Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 Hits + Misses

As New Years Eve approaches it is a time of reflection. Many of the sewing blogs I read are participating in a round-up of their 5 top sewing hits and misses for 2013 - hosted by Crafting a Rainbow.

Well, I haven't sewn ten things in 2013, but I've sure had some misses...and a few (non-wearable) hits so I thought I'd round them up here.

THE MISSES: may as well start with the bad news first and work our way up to the (two) things that worked.

DixieDIY t-shirt dress: I attended two classes on sewing with knits and walked away both times with an unfinished dress that didn't fit me. I loved this t-shirt dress pattern but it just didn't love me.

Part of the problem was that I've jumped right in to wanting to sew with knits, as that is what I mostly wear. Sewing with knits is darn HARD, especially for a newbie.  The fabric is stretchy and slinky, it curls and won't stay in place when ironed. My second problem is that this pattern is too small for my hip/tummy measurements and attempts in class to adjust the pattern ended up making it TOO big *face palm*.

Both of these dresses ended up in the charity bag - banished forever from my life.

JoCole Easy Swing Skirt:  Because I'm not a small person if I find a pattern to fit my size 18 body I jump at it, as was the case with this "easy swing skirt" I found on ETSY.  I liked the style, it's something I'd wear and although it was a knit I thought I had a good chance with it. My sewing machine thought otherwise and I didn't even get to start sewing this as my machine just "ate" all the test pieces I played around with. Next...

Goldfinch and Eagle Sirkel Skirt:  It's obvious I need to move away from wanting to sew with this early stage anyway...and try my hand at wovens.

I liked the idea of a circle skirt in chambray but I just could not get my head around the maths of drafting my own (despite all the online tutorials) so I was pretty happy to find this pattern on ETSY that had a waist measurement equal to my own.  I'm half way through this skirt and it's pretty obvious it's not going to fit. Honestly...things are just getting ridiculous now and I'm starting to really lose my motivation to keep sewing. Finding to sewing patterns to fit me is just as difficult as shopping for ready-to-wear clothes. Not happy Jan!

THE HITS: I've had ONE hit during 2013, and one "kinda sorta" hit.

Cushion Cover:   The first thing I sewed in 2013 was this cute little cushion cover at a sewing class at Sew Make Create. Everything went really smoothly and the teacher was REALLY encouraging. I felt so confident when I walked away from the class and was ready to start making my very own handmade wardrobe. Wrong.

Coin Purse: After a series of mega-misses in the sew-my-own-clothes stakes I decided to make something non-wearable, enter the coin purse. This is a bit messy, and not perfect - but I finished it and it serves its purpose so that counts as a WIN from me.

What about you - did you have so many misses when you were first learning to sew? I really feel like the world's worst sewist. THE WORST!

In 2014 my aim is to sew a dress that fits and that I love. Just one - small dreams means that they should be achievable. I'm currently working on a Laurel and so far things are going well. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

On one of my final days in London The Boy and I went our separate ways. He went off to the Imperial War Museum (zzzz) and I headed over to the Victoria + Albert Museum to check out their legendary fashion exhibition.


The V+As fashion exhibition is jaw-droppingly amazing and spans the last four century's. The first dress that greets  you as you enter the gallery is from the 1750s and it's hard to fathom how any women would've negotiated life (or the loo) with its enormously W-I-D-E petticoat underneath.

I wasn't sure if I was allowed to take photos - but everyone seemed to be taking happy snaps with the I followed the crowd.

One thing that really struck me about the exhibition is how modern some of the clothes looked, despite being really quite old. The green dress in the second photo below (on the right) could very well be in the shops today though from memory it dates back to about 1920. I also adore those boots...they are pretty modern looking and I'd wear them in a heartbeat.

As there is just SO much to take in with this exhibition, and the museum in general, I decided to buy a copy of the exhibition book - it has a picture of everything on display and I've loved pouring over it since I've been back home. It's kinda heavy though, so I ordered it from Book Depository for a bargain price and had it shipped home.

You can find the V&A South Kensington on Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL. If you're at all interested in fashion, sewing or textiles it's well worth a visit (make sure you head up to the jewel room - WOWZERS)!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Adventures in Sewing #5 - clutch purse

With two failed dresses under my belt (or in the charity bin) plus a botched skirt remake I'm thinking I need to find a different approach to my sewing efforts.

I decided a few weeks ago to "try" and make a stretch skirt at home - enough of dresses that won't fit. The pattern is simple enough but my machine just WOULD NOT come to the party. I didn't even get anywhere near sewing the skirt - the machine just kept "eating" the fabric and doing all sorts of dodgy stitches.  I tweaked all the settings I could think of but still no luck. Best to take a deep breath and walk away I think...

I then decided to abandon stretch altogether (for now).  I'm attempting to make a circle skirt...except for it's too small even though the pattern measurement say it should fit. I'm going to keep going with it...for practice, but again it's another unwearable project. I think I will attempt to make this again and increase the pattern size by adding 1cm to each of the edges.  Hopefully that will work.

Who ever said sewing was fun needs a smack up the side of the head. 

Despite all the tears, I do want to keep sewing as I'm sure I'll get the hang of it sooner...or later.  I just think I need to take a break from clothing. I'm considering making a quilt (or is that just asking for trouble?) but I decided to make a small craft project  to start with - a clutch purse.

After days of stalking Pinterest I finally found a tutorial that didn't make my brain want to explode with instructions I couldn't quite picture in my head.

The time it takes to whip up one of these purses is hardly no time at all so I thought I could add a little bit of interest (and time) to the purse project by sewing a cute little heart onto the front of the purse. The problem with my sewing wants is that I want projects that aren't too quick to complete. Honestly who needs 100 coin purses floating around (this is why I think quilting could be good - it must take AGES to churn out a quilt).

The inside of the purse is make from some polka dot cotton remnants I have leftover from a half-made Laurel dress from a class over the weekend. The lining and the outer bag aren't sewn together on this inside bottom half so I need to think about how I can make this neater on the inside...

Don't look too closely to the handle - what a MESS! I bought a sew in purse frame as I thought it would be more sturdy and long-lasting BUT I decided to glue in the fabric before sewing. Yep. And sewing in the frame was so painful! I bruised my thumb and index finger so much that typing the next day at work was painful.

It's not perfect but it's finished and I enjoyed myself enough to give this project another watch this space.

Happy sewing, Melanie xoxo

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Adventures in Sewing #4 - a revamped (now too small) skirt

Every now and then I like to do a tour of the local op shops to see if anything jumps out at me...or more truthfully to see if there are any bargains in my size. Sometimes I get lucky, but not very often.

I recently spied this GREAT skirt and fell in love with the 70s style fabric. The skirt was obviously home-made and the previous owner had done such a great job on it. It was pretty obvious looking at it though that it was going to be miles too big for me. So I bought it anyway.

I figured now that I had my own sewing machine at home...and now that I could sort of sew...I could perhaps unpick the skirt and remake it to fit me.  As I was unpicking I took very careful note of how the previous owner had stitched it all together. Even though the fabric is stretchy they didn't use an overlocker at all which was good to see as I don't have one. They just did a simple straight stitch up the sides and a finished hand sewn hem. Noice one!

I didn't have a pattern to use so I sort-of made my own by measuring around my waist and adding a few centimeters for the seam allowance. I attempted to make the skirt into a bit of an A-line shape...but I didn't A-line it enough as it's a tad...snug...on my hips/bum/thighs. I had SO much fabric to play with that I wish I'd cut it a bit bigger! I'm really annoyed with myself.

I was pretty chuffed that I got to bust out my new twin needle which I used to hem the skirt. It turned out pretty well, although the machine was "jumping" in a few places so the hem is a tad skewif in some parts.

So whilst I technically "made" a skirt I don't think I'll be wearing it.  Off to the charity bin it goes.

Watch this space as I am DETERMINED to make something soon that I can actually wear, something that actually fits me.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Adventures in Sewing #3 - another (unfinished) dress

I've returned to Sew Make Create in Chippendale to embark on attempt number two of making the poxy stretch dress t-shirt dress that I so unsuccessfully didn't finish at the Tessuti BYO project class a few weeks ago.  Will it be second time lucky?

After a 3 hour long visit to Spotlight where I dropped a cool $120 on fabrics without even owning a sewing machine yet I came home with (amongst other things) a nice stripy knit jersey that I thought would work really well in the simple t-shirt dress we were going to be making in class. I didn't want anthing "too thin" or clingy and this fabric had a nice weight to. Plus it is made in Japan and pretty much everything out of Japan is cool.

The very FIRST thing I noticed about the fabric after I washed it home before the class was that it had a great big hole in it...right in the middle of the fabric piece. D'oh! Luckily I'd bought heaps more fabric than I needed (because I'm OCD like that) so it didn't end up causing too many problems (other than me cutting out two left sleeves as I couldn't double my fabric over to cut the sleeves out ?!?!). That aside, the fact that the material had a great big arrow on it pointing to the hole boggles my mind. It means someone KNEW the hole was there, marked it out and then rolled it on the fabric roll anyway. And the Spotlight lady would've most likely seen this too and still sold me the fabric!

As always Pepper the Puginese was on hand to supervise our class...and when she got bored with us she feel asleep on the floor. Sewing sure is tiring work isn't it Pepper?

Our first two hour lesson was pretty much taken up with doing pattern adjustments for each of four students in the class; plus cutting out our fabric. Embarrassingly I was the only person who needed the pattern made BIGGER! But like our teacher Angie said, our measurements in sewing as just numbers to help us make a perfect matter what your size sewing is ultimately about making something to fit our own unique bodies.

Class two sees us pinning our garments together and sewing! I had my "new" second machine with me for the class and I'm happy to say that together did a pretty good job! The sewing machine belonged to my Mother-in-Law who was a quilter and I've named my machine Betty after her. Don't let me down Betty!

The order that we sewed the garment together in class was totally different to the Tessuti class I did so I'm glad I learned a few ways to construct this dress.  I'm also REALLY happy that I got to do all of the sewing myself (bar one little piece where Angie stepped in as I was about to have an epic throw-down tantrum).  I'm also pleased to say that I learned the proper way (not the cheats way) of inserting a sleeve (or two left sleeves to be precise) in a garment.

Alas, I ran out of time to hem my sleeves and the bottom of the dress so it's still not finished. I did have a go at hemming but this fabric is so roly-poly along the hems that I lost my cool and had to walk!

And you know what -- after all that time spent adjusting the pattern the damn thing is TOO big for me! Either the pattern measurements are wrong (I think they are) or my butt measurements are whack-a-do! I'm also thinking the fabric is too thick and heavy for this style of t-shirt dress anyway!

So...what now? I was thinking of turning both this dress and the red one from my 1st attempt into an elastic waistband skirt but I gave up on that idea and chucked them both into the charity bag.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Adventures in Sewing #2 - an (unfinished) dress

After the success of sewing my lovely cushion cover I was keen to enrol in another sewing class keep the momentum going.  This time I was keen to make something wearable out of stretch fabric as that's a fabric I wear a lot (aka "eating dresses").

I enrolled in a "Learn to Sew Stretch Fabrics" back at Sew Make Create and took myself off fabric shopping.

First stop was The Fabric Store in Surry Hills. This store has LOVELY fabrics...REALLY lovely fabrics that sadly come with a really BIG price tag.  I was really tempted to buy something from their enormous range of knit (aka stretch) fabric but I just couldn't justify paying top dollar for something I was probably was going to ruin.

Next stop is Tessuti where I did my very first Learn to Sew class.  They also have super lovely fabrics but again they are NOT cheap. I was tempted by a few pieces that were way out of my price (and ability) range. And then I spied a nice roll of fabric that was on sale for $14/meter so I nabbed it.

Of course because I'm a tad OCD I popped into a Lincraft where I spied a lovely roll of red fabric that had some bobbly texture to it. I didn't buy it, but i couldn't stop thinking about. After two more visits to "check it out" the material came on sale so I bought it. SCORE!

So, now I have two lots of fabric...and sadly my class at Sew Make Create didn't go ahead as I was the only person enrolled (tears were shed when I heard this -- so sad). They weren't sure when the class would run again as the teacher was going overseas so I decided to see if I could go to the Tessuti class where you BYO your own "stretch project". It wasn't a beginners class, but because my pattern was SO simple I was able to enrol *fist pump*!

In hindsight this wasn't the best type of class for me as we weren't all sewing the same thing. Although my dress was "easy" I needed a fair bit of guidance on what to do next.

That said, I did learn how to fit a neck binding and how to sew in some whacky kind of paper fabric to make sure the neckline doesn't overstretch. I also learned a quick fix on what to do when a straight dress is obviously NOT going to fit my larger than life food-bloggers derriere (it's called a godet - a triangle wedge of fabric that caters for big butts/thighs/hips/tummies). When we realized we were nearly out of time the teacher sewed up the remainder of the side seems for me which is a shame as I probably could've managed to do this myself.

The dress is still un-hemmed and is now rolled up in the bottom of my cupboard - to be looked at when we're friends again (and when I learn how to hem a stretch garment).

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Adventures in Sewing #1 - a cushion cover

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I recently decided that I needed to find a hobby that didn't involve food or my food blog...or specifically eating. And whilst the Balcony Garden gets me off the couch there is really only so much I can do on a tiny balcony each weekend. After you get the planting out of the way (which takes just an hour or so) you just...wait, and water. That's it.

I've been inspired to try my hand at sewing, after reading a few sewing blogs and becoming inspired by Sew Amy Sew who is only just learning to sew herself and is already turning out some lovely garments.

So (or Sew) I took myself off to a beginners sewing class at Tessuti which was very good + covered lots of basics.  But I wanted MORE. I wanted to make something other than straight lines on bits of scrap fabrics.  After scouring the internet I found a cute little sewing workshop and creative space in Chippendale called Sew Make Create.

Before the class started I took myself off to Lincraft to try and find some fabric for my cushion cover. Holy world of ugly Batman! That place is SCARY + a total messy schamozzle! I decided to try my luck at Spotlight...I know there are plenty of nice places in Sydney selling fabric but some of them aren't cheap and most of them are not in Western Sydney and I'm too lazy to venture far on the weekend. I was in luck though and found some really nice fabric...made in Japan which is where most of the lovely fabric at Spotlight seems to come from.

At our first 2 hour beginners class at Sew Make Create we learned about the machine, what bits go where, and then spent some time sewing straight and wiggly lines on paper -- just to get the "feel of sewing". This was really useful. Then it was time to thread the machine up and practice with real thread on real fabric. I'm happy to report that nothing went too badly for me and our teacher Melissa had infinite amounts of patience and I think it helped us all that the class was small - only four or five people each time.

Next class it's time to whip out my lovely Japanese fabric under the watchful eye of shopdog, Pepper who spent a lot of time supervising us in-between naps + (loudly) snoring. Pepper has her own Instagram account and she leads a lovely life of shopdog leisure...lucky dog. I really enjoyed having Pepper in the class - patting a puppy when sewing gets a bit stressful is VERY therapeutic.

And here it is, my finished cushion. I'm so proud of this little baby! I learned how to cut out a pattern, sew straight lines, pivot the needle, sew button holes using the machine and do a zig-zag stitch to stop the fabric edges fraying (and in between patting Pepper the shopdog). Nice one Miss Piggy!

Sew, tell me dear reader (LOL, I LOVE saying that) you sew? Who taught you or did you teach yourself?