Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year! and sewing goals for 2016

In my post about hits and misses I had some forward thoughts. I wanted to make them clearer for me.

The next 5 months is taken up with wedding sewing.  At the same time, I need to complete my textile course. Fortunately, my mother of the bride outfit is my course project. I'm not getting on with any of this in the way I should be. Only 5 months left, well 4 for the course.

I won't be sharing any wedding sewing plans until after the event. I have a lot to do and will be visiting London next week to look at fabrics. I already have dupion silk for my MOB outfit but need lining, overlay if I'm going to use one, lace ditto. I don't have the design sorted out in my head - and I have to submit next week!!  Help!! And I'm not completely sure about the silk. 

I have some nice black fabric to make my middle daughter a dress for work. A nice simple shape so I might fit that in the next few weeks. She's visiting in 3 weeks and it would be great if I could have it done. I'm not going to pressurise myself though.

I've been pattern cutting but really don't want to make my own patterns (and I'd actually prefer to use a commercial pattern altered to fit for my MOB outfit than make one as I'm doing for the course; oh well) My experience will make it easier to modify commercial patterns to fit and perhaps change some little details on them. I’d really like to develop some basic well fitting shapes as a starting point for those variations.

I would like to have joined in a SWAP but timings don't suit,  sadly. Maybe next time.

This year my plans included making myself some well fitting trousers and I didn't manage, despite a lot of trying. So 2016 is the year! Unfortunately, the PR pants competition doesn't fit in timewise. I find a little pressure is helpful - too much,  of course,  not so! If I manage,  and I should,  I need a few pairs of different styles,  including jeans. I have put on weight through inactivity and complacency and must lose some in time for the wedding - this will also help with trouser fitting,  I'm sure and of course with general health. 

I also want to make a smart casual jacket. I don't know what pattern yet. This jacket will be able to be worn with jeans as well as skirts. Last year I made a black linen jacket but it's too sloppy for my liking. It's also too long. I also feel its raglan sleeves didn't really suit me. I'm currently thinking a collarless slightly fitted blazer style might be the one to go for.

Lastly,  I'd like to make myself a dress for next Christmas! Hopefully in a new home? Hopefully my plans for 2017 will include home dec projects for this new home. We'd love to have a house built to our specifications but first need to find some suitable land, which isn't an easy task.

We're hoping to downsize next year so that makes the need to reduce fabric and pattern stashes even greater. I just need to donate quite a bit of fabric that will never get used - and likewise patterns that I'd never have bought, that I've got free in magazines. I thought my daughters might like some of them and thought my youngest might want to make some but I can't hold onto them for ever. I have just too many.

So a very busy first half of the year with lots of wedding related sewing which I have to achieve then a second half of selfish sewing, just 3 items so surely achievable!

I also wanted to say that I am very grateful to those of you who visit my blog and I'm especially grateful for the helpful comments I receive. I'm happy to receive constructively critical comments. Please keep on visiting and keep on commenting!  Thank you. 

Happy New Year!

My first bag - finished and given as A Christmas present

When I was in Abakhan in Preston, I bought a beautiful but rather large owl appliqué (no photo, sorry - didn't think!) My daughters all have a bit of a love affair with owls but one, my oldest, does,  in particular, as do her sons.

No owl here
I decided to make a bag for that daughter, intending to appliqué the owl to the outside of the flap. I had several bag patterns in books and downloaded from free sites and eventually decided to make the Mia messenger bag from the book Bag Bazaar by Megan Avery . “25 Stylish Bags to Sew in an Afternoon” is its subtitle. As I had never made a bag, I thought this sounded like a suitable starting point. As you will see, I don’t agree with the subtitle!

First step - I bought some canvas. I already had some heavy fusible interfacing,  bought when I intended to make a bag but didn't. I also found an 18” zip as recommended. They specified a dressmaking zip but mine was heavier and wider and open ended. Still, my bag making buddy at class thought it would be fine. In the end,  I used striped canvas for the outside and red heavy weight cotton for the lining and insertion. The fabric I was going to use originally didn't work with the fusible interfacing. I can't really show how thick the canvas is on these photos.

I followed the steps one by one,  or thought I had!  I struggled with some of the instructions and so did my classmate, who kindly supplied me with the other bag making supplies I needed - webbing, sliders and magnetic catches. I bought feet, catches, metal spring hooks and webbing. However, my classmate advised that detachable straps were not a good idea and that my webbing was too narrow. Hence, I ended up using her sliders x 3. One for the handle length adjustment and two to connect the strap to the bag.

Missy wearing the bag as this was taken before being gifted and I don't have a photo with new owner wearing it

So I got going. I measured all the pieces onto card for my pattern. It was more difficult than I anticipated to get the lengths correct and the corners all square. I then cut out all the pieces - main pattern pieces x 4 in fusible interfacing and 2 x in striped canvas; flap pattern pieces x 2 in fusible interfacing, x 1 in lining material and x1 in striped canvas; and 4 divider pattern pieces from the heavy cotton lining fabric.

Then came my first problem - I struggled enormously with trying to fuse the interfacing onto the fabric. My sewing bee tutor Dan tried to improve this later without much success but using a steam generator iron has since helped. I didn't realise this would be an issue.

I followed the steps one by one. I found the diagrams in the book unhelpful, on the whole and I was told by my bag making classmate that the instructions were poor and confusing. I certainly found them so!

Anyway, I moved on. Problems I encountered:
  • I managed to insert bag feet but couldn't source the plastic canvas for the base in the time scale I wanted - I saw some on the net which seemed very expensive and would have added a lot of cost to the project. So, in the end, I compromised. Others had suggested a thin chopping board from Asda; I used plastic coated foam board. It worked reasonably well, though it did bend a bit at one point.
  • I only used 2 bag divider pieces instead of the 4 I had cut. I reread the instructions and still didn't see where I had gone wrong. It’s clear that the zip was supposed to be sandwiched between two layers of the dividing fabric and I missed the part where the second layer was inserted. However, the fabric is so thick that one layer is fine. (I had big problems stitching, see later, and another layer would have made it absolutely impossible, I feel!)
  • The zip was actually unnecessarily long. Had I realised this in advance, I would have used a shorter dress zip. This would have been cheaper and because the zip would have been finer, I might have had fewer sewing problems later. Also, the specification for how the zip had to be sewn to the divider were puzzling (probably because I missed the second layer) and I think this led to a problem with the position of the zip below the bag.
  • I managed to sew the divider into the lining as specified though on just reading it, I couldn't follow what I was supposed to be doing.
  • I didn't press at the right points and couldn't later. I’ll know next time. Pressing wasn't mentioned anywhere in the instructions - sure, I should have known.
  • I really struggled putting the lining into the bag. To start with my lining appeared much too long. Turned out that the original zip insertion was probably at least partly to blame for some of the issues as it was too high; I didn't want to dismantle and redo so we managed to deal with the issue. Again, I’ll know next time.
  • The biggest issue was stitching around the top of the bag to attach the turned over lining to the turned over outer cover. Add in heavy interfacing and flap and seams and doubled webbing and there are a lot of layers and a lot of thickness plus there wasn’t very easy access to the side seams. I asked Dan to sew it on her industrial machine but she didn’t manage because the machine has no free arm and access was too difficult - she tried but we had to unpick. My little class machine sewed around the easier bits until the needle broke and Dan felt we’d better stop! In my other class, Lyn used an old heavy duty machine but it couldn’t cope with the remaining side seam either. So, I ended up trying to hand sew this - or at least try to make the outside appear similar. I couldn’t actually penetrate all the layers. I’d hoped that a workshop at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show would show me the way, but it wasn’t to be! I think the issues are - the fabric and interfacing are thick (as specified) and there are just too many layers, with lack of access; also the way the zip is put in, it is also sewed over - my zip has metal teeth and is chunky, whereas a dress zip would be finer and probably plastic. I’d need to think about reducing bulk (not covered in the book). The outer fabric needs to be stiff to hold the shape but perhaps the lining could be finer. Also, the interfacing could have seam allowances cut off, I imagine.
showing flap junction and bag open

The area at the top of the photo, above the zip, was the really difficult bit to sew. The zip should have been sandwiched between two layers of red but mine wasn't as I obviously misread the instructions.

The bag zips up nicely

In the meantime, I realised that my owl motif was too big for the front of the bag and changed plans. I drew out a Siamese cat silhouette and decided to give the bag to my middle daughter, instead. Later, I realised that the flap is actually much shorter than it appears to be from the drawing in the book and that my cat appliqué wasn’t going to work either. I considered shrinking it but felt that wouldn’t work. I thought about missing an appliqué out entirely - but in the end I have used a commercially bought small cat appliqué.

I am pleased with the bag, despite the fact that it’s not ‘perfect’. I think my daughter likes it. My bag making classmate says you have to make a bag before you know how to make one and that is so true. My class tutor, Lyn, likes the bag and will make it up - taking into account some of the issues I found. I certainly suggest a longer flap as well as dealing with the bulk issues. I'll get some tips from her after she's done one!

As far as the owl appliqué is concerned - David framed the owl, set on a suitable background, for the same daughter who got the bag, not the real owl lover. It looked great. Sorry, I don't have a photo of it. He has different plans for my oldest daughter! Instead of the handmade bag I intended, I bought her an owl bag, that is a bag made of owl patterned fabric rather than made in an owl shape, which went down very well.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Pleated tartan skirt - a wearable toile finished for Christmas

I shared this skirt during its making because I had some problems with working out where to go with it. I started without a pattern,  pleating the fabric so that the sets matched and pulling the pleat in at the top, each by the difference between hip and waist divided by the number of pleats. To make it easy to see - if there are 20 pleats and a 10 inch difference between hip and waist,  then each pleat needs tightened by a half inch.

The skirt was originally intended as a toile for a skirt to be made for Helen with our specially commissioned family tartan. I've mentioned this previously and posted some photos.

In a previous post, I showed the skirt on Missy the model in unfinished form - pleats finished but no waistband as I was still unclear how to finish the closure. I could see on Missy that it sat very high on the waist. The pleats had been stitched down to hip level.

I posted the skirt to Helen who indicated that she liked it though it was too long and too high in the waist. She didn't think it was much too big. She was still keen to have a mini version in our tartan but when I said I couldn't get that done for Christmas, we agreed I'd finish the red skirt to wearable level. Hopefully a wearable toile.

Helen visited for the weekend while she was having a kitchen fitted in her new flat and brought the pleated skirt back with her.

This is what I did (after she had gone so I still didn't have the perfect model! )
  • I ended up cutting approx 2 inches off the top of the skirt at the waistband.
  • I cut approx 2” off the length. I overlocked the edges, turned over a reasonable hem, having to re-press the pleats and did my first ever machine blindstitch hem. Invisible from the right side in this fairly weighty wool. That was successful and so much faster than handstitching. I don't mind handstitching hems but in this case,  I wanted everything over as quickly as possible as I wasn't happy with the way it was going and didn't want to waste more time than necessary. In any case, this was a perfect fabric for using a machine blindstitch and I wanted to practice that.
  • I bit the bullet and decided to insert a zip. A bright red one - a bottle green one would have been preferable. To do this, I had to add an extension and produce a type of lapped zip with a very marked overlap. The zip has to fold over with one of the pleats. I tried various versions, took advice, struggled, came up with what became the final version, tried various ways of anchoring etc. I sewed and unpicked several times. I had to cut into the seam allowance to allow the zip to bend back unnaturally and then sew the cut fabric.  The end result is not satisfactory but Helen felt it was acceptable. I don't have close up pictures. I couldn't bear it!
  • I added a waistband with a skirt hook and loop, and a small poppet further down to try to keep the pleat in place.

The photos show Helen wearing the skirt on Christmas Day. Her jumper, a birthday present at the end of November, is the perfect colour to go with it. The hat and socks are something else again! She had been wearing the skirt for some time when these photos were taken. I tried to suggest that when she sat she needed to smooth down the pleats but that's a whole new ball game for her.

She likes it despite its flaws and is looking forward to the real deal.

I could see that the zip was visible with certain positions (here is where it being green would have been preferable, our just leaving the gap,  perhaps with an additional fabric underlay).

I could now see how I could have done the zip - Helen wasn't keen on the modification I suggested (basically it would have involved pleasing right up to waistbands, adding an additional fold (clearly should have been there in first place!) as this would have increased bulk at the waistband and this skirt is already extremely bulky. In any case, this would have meant further major restructuring and time, removing waistbands etc, and Helen reminded  me this was a wearable toile which she wouldn't really wear after she gets  the proper  skirt.

So we compromised on me considerably tightening the skirt at the waist - by about 2” - by moving the closures. The small poppet further down just didn't hold. I had taken thread etc but not a larger poppet so we moved the existing one to a better place. The whole is not satisfactory in my opinion but hopefully Helen will get some wear from it.
I'm still not willing to tackle the proper skirt as I'm  still not sure how to get over the closure problem - I rather think I'd have been better missing out the zip here. I made the modifications but don't have a photo showing the end result.

Another issue is that having top-stitched or rather edge-stitched the pleats down to hip level, cutting off a chunk at the top of the skirt meant that this stitching ended well above the hip line. This level is important so the skirt doesn't lie as well as it should. Okay in a toile but certainly not in the real thing. I didn't change it. In any case, I hadn't taken my machine with me and I'm sure Helen wouldn't have let me in any case!

So what did I learn?  

Main thing, easily above anything else:
When undertaking something like this, it's essential to plan out your steps beforehand! I had simply taken the fabric and started pleating it,  matching the sets, without considering the closure. I didn't have sufficient fabric at the end for the closure, still allowing for the match. This would of course have been much easier if pattern matching hadn't been an issue.

Our family tartan has a more difficult match. The pleats would either have to be much narrower, so more pleats and more weight, or much wider with less flexibility on sizing. We are considering  pleat variations, for example multiple smallish box pleats which may currently be the front runner.

What do you think? Any advice?

Despite its problems, I rather like it,  too. I don't regret trying it, or the time spent.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Visit to Leeds - Tailored Exhibition and Kirkgate Market

David and I cancelled our trip to Cologne with our oldest daughter and her family because I was ill,  but we were able to travel south to Cambridge for Christmas with them, as planned. Our younger two daughters were also there. I have a few related posts to make, later. I'm posting this as is in case anyone is interested in visiting the exhibition before it closes on 3rd January. 

We hadn't been able to cancel our airport hotel so decided to use it on Wednesday night as on Thursday,  Christmas Eve, we were due to visit Helen's fiance's parents for lunch and they live significantly closer to Stansted.

We decided to travel down leisurely on Wednesday. The Tailored Exhibition at Leeds City Museum I'd planned to visit some time ago with my friend from the Leeds area was still on but coming to an end so I requested we make a small detour off the A1 to visit that and Kirkgate Market (specifically fabric shops,  B&M Fabrics in particular).

17 July 2015 – 3 January 2016 at Leeds City Museum 

‘Tailored: A Very British Fashion’ celebrates the art and heritage of tailoring from the eighteenth century to the present day. This unique exhibition at Leeds City Museum brings together a wide range of examples of British tailoring and explores the development of tailoring as a renowned British skill from Savile Row in London to the Leeds' tailoring industry.  

Highlights include a jacket worn by Ringo Starr, made by Leeds-trained tailor to the stars Dougie Millings on loan from the V&A, and a specially commissioned suit, made by acclaimed Leeds-born Savile Row tailor, Kathryn Sargent.  The suit is further complimented with work by contemporary fashion designers Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Roger Saul for Mulberry. 

The exhibition was entirely appropriate given Leeds’ links to tailoring. I hadn't realised that the Leeds tailor Hepworths had become Next. I was allowed to take photos as long as I didn't use flash apart from two displays but it was rather dark so many didn't come out and I haven't attempted to recreate here.  Mainly displays of garments and not much about construction. I was rather taken by a riding outfit but unfortunately as it was black it didn't photograph. The model had such a tiny waist! It's impossible to imagine that nowadays. Overall, you might say the exhibition was small but perfectly formed; each display had interesting information. There were also two interactive exhibits - styling your own suit and trying on different styles. We were finished much more quickly than we anticipated as the exhibition was rather small, though it was free entry, so I was glad that we hadn't travelled to Leeds specially.

We walked through Leeds to the Kirkgate Market. I have been to Leeds before but not for a while now. Some of the shops were the usual suspects of many town centres. One area has lots of high class shops - Harvey Nicks and the Victoria Quarter with lots of higher end high street shops. I had a quick look but that's not why I'd gone to Leeds.

Kirkgate Market currently has work going on and is therefore a little smaller than usual,  apparently. What amazed me is that it reminded me so much of Grainger Market in Newcastle, though Grainger Market only has one, rather disappointing,  fabric stall. I reckon the haberdashery stall/shop was so similar they could be branches of the same parent (Habiknit?) - I didn't check. We walked around. There was a helpful information area where I got directions to B&M Fabrics,  shop and stall. I was specifically seeking the fabric made up by The Crafty Creek; I realised they might not have any,  of course. They didn't. However, the shop offered to post when it came back in. I bought fabric (oh my!  But only 2.5 metres of textured turquoise slightly stretch fabric) from their stall. I found them very helpful in both.

We went back to the museum cafe for a late light lunch but hadn't checked the times and were only able to get drinks and cakes. Unfortunately, we were really too late to travel to Lotherton Hall for their 50s dress display. We decided just to travel on.

My middle daughter is currently managing a pub and we decided to go there for our evening meal. This was 3 hours or so drive, plus a comfort stop in Boundary Mills,  so we got to the pub about 7pm, perfect. Nice meal. We had planned to drop off our presents with our oldest daughter as otherwise there was a risk of theft (as of course there had been in Leeds) however their flight was late and we ended up travelling to our hotel at Stansted without seeing them.

I was so glad I hadn't tried to go to Cologne - it would have been too much and risked spoiling Christmas. We had a lovely Christmas. 

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Meŕry Christmas!

Our grandsons were so excited today! They loved seeing Santa's sleigh (the International Space Station) flying across the sky on the way to delivering presents across the world. My sil was explaining time zones to a 4 and a 6 year old. 
Early night tonight as we'll have a very early start tomorrow. 
Merry Christmas! 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Top 5 Hits, Misses, Reflections of 2015 and Goals for 2016

Top 5 of 2015

I decided to look at hits and misses from this last year, as championed by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow. Thank you, Gillian! The idea was to post the top 5 in each category. I wasn't altogether sure that I had a total of 5 items from the whole year,  far less 5 in any one of these areas. Indeed I've only reviewed 9 items on PR  the year; that's only new items made from scratch. There are some things that were such wadders that they didn't make it as far as blogging or in some cases past toile stage and these aren't included. Not a lot of sewing, you'd be right in thinking. I was,  I admit,  shocked!  After all,  I started sewing to make myself garments that fit - and I started doing sewing classes to learn how to make those garments - and I started pattern cutting classes to learn how to make the patterns for those garments, to make sure they fitted!

A lot of my time has been spent in course work, doing samples and in developing patterns for Helen's wedding. As a result, as I have so little,  I'm combining all the sections in one post.

It's interesting that my successful items are mainly for other people. I enjoy sewing for others (by that I mean family).  It's easier to fit someone else rather than yourself - and especially when that person doesn't have the same figure anomalies creating fitting difficulties.


1.Skirt for my youngest daughter Helen. Style 1981.

She tells me she wears it often, it appears to fit well and I was pleased to be able to salvage my mother's fabric.

2 Kimono for Helen. New Look 6217

Rear view to show it twirl

She wears this to death or at least did during the summer. Loves it. It was easy to make,  too.

3 McCall's 6844 for me

I've worn this regularly. I like the colour as it's useful. Next time,  though,  and there will be a next time, I'll make the straight version rather than the peplum version. Maybe in navy.

4 Jeans for husband.

Jeans in his favourite green
These were far from perfect but DH wears them regularly, so that counts as a success. They were self drafted and I think that was a step too far; I would have been better starting with a commercial pattern

I learned a lot of techniques in my jeans making class and in making these and feel more confident about making more jeans. I have more of the same fabric to make another pair,  perfecting the fit issues. I wouldn't use my drafted pattern,  though - I've since bought the Kwik Sew men's jeans pattern and will use that. Is have to go back to toile stage again,  of course.

5 Does this count as number 5? By far my most successful garments this year,  that get worn ALL the time are RTW garments that I have altered to fit. I didn't really enjoy altering things as often it seems it would be easier to start from scratch! However, I have a great sense of achievement and satisfaction to produce a wearable garment from something that wasn't. My altering skills have increased a lot. There are lots of future candidates.

Some of these items were new,  never worn that needed fit alterations. Others were items that had developed faults - the commonest was that a seam hasn't been overlocked properly and a hole had appeared. One top, though, had developed an actual hole in the fabric. My repair and disguise isn't great and I don't think I'll be wearing that out of the house.

I feel that RTW is a misnomer as they're not,  for me at least. Off the peg, okay.

There isn't a ‘proper’ number 5. I have some successful wedding related toiles, successful class samples and some successful craft items, and if course my very successful remodelling of my small dressmaking model, Missy, for Helen but I guess these don't count here.


1 Liberty print dress. Butterick 5951

Inside of dress
Just - no!

I didn't like anything about this dress. The style didn't work; I had problems with altering and sewing the darts to look good after trying to alter the fit and the colour was just not me. It has gone! I also gave away the rest of the beautiful fabric - lovely touch and feel that is, not the colour or pattern. I'm not a Liberty print type of gal - I don't like little bitty floral prints (on me) - I have,  however,  recently bought a couple of Liberty geometric prints. The fabric is beautiful to touch and in handle and I think the pattern is more me,  while,  true,  being a pattern rather than plain.

2 Blue Capstan dress Simplicity 1418

The dress was too small to put on my model

I was pleased with this dress which I made to practice some techniques. I intended it for Helen and used her usual pattern size and alterations - but it was much too small. I say her usual size - this clearly varies between pattern companies, despite their sizes being quoted on the envelope. The ease obviously varies.  Helen is a RTW 8/10 (UK). i started making items for her using a pattern size 12.  One thing drowns her, one is just right and this is miles too small! Just as well I now have Missy and some decent measurements.  My daughter is planning to donate this dress to a very petite friend.

I like the dress and style and considered it for the starting point of the bridesmaids’ dresses I'm making but am worried about the sizing so it's probably easier to draft from block. Both the bridesmaids need FBAs; I've made them both blocks (slopers) and need to make up and test the toiles (muslins) over Christmas.

3 Blouses - New Look 6407

I don't like the fabric; it fits better now but still...
I came 2nd in PR competition with this one

I just don't feel comfortable in these blouses so really don't wear them. I guess the fit needs further tweaked. There are fabric issues,  too - I find the blue fabric too thin and lacking in body, I think I'll make a standard shirt style next time instead of the lowered neckline which I don't like despite that being what attracted me to this style in the first place. I've made up practice shirts in class and now feel more confident that I could end up with a really good looking shirt. My burrito yoke was fabulous!  I learned how to insert piping and feel pretty confident about that now, too.

Jury's out!

There's only 1 item left on my list of 9! The jury's out with that.  Vogue 8646. It was the garment I made for my class in the summer and I didn't get it back from marking until the new academic year started in September, so I haven't had the opportunity to wear it.


1 Skills

My skills have increased enormously. I feel ready to tackle just about anything.  I'm honoured to have been asked by Helen to make her wedding dress, though I'm terrified too! I'm designing the pattern rather than using a commercial pattern so my pattern cutting skills are useful here,  as are the contacts I've made - I'm getting help and support.

2 College course

9 garments!  Only one really wearable for me!  My sewing has taken a wrong turn! The biggest issue for me is that I feel my college course is not taking me in the right direction and I have to jump through their hoops to meet their requirements which are,  quite simply,  not mine. I don't mind the work. I like an element of structure. It's great to have expert tutors on hand to help.  BUT Pattern cutting,  whether flat or by draping,  appears to have been dropped for the moment at least. Pattern cutting was my main reason for starting my college career!  Last year we also had dressmaking techniques,  which have been covered in terms of shirt making - yokes, cuffs,  plackets,  collars,  which is good but not the area I need at present. Of course, last year ended on a high with me getting distinction in both of the coursers I did (only one course this year). Funding constraints mean that courses have to concentrate on entering this area as a business - well,  just no! Design, okay, but that's as far as go. (I did suggest that in fact I had a company with a very limited clientele consisting only of family!) I'm retired, have no business aspirations and want to make a good job of my hobby. I can't see me returning next year unless things change a lot.

We're only one term into the three term course so things might will change.

3 Fabric

When I started sewing, I quickly built up a fabric stash. A lot of this fabric was bought at a good price - although I didn't like some of it at all,  I thought it would be good for toiles - I make a LOT of toiles! However,  I now find I buy cotton calico specifically to make toiles. Some of the fabrics are polyester ‘suiting’, not suitable for toiles I find now, and very hard on shears, blades and needles. I will never make them into garments for me. Gillian alluded to the need for heavy duty deodorant - well,  yes!  It may be a consequence of ageing or perhaps of illness but I'm finding that I can’t tolerate synthetic or stretch fabrics, a change over recent months. So a major de-stash is coming up.

I'll use natural fabrics next year - probably not exclusively.

One very successful fabric area was getting our tartan woven and since then, getting it printed onto silk. I'll blog about that in due course.

4 Tools

The right tools make the job so much easier!
My stars of 2015:
Clips - great for pinning the bag layers together.
Micro serrated shears - purchased on Black Friday so new,  but fabulous! I saw these recommended for cutting slippery fabrics and am glad I followed the recommendation.
The fabulous pattern weights David made for my birthday. Just that. Fabulous.
Edgestitch and quarter inch with guide feet

5 Unselfish sewing

My husband gets mad when I promise something or other, without having been asked. He says I should be concentrating on myself. This was before I agreed to make the wedding dress etc. However,  I actually enjoy sewing for my family.  It's so much less stressful than sewing for myself! I'm not going to change that.

Goals and plans for 2016

There will be more selfish sewing! First,  though,  I have to get the wedding out of the way!  I won't be blogging about garments for the next six months. Then hopefully I can show off my makes. I might be able to share some of my mob outfit  development - my MOB outfit  is my class project. I need to work on that quite a bit over the Christmas holidays, work on a few samples and develop the pattern. I've been ill, not fully recovered yet,  and have fallen behind.


Wedding dress - no further info here!
2 x bridesmaids’ dresses - creating fitting blocks and modifying to create dresses
Waistcoat for groom - using a heavily altered commercial pattern. The third toile is pretty decent.
MOB outfit - design and make. Probably dress and jacket. Dupion silk.

Skills I need to get under my belt:
Working with fine fabrics - satin, lace, tulle, silk etc
Welt pockets (for waistcoat)
Fine narrow hems (?) for dresses above
No doubt there are others!

After wedding

I was successful in altering Missy to fit Helen and need to alter my new model to fit me. Then sewing for me! Trousers and smart casual jackets are on my radar. I've enjoyed making some craft items,  including a bag (will blog after Christmas) and will do some more.

We also want to downsize and move south. Any recommendations, please? We want to be within easy travelling distance, preferably by train, of Cambridge and London. I want to be able to attend courses and exhibitions in London! I'd like the town to have a library, a post office, a doctor's surgery, local shops and decent transport. Maybe a local. Also within easy travelling distance,  a golf course and a sewing bee, not necessarily college course - could go to London for that. Not in London,  though - too expensive. I need something larger than a postage stamp! A house with a granny flat would be ideal.

RTW Fast; MAGAM Challenege
I don't think I will commit to this next year. There are some items that I can buy much more cheaply than I can possibly make - and I'm not talking about disposable fashion here. Tee shirts for example. They don't inspire me to make them,  anyway.  If by some miracle I found a well fitting garment, that I liked, of any description, I would buy it - no hesitation. I don't want to have to turn down a really good bargain, either, as I did this year. If I end up buying my MOB outfit, so be it. I can't sew fast enough to keep up with my garment needs - but I will continue to try. I just can't buy trousers. Or dresses, jackets… (so buying MOB outfit extremely unlikely!). I've bought much less this year and spent less time shopping. I do need to look in shops and try on different styles as part of my design journey.
MAGAM challenge - I love the idea but haven't achieved and maybe shouldn't aspire to this. Will see what happens in the second half of the year.


I've been quite ill. Unfortunately the medication prescribed has disagreed with me, making me feel even more ill; that's stopped as a result of the side effects and they have greatly diminished but next year we'll be looking for some further treatment. I have a minor cold and it's knocked me for six, probably as a result of the depot steroid injection impacting on my immune system.

I was due to be going to the German Christmas markets tomorrow, for a few days,  and have had to cancel as I'm not well enough. I haven't been playing golf - the main part affected by the inflammatory arthritis is left hand. This is a chronic condition. Maybe I won't play golf again?  I've had to ask that question. I hope I can but I have to be prepared if I can't. I need to find ways to exercise (sewing doesn't work for that!) and to get my weight and cholesterol down.

Today I was at our ladies’ golf group Christmas lunch. We are a very select group now - only 8 of us!  I had pheasant for the first time ever. Some of the others had played a few holes before the lunch - in tee-shirts! It's once more unseasonably mild. My car was reading 16 deg C. Interestingly,  that was the temperature one year to the day before Helen's wedding!

Tonight is the Strictly Come Dancing final. I've loved the dresses. I'm not sure who I want to win;  it's pretty close this year,  I think. All down to the public tonight! I'll vote if I feel strongly about one of the couples. Looking forward to an evening watching. I'm posting this in the break between rounds - not as I thought it was going to go!! We'll see at 9pm who is leaving. Oh, and I did vote! I'm excited.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Anne x

Gifts for my new granddaughter

Gifts for my new granddaughter Since I last posted, I've been continuing with embroidery. I made a number of things for my then gr...