Friday, 12 February 2016

Et voilĂ !

Last week I was very despondent about my dressmaking. I made a kind of very early stage toile for the bodice of my daughter's wedding dress. It wouldn't even fit on Missy - even with a side seam and back seam undone. It was clear that my toile was several inches too small. Although the front looked good, the side seam bent markedly towards the front at the bust area and the back seam was a long way from meeting. I understood why this was. My daughter initially wanted a bodice that would be laid over stretch tulle so I used a stretch leotard block initially which needed fabric with quite a bit of stretch. I made a leotard and it fit beautifully. However, and it's obvious, really, change the fabric to one with much less, or no, stretch, and it can't possibly fit. I was working under guidance of my tutor who hoped this toile would work given that I wanted a tight fit - but it wasn't to be. She didn't have time at the very end of the informal class to point me in a new direction although she did say we ewould need darts after all - it's perhaps indicative of how upset (internally - -n not visibly, at least I don't think so) that I didn't immediately understand what she was saying. I felt I had wasted many hours and lost a lot of hair and was pretty upset and flat, too, when I got home. I decided I had to work from the original, non-stretch block. I followed some instructions in Suzy Furrer's book and, in addition, moved the darts into princess seams. It took ages. In the end, when I looked at the pattern pieces, I was very doubtful about them. As I was going to be seeing my tutor again, I didn't take it further. On Wednesday, I saw Rory and took my wedding dress toile problems and showed her the toile on her model. She said I needed to make a toile from the original block and asked if I had it with me. I did, in a way. Problem is I'm very poor at labelling different pattern iterations, okay labelling in general. I must do better! Rory also pointed out that the instructions Suzy Furrer gives depend on the type of block you were using, how much ease etc - but as I was not using her block, these instructions could not be followed directly. So it wasn't surprising that following her instructions hadn't resulted in a suitable garment. Anyway, I was able to make up a toile. Standard bust dart and waist dart. Rory drew up what she had interpreted from my badly drawn designs and concluded, as I had felt earlier, that princess seams were the way to go. Here's the magic. All those hours I had spent carefully rotating darts! Rory drew the dart position we agreed on the toile. Then all I had to do was cut it out and add seam allowances to where I had cut the fabric apart. The bust dart stayed closed - indeed I realised that it gets closed when rotating it elsewhere. The waist dart gets cut out. Exactly as per dart rotation. But how much faster!! I couldn't believe it! I ended up with the same side panel and front panel that I would have starting with the flat pattern and rotating darts! It's clear that a combination of flat pattern cutting and draping is very useful - and as Rory says, will generally get you to where you want to go. Tonight, in class at college, we were doing moulage. Then Rory showed us how to make a bra pattern from the moulage. I thought the dart, from the moulage, could simply be kept there as had happened in the bodice block - but of course, it had only been pinned in place, not sewn. My homework for next time is a paper bra pattern. I modified a pattern for a lace cardigan. I had to increase the size as the pattern only went up to a 16. I probably graded up to a 20. I needed extra space in my hips and for my biceps. That was a couple of weeks ago but I got around to cutting out the lace this week. I found the lace difficult to work with as it wanted to slip all over the place, distorting the lines. Hopefully I managed it reasonably okay in the end. I decided to pin and then hand baste and found that the lower sleeve from elbow was very wide indeed. I also found that I had somehow stupidly cut out two left sleeves! Lyn advised me how to try to modify my sewing to take account of this error - I didn't have enough fabric to cut a new sleeve, despite it being narrowed by quite a bit. I'm hoping it won't take too long to sew this up. I'm probably going to overlock the seams, by the way, rather than do French seams as the lace is possibly too thick for the latter. Next week is midterm so I don't have classes but I do have some time to get up to date.

I have some photos so I will edit this post later - I don't have time to do that just now, just wanted to get my thoughts sown so I remember the process.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Dewsbury Yorkshire Spoolettes Meet-Up

I had a lovely time today at a sewing bloggers meet-up of the ‘Yorkshire Spoolettes’ in Dewsbury,  organised by Ali of Thimberlina, whom I had never met but felt I knew.

There were about 18 of us. Some I immediately recognised from photos on their blogs - others I didn't follow and so didn't recognise. A few couldn't make it, which was sad. I feared being too old for the group but don't think that was the case. I was made very welcome and met a group of lovely ladies. I'm gutted to say I didn't take any photos - but a few were taken on the day.

We met in Kenny’s cafe, introduced ourselves, had a drink and something to eat. Then we had a fabric and pattern swap. I took quite a few patterns but not so much in the way of fabric with me as I feared having to carry it home again if no-one wanted it!  I'm particularly thinking of a piece of fabric I bought as a potential patterned MOB dress - what on earth was I thinking of? The colours don't work for me and I dislike the fabric and can't really imagine anyone else liking it.  I chose a couple of patterns, in my size, so I may use them later ‘atw’ - after the wedding! More excitingly, I was persuaded (you know - arm up my back etc)  to take a jacket length of beautiful Linton tweed, brought by Margaret of the Crafty Creek. 

The background is navy, which is my colour
I can't think of it just now but I promise I will make this up!!  I may have to compromise on sleeve length etc as being both tall and plus sized, I fear being short of fabric for the classical Chanel jacket. There were some patterns and some fabric left unclaimed at the end and I think Ali was going to pass these to a charity shop. So I wouldn't have had to take the fabric I mentioned back after all.

I'm doing a pattern hack of a dress with lots of drapes and tucks, the original made with a polyester jersey

Hack dress: Tucks on R shoulder, R waist, R skirt and styleline across dress
and I wanted to buy some viscose jersey as I really didn't like the polyester jersey I bought - and others confirmed my view that it was really too sportswear/ dancewear. That and possible replacement MOB fabrics as I'm not 100% keen on anything I have and feel that my Indian dupion silk, beautiful as it is, is perhaps a step too far with my current sewing abilities and the time I have available.

We went briefly to the market to the trims stall and I bought some turquoise bias binding (20p pm) and a royal blue beaded trim (50p pm). Very inexpensive.

Our next stop was Fabworks. I was fairly focused here. I bought some grey viscose jersey for the hack dress

and bought some lovely blue crepe back satin recommended by Karen of the Sewing Miserablist, as she has used it and can vouch for its quality.

This was also available in a gorgeous plum colour

I loved the dress Karen was wearing, both the fabric (though not my colours) and the style. The fabric was still available in Fabworks but unfortunately not in an alternative colourway. Here is a link to the dress and fabric; I'd like to make the dress at some stage and was delighted when Karen said it was available for download (she made it from the Burdastyle magazine) and to boot was a tall pattern - she had to shorten it;  I wouldn't have to. Fabworks didn't have silk organza or stretch lining.

We then went to Lucky Fabrics. I love this shop! And the tea, coffee or juice and biscuits put on specially for us! I was less focused here. I bought a grey fabric just because I liked it

This is quite heavy with a bit of stretch
ditto a floral fabric
I briefly thought MOB then thought a lovely summer fabric; jersey
- no immediate plans in mind. The self embossed stretch fabric I bought might do for the hack dress, though might be a little too thick.
I love this - I hope it works for the hack dress. If not, another more suitable style
Again, I wasn't able to get any stretch lining.

I moved on to the £1 a Yard shop, mainly thinking of buying stretch lining,  which unfortunately wasn't available there either. I was taken by a crushed red velvet (what!?)
More of a blue red in real life
 and copied Margaret’s purchase of a sewing related cotton, thinking of making a shirt. atw! 

 I didn't buy any additional lining fabrics as although very inexpensive, I decided not to add to my stash more than I had already! I already have several lifetimes of fabric in my stash.

Then we had a late lunch in Wetherspoons. As I wasn't driving I was able to have a pint of cider with my steak and ale pie, chips and mushy peas (Yorkshire caviare I was told today!). Then a quick photo and time to say goodbye - for now. I’ll be following new blogs, feel I've made new friends and feel inspired. Karen - I hope you got your car okay! Edited to say - I'm glad you got your car, Karen - what a relief. As Ali says, they'll get a good write up on her blog and a lot of kudos for staying behind.

I travelled by train as that I find is so much more pleasant than driving when it's raining and particularly as I started to read ‘The Forgotten Seamstress’ by Liz Trenow. 

The character of the title was incarcerated in a mental hospital for having become inconveniently pregnant - I won't say any more as I recommend you read the book. I met one woman like this in the early days of my training, who had been incarcerated by her family for ‘moral insanity’;  such families wanted to avoid the disgrace and shame of having a sexually active (or just at risk of being sexually active) daughter. These women became so institutionalised that they were unable to cope with the outside world and unable to leave the mental hospital despite having been free to do so for many years, as was the case with the woman I met. Very sad. Such stolen lives.
Coletterie is running a book club,  link above, and this book is this month's read, which is why I became aware of it.
I continued to read on the way home and finished it this evening.

Thank you,  Ali, for organising. I gather we have a month to show something we've made from out purchases! Hopefully, mine will be the hack dress.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Some fabric stalls and shops, vintage sewing books and exhibitions at Bowes Museum

On Friday morning just gone, on route to Bowes Museum, I planned to go to the market at Chester-le-Street to pick up some fabric for my moulage class next week and have a look for some suitable MOB fabrics as the ones I have don't work as well as I'd hoped. There are a couple of good fabric stalls - they're different from each other and each has its advantages. There is also a Boyes department store which sells fabric and haberdashery. I hadn't worked out that the very heavy winds we've had would mean the market couldn't open because it wasn't safe. Sad. All those empty (permanent)  stalls.  I bought some practice polyester jersey in Boyes, and some glue to mend my boots (another story).

Later, I found a second hand bookshop with some great vintage sewing titles. It was a lot cheaper than Barter Books in Alnwick and I bought a few titles. You know how much I love books! Looking through these books, I've already picked up some great tips. I think my best buys were a Threads book from 1995 'Beyond the Pattern' - I recognise contributors like David Coffin but the others were,  I guess,  before my time; 
Product Details

and Claire Shaeffer’s Complete Book of Sewing Shortcuts. 

One title which appealed to me originally doesn't work for me and I'll recycle that. And I accidentally bought a duplicate.  I've gleaned some great information about thread types and have come across what I consider to be,  for me,  the best explanation about easing and how and when to do it that I have seen. Previously I was confused;  now I see the light!

Despite my purchases, we ended up at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle  earlier than we had planned. David wanted to visit the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition and I joined him on that. The display concentrated on his portraits including self portraits.  None of his still life photographs. David had showcased Mapplethorpe as one of the photographers for his course, showing one of the still life photos for which he justifiably received great acclaim,  a self portrait (this one not in the exhibition) and a portrait of Patti Smith which was used on the cover of her debut album ‘Horses ‘ - this latter was also featured in the exhibition.

I wanted to see the Quiltscapes and Quiltline exhibition by Pauline Burbridge. These are inspired by nature for example, sand ripples,  wheat ears. I enjoyed seeing the process and handling the materials. I loved the Quiltscapes and would have bought one but for the hefty price tags - the one I liked was £15,000. There were a few smaller pieces but I was spoiled after seeing the larger ones (and they were still very expensive). We don't use quilts, so this would have been a wall hanging I guess. Though I have a beautiful machine embroidery wall hanging that hasn't made it to the wall yet so perhaps it's just as well!

We had a lovely lunch in the cafe there. Last time (first time) we were there was for the YSL exhibition  when it was very busy indeed - not so this time. David had chestnut mushroom and blue cheese tarts with walnut salad and I had a variant of Welsh rarebit with treacle cured local bacon.  Both lovely. David liked the look of the green tea and raspberry cake (green!) and enjoyed it but I found it too floral for my taste. I enjoyed my cappuccino cake.

Afterwards, we visited the New Light exhibition which showcases local North East artists and offers prizes in various categories. The exhibits were varied. They were mainly for sale and I absolutely loved one and would have bought it in a second - but it was already sold:
Poor photo and reflections, sorry.
Dunstanburgh, February Rain

I've found out a bit more about the artist, Debbie Loane and hope to visit her studio which is open the first full weekend of each month, between Hartlepool and York. 

I found this dice picture amazing.
Yes, the face is made up of individual dice.

Unfortunately, most of the paintings, some of them huge, were presented in one of the rooms in three tiers but even for me the top pictures were difficult to see and light was glancing off them in an unhelpful way and some filming was going to be taking place and I couldn't get in front of the pictures that were blocked off.

Although I have so much sewing to do, it's important I feel to try and keep some balance in my life. On Saturday I managed a few holes of golf for the first time in many weeks; I desperately need the fresh air and exercise. I realised that I'm only now beginning to recover after having been ill for more than two months!

More fabric shopping (or attempts at least)

I had heard of a new fabric shop in Sunderland  - BST Fabrics in Southwick Industrial Estate (they were previously involved in baby goods) and we decided to detour there on our way home. The prices were excellent and I got some gingham for class cheaper even than the market. There was a great stock of fleeces, though I'm not in the market for those at present. They didn't have the types of fabric that I was after but they offer to look for them. I did buy some more practice fabrics for the bridesmaids’ dresses. It'll be worth going back in the future but probably not for my current projects.

Still on the look out for a particular fabric, we went home from BST via Dainty Fabrics in Washington. Unfortunately, no joy and I went away empty handed.

I then spent some time evaluating my design and fabric options.

On Sunday  I went to 1st for Fabrics in Benton (was out in that direction on another chore - returning a dress I bought in Boundary Mills but decided it just didn't work). No joy there, either. I had already looked in the other local options - Fenwick and John Lewis, both in Newcastle city centre. I'm not keen on the fabric market stall in Grainger Market and find it difficult to get there when it's open, so I haven't tried that.  Another local option, in Wallsend this time, is totally hitty missy. I've seen others with fabulous buys but I haven't managed this. I'll probably pop in on Wednesday as it's across the road from Rory and Dan's studio. I've recently heard of another new fabric place - I don't have details but plan to find it,  you can be sure of that! There is also a sewing machine shop in Whitley Bay which carries fabric; I haven't been for a while as they don't cover my machines so I'm not sure what their fabric stock is like and I'm not too often out that way these days.

A fair bit of travelling between these different places - that's why I always tend to tag them on to something else. BST Fabrics is fairly close to college but closes at 4pm which is really too early for me to get there. If I was also visiting my Bernina dealer,  Tully’s in Sunderland city centre (doesn't sell fabric), which closes at 5pm, that would work.

My problem is I don't want to buy without seeing and feeling the fabric. One of the fabrics I want is viscose with elastane. I want to copy a RTW dress I have which is 92% polyester and 8% elastane, but using the more breathable fabric option. No joy anywhere with the viscose jersey but I did pick up some poly elastane with the right composition - trouble is, it's much too shiny for my taste. It'll do to practice the process; I have two sessions next month on ‘Pattern Hacking’ with Dan and Rory at their Centrefront Studio in Wallsend. Dare I order viscose jersey on line?

I'm going to Dewsbury next week on the Yorkshire Spoolettes meet-up organised by Ali of Thimberlina. I'm an honorary Spoolette despite not living in Yorkshire.  This is my last chance before going the online route, I feel.

Tonight, I worked on the bridesmaid dress pattern and did a toile. Really quite successful and I'm feeling a lot better about it! I'm going to start on the wedding dress first toile on Wednesday. In class on Thursday, it's moulage.

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve f...