Sunday, 27 April 2014

Catching up!

I haven't felt much like sewing as I'm tired of fitting problems and we are having visits from each of my three daughters at different times but overlapping over Easter weekend. This means that I need the dining room to eat in! Novel idea! So I decided to put everything away.
However, Thursday 18th was our last dressmaking class for a while. I asked Lyn to have a look at my fitted blouse to see how I could improve the next attempt. I felt that it was too tight at the front of the arm (wasn't sure if that was because I didn't trim it as advised in case Lyn suggested I take it out) and I felt that my reach was restricted so I wondered if I needed more room at the back. Lyn looked at it and felt that perhaps I needed a little extra body at the level of the front of the arm. I also suggested that the blouse was a little too tight and she agreed. Also, as already mentioned, I felt that the bust fullness was slightly too high as I had obviously been wearing a super lift bra the day I measured! I went shopping the other day and I bought a new bra - I had thrown some of my old ones out. This bra lifts me and also makes me seem much bigger, I think. I wore the blouse while I had this bra on - and sure, the fullness was in the right place but the blouse now seemed too tight across the front - more so than previously. So I reckon I actually do need to use a bigger cup size front to the blouse. But for the moment, I am pretty sick of fitting changes.

Last Thursday was actually the last ever dressmaking class in the premises (a Sure Start Centre) which had been in use for many years - although I haven't been going a year, yet. The class is moving to new premises next term. As a result of this move, Lyn was giving away fabric and patterns which she felt there was no room for in new premises (a church hall). Some of the patterns were vintage ones which I would possibly be interested in in years to come when I have gained more experience - they were all one size patterns and a size rather too small for me so the fitting challenges would have been immense! So I didn't take any of those. I did pick up a children's pattern for shorts, skirt, trousers, tee shirt and waistcoat. New Look 6398. My older grandson is 4 and based on his measurements, I have made him a pair of shorts in mid weight denim, size age 6. When he visited, he tried them on and liked them but I tightened the waist elastic and finished off. I can't post a picture as shortly after this, he came down with a bad case of chickenpox and I don't have a photograph - he was already feeling rather tired and poorly.   In my defence, I would like to point out that I have no sons, only daughters, and have no idea of fashion for boys - but even to my eyes, these shorts are very old fashioned and far too short. After cutting them out, instead of a 1.5" hem, I used just a 1/4" hem and hope that Jack will get some use from them.  (Hopefully I will be able to add a photograph later) It was lovely to trace out the pattern, cut out the fabric and sew it up without my interminable fitting issues! As far as fashion is concerned, by the way, my daughter has a pair of neon yellow skinny jeans for her younger son which everyone admires and wondered if I could sew him a pair in lime green!! ...
Pattern Review has a vintage pattern contest on the go, moderated by Nakisha. I'm not going to enter as this is a step too far at this stage in my sewing career. Apart from the shorts, I did pick up a few other patterns. I do have a problem in knowing exactly how old they are. They appear mainly to be patterns sent away for to magazines or newspapers and I can't find any copyright date. One pattern is still in its original posted envelope, however, and that is postmarked November 1959.
I tried to search on line but got no further with the dates - although one number came up, it was a much later and different pattern - I know companies recycle the pattern numbers. I looked at pattern wiki but these are all British patterns and I couldn't see any sign of them. I think they are mainly form the same era but the pinafore looks more late sixties, I think.
My middle daughter has a few sewing requests of me and one was a pleated tennis skirt with elasticated waist. I almost considered one of the vintage patterns - but this is for shorts, actually and has a fixed waistband. The size would have been fine for her. I opened out the tissue and was absolutely boggled by the little punched holes and lack of any of the markings I am used to!  There was a single sheet of instructions. These I could have followed. I like that they give finishing details.


I've just returned from a visit to my grandchildren and my youngest daughter's graduation. I've had a really busy month with family visits, daughter's graduation (in Cambridge but we also delivered a piano for her to London, where she lives), grandsons with chickenpox, visits to family and elderly mother and so on. I am writing up my blog tonight - I had started but didn't get as far as posting, and hopefully will get on with sewing from tomorrow.
My sewing buddy and I have decided to sit out this month's sewing buddy challenge.
I'm not going to be able to do the garment I had originally intended for the Make a Garment a Month Challenge - that will be for next month. I thought I'd make my middle daughter the Winter Street Dress from Pattern Review. I don't like the look of the pattern for myself - although it is supposed to sit at the natural waist, it is extremely short and more like an empire waistline. Some but not all reviewers have mentioned this. I decided that if the waistline were in the 'correct' place, that this could be a suitable dress for me to test out using knit fabrics, in a wearable muslin for myself. Then, from what I learn, I will make my daughter one. This daughter is tall but not as tall as I am, and being rather younger, wears her skirts considerably shorter!
So, I am planning to sew the Winter Street Dress for me, using maroon stretch fabric (I don't know what the fabric composition is)
I have downloaded the pattern, printed it out and modified it. I have added quite considerably to the front bodice length, less so to the sides and very little to the back bodice. I have lengthened skirt. Arms are the same length as original pattern - I am doing the full length version. The above shows the fabric already cut out. I hope to get it sewn over the next few days as all the hard work is already done - at least I hope so! I didn't do a FBA so hope that will be okay - the pattern is made for a C cup.
Although I have downloaded a pattern previously, and printed it out, I have not previously put the pieces together and have never sewn from one. A knit dress, with a slightly stretchy fabric, is also a new area. I did a knit fabric dress previously but that was a stable knit with little or no stretch to it. You never know, rather than being a kind of muslin, I may well get a wearable dress out of this.
Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

I've been nominated for a Liebster Blog Award! Thank you, Dawn

I would like to thank Dawn, of The Winter-Queen ( for nominating me for a Liebster award. You could have knocked me over with a feather! Do visit Dawn's blog, if you don't know it already.

The purpose of the Liebster Blog Award is to recognise and promote newer and smaller blogs with less than 200 followers. There are a few conditions that are attached:
Thank the person who gave you the award, linking back to that person’s blog
Copy and paste the Liebster award to your own profile
Answer the 5 questions your nominator asked
Pick 5 blogs you feel deserve to be noticed (they have to have under 200 followers)
Ask them 5 questions
Let your nominees know they have been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog

Here are my nominees:
I tried to check to make sure you had fewer than 200 followers, but that wasn't always possible, so I'm sorry if I've got that wrong.

Dorcas at (

Kim at (

Meigan at (

Margaret at (

Susan at (

Here are my answers to the questions posed by Dawn:

1) What was the first item of clothing you made?

Ha! I'm glad you didn't say wear! My first articles of clothing were actually knitted. I liked knitting Aran jumpers, which I made as presents when I was a poor student - Arans and other chunky jumpers on large needles. Then I graduated to machine knitting. The first items of clothing from that were a beautiful little ribbed skirt and toning jumper for my then 2 year old oldest daughter. I had a brief and unsuccessful foray into sewing for myself a few years ago and made a skirt at a night class on dressmaking - the skirt didn't fit, I didn't know how to sort its problems and didn't get help at the class. The skirt took me forever to make but I didn't feel comfortable in it so it wasn't worn. Fit has always been an issue with me. If a garment doesn't fit well, it won't look good. Now that I've started dressmaking in earnest, my biggest struggle is still fit.

2) If you could sew something for somebody famous, who would it be?

Well, I thought about this long and hard as I have certainly never imagined myself in that position! It would have to be the comedienne Miranda Hart - because she is tall, like me - actually, she is taller - and I feel she might have some of the same fit challenges as me. I saw that she's had a makeover for the Tatler (I don't read it but saw this online) - she looked nothing like her usual self. I'm not saying that's good - I don't think it is - but she did look amazing. The interviewer asked if she'd like another dress - she declined saying that she felt dresses made her look 'like a man in drag'!  I'd like to think I could style her by making her a dress which would make the most of her features but retain her own self.

 3) Where do you do your sewing?

I have recently taken over part (well a large part!) of our dining room. The room is large and well lit from French doors to the garden and a Velux window. I don't have to clear away as we don't often now use the dining room to eat in. Just as well as I like to use our very large dining room table to cut out on and I also use it to put my overlocker on, when I'm using it.

4) What was the most difficult garment you have completed?

I haven't completed many garments, so that one is easy - a princess seamed skirt with contour waistband, invisible zip, kick pleats and lining. Reviewed here. I'm pretty good at following instructions and managed to follow the steps without too much difficulty - and of course, help from my tutor at the sewing class I've been attending, during term time, weekly, for nearly a year now. However, I chose the fabric badly, made a bigger mess by pressing it badly and basically stretched the top of the skirt so badly that it's unwearable and unsalvageable.

5) What sewing machine do you have?

When I first got married, I had a fairly cheap and basic sewing machine called a New Home. I don't remember the model. On it I made curtains and so on for our new home. Even with them, I was becoming frustrated - I'm still not sure whether there was a problem with the machine or whether I had outgrown it, though what I was doing wasn't terribly adventurous.
When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter in 1983, I began to sew nursery curtains, duvet covers etc and we decided it was time for me to upgrade to a better machine. I had a Viking Husqvarna, the first computerised model on the market. Regrettably, it was eventually consigned to storage. As I got busier at work, my time for sewing became less - and we purchased items I might otherwise have made. My Viking only had an occasional foray into use.
Probably as a result of inappropriate storage, my Viking wasn't happy when I took up dressmaking last year (because after retirement I now had time, the desire to create and the wish for garments that fitted better than RTW). I struggled with techniques. The stitches were uneven. I decided to have it serviced, as advised all over the place. I'm afraid it died on the operating table!

I decided to replace the Viking with another Viking. However, I was so taken by the Brothers at the dealer that I went with a Brother Innovis SE350 (UK and Europe). I love it. Sewing is much easier than it was with the Viking at any time. And buttonholes!! However, I did have quite a few feet for the Viking and eventually bought, from the same dealer, a small Viking to take to classes. It's an ex-demo HClass 100Q - it uses the same feet and is lighter and more portable than the Brother.
I also have an old overlocker, an Elna Pro5DC, which did survive its service.

So now the questions for my nominees:

1.      Why and when did you start sewing?

2.      Why did you start blogging?

3.      What is the garment you have made that has made you feel most satisfied?

4.      What has been your biggest disaster?

5.      What would be your outfit for attending a university graduation ceremony, as a guest?
Thanks again, Dawn, for nominating me.

I haven't been in the blogging world very long but you are all great! I'm building up the number of blogs I read, day by day. They are entertaining, educational, inspirational, humorous ...

Happy sewing!


Sewing Buddy Group

I've written previously about the Sewing Buddy group overseen by Deborah Moebes. My sewing buddy is Sarah, who lives in Ohio.

Each month, there is a challenge. This might be done in conjunction with your buddy. I'm in regular email contact with Sarah.

Month 1 was February, and I have already posted pictures of my Artist Trading Card (ATC).  I didn't win the challenge - no surprise! The winner had a beautiful ATC, which I would've loved to have produced. The winner and her buddy both got a prize.

Month 2 was March. This was a 'pouch swap'. Sarah and I each enquired about the other's hobbies, colour likes etc. Sarah wanted a pouch to carry her hand embroidery, including a 3" hoop, when she is out and about. Her favourite colour is red. Well, of course, this is way out of my comfort zone - like challenge 1 (I had no idea what I was letting myself in for!).  I researched on the Internet and looked at books and came up with a pouch design. I had to send away for fusible fleece as I couldn't buy it locally. Meantime my mother was admitted to hospital. She's elderly, visually impaired and lives alone at a distance from me; I'm effectively an only child as my younger brother died many years ago while far too young. I travelled to Glasgow to visit her in hospital and eventually to bring her back home with me to recuperate. The fleece arrived while I was away and I was disappointed to find it was rather thicker than I had anticipated it would be. I got back to working on my PR garment and this pouch while my mother was happily watching TV in the evening. I did finish the PR garment though I have some issues with it - see review here.  I had bought some lovely looking fabric in IKEA in toning shades and patterns and started on the pouch, based on the 'Posy Needle Wallet' in Sew Necessary Art to Heart by Nancy Halvorsen. Unfortunately, there were 2 major problems with the IKEA fabric - it was way out of true and was too thick - too much of an upholstery fabric rather than a quilting cotton. With my modified design, at one point I was trying to sew through 10 layers of cloth - not surprisingly, this didn't work! I had no time left to buy more fabric so had to go with what I had in my stash, though I did use one piece of the IKEA 100% cotton (the red with large white polka dots). I have used the red/blue and the plain red as muslins fabric; the black with red polka dots was newly purchased for this challenge and was a good weight.

This is my final pouch:

I am relatively pleased with it as I have never done this before. I hope it will work as intended - the pincushion is supposed to act as a catch for the small embroidery hoop. I posted it off to Ohio and Sarah has said she likes it and will think of me as she uses it.
I received my pouch today. I love the beautiful fabrics - pink is a colour I like a lot - and I will think of Sarah when I use it, too. I will carry my scissors and cutting bits n pieces to class in it.
Month 3 has just been announced. This involves making something for the kitchen table ie that would go on the kitchen table - examples given are napkins, placemats, coasters, runners, tee cosies etc. There is the possibility of a swap with buddy or a pair of buddies swapping with each other. I'm not sure whether to take part at all. I started sewing to try to make garments to fit me and these challenges, not to mention the PR competitions, while challenging me, have not allowed me to further that goal (although I am totally sick of blouses and fitting issues at present!). April is a busy month and there won't be much time for sewing. However, I am very willing to do it if Sarah is keen. I do want to continue as Sarah's sewing buddy.

Modified Darts - and sleeve ...

Well it was a shame that my sewing class was cancelled at the end of March - when I went back to class last week I got some good advice about my fitted blouse. The back darts were puckered and the bottom of the blouse swung out like a peplum - a good look on some but not me - and it wasn't supposed to!

My tutor advised taking out the darts (and hem) and she re-pinned them so that they went all the way down to the hem of the garment. The dart fullness was also a little too low at my waist, so I raised that by half an inch or so.

In addition, I asked whether the sleeves were correctly set-in. My tutor is aware that I am striving to do things well, so she advised me to remove the sleeves and re-do them. Oh dear! Anyway, when I originally sewed the two rows of stitching to be gathered at the top of the sleevehead, I reasoned that the first row would be better just inside the seam line - at 1/2" in fact - as then it wouldn't get caught in seam. I did the second row a further 1/8" into seam allowance.  However, my tutor advised that the first row should be ON the stitching line as this allowed the sleevehead to be set-in better. So, I unpicked, pressed and re-did the gathering and the seams. There must be an easier way! After I sewed in the sleeves, I then overlocked the seam allowances, which I hadn't done previously.

I also slightly modified the front princess seam above the bust point as I felt there was a little excess fullness there - I took in 1/8" from front but not side front. This did involve unpicking overlocking but it got done and re-overlocked.

So, here is what the back looks like now:

Ugh! Truly, it looks better in 'real life'!! If I had ironed it after washing and drying it, that might have helped too!

I'm going to ask the tutor what all those lines mean - but she has said she's no fitting expert so she may not be able to help. Any ideas? I'm most worried about the parallel diagonal lines which go from shoulder blade down and out to sleevehead. Is this a sewing issue? Or a fitting issue? or both?

The dart fullness is still slightly puckered but I can live with that.

I was going to wear the blouse last night but I had a different bra on and the front just didn't work. Either I have to get a whole new set of bras to hoist me up or when I re-do this blouse, I have to lower the bust fullness a bit. Probably a combination of the two. I do need new bras - my size has changed since losing a bit of weight and my bras are no longer supportive and the cup size is too big in some, but not all.

I will take to class tomorrow, but I really have had enough of this blouse for the moment. I'm less happy with it than I thought - it looks a little more formal than I thought it was going to and so next time, I'll make a more casual shirt which will fit better into my lifestyle.

Happy sewing!

Patternmaking Made Easy by Connie Amaden Crawford; balancing patterns

I bought a new old book. That's no surprise to those of you who know of my book addiction, of course. What might surprise you is h...