Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Sacred sewing spaces

Sewing spaces are sacred, right? Regardless of whether they are fully-kitted, dedicated rooms or humbler, carved out spaces within a kitchen or a living room, for most stitchers they are special spaces to be creative in, to relax in, to work in, to learn in, to think in, to dream in, to escape in, to so much more in…

Do you agree, or am I alone in thinking this?

Tilly has beautifully argued the notion that sewing transforms lives (in my opinion so does learning) in a recent provocation paper and surely sewing spaces have a key role to play in the process.

Despite all this though, I’ve not been treating my dedicated sewing space (aka the spare bedroom) with the respect it deserves lately and it has had a significantly negative impact on my sewing productivity. Ironically, I think this is a direct result of the very fact that I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated space in the first place…a place that I can make lots of mess in and shut the door on! For the record, I am actually OCD clean (spotless bathroom, kitchen etc), but sadly this isn’t mirrored in my tidiness levels, which can shockingly result in this…





Absolutely appalling, I know! No wonder I haven’t been very productive lately, what with hardly being able to get into the damned room! Anyway, I decided that a long weekend was my chance to take the deteriorating situation firmly in my hands. I spent Monday and Tuesday buying all sorts of containers and sorting through everything and I feel so much better for it. 

I now have a clear workspace, resulting in a clear headspace. 


I've managed to neatly fit the bulk of my supplies onto the bookshelf lurking behind the door - one thing this exercise has made apparent is that I need absolutely no more patterns or fabric! 


Top shelf patterns are for skirts, tops and aprons/pinnies. Second shelf is ALL dresses 30s-40s in the first box, 40s-50s in the middle one and 60s-current in the last one.


I finally organised my fabric too! Top shelf - shorter lengths for pinnies, accessories etc. Middle shelf - vintage fabric and heavier fabric. Third shelf - plainer and better quality fabrics for more elegant garments. 


I have a mini bookcase which is where the overlocker lives, alongside my sewing notions (top shelf, organised in glass jars so I can actually see what I have) and sewing/fashion related books. I even bought a cutting mat to make me feel extra professional!


Finally, I've decided to store my many current/ongoing projects into a box, because I was at risk of losing pattern pieces the way I had them lying around  before!


It's such a cute box don't you think? My lovely friend Angela bought it for my birthday this year...thanks Angela!


I've always been envious of neat sewing spaces - Jane's, Gina's, Tilly's, and Laura's to name but a few - and now I have one of my very own! Long may it last!

What's your sewing space like? Are you at your most creative in a neat environment or does mess not phase you?  

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Bank holiday bliss

Phheeewwww, it's a long-awaited bank holiday weekend here in England! For me, not only does this mean that I get Monday off work, I also get Tuesday off because the organisation I work for likes to give us 'grace days' after each bank holiday Monday...nice! Though I do worry about just how elated I feel when I don't have to go to work, but that's normal right?!?

Faced with any expanse of free time, I always hatch grand, unrealistic plans...like sewing myself a whole new wardrobe in 3 days, hehe! This time round I'm trying to set myself achievable targets and operate on a more chilled level. 

So far I've prepared some more precious collars for the sewing machine – your encouraging comments on my last post have really spurred me on!


I also indulged in a spot of baking. I used to bake a lot before 'discovering' sewing, but nowadays it's taken a back seat, which is no bad thing for my waistline! Anyway, these delicious little things are carrot and cream cheese muffins (recipe can be found here) sans the cream cheese topping as I like to top each one just before it's going to be eaten. I followed the recipe fully, apart from the topping part – for mine I simply mixed cream cheese and icing sugar. Oh and I listened to the recommendations in the recipe's comments and added the orange juice too!


Finally, I've also been enjoying going through the patterns I recently won courtesy of Gina who blogs at Vintage Girl. Gina's generous giveaway was even more generous than I realised! When my package arrived there were even more patterns than I anticipated, alongside a lovely note. Thank you so much Gina, you're a great lady!!!





I hope fellow UK residents are also enjoying the bank holiday, despite the less-than-summery weather! Speaking of weather, I also hope that people located along the east coast of the US are safe and sound following Hurricane Irene. I'm relieved to have spoke to my aunty in Connecticut who is just fine apparently, hope all your loved ones are too! 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Fun with detachable collars #1

After last week's Lonsdale disappointment, I'm happy to report that I've had sooo much fun sewing this weekend and with great results too! I've been experimenting with detachable collars - inspiration shared here - and by no means am I finished yet. Hence I'm calling this post #1...I have a feeling many more will follow!

First up is View D from McCall's 1911 from the1950s, which I made from a crisp white linen. This is such a chic pattern and easy as anything to make. Honestly, the hardest part of this pattern was tying the square knot to finish the look off! I can't wait to make the other views, especially B!





Next up is a simple peter pan collar that I drafted myself (not exactly rocket science) and finished off with a hook and eye. I think what makes this collar so special though, is the gorgeous crochet lace that I trimmed it with. The lace is from this eBay seller, whom I was dubious about at first as it ships from Hong Kong. I chose to gamble on it though as it was just 99p for 5 yards of this lace with very reasonable P&P charges. I'm glad I did - the lace arrived really fast and it's beautiful.




This next collar was inspired by the cover of Simplicity 2567 from the 1930s, but I had to draft it myself as the actual pattern pieces were missing. My favourite features of this collar are the scallops obviously and the cute button closing. My scallops definitely need some work and possibly enlarging, but it's not bad for a first go!





Last, but not least is my double layered peter pan collar. This was adapted from a Primark blouse I own and I love the results. The collar's trimmed with green bias binding that acts as a tie closing as well. I think next time I'll use satin bias binding or ribbon, for a sleeker look.




So, what do you think? Do you like my detachable collars? Do you have a favourite?

One thing I do know for sure, is that if I get to sell these on Etsy one day I need a new face! I tried so hard to 'model' these collars, but I'm just not photogenic. Oh well, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Vintage Life magazine - August 2011

Firstly I just wanted to thank you all so much for your empathy and oodles of suggestions for correcting my ill-fated Lonsdale Dress – I’m now confident that after a bit of distance from it, I’ll be able to put it right!

Right, onto business next! After ‘reviewing’ my first ever issue of Vintage Life magazine last month, and not exactly being bowled over by it, I promised I’d give it a second chance. Sadly, my initial thoughts haven’t really changed.


The most promising piece in this month’s issue is a look at some Harvey Berin adverts from the 1950s – you can read more by clicking the image below and you can see some original dresses here on Etsy. It’s just such a shame that it’s so short and lacking in detail. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that a magazine called Vintage Life should carry more pieces like this, am I?


I am, however, happy to have seen this advert though. If you’ve never come across Hello Strumpet, I urge you to have a look at their beautifully designed hats and peter pan collars…so lovely!


This issue also offers a tutorial on how to up-cycle your sun lounger…erm…yeah…




A vintage lover’s guide to Brighton – Brighton folk, did they miss anything out?



And some more inspiration for vintage-style weddings




So once again, a little disappointing and fluffy in content…I wish it would get down and dirty with some fashion history, designers of the past, tips on distinguishing vintage items and so much more. At the moment it just seems like a missed opportunity to me. I may give Vintage Life magazine one last chance - a third time lucky kind of thing if you wish - but no more!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The truth about my Lonsdale

Do you ever feel - despite relevant experience and plenty of passion – that you are getting worse at something instead of better? I feel like that about sewing at the moment.

Unveiling my beautiful Lonsdale dress should be a happy occasion and you'd be forgiven for thinking at first that it is indeed a dream dress:


Forgiven, because the terrible truth is…my Lonsdale is an epic fail. Just look at that too-small bodice, not so visible from the front, but glaringly obvious from the back! The most messed up thing about this, is that I actually made muslin for the bodice...which fit. So I'm left scratching my head over what went wrong with my fashion fabric...I honestly don't even know!


I'm so sad about this, because I took my time with Tasia's sew-along and it really is my neatest make to date. And such a darn cute little dress. Right now, I don't have the heart to take it apart and re-do the bodice, nor do I have the energy to even think about making another. To add insult to injury, we don't even have enough of a summer left to warrant the effort. I'm sure I'll give this another go next year though...or more unlikely I'll follow my boyfriend's suggestion to just get skinny!

Anyway, I don't just want to dwell on the negatives, because there are so many great things about this dress...even if mine doesn't fit! Design-wise, the Lonsdale has some great details which really set it apart from shop-bought dresses:

I love the knotted bodice front and faux halter neck straps


The straps are fully adjustable and tie into the cutest little bow at the back


There are small pockets too, ideal for storing any light essentials


As far as sew-alongs go, this is my second Sewaholic one, my first being the Crescent Skirt, and I can't fault the experience. Tasia is such a thorough tutor, covering each step in great detail and providing different options to suit all preferences. She also goes to extreme lengths to design garments that can be made as neat and beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside:


Following Tasia's suggestion I finished the side seams and pockets with french seams


I turned under the centre front seams


And finished the back seams with bias binding and hemmed the skirt by hand using a pretty lace trim


Most excitingly, I inserted my first hand-picked zip for this dress! I am notoriously bad at zips, so I thought I'd try a new technique and I'm so pleased that I did. The result is almost flawless and I can see myself investing the time to do this for future projects. I know the zip teeth are very visible, but in a desperate attempt to make this fit, I tried to save every last bit of fabric I could! 


So to put it mildly, I'm inconsolable about the fit of my Lonsdale, as it's perfect in every other way. Do you have any stories of sewing woe to share? Please make me feel better…

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing everyone else's Lonsdale dresses, as I know lots and lots of people took part in this sew-along.