Bits and Bobbins

Gosh it’s been ages since I last posted.
I get this horrible feeling when I don’t post during a week. Let’s remedy that!

I’ve been sewing like a maniac lately and have a big queue of things to show you in the next few weeks. I’ll start by sharing a few things today.

First up are a couple of work tops that are modest and smart but still a bit fun and go with jeans. It’s the “I’m so cute, don’t you want to let me standardise your product and put it in a media neutral content management system” look. Snappy eh?

almond rock new look 6148 squirrel rabbit crepe

So here we have a yoke-less new look 6148 in ex-Dorothy Perkins crepe with awesome squirrel and rabbit print. I picked this up from Goldhawk Road a couple of summers ago and as soon as I was on the train home regretted only buy 1m.

And my firm favourite, new look 6808 in red and cream polyester. I’m not falling into the trap of calling it tribal, ohhhhhh no. This fabric was one of my bargain Birmingham Rag Market purchases that I recently shared on Instagram.

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I thought I try the 6808 sleeves on the 6148 as well and wahey they fit all right! Maybe even a bit better than they fit the pattern they came with!?

Moving along… a few weeks ago my friends had the fright of their lives. Their baby who hadn’t quite finished cooking, arrived 8 weeks early weighing in at a teeny 2 lbs. After some love and attention she’s been beefed up enough to be at home with her family.

As a baby gift I made the Dylan Onsie pattern (babygrow to all us Brits) from Spit Up and Stilettos – it was free for some time but appears to now be priced. I also snaffled the Drew leggings pattern while they were free and they also seem pretty cool too for an easy baby gift.

almond rock dylan onesie babygrow spit up and stilettos metallic gold hot pink jersey

The pattern includes “preemie” size for teeny babies just like Baby Amber. I used some garish but fun hot pink and metallic gold jersey from Birmingham rag market with some jersey bias tape and a bit of velcro from Samuel Taylors, and whipped it up on my overlocker. It’s definitely opinion dividing but I knew if anyone would get a kick out of this, it would be Tom and Helen, and I love that Amber is disco-ready.

Finally I made a little tool and pencil case ready for my pattern drafting class! What a geek, I know. This is the “Develop” Pattern Drafting and Garment Design evening course that I’m doing through Leeds Art College just like my Textile printing course.

The notes advise bringing basic sewing supplies, plus basic pencil kit so I had to make the pouch quite big. It’s about A5 sized.

almond rock vintage sewing pattern tshirt transfer paper zipper pouch

I printed a black and white image from a vintage sewing pattern onto tshirt transfer paper. I used some cotton canvas for the pouch and an invisible zipper. Here’s a good tutorial for pouches with regular zips. Easy for anyone to do, whether they’re a newbie or an old pro.

Isn’t she working that dress? She’s giving me Liz Taylor vibes.

Now that I’ve broken the silence, look forward to a few more posts from me soon!

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Tips for working with Slippery Fabrics!

If you’ve stuck around here long enough, you’ll have noticed I have a real affection for slinky fabrics.

With the completion of my Satin pyjamas I thought it was about time I share some of my personal survival tactics with Satin.

BUT most of these also apply to Silks, Viscose, Chiffon, Crepe or Georgette.

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1. Storage
I’ve always heard it’s best to store Satin rolled up to avoid getting creases that need to be ironed out later. I’ve stored it both rolled up and loosely folded and I have to say I didn’t have much problem either way. That being said, best not to put a ton of Corduroy and Denim on top of your Satin if you’re not sewing it up straight away.

2. Can’t stand the heat!
Satin has a special kind of weave that creates a glossy right-side to the fabric and a dull wrong-side. This lustre can be damaged by the high heat and steam of an iron or even accidentally picking an overaggressive spin-cycle on your washing machine.

Wash at 30 degrees and turn your iron to its coolest setting. Always press on the wrong side of the fabric or if you must press the right side then use a pressing cloth. The weight of your iron, more than the heat will help you achieve neatly pressed edges.

3. Lay it down.

Don’t be fooled, slippery fabric wants to escape your cutting table as soon as your back is turned! So unless you can fit all the fabric on the table without gravity coming into play I’d suggest cutting out on the floor (not the carpet). Basting will also be your new best friend – pin or stitch the folded fabric together to increase stability.

Best to also clear a good space around your machine, as again, you’ll be sewing along and suddenly your fabric will fling itself off the table like it has decided to end it all!

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4. Nap.
It’s not as obvious as the pile of velvet but there is a subtly different sheen when you view Satin one way rather than the other. Remember to lay all your pieces out in one direction even if your print is multi-directional… if you care about things like that.

5. To the point
First off, I hope you don’t have a tin full of dented blunt pins. That’s going to end in disaster.

Use the finest machine needle you can get hold of. Nice and sharp. I always use polyester thread. Use a small stitch length and try not to rip out stitches.

If you need to unpick, hey it happens, break the threads at regular intervals and then carefully unpick the shorter lengths to save trauma to the fabric.

6. Grain
I’m going to say the words people aren’t supposed to say. Deep breath… don’t beat yourself up about the grain. HEY I didn’t say ignore it completely! If you end up slightly off-grain because of the slippery nature of the fabric, you’ll be okay.

I generally find drapey fabrics far more forgiving in this regard and they very rarely warp over time. A significant amount of ready to wear clothing is produced off-grain and it’s never done us that much harm. But it’s not like it takes long to do so make the effort to line things up as best as you can.

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7. Finishing
Before you end up in a sea of Satin-fluff you might want to think about how to finish your seams. I definitely recommend French seams. I used them for 90% of the pyjamas except for the crotch seam on the pj bottoms and around the armholes in the pj top; there I used my serger to neaten things off.

French seams are so good because they’re secure, look pretty awesome and are really easy to sew when you’ve thought through the logistics! You can even use them on curved seams, even though I didn’t as I was honed in on the finish line – aka lazy. I did take the time to encase the exposed edge of my shirt facing with Satin bias binding as I was feeling classy for about 5 mins. .

Other options still apply — zig zag the raw edges, use pinking shears or bias/seam binding, or maybe you’ve prefer to fold under and top stitch your seam allowances out of sight.

Final thoughts

  • You can use a gelatin bath or similar on your fabric to give it temporary body – this washes out easily enough but I don’t like how slimy it makes the fabric and my machine bed.
  • If you want more tips for silk check out Jen’s awesome tutorial which covers helpful cutting techniques using paper. This is a very common method for a good reason.
  • Familiar with the tissue paper technique? This is for sewing (rather than cutting) and I’ve found it very handy in the past.
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Me-Made-May 13 – week 2: its all about the polka dots baby!!

We’re in week two and it’s time for my polka dot challenge!

I managed six days of me-made dots this week. It would have been seven if I’d conquered my half done Burda dress. Sigh….

Let’s check out the dots!!

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Self-drafted Elsie knock off dress worn for a stroll around the canal on Bank Hol Monday.

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Wearable Mathilde muslin (though I’m pretty sure the yoke stitches are going to snap soon because it’s too tight).

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Prima Tea Dress; never blogged. It has very flattering under-bust gathering and a gored skirt. But I ran out of fabric for the sleeves and it looks silly without them so I always wear a cardigan!

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Cowering from the rain in one of my earliest makes; self-drafted chiffon top with peter pan collar. I wear this all the time. Its going to fall apart soon.

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My new morse code crepe Sorbetto (minus the pleat) with contrast bias binding. Not really digging this boxy style but it got some compliments so may keep wearing it.

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Finally a lovely satin nl 6808. The fabric is from the Birmingham Meet Up so wearing this reminds me of that day. It’s super comfy and flattering and much loved.

And that is it for week 2! I’m already worried about week four but we’ll see how it goes.

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How was your weekend?

“So what did you do this weekend?”

“Oh I went shopping in London with 50 strangers off the Internet and we took over a Lebenese restaurant. What did you do?”

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I want to say that this weekend’s meetup in London was so tremendous that I’m finding it hard to describe. I tried to summarise proceedings in an email to my brother and pretty sure I didn’t convey how amazing it was (plus I know I missed bits out).

So forgive me if I opt out from trying to do it justice. If you were there, well you know. If you weren’t, our delightful host Rachel and many of the FIFTY other attendees will do a much better job than I.

Instead of a full round up I wanted to hone in some of my highlights of the day.

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A big highlight for me was how much more confident I felt at my second meet up than my first, especially given the scare factor of such a huge gathering. I think this was partly down to seeing lovely familiar faces. Rachel makes you feel like you’ve known her years. Marie is such a sweetheart, she always makes me laugh. Roisin is like a fantastic whirlwind and didn’t stay long but made a point to catch up with me. And it was lovely to chat with Catherine again (I had a feeling she’d pick my sparkly jersey from the swap).

Another highlight was meeting so many new people – people I’ve admired and read their blogs from afar and people that write wonderful blogs I’d not heard of before. Sitting with Camilla, Jo and Janene for lunch was great because they were all so chatty and funny. Finally meeting Sallie and confirming my suspicions of her Yorkshire roots was ace. And of course meeting LIZZY! Our international attendee. She really is so so friendly in real life. I felt a bit star struck to be honest; I didn’t get a photo of us together and I felt like I didn’t convey how grateful I was that she brought over for me!

The V&A is so spectacular I can’t believe I’ve never been before! I’m definitely going again.

Goldhawk Road was kind of a revelation. It was so neat to see all the fabric shops along one road where we could bounce in and out of them all hunting for bargains. Now some of you may have noticed my desperate desire to find horse print fabric. And since Goldhawk Road is famous for getting end rolls from commercial fashion companies I felt optimistic.

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I wasn’t disappointed. I also picked up some other delights. Not much mind you as I’d already spent all my money in Birmingham. My swap freebies included this amazing bird print rayon from Lizzy, and a printed silk plus a cute simplicity sundress pattern from a mystery source.

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Finally, I was amazed by the generosity of Minerva Fabrics and Abakhans. These two companies effectively sponsored our day out. I can’t even begin to convey the amount of fabric, notions and trims Abakhans supplied to the swap. And Minerva gave everyone goodie bags they’d thoughtfully put together – see the awesome felted wool knitted fabric I was given (above). I always thought the blogging community was surpisingly separate from the sewing supply companies but lately my eyes have been opened.

* Meet up photos by Digpal Singh

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Birmingham Rag Market (aka how to spend your pay packet in one day)

I’ve already told a fib. My pay packet didn’t just disappear at the famous rag market in Birmingham but also at the Bull Ring shopping centre across the road.
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Now I wouldn’t say I live particularly close to Birmingham. The first time I ever went was for Marie and Kat‘s wonderful blogger meet up at the end of last year. Another meet up is organised for June 15th!

Last time I caught the megabus and arrived in three hours. This time I had the pleasure of being chauffeur driven by Mr AR and it took half the time!

The bull ring lured me into buying new shoes, make up and jewelry. I’m not doing the seamless pledge officially but it makes me happy to only buy things I cannot make myself.

I then tottered over the road to the outdoor market. The outdoor fabric stalls weren’t as good as I remembered but I think I was rushing. The sun was out and markets were extremely busy so I decided to pop inside and return later.

My favourite stall inside is the one run by two women; one is older the other a lot younger. They’re in roughly the centre of the indoor market and their stand is a treasure trove. One downside is everything is stacked on top of each other and I always fall in love with the bottom rolls. (That is an amazing way to finish a sentence I have to say!)

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Success!! A houndstooth georgette, a rust coloured lace and a lilac crepe with purple Morse code spots.

Then to top it off when I ventured back outside I found some lovely multicoloured spot “German viscose” (not sure what difference German manufacturing makes) plus some black corduroy and navy crepe (not pictured).

I definitely recommend the rag market for sewists on the hunt for a bargain. And if you’d like some company exploring get yourself along to the June 15th Rag Market meet up mentioned above!

I’ll be there for sure. Just don’t let me buy anything!

PS. Check out the Rag Market’s awesome new website! It’s still in development but much more friendly than the previous version.

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