Last week I was in the UK. A flying visit for my friend’s wedding. An amazing wedding with lots of old school friends, some of which I haven’t seen since I was yawning my way through A-level geography.
I always like to make myself a little something for my trips (apart from the obvious wedding attire that is!) so I decided on a top. I wanted something I could wear with jeans and that wouldn’t crease. I had the perfect fabric!
I had recently stumbled into Tessuti and raided the remnants table. I came out with a marvellous 1m piece of monochrome nylon mesh. Lets just say creasing would not be an issue. It’s a synthetic dream!
Surprisingly enough I reached for my Japanese pattern book collection, choosing the Stylish Party Dresses book.
I decided to hack this dress pattern, the raglan sleeve dress, into a top. Of course, I wanted to add a little interest and make the shoulder panels again. I know, I know, I do this all the time, but I just love it!!
I made a minor tweak to the pattern by lowering the neckline a little, this meant I could dispense with the closure at the back. I cropped the top quite short. It’s shorter than I would normally wear but I think it works well with this style.
The shoulder panels are made from the reverse of the fabric.
It was a quick sew and a surprisingly easy fabric to work with. It does have lots of ‘bounce’ so pressing wasn’t all that effective and I didn’t persevere as I was scared it might melt.
I did spend a little extra time in the finishing. I hand stitched the binding on the inside so there are no visible hems, cuffs or neckline stitching. It worked a treat.
I have worn it A LOT, it was perfect for the UK climate too as we had surprisingly good weather. It also took me back to the joys of 80’s synthetic clothing. Thank god there wasn’t a naked flame in sight!
I am sure it will be no surprise to anyone that I will be teaching stretch! Having made so many sweatshirts in the past I am no stranger to an overlocker and not scared of a piece of stretchy fabric.
Although as the summer roles in, I think the Brightside Shrug is the perfect choice for this class. It is such a quick and easy sew for beginners. Did you see the version my 11 year old student made? Super cool.
Check out the retreat website for more information, I am one of many teachers attending. So if you want to learn how to make lingerie, try fabric painting, understand Japanese sewing patterns, make a tote bag or make a pattern block, check out the details.
It’s finally here, after the Sydney storms put a stop to our last event, we have rescheduled for this weekend. I am super excited. There has already been a lot of interest and the Manly Daily did us proud this morning by writing a lovely little story about this event (they even used my ugly mug!)
If you fancy doing some mending and fixing, come along, details below;
Fulwood and Brightside are suburbs in Sheffield, my hometown. They are also the names of 2 patterns I have recently made.
I love the idea of naming a pattern after somewhere so familiar to me. It certainly drew me in. I have many happy memories of Fulwood. My besties still live there. Every Friday night we would get ‘ready’ (a 2 hour process) at Sara’s place, we would get the bus down Crimicar Lane, stop off at The West End pub, collecting Katie, Lou and Faye along the way and ending up at the Leadmill. I am never sure why we would spend so long getting ready, we looked complete wrecks as we poured out of the Leadmill at 2am and headed back to Fulwood. Ah, the joys of youth. I loved being 18 in Sheffield, it was so much fun.
Fulwood and Brightside are also patterns designed by Wendy Ward, designer, sewing teacher and author. Wendy is from Sheffield, I should have known really. I love her aesthetic, it’s monochrome, it’s stripes and it’s cracking tattoos. It’s my idea of minimal cool.
THE FULWOOD DRESS
She has loads of great patterns but I was really keen to try the Fulwood dress and the Brightside shrug. The Fulwood dress is basically a loose fitting shift dress, it has a variety of options including roll collar or boat neck, inseam pockets and pleats, it’s also easy to hack into a top. It’s aimed at beginners and I do like a simple sew. Loose and boxy and easy, that’s my kind of dress.
I used a blue cotton/linen mix I bought from Fabric Cave, so it’s preloved. I love the colour and the texture of the fabric is so soft and fluid. I was quite short on fabric but I worked out I could make a dress if I was crafty so I just about managed it. I had to leave off the roll collar which is a shame as I really fancied that option. I also decided to remove the pleat option and make the dress one piece. This is the good thing about this frock, it’s easy to hack, add and subtract as you go.
In the instructions there is a section with hacking suggestions. So I folded the pleat out and then taped the skirt piece to the top piece. In hindsight I should have added a couple of extra centimetres around my hips (as Wendy suggests). It fits perfectly well, but I prefer a slightly looser fit. I will grade the skirt section out next time.
I didn’t have quite enough fabric for the sleeve cuffs so I decided to put some bias binding around the edges (I also did this on the neckline). Homemade binding of course, in grey and white stripes, the fabric was from Margie’s stash. You do get the odd flash of this now and again.
I am super pleased with it. It’s easy to wear and simple, things that are often lacking in my wardrobe. I know I will get tons of use out of it. I was shivering as I was shooting this dress for my blog, it’s cold here. I will be wearing this with lots of layers until the warm weather comes back again!
THE BRIGHTSIDE SHRUG
The Brightside shrug is intriguing. It’s such a funny shaped pattern piece, like wearable origami.
I loved the grey marl version on Wendy’s website and as they say ‘imitations is the sincerest form of flattery’, I basically ripped it off!
I already had such lovely grey jersey that I had bought at The Cloth House in Melbourne, it was a match made in heaven. I think it took me just over an hour to make. I was even studious enough to do the hand tacking that Wendy suggests. I am glad I did, I enjoyed the process and it really did make for a better finish.
One of my 11 year old students was quite keen to try this pattern. I am not generally keen on teaching stretch unless they have a bit of experience, not sure why really as it’s not that difficult. I asked her to buy ponte. I think that’s always a safer option, it’s just a more forgiving fabric and easy to handle. So when she turned up with this fabric I did a little involuntary squeal of delight. Can you believe how good this is? She is 11!! Yes, 11.
We sewed the seams on the sewing machine and added the cuffs and neckband using the overlocker. She loved the overlocker, thought it was great fun and enjoyed putting her foot down. I also insisted on hand tacking it all in place. She was a good sport about that, even though kids often find it tedious and don’t have the patience for it. We used fluoro orange tacking thread, for a bit of fun. I am happy to say she removed it all too.
Such great patterns, they are both really easy to make, with clear and simple instructions. I would recommend these to beginners for sure. It was also a lovely little walk down memory lane, making patterns named after places so close to my heart. I am excited to say that I will be back in Sheffield in a few weeks time, for a wedding. I look forward to a night out on the tiles with the girls, although I think my Leadmill days are well and truly behind me.
I have a pile of sewing to do. Not ‘fun’ sewing like cute dresses or kimonos or sashiko-style mending but the practical kind. I mean things like sewing on Cub Scout badges, fixing holes in the kids uniform, hemming my pants and sewing my hubby’s swimming badges onto his sweatshirt (don’t ask!)
This is the kind of sewing that I shove on a pile and leave for a rainy day, which in Sydney isn’t that often. It’s not creative (like visible mending, my favourite mending of all time!) that’s why I don’t enjoy it but I think it’s time to change my attitude. Sewing is a practical skill and not only should we enjoy it for the loveliness it brings but we should also sew for a practical need.
Many years ago, while try to survive my life as a new Mum, I remember reading Buddhism for Mothers. I didn’t get that far into it, read the first few chapters and got the basic idea. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, mainly because I was too tired to read for about 5 years. But what stuck with me was the being ‘in the moment’ with the housework and chores and not taking them on with a ‘get through it’ attitude. Yes, I can see that, it’s hard to do but it’s worth a try and I often think about this when I am folding 12 tons of washing.
So I am going to apply this ‘in the moment’ idea to my practical sewing and enjoy every stitch of adding the Scout ‘fishing badge’, so proudly earned, to my sons shirt and the WWW (that’s Winter Without Wetsuit) badge to my husbands sweater!
It also means I need to make a few ‘boring’ items for me and the kids. I need some pyjama pants and Bertie needs some trousers. I yawned at the idea. But then I really surprised myself by how much I enjoyed the process. They were quick, a quick sew has been few and far between of late.
The first ‘practical’ item was my pyjama pants. I used the Tilly & The Buttons, Margot Pyjama pants pattern from her book, Love At First Stitch. This is the first pattern I have used from this book. Super easy and super quick. I cut a size 4, they are comfy and loose. I made the process easier by adding elastic to the waistband instead of a drawstring, which in my opinion is ‘faff’.
The fabric I used was a charity shop find, bought about 6 months ago. I had about 2.5m, luckily, as it was not very wide. It’s a cotton mix paisley number, cost all of about $3.
The second ‘practical’ item was a pair of trousers for Bertie. He is growing at an alarming rate (god knows how as he eats like a sparrow) and having already made two pairs of Mini Hudson Pants in the last month, something else was called for.
I made Parsley Pants by Made by Rae. I am no stranger to this pattern, I have made it many times over, I even wrote a post about my love for them here. It’s super easy and with only two pieces (the front & back are one piece), it’s a doddle to cut and sew. I thought I might add some pouch pockets as he always needs somewhere to stuff his lego minifigures or his cars.
The fabric I used was another charity shop find, I bought it last week. It’s a yummy, thick, olive green cord. It cost $4. It is a fairly thick fabric with a little stretch. I was originally going to add knee patches but the thickness was just too much. The pockets are a little clunky. I changed the direction of the cord on the pockets, if we are going to see them, then lets see them, I say! I lined them with some green duck cloth scraps left over from a previous make.
I am thrilled to have spent only $7 to get two fantastic pairs of pants. Both pairs are cosy, both pairs are comfy and both pairs are necessary and dare I say, they are both ‘practical’! OK, procrastination over, pass me those Scout badges someone….Hooray for practical sewing.
A couple of months ago I received an email from my friend’s mum, Margie. She said, and I quote,
“I have been having a clean up at home (mainly to save the kids if I die!) I have quite a lot of good fabric, no rubbish (Liberty etc) and if you could use it I would be delighted to give it to you.”
You can imagine my response (apart from snorting with laughter at her text!) AHHHH, yes I would love it! I have to show just a few pieces here. Some really gorgeous fabric, and this is only some of it.
Once I had got over the shock of such a wonderful and generous gift, I started to think of a way to thank her. I can say, Margie expected nothing from this but I really wanted to give her something so she would totally get my thrill at receiving such a stash.
I know Margie loves a bit of Japanese design, she has a very unique style herself and wears really beautiful clothes. We had both done an amazing Shibori workshop and we were just about to embark on a Slow Stitching workshop so this was a good jumping off point.
I settled on a kimono.
I found a lovely tencel in Spotlight which was perfect for the project, it had a hint of Shibori about it with it’s random pattern and colour. I used the pattern I had drafted for myself recently, see my punk kimono. We are similar in size so I knew it would fit.
Of course, I had to line it with some Liberty, it seemed fitting and the darker tones of the Liberty fabric worked really well with the tencel.
I had to try it on, of course! I am really pleased with the result. It’s a much lighter fabric than my denim version. It sits a lot better for it.
I gave it to Margie yesterday at her granddaughters birthday party (of which I was running one of my sewing parties). Over a glass of champers I handed it over, a little nervous to be honest. She told me that it was so unexpected and that it was very special to her because of the effort and thought that I had put into it (lump in throat). Ah, that makes it worth every stitch, don’t you think?
Is it a raglan sleeve sweater in dress form? YES! Hooray to that.
For a Sydney winter, it’s the right kind of cosiness and I am never taking it off!
When Emily of In the Folds told me she has designed a sweater dress pattern for Peppermint Magazine I was on it. I don’t need convincing to make a sweatshirt, especially when I know she has had her hand in designing it. Are there pockets involved? Why, yes!
I have had a lovely navy blue sweatshirt fabric for a while (a charity store find, of course) and it was the perfect fabric for this pattern. You can see a softer stretch is used above but I had a heavier version with more structure. But I gave it a whirl all the same.
I had to do a little hack though, so I reverted to my final scraps of gold knit. You may be familiar with my gold knit. I made use of it once before on this sweater and as they say, ‘if it ain’t broke…’. The gold is perfect with the navy blue and I had just enough for the shoulder hack.
It’s super easy to add this shoulder detail. All you have to do is measure from the base of your neck to the tip of your shoulder. For me it’s 12cm. Fold the sleeve pattern piece in half and match the arm hole points, then draw a line at this centre point to 12cm. Now graduate a curve, making it as deep or shallow as you like. Add seam allowance to both of your new pattern pieces. As I am no pattern maker, this isn’t an exact science, but it worked for me!
I was quite intrigued by the pockets. I wasn’t convinced that pockets would sit well. I have never sewn an inseam pocket in sweatshirt fabric before. I thought they wouldn’t sit flat but they do! It’s this little tip that makes them sit down. The devil is in the detail as they say.
I didn’t have quite enough fabric on one pocket so I had a do a little patch up job. It’s well inside the pocket so not visible from the outside.
This pattern is incredibly easy. Definitely a good place to start for those beginners who fancy their hand at stretch. You can sew this on a standard machine. I didn’t though, I used the overlocker for my seams.
I made one final change, I decided against the hem band. I think it was the right choice with this thicker fabric. Instead, I just overlocked the hem and turned it up once. I even used a standard needle and straight stitch (eek) on my sewing machine. I know, I am such a rebel. But it worked a treat.
So here it is in it’s full glory
Sometimes it’s nice to be able to smash out a dress in an hour or two. This is my new winter wardrobe. Lets see how many I can cobble together with my remaining scraps….
I was asked recently if I would teach at this amazing workshop set up by my local council. What an honour to be asked! Of course I said yes.
I will be helping fix those holes, hem them hems, cuff those cuffs, stitch, mend, elasticate, zip, patch, embroider and try some visible mending techniques. Generally helping breathe some life back into those once forgotten items that were destined for landfill.
It’s a great initiative and it should be a lot of fun. So if you are local and would like to come along and mend with some likeminded menders, like me, please join us on Sunday.
It’s 40 years since the infamous Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. It is often described as one of the most influencial gigs in history. I love a bit of punk, really, who doesn’t? Although I was only 2 when this gig happened, the music of the Sex Pistols had an affect on me some years later as a 15 year old looking to rebel. My rebellion wasn’t too bad, it mainly involved learning all the words to “Never mind the Bollocks” and getting my nose pierced!
I have been listening to some really cool programmes on BBC radio, “New Rose and 40 years of the Damned” and my favourite so far, “Punk, the Pistols and the Provinces.” This made me really laugh, especially as it referenced one of the first gigs the Pistols played in Northallerton, Yorkshire and a Christmas Day gig they played in Huddersfield. Definitely worth a listen.
So while rumours circulate that HRH is honouring the “Year of Punk” (can’t be true?), I thought I would honour it in my own special way with reference to the Queen of Punk herself, Dame Vivienne Westwood.
As winter has just arrived here in Sydney, I needed a jacket, so I made a kimono! What it lacks in structure, it makes up for in sleeves, fullness and (a hint of) tartan! I love Dame Viv’s use of tartan in everything she designs. For me it just has to be red. Look at these glorious pieces.
I decided to copy an existing kimono that I love and that fits. So, no pattern for me, I am such a rebel! It is a vintage find and it has such beautiful sleeve details. What I wanted was to achieve a more practical wearable, every day version.
I find denim to be the fabric of choice at the moment. I found this royal blue denim on sale at Spotlight which is always a thrill. The tartan lining was gifted to me. And what a gift it is! Such beautiful lightweight red cotton tartan. A big thank you to you, Margi x
It is a fairly simple construction but I made a couple of tweeks. It has no shoulder seams, so I added them, it made more sense to me as a pattern. It also had a centre back seam which I didn’t need as it had no shaping. I managed to draw it up. I then asked my studio buddy to check it (that’s Emily of In the Folds). She made a couple of adjustments, but nothing major so I wasn’t far off track.
I was very surprised at how well it came together. Especially as I had to just ‘best guess’ on construction. I made a last minute decision to add some lined pockets. A good decision I think. I inserted them between the side seam and the collar extension (is that what you call it??) I made the basic denim kimono and then made the tartan lining.
The major struggle for me was inserting the lining. As the jacket has these sleeve vents, it really confused me. After a couple of goes and failing miserably, I admitted defeat and asked the guru (Emily ) to help. Of course she just pinned it all together and it worked!
I really wanted a grungy shoot and I think with the roadcone I fashioned into a tripod and the garage door in it’s full ‘rundown’ glory, I think it works.
There are a couple of issues with this make. Firstly I think it could do with being about 5cm longer on the hem. Also, I should have tapered the collar seam at the back so it fits a little flatter. Other than that I am super pleased with it. So pleased infact that I have worn it every day and I am yet to finish it. I still need to sew the hole in the lining and tack the lining in to the seam allowance in certain spots. Question is, will I ever do this? It would be more punk to say, “NO, F*** IT!” But of course I won’t, there is nothing to rebel against these days!