Sewing the Sew Along

I’m not going to lie, I was right to be scared of my fabric. I have never used more pins in all my sewing life than for each seam.

Sew Over It published the bodice sewing blog post on Monday but I only finished it this afternoon, so thought I might as well crack on with the skirt and do both parts in one blog post. So, aside from the pinning, I was more than trepidatious about the sizing. You may remember from my previous post that I cut a ten when I usually take an eight. I mentioned that I might have to take the bodice in. I am rarely right, but here I was – I took the sides in by 1cm each side and the bust is still a bit big. I was tempted to go ahead in the sew along and put the zip in so I could muck about with it a bit more but I am true to my promise of not getting ahead of myself.
I could have done what Lisa Comfort of Sew Over It suggested and get someone to pin me into the dress using the 1.5cm seam allowance. The only person who could do this is my lovely mister. But he is not good at things like that, in fact, he is terrible. So I pinned myself in and I’ll make adjustments to the zip placement when the time comes.
I did manage to get all the seams to line up, which is a plus. But look at this:

No matter how many times I tried, I could not get the bottom of the skirt hem to line up! It must be a fabric slippage whilst I was cutting out – it really was hard work!
I did try the dress on and I do think that it will look quite nice in the end. Keep fingers crossed!
In related good news, I managed to fix my overlocker, by which I mean clean five years of skeff off of it, rethread it and muck about with the tensions but I still fixed it. I was so happy I literally jumped for joy. It saves a lot of zigzagging and trimming seam allowances!

The Return of the Sewing Bee

Ooh! It’s incredibly exciting! The Great British Sewing Bee returned to our screens tonight – ten sewists, eight weeks, tonnes of inspiration, tips and entertainment. I looked forward to it all day and I was not disappointed.
Has anyone else noticed that this year’s contestants are all so NICE? Last year, most were lovely; albeit I wasn’t a fan of Stuart, but he wasn’t a bad person, just a little annoying. Anyway, they seem like a nice lot and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
I was also looking forward to sewing the bodice for the 1940s Tea Dress sewalong but I checked the blog HUNDREDS of times and then, when I checked after dinner at half eight, there were the instructions. I won’t lie, I’ve not had a good evening – after my hour commute, I got home to find the dog had been sick/poohed in the kitchen (who knows which end – that dog’ll eat anything) and was covered in mud from the fun he had with the dog walker earlier. So there was sick/pooh cleaning, dog walking and dog washing along with the usual evening tasks of dinner and making tomorrow’s lunch. Needless to say, I’m a bit tired, a bit jaded and I don’t think that makes for a good sewing mood. So the bodice can wait until tomorrow. I just hope I can!

Sew Over It Sew Along, Part 1

So, I started the Sew Along on Saturday. I was right to be terrified of my fabric; it’s so slippery and awkward. I really hope that I’ve managed to cut accurately (I even sharpened the scissors!) otherwise, I’m going to look very odd when it’s finished.
As usual, I did not take heed of the layout and saved myself about half a metre of fabric, if not more. I intend to use it for a blouse trim – I though it would look nice as a pussy bow and cuffs.

I also did not trace the pattern pieces. I did, but I just couldn’t do it accurately. I suspect that my paper was too thick. Then I couldn’t get the tracing wheel to work on the fabric so I just cut the pattern up. I’m making a size ten. I normally make the size eight but I measured myself and my waist is a size ten and, bizarrely, so are my tiny boobs. My non existent hips are not even on the scale, but the skirt is loose fitting so I can’t see how this will hurt.

Regardless of the measurements, I can see myself having to take the bodice of this dress in a bit… Well, we shall soon find out: the next instalment is posted on Monday, so I’m hoping to get the machine going this week to sew the bodice. Fingers crossed the fabric is not as frightening under the presser foot…

The Pencil Skirt

This is my first post in a while. I got a new job that does not involve wearing sensible clothes so I’ve been mostly busy trying (and failing) to use new computer systems and work out a whole new set of acronyms. But I’ve also been using my new found evenings to make, think about making, read about making and make some more.
My first Freedom Project was the Charlotte Skirt. I got the pattern for Christmas and, after much deliberation, I used this Alexander Henry fabric that I was saving to make some pyjamas.
I did have a few issues, but none to do with the excellent pattern. No, the problems were entirely physical. I have not been blessed with a curvaceous body. I have also not been blessed with patience. So I blithely cut the 26″ waist version to fit my waist but, after sewing the skirt minus the ruffle, I discovered that my butt didn’t exactly fill the skirt. So I cut the smaller size, sort of doing an adjustment but being really lazy about it (I just cut the 26″ waist with the 24″ waist hips) and, huzzah! it fitted.

There was one slight problem. I was rendered a Dalek when faced with stairs. I could not get up them for love nor money, at least not in a particularly lady-like or indeed human manner. So I unpicked the back a bit and now at least I should be able to get off the train and not be trampled by rush hour crowds hobbling like a Geisha up Whitehall. And I won’t burn if the office catches fire and I have to evacuate. It’s just safer with the split.
What lazy sewing short cuts have you taken?

My First Sew Along

I have never done a sew along before but I have heard of them. Working shifts meant that I couldn’t do anything at the same time as everyone else, so I often felt left out. But now I’m not working shifts anymore, I’m throwing myself at social things, even if it just comes with a hashtag (#SOIsewalong in this case).
So I’m so excited that I can join in with the Sew Over It 1940s tea dress sew along. I’ve picked my fabric and it arrived, beautifully wrapped, from Sew Over It on Saturday. Just a quick trip to a haberdashery for a zip and thread and I’m ready to go.
I’m not going to lie – I’m a bit scared of my fabric. Not because of the cute cheetahs on it, but because it is not cotton or cotton like, and very thin and drapey. I’ve been sewing for years and never made anything with anything delicate. This cannot go wrong.
So determined am I that this won’t go wrong, I’ve even prewashed my fabric. I’ve resolved to do this sew along by the letter and, of course, to wait until the sew along starts to sew. This is going to be very difficult for me.
If you’d like to participate, just click on the link above. You’ve still got time before the sewing starts to get your fabric and pattern.
The team at Sew Over It are always so friendly and delivery is very quick in my experience. They also run an array of classes and I am very jealous of anyone who gets to do one. I desperately want to make so many of their gorgeous patterns, unfortunately, most of their lovely clothes are only available if you participate in the classes. I find this annoying on many levels, but mostly because I, like so many other people, make their own clothes to save a bit of money so paying £175 for a class, plus pattern and fabric to make the 1960s coat (which I completely love) is just too much. But, they tell me that some more of their patterns will be available to buy separately soon. Here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later!

Baby Knits

I’ve reached that age where it seems that everyone is having babies. Barely have I cast off one baby cardigan or pair of booties and there’s another announcement of a baby on the way. I have no children, but want them mostly so I can buy this beautiful book, so am more than happy to make miniature knitted garments and toys for friends and family.

Baby knits are quick to do, given their size, and look so cute that I can’t begrudge my short hobby hours to these projects. This due baby is supposed to be a girl, but I decided to use pea green Sirdar Snuggly DK for this project. I think it’s such a gorgeous colour, and I had a ball in my stash that I thought would be enough for this cardigan from Ravelry. It’s a great pattern – no seams! My only problem with it is that the pattern for left side has to be read backwards (which isn’t made clear) and I failed to do this for the lace part for several (more than several) rows:

I only noticed this problem after I’d cast off, so hopefully the recipient’s mother (or father!) won’t notice this cock-up. Other than that, this pattern is fairly straight forward and I’m pleased with the finished result.
 

I also made the sleeves a whole inch shorter as 6″ seemed excessive for a newborn (but what do I know!) and also narrowed the sleeves by knitting two together at the start of each dpn from 3″ (so at 3″, 3.5″, 4″ and 4.5″). I also have only slightly less yarn at the end of the project than I did at the beginning: I had to buy another ball from my favourite yarn shop Get Knitted because I ran out before I even started the sleeves.

I’m very much looking forward to giving this cardigan away upon the safe arrival of its recipient!



A New Year Challenge (Number 1)

Happy New Year! Albeit five days too late.

Rather than make resolutions (I’ve already failed in my post Christmas resolve to play the guitar daily by playing it zero times), this year, I am setting myself challenges. The first challenge is mighty. This year, I will learn to make macarons. Anyone who’s tried making a macaron will know how much of a challenge this is. I have successfully made them before, and here is some evidence:

I also went on Edd Kimber’s (aka The Boy Who Bakes) Macaron Class a couple of years ago. My macarons were passable then, but even under his expert tutelage, they weren’t perfect. I’ve had multiple tries ever since. My lovely boyfriend fears the days when I make them because, I am ashamed to say, this patisserie delight has reduced me to tears on countless occasions. I’ve peered through the oven door and celebrated the appearance of the pied (feet – that cute ruffle at the bottom), only to find the chuffing things have stuck to the paper, aren’t cooked, then crack…the list is endless. I also got a Thermapen for Christmas, which is what everyone seems to use for cooking. And I’ve discovered that this is because it is excellent and well worth the price.

So, this year, I thought, will be different. I will perfect the macaron…

I’ve made two attempts just this week. This might be an ongoing project. Whilst on holiday in the Cotswolds last year, I bought this book and just haven’t had time until now to give anything a go. I decided that I would make the salted caramel variety first, given the ongoing obsession in the culinary world for this flavour (I’m not knocking it – I love it!). I made the salted caramel first, albeit I didn’t have the full fat crème fraiche the recipe asked for (I forgot to put it on the Tesco order and the local Co-Op only had the half fat). I don’t think it’s as thick as it should be though. Then I made the shells. I mucked about getting the exact temperature in the oven. They looked perfect in the oven – they rose properly, they didn’t crack, they didn’t burn, they looked amazing. The book recommends that the macarons are immediately put on a damp surface (on the baking paper) to stop them cooking and are removed immediately. I tried this. I cried because the bastard things were shells and goo. I threw them in the bin and tried again. This time, I bought fancy baking paper from Lakeland because it is white and not brown and Edd, I seem to recall, said that the white paper was the best stuff. So I carefully made the merengue, poured in the boiling sugar, mixed it with my coloured almond, icing sugar and egg white paste and carefully piped my circles using the template I got from the class, dropped them on the surface to get the air out, left them – didn’t poke them, prod them, look at them – for an hour, put them in my carefully heated oven, set the timer for thirteen minutes and…bloody things still hadn’t cooked. No matter, another two minutes baking with me peering through the oven door and…still not coming off the paper. Another two minutes. And another. I decide that if they’re not cooked now, they never will be and bravely take them out of the oven.

I decided not to do the water thing this time and took them straight off the tray. I was still left with the gooey centre on the paper. I did not cry this time. I decided that the egg would be cooked (I’m terrified of poisoning myself) and would eat them anyway. So I chugged on, my heart breaking a little more with each blob of macaron left on my fancy baking paper and left them to cool:

So I filled them anyway and took a bite and, dear lord were they delicious!

I have been trying to figure out why I lose most of the middle to the baking process and found this excellent website. It is a great diagnostic tool for those, like me, who are obsessed with creating the perfect macaron.

And what did I learn? It seems, like most things that are complicated or particularly skilled, which I think we can all agree French Patisserie most certainly is, opinion is divided about what how it should be done and how to solve problems. My book said to immediately take the macarons off the tray, but the website says otherwise. So, next week I’ll try leaving them on the paper to cool a bit. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll start experimenting with the oven temperature. And if anyone else has some suggestions, I’ll gladly take some advice! In the meantime, I think it’s time to eat another macaron…

Back to School

In a continuation of my last post, I find myself still in the organised disarray of the new season that, to me, is synonymous with a new term at school. It seems more than ever that I live for days off from work, particularly that the new season has brought so much inspiration for new projects. This morning, for example, before another late night at work, I’ve been adding clothes patterns ad infinitum to my Amazon Wishlist awaiting pay-day. I can’t wait to make my little nephew some corduroy trousers – is there anything more autumn than corduroy?
The back to school feeling was most keenly felt at this week’s Zumba class. I’ve only recently started doing it, which is very clear from my two left feet and lack of general coordination. I hit myself in the head for God’s sake. But it did feel very much like PE, with me in the back row not knowing entirely what’s happening and hoping against hope that the person in front of me didn’t screw it up because I’m copying every move they make. But amidst all this, I found myself thinking, “I’m a real person! Look at me, working out to modern popular music! I went shopping today! I bought clothes that weren’t for work! I went to the cinema! This is what life is actually about!” It was probably around here that I hit my head but I didn’t care: nobody saw me, and I’m sure real people hit themselves in the head all the time.
PS I saw About Time at the cinema. It’s completely amazing and most definitely should be watched by every person on the planet.

New Beginnings

It’s the first of September, and I know that’s not the start of Autumn, but it always reminds of new beginnings and an anticipation of change that comes with the new season. I loved going back to school each September having decided that this academic year I’d be different, more popular, cooler, etc. I’d spend hours standing in front of over-priced wrapping paper in WHSmiths deciding what I’d cover my notebooks in that year and spend ages neatly wrapping the books first in paper, then in plastic film. I’d go back to the classroom sure that I’d made all the right choices, that I’d chosen the “cool” paper and the other girls would covet my notebooks that year. Inevitably, I’d sit down next to my friends and see that their wrapping paper was cooler, better, more reflective of them. The lesson I’ve learnt? Don’t try to be someone else; buy what you like; do what you like. And that’s what this blog is about: not making decisions on design and aesthetics because that’s what I should like, but because it’s what I do like.
So here’s to new beginnings, a new outlook and lots of pretty things – things I thought were pretty – to hopefully inspire individual design and fresh thinking.

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