Nautical Imagine Gnats Alder Skirt and a made up top

Jaunty

Jaunty

What’s an alder? Loads of patterns seem to be called alder. I don’t think anything is called alder in the UK.

Nautical!

Nautical!

Anyway, I made an awesome if slightly unflattering skirt from boat print fabric. I used the Imagine Gnats alder pattern and some lovely chambray and a bit of some handwoven cotton for the contrast fabric. I made it with the bulging pockets because I was fascinated by them.

I can put EVERYTHING IN THESE!

I can put EVERYTHING IN THESE!

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They do make your waist look smaller, but they also make you generally wider, and my mum kept thinking I was wearing an apron. I don’t mind that, but I think next time I make it, and I will make it again, I will make the flat pocket version. I like the triangular inverted pleat at the front: there is a version you can make without it, but I think it’s a cute detail.

awkward selfie to show off pleat

awkward selfie to show off pleat

When I make it next, I will also cut a size smaller: it comes up HUGE! I used a much smaller piece of elastic at the back and gathered the fabric a lot more than I was supposed to but it was still massive! I did secretly like being too small for something though ūüėČ

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I will also make it about three inches longer. The pattern has options for doing this, but despite being tall I ignored this. It came up a bit short (even with me adding decorative contrast binding round the bottom which isn’t part of the pattern but which I like) so I will make it a bit smaller and longer.

All the topstitching

All the topstitching, neat in places, not in others…..

All the seams are topstitched which I think is super nice. It’s a really cool pattern: hooray for Imagine Gnats. I like how the patterns have ample opportunity for playing with patterns and colours, and am looking forward to making the Bess top soon.I also like the large size range (the skirt goes up to 22 which is what this is) and the fact the sizes come up large. I reckon size 24 to 26 could fit in this with the elastic at the waist.

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The top is sort of self drafted, ok it isn’t. I copied an RTW vest I liked and then attached the Moneta sleeves to it. The joys of knit when you can just bodge things into place. The sleeves didn’t quite fit so I added a couple of pleats at the shoulders to poof them up a bit and give me the shoulders I wasn’t born with! It’s made from the same fabric as my first successful Moneta, and it very snug and very useful.

'Drafting' LOLZ

‘Drafting’ LOLZ

And there we are: a jaunty summer outfit just as it starts to get really cold. PERFECT!

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Doing the polka with Violet

IMG_1740Hello!

I made a BlueGingerDoll Violet to go back to work in. I thought, if I’m not exactly feeling dotty about going back to work after two weeks off, I can at least look dotty. Here she is!

All the dots

All the dots

And here am I modelling her in a stairwell…

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Pretty awesome hey? I used some super cheap super interesting double border print knit stuff that is as light as candy floss and sticks to everything with any kind of rough texture. It’s kind of like the soft bit on velcro. I found this out when I got it stuck to the scratchy bit of a piece of velcro. Boy did this stuff grip on. As you can imagine it was pretty horrible to sew with, though not as horrible as I feared. I guess I’m used to sewing with cheap floppy slippy knits now! As per the very good instructions I reinforced shoulder and some other seams with stay tape, though I used clear plastic elastic instead of he recommended unstretchy tape for the waist band seam: a girl’s got to be able to eat lunch you know. I cut size 20 at the shoulders grading to size 24 at the waist and hip which was good. The waist is actually about 5 inches too small technically, but I like a snug fit! I didn’t lengthen the bodice piece which was silly seeing as I am 5 foot ten with a long torso and big boobs that the fabric has to travel over, so I ended up adding in a three inch piece of black ribbing at the bottom of the bodice piece. I like this, it’s like a belt without a buckle and looks quite slimming. When I make this dress again, I would add about 3-4 inches into the bodice piece.

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As you can see I had a lot of fun playing around with the double border print fabric using its shrinking and growing dots to a pretty ‘jazzy’ effect! The Violet has lots of different pieces (i.e two yoke pieces, a bodice piece and a skirt piece on the front) which allow you to colour or pattern block like crazy. I used different size dots for different pieces using the smallest ones at the middle to hopefully¬†optimistically create a sort of ¬†slimming effect. One thing that I found very off about this fabric was that it stretched lengthways instead of horizontally, so there is very little ease/movement in it when sewed up using the dots as I did. It would look odd to have the dots getting smaller or larger horizontally wouldn’t it? It works though, and hasn’t stretched downwards yet.

Deformed shoulders pose

Deformed shoulders pose

I combined the back yoke and back bodice piece to make one piece at the back, so it wasn’t too fussy. (Ha you say, are you kidding yourself? It’s got aaalll the dots all over the place!).I did a ribbing t-shirt style collar binding to match my tummy ribbing, though you can use the main material. My neckline had stretched out rather a lot in the handling of it so I would definitely recommend stay stitching it at the beginning, especially if you are using a light weight fabric. I didn’t actually bother doing the signature ruching at the bust because I thought it would make the neckline too low for work. I will do it in the next version but I will make the neckline slightly higher and cut a slightly thicker bit of ribbing for the neckline binding.

Twin needling on this fabric was pretty horrid, especially because I didn’t want the skirt to be too short so used a tiny hem allowance. The hem is a bit wobbly in places….

Please avert your eyes

Please avert your eyes

But the fabric is busy enough to let me get away with it. I really like this pattern and will definitely make another. I have one MAJOR problem with it though. It comes with different sleeve lengths and a pencil as well as full skirt option (this is the full skirt, long sleeves option, obvs). I was surprised to see that even with full sleeves and full skirt, this pattern was said to only need 1.6 metres of 150cm wide fabric. I had this in a different ikat style jersey print, and folded this on a double fold as the pattern recommended, and there was NO WAY my pattern pieces would fit on it. The skirt piece would not fit on at all, let alone have room to spare as the layout suggested. I ended up using about 2- 2.5m (hard to tell as I cut it up weirdly due to pattern placement). Has anyone else had this problem??

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Otherwise, I think the Violet is a grand pattern. I feel very smart in the dress, and it is super comfy. If you haven’t already….Make one! And tell me about it!

Oh, can we just take a moment to appreciate my pretty new shoes….

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Thanks bye!

Confessions and gratitude

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Hooray! I’ve got another blog post on my favourite ever website: Curvy Sewing Collective. This time I am posting about my crapness at hand sewing. I didn’t realise that learning to use a sewing machine would require me to sew loads of things by hand. And I am really bad at it.

LOOK.

HEEEELLLLPPPPP

HEEEELLLLPPPPP

UGH.

But help is at hand. Already there are SO many helpful comments from all the wonderful people in the sewing ether. The sewing community is just so damn nice and the people who are part of the Curvy Sewing community especially so. I feel so very grateful that I can learn from so many experienced people, and also that people are so encouraging, even when I post up pictures of horrors like the one above.

I could gush on forever about how wonderful everyone is, but I need to go and follow their advice. I’m off to book myself on an embroidery course! I never thought that would happen!

If you also hate hand sewing or are as bad at it as me: check out all the advice at the bottom of the post here.

Sewing for other people 1: tiny ones

Saintly me

Saintly me

I have been doing some VERY PHILANTHROPIC AND GENEROUS AND MAGNANIMOUS sewing of late. Yes, that’s right, saint that I am, I took a pause from sewing pretty/comfy/weird things for me and sewed things for boys. Three different boys in fact. I shall write about the thing I made for a husband-shaped boy in a future post. Today’s post is about things I made for small-shaped boys.

I made dungarees. When I have children they will live in dungarees. I wish I could live in dungarees. They are the finest item of clothing known to humanity. One day, when I learn how to grade up this pattern for two year olds into adult sizes I will be the happiest woman alive. So will all my friends who saw these and demanded their own pair. For now though, I will content myself with making awesome dungarees for children.

Felix and his crazy crocodile and crab dungarees

Felix and his crazy crocodile and crab dungarees

The pattern was a freebie from the wonderful Toya. This pattern is so good, and so clear I could not believe it was free and I am so so grateful that the free pattern came in pretty much exactly the right size for the two boys of friends that I was sewing for. It’s brilliant. Toya is a genius and her daughter is the cutest thing alive. Apart from these boys.

The pattern is for two year olds and the boys I was making for are both 18 months. Conveniently they are quite big for their age and I forgot to add any seam allowance onto the pattern so it fits perfectly! Being a plus size sewist who has to regularly struggle to fit her pattern pieces onto a table, sewing these tiny miniature pieces was such a joy. I laughed out loud at the size of the tiny bum pockets and cooed and aahed at the tiny measurements of my ‘models’. These boys have 50CM chests, and I have a 50INCH one. LOLZ!

So SMALL!!

So SMALL!!

Sewing for kids is a real joy. Things come together really quickly, cutting out is a breeze and you use a lot less thread and barely any fabric (less than a metre for each pair of dungarees). And the final product is too cute for words. I think I will be making a lot more kids clothes for anyone I even vaguely know who has a child because it is so fun, and ideal for doing on a quiet evening where you can’t be bothered to start a big project but want to sew and want instant results.

 

Two pins for the pockets!

Two pins for the pockets!

The only slight downside of sewing for other people’s kids is that I feel uber responsible about making sure the clothes are ‘safe’ so got a bit cautious and nervous¬†when sewing the buttons on to make sure that they will not come off and get swallowed. I doubt a tank could rip them off!

Though I used the same pattern for both pairs, the results are very different. For the first pair I used an excellent solid ‘Crocodiles Balls and Crabs 100% Polyester Jersey’ from Oh So Crafty with a soft black ribbed jersey lining.

I was pleased with my pockets

I was pleased with my pockets

The second pair came about when my friend saw my post about my Peter Rabbit pyjamas and told me her little boy Joseph absolutely loved ‘Peter Bit’. I realised I probably had enough fabric to knock up a pair for him and ta da! These happened:

JoJo and Peter Rabbit

JoJo and Peter Rabbit

There wasn’t much fabric left and so the bunnies and stripes on the legs are a bit off kilter, but I don’t think it matters. The lining was made from an old bed sheet finished with some nice bias binding. I was quite pleased with how posh they looked!

The innards of Peter Rabbit

The innards of Peter Rabbit

Both parents and boys seem pretty pleased with their new dungarees and it made me super happy to get pictures of the little lads looking so dapper in them. I’ll leave you with a few more just to demonstrate they they seem to be fairly robust and can stand up to all the scamperings of very cute small people. Also, to demonstrate that a boy can look FIERCE in Peter Rabbit dungarees and a tube of toothpaste…..

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The first sack-like but triumphant item

I made my first dress in January this year. My mum had bought me this beautiful sewing machine from John Lewis for Christmas and I was keen to get started. I can’t say what really provoked me to ask for a sewing machine: I have wanted one for years, but always told myself I wouldn’t make time for sewing, that it would just clutter up the place, that I wouldn’t know how to use it properly. I had sewn some pretty appalling items of ‘clothing’ as a teenager: rainbow hologram rubberized A-line maxi skirt with no waistband anyone? Yes; I did just sew a giant open ended cone and not hem or finish anything. I wore it out of the house too. I hadn’t sewn since then, but I had recently joined the Women’s Institute, and rediscovered my hands, and the things I could make with them. I tried quilling, cupcake icing and origami. I had a fun time with jewellery making, and bought all the stuff to make that become my new hobby (So.Many.Beads). I had fun for a while, and made everyone jewellery for Christmas whether they liked it or not, but personally, I can’t be bothered to wear jewellery much, and there are only so many slightly dodgily made earrings you can give to people. I soon ran out of steam. And then the sewing machine landed, and the first technicolour sack was created.

A colourful rather unflattering a-line dress

The sack

The fabric is amazing non? The shape is less amazing (and I really have no idea what dreadful bra I was wearing: oh dear, apologies). The finishing is definitely not amazing. I would photo them hems but they might make you cry. Really, they would. Not actually having looked at a sewing pattern before I ordered Simplicity 1800¬†as my first pattern. ¬†Pretty huh? It said it would be an ‘amazing fit’, so that must mean it must be a breeze to make, and then, ta da! An amazing fit! And then I looked at the pattern, and the instructions, and the sizing and felt like screaming. There were so many bits, I appeared to be 6 sizes bigger than I thought I was (more of that later) and the instructions could have been been written in Arabic for all the sense they made to me. I freaked out at the concept of ‘right sides’ and ‘wrong sides’ so that shows you my level of understanding. ¬†After cutting out all the fabric and staring at the piece and instructions blankly for what seems like aeons, my friend Elona who lived upstairs came to the rescue. Elona had been on a sewing course recently, and knew what interfacing and hem allowances were, and she gently suggested I shelve the 1800 and maybe, just maybe, get a simpler pattern. So the pattern for the sack arrived. The sack is better known as Burda 7100. And so under my friend’s expert supervision I cut out two pieces of fabric and sewed them together. With my whizzy sewing machine. I didn’t lose any fingers. I understood what the right and wrong sides were (Elona told me). I even badly put some interfacing around the neckline. I hemmed it. I wore it! I mean, The arm holes are way too small, and it is, err, a pretty shapeless sack, but the fact is, I made a garment, with my sewing machine, that covers my body, doesn’t fall to pieces even after washing it, and even looks a bit like a dress when I put a belt with it. ¬†I then made another one in some kind of crazy hi viz waterproof chevron stretch fabric that I had bought off ebay (I was compulsively buying fabrics even before I had sewn my first stitch on my new sewing machine: this compulsion continues at a pace). This version¬†even had about three gathers and a wonkily sewn stomach panel on it. Awful hems again (I didn’t know about zig zag stitch or twin needles for stretch), but better sized arm holes and wearable! neon sack This my friends, is a triumph. It whet my appetite to make more things that look a bit less like vegetable storage, more like clothing. I was hooked, and a little google introduced me to the wonderful world of sewing blogs, independent pattern makers and the Collette Sorbetto. (See next post)

That’s it! No clothes buying until 2015

I have way too many clothes. 2 large wardrobes full and two chests of drawers. I’m a bit of a hoarder and probably half my wardrobe is made up of ‘incentive clothes’ or ‘memory clothes’ which are waaay too small to me, but which remind me of a long-lost slimmer time. This, I know is foolish. I have got bigger in the last couple of years, so pretty much had to replace my small wardrobe with a whole bigger sized one. Unfortunately I still hung on to the tiny clothes, so have doubled the space I need. My husband is appalled at me. My wardrobe is ridiculous, but yet, I have been unable to stop myself from buying more clothes in the hope that they will somehow make me feel as stylish as I did when I was slimmer. They don’t fit in there, they are often cheap and in stretch fabrics or unflattering ‘big girl’ shapes, and usually are deeply unethical and mass produced by people working in awful conditions for little money. This compulsive buying has not made me feel any better about my place in the world, or my contribution to it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally a very happy and healthy person, but my attitude to clothes, size and beauty, like many women, has been somewhat skew-whiff. I think compared to a lot of girls, small or large, I am ok, I don’t have any major body hang ups (even though many people might think I should). I am happy to be seen by everyone in a swimming costume and wear the things I want to, however ludicrous they are. Hot pink strappy jumpsuits are my friend. But the compulsive buying, which is often tinged with a strange nebulous desperation, a hope that this thing, this one thing will make me feel like I used to when I was smaller, needs to stop. Post internet shopping guilt as another package of cheap and nasty clothes arrives from ASOS has been my companion for too long.

I started off by initiating a ‘one in, one out’ policy with clothes buying. If I bought something new, I had to send an old thing to the charity shop. Inevitably this would need to be something too small that I hadn’t worn for five years. This went some way towards my accepting that I wasn’t going to get back to being a size 14 any time soon, and even if I did, I would probably want a new wardrobe, not one that was half a decade out of date. It did not however assuage my guilt at contributing to an oppressive system of fashion production which exploited men, women and children producing cheap clothes in factories abroad, and which often humiliated and marginalised women here in the western world.

And then I discovered sewing. And even though I have only really been doing it for a couple of months, already it has done three huge things for me:

1) Stopped me from passively endorsing a hideous fashion industry at a cost to human dignity everywhere.

2) Allowed me to discover a creative and practical side of me that had lain dormant since school.(and err, spend hours and hours and too much money browsing beautiful fabrics online, but more of that later)

3) Allowed me to realise that my body can not be defined by a clothes size. It is unique, ever changing and marvellous, and I can make clothes that rejoice in that, rather than try and apologise for something shameful or which make me look like I’m trying to be something I’m not.

Sewing allows me to be a much better me. And this blog is going to chart my successes and cock-ups in learning everything that actually Making Stuff can do for a person and their place in the world. And I’m not going to buy any high street clothes until next year. And if all goes well, I won’t buy any in 2015 either. Apart from jumpers. I hate knitting. And shoes. I can’t make shoes. But everything else, me made or nuthin.

no shopping

(I promise that future blog posts won’t be as grandiose as this one, and will mainly focus on wonky hems and bias binding, but for now, I am filled with joy and wonder and enthusiam for my new hobby, and I just had to get it out there!)