A day out in Stockport

If, like me, you love scrolling through Instagram looking at pics of fabric and frocks and patterns etc, then you may have noticed the appearance of the hashtag #sewover50. It started last summer after a blog post by @susanyoungsewing talking about how older women are under-represented on pattern covers, magazine covers, advertisements etc. This lead to a lively debate from many who felt the same. @judithrosalind created the Instagram account @sewover50 and soon women and men, all around the world were using the hashtag to show that sewing is not just for the bright young things!Susan then contacted Love Sewing magazine and asked if they would be interested in a feature and photo shoot for the mag. Love Sewing said yes and so Judith and Susan put out the call for some like-minded sewists willing to take part,and after mentioning it to my husband, who said ‘go for it’  I put my hand up!

Which is how I came to travel to Stockport, on a very grey and damp November day, with some me-made items in a case, for a photoshoot for a national magazine! There were ten of us, from as far away as Edinburgh and Port Talbot. Some women had been sewing all their lives, some earned their living from sewing and teaching sewing, and some, like me, were home sewists who enjoyed making their own clothes. To be honest, I felt like a terrible imposter. Here I was in a room with people who had so much more experience than me, who had forgotten more than I would ever know. In the weeks before, we had set up an online group chat, so by the time we arrived, it felt like seeing old friends.

There had been much discussion about what to wear for the pics. In the end, I took my rose and spot patterned Joni dress, fabric from TrixieLixie, it’s a dress that makes me feel good when I am wearing it – and surely that’s the measure of a good dress!  Amy Thomas, editor of Love Sewing was there to greet us, with hair and make-up artists too! Amy was so friendly, making us feel at ease and putting us in groups for various photos. Have you ever seen that episode of Friends, where Monica and Chandler have their engagement photos taken, and Chandler can’t smile, and ends up gurning at the camera? Well that was me! Who knew it was so hard to look at the lens, stand up straight and smile all at the same time? It was such a fun day, and since then we have kept in touch, and are hoping to meet up again. I came away inspired to improve my sewing, and with lots of ideas for new makes, new designers to try but more importantly I felt good from spending time with a group of wonderful women. I felt that a conversation had been started, and there was no going back, it was time for designers and publishers to reflect the makers of all ages and sizes. 

If you would like to see these fabulous women and read their thoughts on sewing and life, then get yourself a copy of issue 64 of Love Sewing magazine, it’s in the shops now. And do keep an eye on the #sewover50 hashtag on Instagram, there’s more to come from all of us over50s, all over the world!

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

Nothing Fancy – just a denim skirt!

Hello my lovelies, happy new year to you all. Yes, I know it’s a little late, but this is my first blog of the year, so I feel I can still say that to you.

I have a little hack to share with you today. It is a Miette wrap skirt, pattern by Tilly and the Buttons. You might remember I made and blogged one last summer, but this one has buttons instead of the ties. I really love my summery, purple Miette, and fancied making one in a denim for winter wearing – but I didn’t really fancy the ties. I also omitted the front pockets. The fabric is a lovely light weight, dark coloured denim from TrixieLixie. I pre-washed this fabric – dark denim like this can bleed dye, so be warned! Because I knew I would be wearing it with tights, I decided to line it (nobody likes a clingy skirt!). They have plenty of lining fabric in stock at TrixieLixie, in lots of colours. 

I have used two, a cream and a pale green, and by a happy coincidence they match the fabric I used to line the waistbands – a piece of rosebud print cotton I had left in my scraps basket.

If you follow the pattern instructions, you will cut out various lengths of waistband and attach the ties. Because I wasn’t using ties, I cut the waistband pieces to match the top of the skirt pieces – denim for the outside and cotton for the lining. But I cut the piece that would be on the outer wrap, (my right side) approx. one inch longer than the skirt piece. I omitted the buttonhole at this stage of making (the one where your tie would thread through, if you were using the ties) I did use an interfacing as well, but it wasn’t stiff enough, and my lovely waistband has a tendency to crumple (usually after lunch!) and roll down a bit. I made the lining in the same way as the skirt, and basted it, wrong sides together, to the skirt before attaching the waistband. I hand stitched the waistband lining inside. I do like to sit quietly with a mug of tea and some quiet hand sewing, there is something rather soothing about it, isn’t there?

I also hand sewed the hem of the skirt, but I overlocked the hem of the lining. Once the skirt was fully assembled, I was able to wrap it on me and work out where to put the buttons and the buttonholes. This was quite straight forward, with the help of some tailor’s chalk and pins.

I had two big navy buttons in my button box. Once I had worked that out, I made the buttonholes on my old Singer. This is always an anxious time, for both of us. She prefers to do her 4-stage button holes in the order 2,3,4,1 – which is fine by me, as long as she does them neatly.

So here it is, my new denim, Miette skirt. It’s nothing fancy really, but I do love the shape – it’s just the right A-line shape for me, and it’s just the right shade of denim and so far this winter it’s had lots of wear.  Sometimes nothing fancy is just what you need!

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

The pattern and the fabric were bought at TrixieLixie. I pay for my fabric, but I do get a discount.

Fade to Grey

Fade to Grey

Hello sewing friends. Thanks for all the love for the Jonis in my last blog. Despite my moans about the neckband, they have had a lot of wear already. And so, onto my latest make – yes, it is me, you didn’t recognise me in a plain dress, did you? Plain grey? Me? No print, no flowers or purple swirls, no feathers or spots or stripes!! And yes, I am a little out of my comfort zone!!

The pattern is the Fringe dress by Chalk & Notch. It’s a dress I hadn’t heard of until I saw the version made by my Instagram pal @like_my_granny. It is a downloadable PDF of many pages, which means it needs time and space to stick it together and trace it out.

I made view A, with the button placket. View B has a notch neckline. My grey fabric is a cotton chambrey from TrixieLixie, its light and drapey and I needed to pay attention to the right and wrong sides, as it was easy to muddle them up. Compared to some of my recent makes, the Fringe dress was a little more complicated, with more pattern pieces and more stages, but it was quite soothing to lose myself in the process of making it. That’s part of the joy of making our own garments, isn’t it? The making is nearly as important as wearing!

After sewing the darts with the waist ties, and the sleeve cuffs with the button tabs, and the inseam pockets, and gathering the skirt and attaching it to the bodice I tried it on. Oh dear, I know it is supposed to be a relaxed fit, but this was enormous.  I couldn’t put my hands in the side pockets, as they were so far down my thighs that they were almost on my knees!! This poor dress needed some serious structural alterations.

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I took the skirt off, opened the front bodice darts, took out the waist ties. I chopped a whopping two and a half inches off the bodice and an inch off the skirt. I resewed the waist darts making them an inch wider before reattaching the skirt. Finally, I had a dress that fitted – it still has a relaxed fit, but at least now it doesn’t look like I am a toddler wearing a grown up’s borrowed clothes. I sewed the button placket closed as the buttonholes don’t need to open – despite them being the best buttonholes I have ever managed on my old machine.

I wasn’t sure what buttons to use and asked for votes on my Instagram account. My button options were bright red, pearly red ones, pearly purple, bright blue or grey metal ones. Metal won the day, making my grey dress even more grey! Despite being a cotton dress, I think I will get some winter wear out of it, with tights and boots.

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I am already thinking of another, view B with the notch neckline, perhaps in a blue and white ikat print. So, my foray into plain fabrics didn’t last long, did it? Whether you are sewing a plain or a printed fabric, happy sewing to you.

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

 

The Tale of Two Joni dresses

“Hello, this is Joanie, I’m sorry, but I’m not home,

But if you leave me, your name and number,

I promise, soon as I get in I’ll phone”

Hello there, sewing friends, who remembers that little tune? It got to number 6 in the UK charts in 1978? It’s a catchy little song about a chap whose girlfriend (yes, Joanie) is killed in a car crash and he is so keen to hear her voice he calls her landline to hear her answer phone message.  This may sound odd, but in 1978 having an answer machine was a big deal, trust me!

Anyway, as I sewed the first Joni dress I had that song going around my head, not just because it is catchy, but because I feared the dress would be a bit of a wreck too! The pattern is from the latest book Stretch by Tilly and the Buttons, it contains seven patterns all designed for stretch fabrics, starting with a simple tube skirt and ending with the trickiest pattern – Joni, a dress with a twist in the bodice.  I sewed it in a beautiful Art Gallery Fabrics cotton jersey from TrixieLixie, it’s a lovely dark navy with a white feather pattern on it [Petal and Plume Panache Profundo – Jersey].

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The patterns in the book come on thick white paper, so I traced it using greaseproof paper. Once my fabric was cut I started to add the clear elastic to stabilise the shoulders and waist of the bodice pieces, and this, dear readers, is where my troubles began.

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My overlocker just chewed it all up (don’t worry, this was a test piece!) so I ended up having to use my regular sewing machine, with a jersey needle and zig-zag stitch. I found leaving a long tail of elastic helped to keep it in place when starting to sew.

Once the bodice is twisted, the neckband needs to be attached. This is where the tears (and swearing!) really started. Now, I usually find the instructions of Tilly patterns clear, well-illustrated and easy to follow. But I really struggled with this stage. I scoured the internet for reviews and tutorials and got lots of tips from friends on Instagram. I managed to get the neckband on, but it’s not perfect and it was a bit of a fudge! There was a gap between the end of the band and the top of the twist, on both sides, which I folded in and hand-stitched down. The rest of the dress came together easily – I love it when you seam the sleeves, bodice and skirt all in one go. My first Joni was finished, and I do like it, honestly I do, it’s a great shape on me, with a swishy skirt. But some of the seams felt bulky, and that neckband finish irked me, and it all felt less well-made than garments I have made from woven fabrics. So (and I am sure you will understand this, sewing friends) what did I do? I jumped straight back on the Joni horse and cut out another. This is another fabric from TrixieLixie, a lighter jersey with a spots and flowers pattern [Bromley Jersey]. I bought it during our recent #WalesSews meet-up, and I know it was really popular. (Those of you who were there, I am looking forward to seeing what you all make with it!)

This time I used regular white elastic instead of clear at the waist, and ribbon to stabilise the shoulders (much less bulky) and I added the neckband so it is visible, with a zig-zag topstitch. I lengthened it by about 2 cms, and joined it at the centre, which gave me a V above the twist, but I don’t mind. It’s still a neater finish than the first dress.

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And here ends the story of my two Jonis, thankfully with a cheerier ending than that catchy song. Neither are perfect, but I will wear them happily because I like the shape on me and I like the swishy skirt. Now, if I could only get that song off repeat in my head…!

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

Spring Green – in Autumn??

Hello, Sewing friends, thank you so much for all the kind responses to my last blog. That purple Miette skirt has had so much wear this summer, it is definitely a happy skirt. Here in Cardiff, autumn is beginning to make its presence felt. But, like a stubborn toddler I am ignoring it, sticking my head in the sewing sand, making another summery skirt and resisting the lure of tights and boots. Let’s face it, ladies, we are going to be pulling on those 40 deniers for months to come, so whilst there is a glimmer of sun in the sky I am going to make the most of every bare-legged second.

So here is my latest season-defying skirt – it is New Look 6346. A simple button front, A-line skirt that comes in two lengths – 18” and 24”, and suits most woven fabrics. I used a beautiful, bright spring-green and white floral Moda cotton from TrixieLixie. It is quite a stiff cotton and I thought it would work well with the A-line shape. I decided to cut the 18” length, then fearing it would be a little short for my chubby knees, added an inch and a half, which sits almost at knee- length on me.

The skirt construction is perfectly straight forward, made up of two back pieces, two front and the four-piece waistband. The button bands are made by interfacing & folding over the front edges of the two skirt fronts. I had my usual nervous moment when it came to the buttonholes – after years of faking it with poppers or faux plackets (yes really!) I have worked out that although my trusty old Singer does do a four-step buttonhole, but she doesn’t like going 1,2,3,4, oh no, my old girl goes 2,3,4,1! Since we worked that out, we manage just fine!

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So far so good, but – and there always is a but – the one thing I struggle with, when it comes to mainstream patterns (commonly known as the Big 4 – Simplicity, New Look, McCalls and Butterick) is working out the correct size to cut. Quite an important thing to get right, I am sure you will agree. I know from talking to others that I am not alone with this problem. This certainly happened with this skirt. I looked at the garment size measurements on the back of the packet, and I looked at the finished garment measurements, usually found on the actual paper pattern – yes it really does say 10 ½” of ease!

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No wonder people get confused as to what size they should cut out. If a pattern has this much ease, then what size should you cut? My measurements put me just outside the size 8, but with that amount of ease, could I get away with it? I decided to cut the 10. After this initial dithering, the skirt came together quickly. My machine co-operated beautifully when it came to the buttonholes, and I sewed the hem, the inside of the waistband and the buttons by hand.

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When I finish a garment, I always ask myself, would I make it again. In this case, yes, I think a denim version would be nice. In the meantime, if you see someone inappropriately dressed for the Autumn, be kind – it could be me! Happy Sewing.

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You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

A PASSION FOR PURPLE

Hello sewing pals, thank you for all the nice comments following my last (first) blog post. It was heartening to see so many people had read it. And by that, I mean real people, not family or friends who could not refuse!!

So, which comes first for you, the fabric or the pattern? Well, in the case of this skirt, it was the fabric. TrixieLixie have bolts and bolts of gorgeous, colourful Kaffe Fassett cottons, but this one in particular yelled at me from the shelf, its purple loveliness was irresistible. I have always had a bit of a thing for the colour purple – perhaps it stems from my crush on Donny Osmond when I was five. Each Osmond brother had a signature colour, and Donny’s was purple.  Thankfully for Donny, my love for the colour has outlived my love for him!

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Anyway, on to the skirt. I originally thought I would sew a top, but when I got home I decided it would make a fine skirt, but sadly I hadn’t bought enough, so had to make a return trip to TrixieLixie to buy some more (tough, I know!).  Then I saw that the prolific blogger and my lovely pal @sewistella had made a Miette skirt, in blue patterned cotton, and I wondered why I had never tried this pattern.  So, I made third trip to TrixieLixie as they stock all sorts of independent sewing patterns, including lots of Tilly and the Buttons and I knew they had it in stock, thankfully the shop is not far from my house, though I think three visits in a week means I am entitled to my own mug in the staff room, what do you think?!! [Mmmm… not sure about that – Ed]

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As with all Tilly patterns the instructions are clear, with good colour photographs. The skirt is a simple wrap around, the wrapping taking place at the back, so there is none of the gaping you get with front wrap skirts. The skirt fastens with two very long ties, one of which threads through a gap in the waistband. You can see Mabel, my dressform, helpfully modelling all the lengths of tie & waistband, prior to sewing up.

The gap in the waistband is reinforced, like a buttonhole. I made a half-hearted attempt at pattern matching the two front pieces, but I didn’t waste too much time and worry over it as the bands of pattern are not straight, the ties hang down at the front, and if I keep twirling then no-one will notice some slightly dodgy pattern matching. I overlocked all the edges and hand stitched the hem and the inside of the waistband. No stitch in the ditch for me – I am far too sloppy a sewist, and anyway, I rather enjoy some peaceful hand sewing, with a nice mug of tea and a detective on the TV.

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This is the perfect Summer skirt for the sunny weather we have had in the UK recently, but I am already thinking that this would make a good Autumn skirt too, in a heavier fabric (a plaid perhaps? Or a nice coloured denim?), it would be great lined, worn with knee-high boots – what do you think? Have any of you made a lined Miette? Hmm, might have to nip down the road to TrixieLixie to look at more fabric ….

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You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

trixielixie

Club Tropicana

Hello Sewing Friends,

When the lovely people at TrixieLixie asked me if I fancied writing a blog for them, I said ‘who me?, no, couldn’t possibly’, and then went home and thought ‘well why not?’, and so I did!

Hopefully more Club Tropicana than Agadoo!

 

So, who took part in Me Made May this year? Did you stroll around in co-ordinated and elegant outfits, or did you (like me) find lots of gaps in your wardrobe?  Whilst I am always drawn to a floaty, flowery frock, I realised what I really need are nice basics – skirts, t-shirts and especially tops.

At first glance New Look 6217 doesn’t really jump out – it is a top, skirt, trousers and jacket combo, it looks a little bland but, trust me, it’s worth a second look. The top has only 3 pieces; a front cut on the fold and two back pieces with a centre seam. There is a hint of grown on sleeve, so it doesn’t feel too vest-like.  So far I have made this pattern four times in various cottons. The first was a little snug on the bust so using good old kitchen greaseproof paper I traced the front piece and did a FBA, following the tutorial on the Curvy Sewing Collective website.

I made this top in a lovely Moda cotton that I bought from the TrixieLixie sale bin (go and have a rummage, you won’t be disappointed!). TrixieLixie is a wonderful shop in Cardiff, it is bricks & mortar and online. It sells dressmaking fabric, quilting fabric, patterns and notions, and more importantly you get friendly (and very patient!) service and helpful advice.

The fabric is a vivid green, purple and orange tropical print on a white back-ground. I only bought one metre, which is slightly under what you need for this pattern, and decided to make a cropped version, ready for warm summer days. Perhaps I was inspired by the tropical pattern, and memories of Wham and those boxy, cropped tops we wore in the early 80s, with high waisted jeans, trying to look like the girls in Bananarama! I merely folded my pattern pieces at the lengthen/shorten line and pinned onto the fabric before cutting out. I think I shortened it so it was 17” from neckline to front hem – which sounds very short, but then I am only 5’1”.

I had just enough to make myself some bias binding to edge the neckline. I have tried the continuous construction method, but I just end up with wobbly edges and lumpy seams, so I used the joining strips method, which I find a little tidier. I think the binding gives interest to the neckline. In fact, I think it took longer to make the binding than to make the whole of the rest of the top!

The back of the neck fastens with a button, and my overflowing button box gave me a choice of four – so of course, I went for the biggest, shiniest, orangeiest button. For the button loop I used a length of narrow ribbon (I always cut the hanging loops of the inside of my RTW, so I have a jar full of short lengths of coloured ribbon). To be honest, the neckline is so wide that you could probably do without the opening – but why deny yourself a pretty button? Even if you can’t see it!

I overlocked all the edges, apart from the neckline, and machined the seams, I even machined the hem on the sleeves, though I did take my time to hand stitch the hem of the body.

So here it is, my Club Tropicana (New Look 6217) top in fabric from TrixieLixie. A simple pattern, a simple cotton top, but definitely worth a second look!