Do you love making them, too?

Happy sewing, 'til next time,

Philippa x