Saturday, 20 December 2014

2015: Can't Wait

Am I the only one who can't wait for a fresh start? There have been lots of good things about 2014: my youngest son starting secondary school; my husband finally redecorating the bathroom; getting a new job; more sketching and painting; switching to online grocery shopping (yes, this actually qualifies as one of this year's best bits); discovering slow cooking and lots of great reads.

However there are a few things about 2014 that I'm a bit disappointed about.

  • Firstly, since starting a new job, I've got rather behind on my sewing;
  • I had intended to combine sewing and work by sewing more work clothes, that didn't happen;
  • Finally, I've become increasingly irritated by my inability to take any decent photos for this blog. I love seeing other bloggers' pristine and inspirationally photos; why do mine always look so poor?

You can see where this is going can't you: 2015 blog resolutions. This time last year I really enjoyed reading fellow bloggers reflections and resolutions so why didn't I make any?

Eager to ring the changes, here goes:

  1. More sewing: at least twelve projects by the end of the year;
  2. Complete at least 3 work dresses;
  3. Photo Friday's: post at least one photo every other Friday that I actually like.


Well, I've taken the plunge and ordered some great dress patterns for work and an iPad stand to improve my photography. Let's hope I can end the year having achieved them.

Happy sewing.



Sunday, 14 December 2014

Winter Weekends

When I'm not sewing, I'm reading; actually most of the time I'm at work, running children to sporting events or doing housework. Perhaps for these reasons my reading time is super precious so I'm always quite picky about what I read. I thought I'd share some of my favourite reads of the year, can't guarantee that they'll be anyone else's cup of tea but I whole heartedly reccommend them.

As the new year approaches, and some of us begin to ponder where our lives are going, I thought I'd share this truely great read: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Do you ever wonder where the time has gone? What happen to the twenty year old you? Sentimentality is probably a fault of mine but I'd wager that most readers over the age of thirty will find some truely moving moments in Harold's weird journey. Even better, the narrative is peppered with moments that will at least raise a smile or, more likely, have you laughing out loud.

This touching story opens with the arrival of an unexpected letter and an impulsive act. When Harold Fry, a timid man in his later years, discovers that a former friend is gravely ill, he sets out with the intention of posting her a letter but instead starts walking hundreds of miles from Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Harold hopes that in some way his journey will help his friend to live. While Harold makes his 'unlikely pilgrimage' his wife Maureen waits angrily at home; eventually his distance allows her emotions to resurface. She remembers her husband as he once was and everything he once meant to her.

Joyce's narrative is simple but so touching. Along the way Harold encounters many interesting characters. Some are moved by his act, others confused. At one point he attracts a growing band of fellow pilgrims and becomes the centre of a media storm. The story is laced with loneliness, with life's numerous small disappointments and the 'great grey weight of the real'; the last chapters deliver a couple of unexpectedly savage emotional blows. But this is tempered with real humour and a sense of quiet celebration.

Totally adored this book, it really resonated with me. Harold's an everyman who becomes an extraordinary man.

It would be super to read your views on this book or your recommendations for other books in the comments.



Saturday, 13 December 2014

Sewing Bias

Why sew bias?

  • Bias dresses are so flattering;
  • Fitting issues are far less likely;
  • You're always comfortable;
  • Even the most basic shape can create a stunning effect;
  • You'll feel like you're in Dowton Abbey!

On the hanger, you can see how basic this shape is. It looks better on because the bias grain will follow your lines rather than hang off them.

This dress was something of a departure for me: no pattern! Although it feels quite modern it was inspired by the work of a designer who died the year after I was born: Madeleine Vionnet.

Unlike Chanel, when Vionnet retired in 1939 her couture house closed. However the philosophy that underpinned her creations lives on:

'One must examine the anatomy of every customer. The dress must not hang on the body but follow its lines. It must accompany its wearer and when a woman smiles the dress must smile with her.'
Madeleine Vionnet

Vionnet always designed her new garments by draping on a reduced-scale doll. The pattern was made afterwards by the house’s premi√©re (first seamstress), it was a new way of creating patterns. Like me, you're probably used to starting with the pattern but trust me this is fun. I resisted the temptation to line the dress because every fabric, by its fiber and weave, reacts a little differently; most of Vionnet’s bias dresses were not lined. If they were sheer, a separate lining or slip was supplied, and each part was allowed to go its own way.

Vionnet Draping Technique

If, like me, you're using a lightweight fabric here are some handling tips:

  • Cutting: Treat your fabric with a spray fabric stabilizer. This makes your fabric stiff and much easier to both cut and sew. You can also layer muslin or tissue paper underneath your fabric to stop it from slipping out of your shears.
  • Staystitching: this is totally essential on any curved or bias (diagonal) edges of each piece to prevent stretching and fraying. Be especially careful to stay stitch side seams, since they’re cut on a diagonal. Also, be sure to trim your hem to even it out before you sew it. A light, loosely woven fabric has a tendency to stretch and distort.
  • Needles: Use a brand new, very fine sewing machine needle. For chiffon, a 65/9 or a 70/10 is a good needle size.
  • Pressing: Press seams and pleats with a low setting on your iron and don't actually press but 'rest' the iron on the fabric. If you’re using silk, be careful about using moisture, since you don’t want water spots.
  • Hemming: For easy hem finishing, try using a narrow rolled hem foot. If you have a serger, you can also use that to do a rolled hem. However to be honest, nothing will hang as well as a handstitched rolled hem.

    Still not convinced about going patternless? There are some fantastic patterns readily available for bias dresses:
Butterick 5710
Vogue 1208

Happy bias sewing.


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Simplicity 1948

Watching this quaint vintage footage reminded me why I love sewing so much. Admittedly, the designs are not to my taste and the inclusion of a man who explains to the young seamstress what men mean by 'the know how look' is, to modern women, rather patronising.

However this short film, made by Simplicity, really captures the autonomy and friendship that many of us in the sewing community enjoy. It reminds me that there will forever be satisfaction, and occasional frustration, to be found in making our own clothes.

Have you come across any vintage videos? Please share the links in the comments. Happy sewing.



Saturday, 8 November 2014

Creative Darts 2

Curved or French darts aren't often seen in today's designs but they're some of my favourites.


I suspect that one reason they're rare is that they do take a little more time and skill: staystitching and careful clipping are essential.


Slicing in colour can create even more impact and help to sculpt curves in all the right places.






Sunday, 2 November 2014

A Trip to the Bookshop

If you've missed previous instalments of our story, you can catch-up here.

Approaching the reassuring frontage of David’s Bookshop, there were no sights or sounds here to affect Elizabeth’s peculiar sensibilities; no bold shop lighting, no garish displays of stock and no chavish customIers. The thought suddenly struck her that as a child she had never dared venture into David’s Bookshop; what did this mean? Had her family been of the type she now so despised? Catching her pristine reflection in the little panes of door glass this thought was hastily dismissed.

Satisfyingly, the bookshelves housed exactly what she was after. There were five books which contained references to the house, or at least pictures which must suggest further reference in the text itself. Elizabeth could have examined the books more closely to work out which would be most useful, thus preventing the duplication of information; as always consideration, compromise and caution were all alien concepts to her. Purchasing all five books she noticed that the property also featured as one of The Letchmore Centenary Postcards displayed behind the counter, ‘Ebenezer, could I also have that postcard of Church Lane?’ Fortunately, although Ebenezer was a prominent local figure and seemed an eternal font of the town’s knowledge he never pried into his customers’ reading habits. Had such discretion not been his manner he would surely have asked why The Comet’s proprietor was clearing his shelves of local history books. Instead he commented on the postcard. ‘Lovely house that, shame about what’s happened to them.’

Whilst attempting indifference Elizabeth began to probe. ‘I noticed it was up for auction, they must have lived there for nearly forty years, are they moving to a smaller property?’

‘He drowned, she’s in hospital,’ came the uncharacteristically cold response from Ebenezer. 'That's awful,' Elizabeth replied: at last she had her story.

'He'd probably had a bit to drink; how'd you drown in your own bath?'

'He died in the house, I assumed you meant the pool.'

'It's his wife I feel sorry for: all those years living with him.' Ebenezer was making little attempt to hide his feelings. Elizabeth was now torn between the excitement of the story and the thought of buying a house someone had recently died in. By the time she reached her car she realised that all old houses must have had a death on site at sometime, besides such a macabre occurrence might keep the price down.

Walking across Howard Green in the afternoon sun Elizabeth wondered if she could ever leave her home on this quaint spot. The cottages which nestled around the green had a fairytale quality to them. Three sides of the green comprised of six cottages and each of the three was painted a different colour. The cottages on the right side were pink, at the back pale green and to the left pale blue; Elizabeth’s cottage occupied the far corner plot and was therefore pale green. Nestled in the top corner of the green her immaculate sitting room was south facing and enjoyed clear views of the green and the four allotments which ran along one side. Brushing past the lavender lined pathway to the side of her house, she interrupted the black squirrels which also called her garden home. Once inside practicality necessitated another call to the agent before tomorrow’s viewing; was the auction still going ahead following Mr Barker's death? She didn't want to waste her time viewing a property only for Mrs Barker to change her mind. Secretly she was hoping for a little more information. She got it: Mrs Barker was in Lister hospital with a dislocated shoulder having tried to pull her husband out of the bath.



Thursday, 30 October 2014

Creative Darts 1

As the title of this post suggests they'll be more to follow. I know I've written lots of posts on darts but I just keep falling in love with them all over again: they're useful, flattering and creative. Over the next week I'll be posting some ideas on how to experiment with placement, seam finishes and angles of darts.

In case you're new to darts here's the basics:
The Anatomy of a Dart



This side front angled dart (below) is a useful variation if your patern requires bust gathers. One of our sew-alongs last year, Butterick 5813, called for bust gathers which look great in medium to light-weight fabric but this time of year you may prefer a heavier fabric.


Butterick 5813



Moreover, if you have a fuller bust, darts are sometimes more flattering; in this case 4 darts, rather than the two below, would be a good option.


Side Front Angled Dart



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