Saturday, 26 May 2012

To the future and beyond..

It's exam and end of term time so my students are slightly panicking to complete all studies in time for summer and my priority now lies with them. In addition I have exam papers to mark with a very quick turnaround and when you think that peoples' futures rest in my hands it adds emphasis to the important things at this time of year. Projects from the sewing room will be scant for a few weeks as I aim to push people towards brighter and better futures. I use the sewing table as an examination marking space so the machine is packed away.

I will not be completely sewing-free. I bought this book and am fascinated by the shapes and twists and turns that can be made with a bit of fabric. Ideas are just pinging round my head and I fall asleep with fantastical garment plans that will never be made.

Now that I've passed the Burda pattern tracing examination with this, I can be kept busy tracing lots of patterns from all those past issues that I kept in the hope that one day the patterns would just materialise by themselves somehow.

A hint to pass on to you.... I bought a cheap, disposable paper tablecloth in the supermarket the other day for £1.75 and it's just perfect for patterns. It's soft and flexible so real easy to push pins into; takes the indentations of the tracing wheel perfectly; accepts the pen marks without bleeding or rubbing off; is a giant size, about 1.80m x 1m so you don't need to patch two bits of paper together and doesn't rip or tear like tissue paper. And it's SO MUCH cheaper than Burda tissue paper which retails around £3.00 here and I still have to tape two pieces together to get full length.

They come in so many pretty colours that if you were really organised you could colour code your patterns: blue for skirts, yellow for dresses etc etc etc.

And finally, I can still peruse the online fabric shops when I get fed up with real life and need a little bit of virtual living. I'm looking for stretch black and whites to make this top -  Marcy Tilton for Vogue V8817.

So far, I've collected the combinations below - but still lots of places to search yet. These are from Tissu.

Of course I shall be reading all about YOUR sewing adventures even if I'm not producing any myself, so keep up the good work.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned. Ruth

Monday, 21 May 2012

All that's left is the hole

Vogue 8751 Easy.
A super easy pattern to follow and make up, I strongly recommend this if you are looking for a pair of wide-legged, high-waisted pants. There are side pockets in the side seams and a broad waistband that has various closures, including belt carriers. The broad waistband acts like a girdle so there are no muffins bulging out but the top of the trousers are fitted and shirts and blouses look good tucked in or out. Really versatile, I reckon you could use almost any fabric too - lightweights or wools. I was lucky and cut straight off the pattern with minor taking in needed at the waist - no crotch adjustments. 

I do have a slanted zip though; it's straight when I'm not in the trousers so I'm guessing it's my tummy that's distorting it and not my sewing!

I choose to make mine in white Irish linen, in fact the remains of the bed sheet.  I was going to do the Burda May 2012 flap over front pants but couldn't be bothered tracing the pattern while this one was already sitting around in the pattern box.

I hmmed and hahhed about lining the trousers. Linen trousers are supposed to be loose and cool but the worn part of the sheet happened to end up on my backside and the thought of me sitting down to the sounds of ripping fabric was too much worry to carry around, so I lined them in a lightweight cotton lawn. Anyway, temperatures rarely rise beyond 25 Celsius here so it's not exactly tropical.

I'd managed to cut the leg hems at the edge of the sheet and so these already had a finished edge.

I cut the cotton lining just shy of the large hem (for weight) and slip stitched the hem turn-up to the lining. See, no stitches on the outside and the lining won't wrinkle up when the trousers are washed! Great.
The front has three white buttons for closure and I left off the belt carriers.

Ohh sunshine, warmth and at last, the boots are off and the sandals are out. Perfect white linen trousers weather.

Worn today with Rachel Comey top from Vogue 1247. Made in Ana Sui silk and with lots of alterations. Blog another day. The star of this show is the trousers 

Perfect fitting at the back and slimming from the side. I really do suit wide legged trousers, don't you think?

Why I bother to try new shapes and style is beyond me when I know I feel comfortable and quite good in these.

And the shoes..... Clarks summer selection sandals. Ochre suede with cork platform and heels and the most comfortable pair of new shoes I've ever put on.

Here's the cat ignoring me.

You may recall that this was the state of our precious linen sheet. That thin worn section underneath the tear is the bit that I cut for the backs of the trousers. It is rather fragile but the lining gives a bit of body and security. It also helps cut down on the pockets showing though at the front too.
This sheet has seen approximately 1,620 nights, washed and ironed at least 90 times, now new life as Paco's half circle skirt and a pair of trousers and all that's left of the sheet is the hole!

And yes, once again, it still wrinkles but I'm convincing myself that this is the mark of good linen!

I'm putting these in for Pattern Review's all natural fibres competition - not asking you to vote for me or anything as dresses always seem to win these things, but you can be 100% guaranteed that these are 100% natural fibres and recycled into the bargain.

Maybe StephC was right - linen goes on and on - just in different guises. I take it all back Stephanie!

Thanks for reading. Ruth

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Prisoner No.101/2012

Once again I have been seduced by pictures of skinny models, exquisite make-up, smooth hair, professional photography, exotic and colour co-ordinated scenery and excellent styling.  A very plain shift dress with centre front and back seams, deep V neck, side seam pockets closed with zips, knee length and dropped cap sleeves. The model looks tall and elegant, simple yet stylish, cool but sizzling! And I thought if I make that dress I too will look like that and live her life in the tropics.
Let me introduce you to dress 101 from Burda May 2012. Yep, I told you, I traced one already so there will be loads more! Two patern pieces this time - can't be that hard and I'm really pushing my personal styling preferences by selecting a non-existent sleeve and slightly above knee length - my goodness!

The wonderful cross weave organic cotton arrived from Ray Stitch and I cut into it straight away to make this dress. It was a little more lightweight than I anticipated and thought this dress need a fabric with a bit of upmpf or at least body. But I really wanted to use the cross weave so I resorted to some couture techniques to pull it off. 
Firstly I bought some nude coloured lawn cotton and underlined the whole dress. This added that extra body that I needed without the extra weight of a full and separate lining. 

Fraying was a bit of an issue with the cross weave, so I cut the underlining pieces larger, folded the extra seam allowances over the cross weave seam allowances and zig-zagged in place for a mock Hong Kong finish. I've cut facings for front V and sleeves and hand stitched them all in place.

One of the benefits of underlining is that you can sew to the lining and no stitches are visible from the right side at all.

And what have I ended up with? - A smock that a woman prisoner wears!

Shapeless, bland, plain and a costume for Prisoner Cell Block H

So I threw a bit of colour matching lace around the neck to see if this would glamourise the smock, but no, it just looked like Bea dressing up for a parole board meeting.

If you know how I can style this up please please send me advice. The shell fabric is really lovely and is actually a bit bluer in real life than in these pics so I  don't want to sacrifice it. If you have any ideas about how to resurect this I'd be so grateful. I've spent so much time and thought in construction that - 
 I'm dammed if I'm going back inside.
Thanks for reading. Ruth

Monday, 14 May 2012


 I traced a Burda magazine pattern! 

I know for many of you this is not a big deal but for lazy me with deteriorating eyesight and a 'couldn't be bothered' attitude, this indeed is a day to celebrate. And now that I've done it once I'll be doing it again and again and again..... I attacked the multi-coloured map of sheet A in May's edition to locate the 4 pieces needed for this blouse.

While waiting for my green organic fabrics to arrive I kept busy with tracing and then making. I found this fabulously coloured and patterned jersey in my local fabric shop and although it was fairly expensive (compared to USA and internet shops) I splashed out and purchased 2 metres. I tried to find a fabric similar to the Burda one online and under £20 p/m but without much success.

Where do you buy colourful and patterned jersey at reasonable prices?

As the fabric is so abstract the left and right sides are completely different - a bit like the Ikea summer dress. 

I was quite impressed how well the hand traced pattern pieces went together and it sewed up without trauma or tradegy. I didn't exactly follow the instructions but just muddled my way through especially at the neck edge. Working with such a stretchy fabric made the job easier too as I just pulled it into place and gave it all a good pressing as I went.

SLEEVES - While I was tracing the sleeve piece I realised that the patterns are used for multiple garments and this sleeve piece has cap, short and wrist length. Because I don't do sleeveless, I just traced the longest length and didn't have to worry about ill-fitting sleeve heads. I think my sleeve should have a cuff but I like bracelet length so everything worked out fine in the end.

FRONT CLOSURE - Again because the fabric is so stretchy I didn't think I'd have any trouble pulling this on over my head so didn't make button holes just sewed the buttons through all thicknesses and that's what holds the fronts together.

HEMS - I don't have an overlocker (serger) or a blind hemmer, the hems were just folded over 1.5cm and straight stitched then trimmed close to the stitching - this works just fine, it's quick and looks OK. I wouldn't do this on a heirloom piece or something that I was planning on wearing for years to come but for T-shirt, run around tops type of things - it's good.

And here's a picture of the cat slinking away.
Thanks for reading. Ruth

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Green, me?

Let me tell you about a new fabric shop I've discovered - Ray Stitch. Please take a look if you are searching for unique, organic and beautiful fabrics. You should know by now that living in NI is like being in Siberia (no offence to Siberians) when it comes to good fabric shops and choice, so my lifeline is on-line. Situated in London, UK, Ray Stitch stocks organic cotton, bamboo, Japanese prints and lots more and I do not have to pay the customs man any extra. BTW I'm not getting any commission on this.

This is what I am eagerly awaiting arriving in the post................

 First up is a no dye cotton - how cool is that?

This is the actual colour that the cotton grows in the fields. It's picked, spun, woven and ready to go. I've selected the choi colour - slightly green.

From Ray Stitch's web site:
It is a 100% organic fabric made from natural shades of growing cotton, irrigated by the meltwaters of the Qilian Mountains. No herbicides, no dyes. GOTS certified.

- Cotton was once grown in shades of cream, green and white, but over time breeders selected it to be just white. The Chinese producers of this innovative range have reverted to traditional practices in order to address ever-increasing concerns over the use of chemical dyes.

Secondly,  this crossweave organic cotton in light blue. It comes in 7 wonderfully muted colours. 

From Ray Stitch's web site:
Crossweave cotton is a 100% organic, medium weight fabric and is made using two shades of yarn giving it a unique shade and texture. It is handmade from previously dyed yarn and, as a handmade fabric, may have small characteristic changes in texture and occasional imperfections. The fabric is pre-shrunk and dyefast.

 And now for the patterns: what do you think of.....

 No dye cotton for skirt from Burda May 2012

White linen weird fronted trousers with the remains of the white linen bed sheet- also Burda May 2012

And the plainest shift dress for the cross weave cotton also from Burda May 2012.

Now that I own the pattern drafting tools I thought I'd have another go at Burda hieroglyphics, but I might just purchase the downloadable patterns instead!

I've also ordered an organic white cotton denim for a new pairs of summer jeans re-engineered by me of course.

Perfect summer wardrobe and more fabric to add to the growing stash that I'm not concerned I'll never get through.

To coincide with all this eco-greeness Pattern Review's latest competition is 100% natural - making clothes with only natural fabrics. The competition runs until the end of May, so if the postman gets here soon, I might just put one of these Rainbow Warrior approved garments in for the competition. I don't really do competitions - but if I'm making it anyway I might just try.

Thanks for reading. Ruth