• Other stuff

    Top 5s of 2013! Reflections and Inspirations

    The New Year has started but there is still time to post my reflections and inspirations. This one is a biggie I’m afraid!
    In the past year I’ve definitely grown as a sewist and a blogger: I have learnt a lot of smart new techniques and tips, creating some wardrobe favourites, challenged myself to sew different and more difficult garments, plus I had a great deal of fun in the process. Here are some of the simple things I have to say about the year.

    1. It’s better to practice with a muslin first so you don’t ruin good fabric. But it’s not good to put fabric up on a pedestal, worshipping at its beauty and never cutting into it. I need to stay on the right side of that line to make sure I don’t keep stash fabric without ever enjoying it but treat it with the proper respect. I have been guilty of both ruining and hoarding delicious fabrics.

    2. I still love drapey fabrics like viscose, rayon, chiffon, georgette and polyester over stiffer fabrics. Though this year I think I did sew with more cotton than chiffon. The cotton lawn from textiles express is the softest and dreamiest cotton lawn I have ever used (in your face Liberty tana lawn), the only problem is the limited range of fabric designs (come back Liberty, I love you really). I have a mini stockpile of Liberty gift vouchers to spend as soon as I get to London and know exactly what I’m going to buy with it.


    3. I’m not sure I enjoyed Me Made May as much as I hoped in 2013. I wear so much handmade gear on a weekly basis it felt like I cheated. How silly is that! Plus trying to organise MMM posts while abroad in Portugal probably didn’t help. The only thing I loved was having a polka dot week during the month! I might let myself off documenting the days this year and sit back to watch everyone else take part.

    4. I’ve refined my skills quite a lot this year so I truly believe the insides of my garments look as nice as the outsides. This does add time to the making of a garment but really not that much. Although I now know good hand-sewing techniques and find it almost tolerable to do, I’ll still avoid using hand-sewing wherever possible. This has had positive results where I’ve lucked upon awesome results with machine stitching lining!

    5. Joining the Library was one of the best things I did last year. I have loved walking around the gorgeous building and I’m still unearthing treasures to read from the Art Library. Today I got a book about beautiful appliqué art and a book about Scandinavian fashion design.

    2013-06-07 15.11.53


    The blogging and sewing community is full of immensely talented and very often hilarious women; so it’s unsurprising that they should be credited as my major inspirations.

    1. UK sewing bloggers – I think meeting up in person with so many wonderful UK-based sewing bloggers has made my year! Add to the meetups the sheer number of twitter, instagram and email conversations we’ve had, means I’ve truly made many wonderful friends this year. Roisin, Kat, Marie, Sabs, Janene, Jo, Sally, Claire – ooh goodness there are so many more of you to mention – you ladies are always there with a friendly chatter and encouragement. Not to mention the amazing things you all make which keep me inspired and motivated. I love the variety provided to the blogging world by UK sewists, and if I get to see the makes up close in person then I’m even happier.


    2. Australian sewing bloggers – There is a special place in my heart for Australia. I can close my eyes and picture myself back in the cafes of St Kilda, eating fish and chips in Manly bay or at Wollombi drinking Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice! Mostly I wish I was back in Australia while being in the knowledge of what awesome sewists lived there. Amanda sews with such joy, LizzyLizzy and Jodie regularly excite me with their makes and Kirsty is like this sewing ninja as I never know what she’s going to spring up with next. Plus Rachel who I got to meet this year and tempt into buying a ludicrous amount of fabric.

    3. French sewing Bloggers – Now and then I mention my longing to be a glamorous French woman, who knows how to dress and pose and blog (all effortlessly chic). This will never happen. Instead I live vicariously though Julie (Jolies Bobines), Sandra (By Sandra’s Hand) and Mathilde (Felicie a Paris) to name a few. And thank goodness there are now French patterns I can get hold of and sew as well thanks to Eléanore (Deer and Doe) and Géraldine (RDC).

    4. Best of the Rest: bloggers from all over and not necessarily sewing bloggers who I have really enjoyed reading this year – Sonja (Ginger Makes), Amy (Sewing Through The Motions), and Anna (Paunnet) are of course wonderful sewists. Three new favourite vintage/fashion bloggers are Alix (Cherry Blossom Girl), Laura (Paper Mothball Vintage) and Marianne (Esme and the Laneway) whose beautiful clothing, makeup and photography have kept me hooked all year.

    Photo from The Cherry Blossom Girl

    5. Modcloth – Okay fine the only non-blogger inspiration I’ll credit. I seriously do take a lot of inspiration from this online shop. I don’t necessarily make exact replicas but looking through the clothes and accessories gets my inspiration and motivation buzzing away.

    Phew! I’m glad I decided to hold over my Goals for 2014 into a different post. You’d have been falling asleep on me if I’d gone on any further. Obviously I couldn’t mention all of the sewing bloggers I wanted so I hope you all know what a difference you’ve made to my life.

    More to come in my final instalment of this round up. And after that I should have some something recently sewn to show you!

  • Other stuff

    Little Black Jacket part 3 – day 1

    This is part 3 of my mini series on the Chanel jacket course I attended in March.

    See here for part 1 about inspiration and here for part 2 on materials!

    Today I’m sharing my progress from day 1 of the course.

    I packed up my machine, pattern, fabric, notions and a travel sewing kit and set off to Roundhay!



    Gillian the course instructor advised making a toile with at least one sleeve set in and bringing it along for discussion on the first day.

    I traced all my pieces rather than cutting as I was sure I’d need to apply some “creative” sizing.

    I traced a size 12 at the neck/shoulder/armhole/bust and graded out to a size 14 waist and 16 hip.

    What I ended up with was pretty good I think. The shoulder length/armhole needed some adjustment but the fit across the bust waist and hips felt good. For a non-fastening jacket the fronts meet and it doesn’t gape open too much.
    Overall I felt it could have been snugger and Gillian agreed. She also helped me remove 3cm length from the sleeve.

    She advised that although the toile is an excellent indicator of fit it’s often better to fit the jackets again mid-construction because of the wool behaving differently to calico.

    Down to business. First up we cut out fabric and lining pieces, remembering to take into consideration nap, pattern matching and in my case the one way shine of satin. I didn’t use interfacing in the end as my wool had enough stability.

    The construction was not as expected. Instead of constructing the outer shell and lining separately and the attaching the two, the corresponding shell and lining pieces were basted together and machine quilted.

    This took the majority of the day. We chatted as we went and I made the most of the tips that were shared ready for when I make my second jacket. Here’s a few things I took note of:

    • For a truly expensive looking jacket it’s not enough to pattern-match your fabric in the seams and the sleeves, you should also be matching the pockets.
    • An inch of seam allowance helps you be safer rather than sorry with expensive fabric.
    • Don’t overpress your fabric… in fact barely touch it! Wool is most likely to show marks where you’ve squashed it.
    • It’s not worth overlocking your pieces even if they’re fraying like no-one’s business, as you’re just creating bulk at the seams and wool is plenty bulky enough! Just pink the edges if you need to do something.

    Sorry it’s taken so long to post this. I’ve just started a new job and also Mr AR has been unwell. More excitement drafted and ready to post in Part 4 about day 2 of my class.

  • Other stuff

    Little Black Jacket part 2 – materials

    This is second part of my mini series on the Chanel jacket course I am attending in March. See part 1 about inspiration here!

    Today is all about materials!

    The course is based around Vogue pattern V7975.

    (I’ve heard people rave about Vogue 8804 from the Claire Shaeffer Collection but believe its out of print now.)

    The pattern calls for Wool and Wool Blends, Tweeds, Boucle, Gabardine and Mediumweight Linen.

    Gillian, the instructor from the sewing school, was kind enough to ring me to discuss supplies.

    We talked about how classic Chanel jackets are made from boucle or tweed and she explained about Linton fabrics, a leading stockist for Chanel.

    If Chanel choose a fabric from Linton for their line the agreement is that no other bolt of that fabric will be sold for two years. This safeguards the design house from replicas appearing in the market and discourages sewers from making themselves a copy at home immediately.

    The pattern does allow for other fabrics as I mentioned and Gillian encouraged me try something more trendy if I wanted. I’m not sure I’m the tweed jacket type so I’ve bought a beautifully soft (so lovely I want to cuddle it all day) plain black wool from Samuel Taylor. I picked an unobtrusive black poly-satin lining.

    Interfacing is needed but the pattern doesn’t say what weight so I have a metre of medium and a metre of firm weight fusible interfacing and will feel it out as I go.

    Notions are listed based on the view you are making. I’m opting for view B with the length of D/E.

    For this view I’m advised to get braid or ribbon for decoration. I decided to use grosgrain ribbon as trim and my current plan is to use it around the neckline, front and jacket hem, as well as at the cuffs and pockets.

    Gillian also advised the course would cover some additional techniques for making the jacket not detailed in the V7975 instructions.

    As well as interfacing we will be using interlining to add stability, so I have some cotton gauze ready to use.

    Also we will be hand stitching chain onto the jacket’s interior hem. This is another traditional element of Chanel jackets, where the chain weighs down the jacket hem to produce a desirable drape. But I couldn’t find any attractive weighted chain so Gillian and I agreed I should use weights inside the hem of the jacket as well as attaching the admittedly light chain I had been able to purchase.

    Finally I have three spools of black thread and have pre-wound three bobbins so I don’t have to halt progress if I run out. Part of me wants to use colourful thread in case I need to unpick but can’t think like that. Only success is allowed!!

  • Other stuff

    Little Black Jacket part 1 – inspiration

    This is the first post of a mini series that will cover my attempts at making a jacket. Gasp! horror!

    On March 23rd and 24th I will be attending a 2-day course on making a Chanel inspired jacket, hosted by the Yorkshire sewing school.

    And I’m rather nervous… well that’s putting it mildly. I’m chuffing scared!!

    So I thought I’d share some of my inspiration jackets to show what direction I’m leaning.

    Carven Peplum Hem Boiled Wool Jacket in Black
    Pyrus grey wool jacket
    Givenchy Black Wool and Satin Jacket
    Givenchy Black Wool and Satin Jacket
    Sandro Valentin jacket
    Sandro Valentin jacket
    Jaeger London Jacket with ribbon trim

    I love the shoulder inserts of the Sandro jacket, the satin trim on the Givenchy and the simple elegance of the Pyrus and Carven jackets.

    The Jaeger jacket which is last has my favourite elements which is a dreamy looking softer wool and the ribbon trim detail.

    Feel free to take a look at my Pinterest board for more jacket inspiration!

  • Other stuff

    Recap of 2012 (part one)

    Top 5 Graphic

    As I read everyone’s reflections of the sewing year I notice excellent throughput and similar tales of joy and woe.

    Now I want a go!!! Here are my hits, misses, reflections, inspirations and goals!

    5 hits

    1. The knockoff Elsie dress


    2. New Look 6808 FINALLY


    3. Little Green UFO


    4. Slippy shiny slinky fake cambie


    5. I love polka dots 6808


    5 misses

    1. Twinkle skirt – still not hemmed and mega frumpy


    2. Tartan 6808 – cut a big slash in the back bodice when being careless


    3. Fish print dress – Something about the fit or the length just isn’t right but I adore the fabric


    4. Little Red Lace Dress – Too smart for work but too prim for parties


    5. Not-so-sexy Sadie – Already falling apart due to poor jersey sewing skills

    Sexy Sadie
    Sexy Sadie

    Stay tuned for more in part two!