Learning Free Motion Quilting

While I’ve made a couple of quilts before, I haven’t actually been proud of or happy with them: they’ve either been rushed, wonky or I’ve used ‘practice’ fabric and as such the colour or pattern combinations have made them feel cheap or look unsightly. However, I’m happy to say that this has changed! I can finally say that I’ve quilted something worthy of being shared with the world. At the weekend, I finished my very first, proper, pretty, fairly precise, useable quilt! Ok so I’ll admit that it’s a mini quilt (which fits my sewing machine perfectly) but it’s a quilt nonetheless.

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So how did I manage it? Well, this weekend I attended a fantastic workshop on free motion quilting run by the talented Jo Avery of MyBearPaw in Edinburgh. The workshop lasted a whole day and it focused on the construction of flying geese and on the process of free motion quilting (FMQ).

I found the workshop so helpful! Not only did it teach me how to make flying geese and FMQ, but it really opened my eyes to the importance of precision. I was sitting next to an ex-tailor for the duration of the class and she was so knowledgeable. Of all the advice she gave me, she made a great point that when you’re cutting or sewing, a mm or two doesn’t seem like a lot… however, if you multiply that by the number of blocks you have and you could end up being an inch or two out, which obviously makes a big difference! While it hasn’t changed my slapdash habits overnight, I will aim to be more precise and maybe try to slow down a bit.

Before the class, Jo sent out a list of things we’d need to bring and I thought that it was particularly great that we were given the option of taking our own machines. I selected the fabric I needed from The Cloth Shop in Edinburgh (as per) because they have a great selection of quilting fabric. My only issue with them, which has only become apparent since I had my little boy, is that there’s no lift and the quilting cottons are upstairs. Not only does that mean it’s not pushchair accessible but it’s also not accessible to wheelchairs or those with mobility issues. Not cool. Anyway, it was worth lugging my sleeping, 19lb infant up the stairs because I’m really happy with my fabric and ribbon selection.

Although I’ve never made flying geese before, the workshop instructions on putting the geese together was genius: as well as resulting in no waste, it’s so speedy and easy!

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Firstly, once you’ve decided on the size of your geese (we used a 5.5 inch square and a 3 inch square), you need to draw diagonal lines on your smaller squares, which will act as a guide when we come to sew them. Align your smaller squares on top of the larger one, right sides together, making sure your lines match up.

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Using the line as a guide, sew along either side of the line. This is where a ¼ inch foot comes in handy. I actually don’t have one of these yet so I’m using the standard foot that came with my machine (which I think is 3/8) although this won’t give you as much space at the top of the geese when finished and you might find that you’ll lose your lovely triangle tip. Being new to quilting, I didn’t realise how important the ¼ inch foot is but alas I’ve now ordered one and it is winging it’s way to me! Once you’ve done this, cut along the line to give you two separate triangles.

 

Before you move on to the next step, you MUST press the seams open! I forgot this step on a couple of my squares and it was a NIGHTMARE! Poor Jo had to help me rectify the mistake and although we managed to fix it (you basically have to rip one side open and re-sew once you turn the triangles up), it really did affect the rest of the process.

Place a third triangle like so and then sew either side of the line, cutting along the line once you’re finished. Do the same again with the other one and voilà! You can get four geese from one large triangle and 4 small squares.

And that’s it. You’re ready to place them however you like in to your quilt.

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Once the quilt itself was constructed, then came the free motion quilting, which I LOVED! It was pretty scary considering how much effort had gone in to the geese and the construction of the quilt; however, once I practised and then got started, it was really liberating. I opted for a loopy meandering stitch and lots of mistakes were made, but it doesn’t really matter in the end because all imperfections just sort of merge in and become integrated in to the overall pattern.

If you’re thinking of giving it a go, I’d really recommend doodling beforehand. Jo had us do this and it really helped. There are lots of free designs here if you need inspiration! I decided to keep it really simple though and went for a loopy meander. I’ve since realised though that loops are deceptively tricky! If I thought about it too much, I’d end up with spiky bits or I’d panic (hehe) and end up doing some straight lines. It was so therapeutic though and really, really enjoyable. I think everyone at the class felt the same. Despite being chatty all day, at this point in the class, all you could hear was the hum of sewing machines as each person was completely silent and absorbed in their work. It was lovely and I really can’t wait to do it again.

Although we didn’t have time to apply the binding in class, Jo directed us to her tutorial on single fold binding and it was a real eye-opener and so much less fiddly than double fold! So there you have it. All done!

 Check me with the mitred corners!

I sewed the back of the binding by hand but I think that next time, especially if it’s a bigger quilt, that I’d attach the binding back to front and machine stitch it in place by topstitching the front.

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I’m so glad that I took this class. I wasn’t sure about it for a while because I’m not that confident with quilting and I worried that it would be beyond me, but it absolutely wasn’t (smug face). It was useful to see the accessories and machines everyone else had and throughout the course of the day, I realised that I might need to pick up another couple of things as well as the ¼ inch foot: an extension table, a better cutting mat and a long quilting ruler. I’m currently on maternity leave though so I might have to drop lots of hints and hope that Santa is kind this year. I should also mention that I have major machine envy! The PFAFF. Enough said, eh? What a beautiful piece of equipment.

It was a great day and so much fun to meet like-minded people! Although I’ve attended a knitting class before (on fair isle knitting, which I haven’t actually blogged about yet…), this was my first sewing-related one and I’m totally hooked. The new classes will be released before Christmas and I plan to sign up to a longer course where we construct a full quilt. Until then though, you’ll find me in my sewing room practising, practising, practising…

 

Learning to Knit – Gorgeous Baby Blanket

Although sewing will forever be my favourite craft, I’ve recently started to knit on a regular basis and I absolutely love it. While I find sewing faster and more satisfying in some ways – mainly because I feel that I’ve become more adept as the years have passed – knitting is just so indulgent! I really feel like I have ‘me-time’ when I knit because there’s minimal fuss (unlike machine sewing where you need a fair bit of equipment), minimal tidying up (unlike my kind of sewing where bits of thread and material end up EVERYWHERE! I actually almost broke our Dyson hoover because so many little bits of thread had caught up in the brush and clogged it inside… the man in the hoover fixing shop was horrified…) and you can carry a WIP around wherever you go. I also quite like that I seem to have unwittingly joined a friendly and vibrant community of people who share the same passion and want to chat about it! With sewing, very few strangers actually know that you’re a sewist unless you tell them (“You like my dress you say? I MADE IT!”). Whereas with knitting, because my needles and yarn are prominently on display in public places, I often find that people want to chat to me about what I’m making, what they’re making, good yarn shops, favourite projects and so on. It’s so lovely.

Despite my love for the craft, it’s been quite a rocky start for me. I think it was around November 2015 that I started to play around with knitting…

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I promptly realised that IT’S REALLY HARD! I put the needles away in frustration. I couldn’t even hold them properly so felt like there was no hope. But then I was saved by my wonderful mum. She observed me during another frustrated effort and was quick to point out why I was finding it so tricky.  She opened my eyes to so many of the little mistakes that were making my venture in to the craft all the more difficult, from the way I was holding the yarn and needles to the actual needles I was using (metal ones are SLIPPY!!). After a quick masterclass from her over the Christmas period last year, I ended up producing this.

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Finally! Something that looks like knitting!!! My mum was a prolific knitter when my brother and I were little. One of my favourite memories is visiting the musty little haberdashery in my home town and selecting the buttons to go with my latest knitted cardi (I’m pretty sure I went with ladybird shaped ones). However, as we grew up and handmade clothes fell out of fashion (and we became teenagers who would rather die than be caught wearing something unbranded), she stopped knitting as much and then eventually stopped altogether. I think her little masterclass (and new grandson of course) have revived her passion because she’s now pouring over patterns and yarn again which is just lovely!

For my first knitting project, I decided to tackle a blanket because I thought it would be easier than a piece of clothing. Except that I did what I always do and picked a tricky (but super gorgeous) one that I wanted to use when my little boy was born. I saw it on Pinterest a while ago and managed to track down the pattern on Amazon.

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The process was slow going but really enjoyable. I bought two skeins of yarn from Wool Warehouse (didn’t even know yarn came as a skein!!) and converted them to balls, which was oddly satisfying.

IMG_0896I learned how to add another colour using (bloody annoying) novelty yarn.

IMG_0943Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 09.19.12 …and after a couple of months of knitting, the sheep blanket was born! It’s 100% wool so it’s nice and toasty. I’d read about wool not being appropriate for babies because of the rogue fibres that have the potential to irritate newborn airways with many articles and websites instead advocating ‘baby safe’ acrylic yarn. Pfffft. Correct me if I’m being horribly naive but babies have been wearing wool for centuries and while acrylic is lovely, I just think that 100% wool feels so much nicer.

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There are a couple of little mistakes and this was by no means an easy sailing project but I’m really trying not to dwell on them.  I really feel like I’ve learned so much with this one. I now know how to deal with a dropped stitch, I understand how the wool should sit on the needle (I was forever putting stitches on back to front) and I think I’m getting better at maintaining an even and consistent tension.

I’ve now moved on to another blanket but this time it’s more of a home project and one that we can all share. I bought 25 balls of this super chunky 100% Drops Eskimo yarn and I’m making a blanket/throw for winter. It’s going to be HUGE, which means that it’ll be perfect for cold winter evenings when we’re lounging about the house being lazy. I reckon it’ll take quite a while to knit but I have to admit that I like the slow going nature of it because it means that I can focus on other things alongside it. It’s being knitted in Moss Stitch using my Knit Pro circular needles, which I love.

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Once I’ve tackled this, I think it’s time to brave the world of knitted jumpers. Perhaps the first one will be mini though for my little boy, rather than a full on post-pregnancy adult one!

IKEA Expedit Seat and Toy Storage for the Nursery

It’s Baby Central around here these days. I’m not only a couple of weeks away from my due date and every craft project I’ve been working on is related to babies in one way or another.

Recently, we’ve been working on creating a playroom for the little guy. We toyed with the idea of a baby room, but really, by the time he’s in there and actually knows what’s going on, he’s going to be at an age where he wants to play and we’ll need a space that’s toddler-friendly. The thought of trying to create this while sleep-deprived and while trying to entertain a wriggly wee toddler, isn’t that appealing so we decided to forego the baby room and go straight to playroom.

Putting aside the essentials – bed, somewhere to change him, wardrobe – what we wanted most of all was a space for him to keep his toys. His room is fairly small, so we wanted to be as economical with space as possible and to create something multi-functional. After much research (ahem, Pinterest trawling), I decided to create a bench/seat for reading, with space for a bookcase and lots of space for toys …and that’s where IKEA comes in, obv. I seriously love that place.

We bought two white KALLAX units and placed them side by side, attaching them to the wall for safety.

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We then bought an appropriately sized seating pad from AnyFoam and covered it using Quentin Blake/Roald Dahl ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ fabric from The Cloth Shop in Edinburgh.
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I’ve installed a zip at the side in case it ends up with food/baby sick/pee/other gross stuff on it so it’s easy to chuck in the machine. It’s also affixed to the unit underneath with a few strips of industrial strength velcro.

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We plan to use the top two shelves for his books and then we’ve put brightly coloured boxes in to the other slots along the bottom to organise his toys. The boxes are actually great because he can pull them out and they’re already at floor level, and they’re quite soft too so they won’t hurt him. PLUS, we can just ram everything in them without worrying too much about organisation and they look nice and neat when closed. BONUS.

To make the space look more complete, I decided to make some cushions. I was originally going to use the leftover fabric but it just looked a bit over the top, so instead, I appliqued ABC in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fabric on to white upholstery fabric (also from The Cloth Shop).

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It’s the first time I’ve used my machine for this type of sewing, and while it was fairly straightforward, a couple of bits of the lettering are a little bit wonky. I really should have practised first but, overall, I’m pretty pleased with them. Educational and matchy = win.

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I’ve also made a few other things for his room: bunting, a mobile, curtain tie backs, drawer liners… but I’ll tell you all about that another time 🙂

Learning to Embroider with Dropcloth Samplers

A while back, I posted about my desire to embroider. I gave it a go back then and I was pretty chuffed with myself; however, I was also frustrated because I really didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know the various stitches that could be used, I didn’t really know why and where those stitches should be used and I was seriously lacking in practice!

Urgh, how I long for the skills to do this:

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f863a134fa4fd047c1bfa8a4e202689aWhile trawling for ’embroidery for beginners’ projects on Pinterest, I came across Dropcloth Samplers. They are insanely beautiful and so far removed from the stuffy and very dated starter packs you can buy in the likes of Hobbycraft. Who wants to embroider a cottage scene or a watering can, when you could embroider these?!

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After some digging, I realised that they are the creation of the very talented Rebecca Ringquist and that they are actually available to buy on Etsy either as a one of purchase or… wait for it… on a subscription basis. AMAZING. I heart a subscription! Especially a craft-based one. I immediately signed up for 6 months and opted for the stitch sampler subscription, which teaches you basic stitches each month.

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While I’m not entirely sure that I have the dexterity required for intricate needlework, I’ve really enjoyed my first month of the subscription.

The focus this month has been on couching stitches and I’ve used a great website by a UK blogger called Sarah Whittle to help me. Her tutorials have been really helpful so far. I’ve also signed up to the Craftsy class: ‘Design It, Stitch It: Hand Embroidery’ with Jessica Marquez.

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Unlike my last class, I’ve decided to just dip in and out of this one depending on the stitches needed. Jessica is a great tutor and her instructions are clear and concise.

It’s been a busy month so I haven’t quite finished my first one yet, but I think I’ve done quite well considering it’s all new to me.

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OOOOPS!!!

 

I love that I have a little project I can work on in front of the TV. Sewing, especially with a machine, can be such a faff at times. Next month’s sampler arrived this morning and it’s focused on blanket stitches. Exciting!

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DIY Roman Blinds

My husband and I are currently looking to buy our very first home and it’s a very exciting/stressful/terrifying/exciting/frustrating/exciting/slow-moving process! Arghh. The house we want doesn’t really exist yet because it’s part of a new development and the houses have yet to be released. Hence me being super-impatient. So, what does one do in this situation? Pin home décor ideas and stare wistfully in to space while planning never-ending crafty projects, obv.

Being a crafty goddess (ahem), I’d love to put my own stamp on our new house (when it eventually happens) through homemade cushions, blinds, curtains and maybe some crafty arty pieces.

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To help me pass the time, I decided to have a go at a Roman blind now so that when we do move in, I’ll already know the pitfalls. I figure it’ll make me feel a lot better about buying pricey fabric without the fear of messing up! I’m so glad I did…

I bought most of my materials from The Cloth Shop in Edinburgh and the wood and doweling from B&Q.

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It also gave me a great opportunity to use my shiny staple gun for the first time…

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DANGER!!

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The fiddliest part was sewing the lining to the main material. It was so tricky because the blind dimensions were pretty big. I’m not really sure how I’ll get past that in future. I think trying to use my usual sewing space was a bit of an error. A bigger table and more space would have definitely helped.

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And here’s the finished product:

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It’s slightly wonky but I’m immensely proud of it. I’ve learned a lot and I’m looking forward to having another go. Regardless, I reckon it’s not bad for a first attempt!

If you fancy giving it a go, I pretty much used this image as a guide. However, I’ve since pinned this tutorial. The only different for me was that I used four rows of cording because my blind was a lot bigger.

It was actually surprisingly straightforward to make. The only tricky part was putting it up. We found it difficult to hang it so that the hooks were completely hidden from sight. I don’t really care much at the moment because we’ll be out of here soon; however, I need a better way of installing it for our new home. I’ve since come across this YouTube video on specialist brackets and these roman blind kits. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can also find instructions on how to make your own.

Now back to dreaming about our new house…

I’m thinking of the following fabrics for my next set of blinds/curtains:

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If you decide to give it a go, I’d love to see the finished result!

Black Lace Loveliness

You may have read on Twitter that I recently became a part of the WhiteTree Fabrics Blog Team. I’m so thankful and grateful for their support and can’t wait to collaborate with them in this way! For my first project, I decided to try something new…

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I’ve finally finished my most challenging sewing project to date and I’m feeling mightily proud of myself! Despite the pressures of work and family/friend commitments, I’ve managed to find the time to make my very own piece of formal wear and just in perfect time for November, which is usually my busiest month in terms of social events. I’m not 100% happy with it (I never am!); however, I’m really happy with what I produced despite being unfamiliar with the pattern and all of the fabrics involved.

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To help me get a good fit with this dress, I enrolled in my first every Craftsy class: ‘Sew the Perfect Fit’ with Lynda Maynard. It cost me around £20 because they had it on sale and I honestly think that it was worth every penny.

While I don’t think I’ve managed to achieve that elusive perfect fit, it’s certainly made me think more carefully about the fitting process and I think that the more I practise the techniques suggested by Lynda, the easier fitting will become. It really opened my eyes to the problems behind certain gapings and pullings in the fabric, which, of course, is both a good and a bad thing. As someone who is already pretty critical of her work, I now find my eyes drawn to any little puckering. However, I’m hoping that it will encourage me to address little niggly things in future rather than just say, “Meeeeeh, it’s just a dress. I’ll do it better next time.”

I won’t go in to more detail about the class because I’m really rubbish at reviews; however, I will say that it has also completely opened my eyes to the wonders of Craftsy and how brilliant it is as a teaching and learning resource. I’ve already signed up for a few other classes (spending a whopping £50 in the process – damn my impulsive nature!!!) and hope to try out those quite soon.

The class uses the pattern I wanted to try out anyway (Vogue V8766), which was pretty handy. I decided to make View E (blue one), because I love a sleeve.

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As soon as I saw the lace, I knew that it was perfect. It’s Chantilly style and it costs £6.40 a metre, which I think is unbelievably reasonable for such lovely lace, given that my usual haunts charge a lot more or their reasonably priced ones look a bit shiny and (sorry!) a bit cheap. I was pleasantly surprised when this lace arrived.

15695061952_25c11af863_zLying on my living room floor in my PJs with lace draped over me like a blanket (and snagging it a little in the process) = unacceptable behaviour

I selected the pattern and lace combo for two reasons: Firstly, it looks like my favourite dress from a few years ago which is now sadly no longer with us.

I think this dress cost me £120 from Monsoon and I used to wear it ALL THE TIME! Loved it. Plus, it had pockets!! RIP.

Also, there’s something about this combo which is reminiscent of my wedding dress, which I absolutely loved wearing and haven’t yet plucked up the courage to have re-fashioned.

 

I was really nervous about working with lace but it was actually really lovely to handle, cut and sew. I think my biggest fear was that it would be slippy and completely unmanageable when cutting it but I was pleasantly surprised. It didn’t slip at all (although I didn’t double the fabric up at any point and just made sure that it was as flat as possible). Also, I typically use a rotary cutter with my fabric, but for this project I stuck to my super sharp scissors, which allowed for accurate cutting with minimal movement from the fabric. What I would say though is that it’s pretty delicate. At one point I did pull the lace a bit hard and it ripped a tiny wee bit. I just stitched it up and now it looks perfectly fine.

I’m really happy with the style of the dress. It is a tiny bit snug but I quite like that. I think it makes my waist look quite small, which is always a good thing!

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My main complaint with a lot of similar dresses I’ve tried on recently in the shops is that they’re a bit flimsy. I honestly can’t bear the thought of wearing my Spanx during the festive season so I wanted my lining to do a bit of the work in terms of holding me in and making me appear to be smoother and more svelte. The duchess satin that I used for the lining was perfect for that. It’s really heavy duty feels so beautiful against my skin. My only complaint though is that because it’s so thick and lustrous, it doesn’t hold a crease. This is perfect in terms of every day wear, but not so much in terms of stitch lines & deliberate creases. I think it also makes it appear bulkier in places whereas a more delicate satin or silk would have been flatter… but wouldn’t have held me in as much. Can’t win really.

I really enjoyed inserting the sleeves in to this dress because it had three darts, which I’ve never actually done before on a sleeve. I think it looks really effective! I’ll definitely try it again.

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I left the beautiful scalloped edge of the lace at the bottom of the dress to make the hem more effective.

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Overall I’m really pleased with the dress. It does have a few flaws – I might  have to wear those Spanx after all – however, I feel like I really learned a lot while making this dress and I’m immensely proud of myself for it!

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This looks so posey but in fact I was telling off my husband for not being a professional photographer. Yep, top wife. 

 So there we have it: my first project as a WhiteTree Fabrics blogger, my most challenging project to date and a dress that will hopefully see me through my crazy busy November and the festive season as a whole!

Cheers pals! Until next time…

Vintage & Meadows: Baby Dressmaking

The last week at work has been so hectic that I haven’t really had any prolonged time for sewing; I’ve only really had an hour here and there. However, it’s not all bad because, as it turns out, that’s all the time you need to rattle out a wee baby girl’s dress. This week I’ve made two of them.

First up, I used my most precious vintage fabric to create this gorgeous peachy piece of sweetness. The fabric is Sanderson fabric from 1984. What a good year for fabric… and babies (yeah it’s the year I was born and my husband and most of my wonderful friends). I bought 3 metres of the stuff from a lovely lady who was a seamstress many years ago for the measly price of £3. I actually felt like I was ripping her off but she was insistent. UNBELIEVABLE.

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It was such a pleasure to make this dress and it really makes such a difference when the fabric is special. I decided to make this dress in size 3-6 months. I’m not entirely happy with the top of the zip. I trimmed it but it’s a bit lopsided. From now on, I think I’ll use the Emery dress method of inserting the lining. Although then I have the issue of the arm scythes potentially looking messy.

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Other details: the bodice is lined, the skirt gathered and there’s a peachy concealed zip in the back (so beautiful) from Jaycotts (79p? LOVE IT). The waist seam is encased in cream bias binding to give it a nicer finish.

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Secondly, we have the little floral ‘I like to wander in meadows’ dress (age: 0-3 months). It’s so cute. I used left over fabric for the bodice. It was £11.99 a metre in The Cloth Shop last year and it’s 100% cotton and really lovely to work with. It’s lined with some neutral cotton that I bought on ebay for much cheapness.

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The skirt is also cotton and it’s part of the bundle of fabric I bought from Hulu Crafts last year. It has a slight stiffness to it but I quite like that it holds the gathers well.

The waist seam is encased in a cream coloured bias binding and I used another 8” concealed zip from my Jaycotts’ stash, this time in green.

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So, that’s all for now in terms of my baby dressmaking adventures. I have a busy day ahead of me. I get to see my beautiful wee niece, I’m visiting my parents and my husband’s parents and it’s my wee granny’s birthday. Oh and I have some work to do for tomorrow! Grrrr… I really grudge doing work at home. I guess that’s the life of a teacher though, eh? Sad face.

Pretty in Purple

Hello all! I’ve been a little quiet recently because I’m in the middle of a bit of a mammoth project. For the first time ever, I’m working with lace! It’s really beautiful but it’s so much more difficult to work with than cotton! It’s a bit frustrating at times, but I’m getting there. Slowly.

Rather than have two full sized projects on the go at the same time, I decided to appease my desire for a quick, no-fuss project by trying out baby clothes for the first time. My little niece has definitely played a part in this. Her dresses are just so adorable. I’m really surprised by how satisfying it is to make baby clothes!

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I looked around for dress patterns but it seemed silly to buy one. I did try one commercial pattern but the sizing wasn’t quite right. Instead, I decided to draft the pattern myself by tracing over an existing 0-3 months dress. It was fairly straight forward and it worked pretty well, except for the fact that I didn’t add enough seam allowance so it ended up being 0-2 months I reckon.

The only traced the bodice and decided to add a straightforward gathered skirt. Gathered skirts are really comfy and I think the gathers look really cute with the tiny wee bodice.

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This is the first time I’ve used the fabric I bought at Goldhawk Road. It’s 100% cotton and I think it only cost me about £3.99 a metre. Such a bargain! That place is so amazing for fabric. A whole street dedicated to sewing stuff? A-Mazin!

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Baby clothes present a problem in terms of comfort because I didn’t want any jaggy edges so I decided to encase the waist seam in some bias binding. It made it look nice and today as well as making it smooth. I bought this from Hobbycraft and it was relatively cheap. I do have the stuff to make my own but meh. Life’s too short. I might try to make it one day but it’s a bit of a faff.

The lilac coloured zip is from Jaycotts and this is the first time I’ve shopped there. It’s awesome and so much cheaper than the other ones I’ve bought in the past. I’ll definitely use them again! I think the zip might be controversial for baby clothes. The zip fastner is very secure and no more a choking hazard than buttons but I haven’t seen many baby dresses with zips. Maybe it would be uncomfortable? Hmm. Anyway, I’m really just experimenting at the moment. I think in future I’ll use a stretchier material for 0-3 month dresses so it can slip overhead rather than requiring fastenings!

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I’ll be back soon with lace-related updates…

 

 

Italian Floral Floralex

Warning: yet another floral print By Hand London dress coming up. You would think that I’d get tired of them, but hey, they make me happy so why not eh? Also, prepare for lots of photos! The last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to get some summer dresses sewn for my upcoming holiday to Italy. We leave on Friday and we plan to spend a few days in Rome, a few days in Sorrento (where we’ll visit Capri and Pompeii) and then back to Rome again before flying home.

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I can’t wait! While I do have some summery clothes hanging in my wardrobe, I wanted something new and I was left completely uninspired and frustrated by my recent attempt at clothes shopping. Everything I like is ridiculously expensive!

Anyway, I decided to make a couple of Floras (you’ve already seen my minty floral one and I’ve still got another one to write about). As I’ve already said, I honestly didn’t expect to love the pattern as much as I do. I think it’s the skirt that does it for me. It’s just so floaty and full and it makes me feel really feminine. With that in mind, I decided, for my most recent make, to combine it with the Elisalex bodice, which I love for its lower back and princess seams.

And here it is in all its glory: The Elisora? Elisalexora? Floralex? Flowery prettiness?

Italian Floral Floralex

The fabric is just amazing! It’s the same as my minty floral one but with a white background. It’s a cotton with a slight stretch and it cost £11.99 a metre from The Cloth Shop in Edinburgh (although I got it on sale for £9.50 a metre). Not too bad at all!

I decided to lengthen the bodice a little (by about 1.5”) and when I closed the shoulder seams I took off 1.5” there too. This actually solved a lot of problems I normally have with the Elisalex bodice, especially the gaping at the back.

No gaping! Although this is before I sewed down the pesky zip tab, which have now been safely tucked away. 
 

I think the next time I make an Elisalex, I’ll retrace the pattern and lengthen by 2″ and chop the extra off the shoulders to save doing this alteration each time.

The skirt is so easy to put together and I think it only took me about half an hour to pin, iron and sew the pleats in place.

I’m really happy with the way they turned out.

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I inserted an invisible zipper, which is my favourite type of zip. A lot of people seem to have trouble with these but I’ve always found these to be the easiest type of zip to install.

Although I’m pleased with the dress as a whole, I’m particularly chuffed with the lining. I bought it from Hulu Crafts while back (in the same haul as the fabric for my Beach Emery Dress). On their website, Hulu Crafts describe themselves as:

“A family-run business based in South Devon in the South West of England that started trading at the beginning of 2009. We love all types of crafting but have a particular passion for knitting and sewing, which is why we decided to set up this shop.”

I have to say that this was most definitely my experience. They were a little short of one of the fabrics I ordered and got in touch immediately with a range of solutions. In the end, they refunded me the price of the shortage and were very apologetic. As well as this, postage was free and my fabric arrived very promptly and well packaged. I’ll definitely use them again. Anyway, the fabric I used for my lining was a Moda Bella cotton in ‘Baby Blue’. It cost £7 a metre and, to be honest, this is more than I would normally spend. I actually intended to use it as the main fabric for a dress but couldn’t decide which style to make to avoid it looking pyjama-esque. It feels lovely to the touch and I think it goes perfectly with the pinks of the floral fabric, so I decided to use it for the lining. It was a dream to sew with.

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I topstitched around the neckline at the front and back to ensure that the lining didn’t peak out.

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I’m also particularly chuffed because I think the lining looks so neat. I’m really making a more concerted effort to make the innards of my clothes neater, simply because it makes me smile and it makes me want to wear them more! So, I pinked the seams inside as always, I secured the lining of the Elisalex bodice using the method suggested with the Flora dress and then I blind-stitched it down to give a flawless finish. It’s so pretty!

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I used a beautiful thread to sew the lining. I don’t know too much about it other than my friend’s granny, who used to be a seamstress, gave it to me along with a pile of other half-used, vintage threads.

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It is a 100% cotton thread made by a company called Molnlycke. From what I’ve read, it seems like it dates back to the 1970s or 1980s but I could be wrong. Regardless, it was lovely to sew with and it matched the lining perfectly!

My only regret of the project is that I didn’t pay more attention to matching up the pattern. I had the exact amount of fabric I needed and so couldn’t be too choosy, but next time I’ll make more of an effort with this!

Italian Floral Floralex

And that’s it for my lovely floral Elisalex-Flora mash up. I really love it and can’t wait to wear it to sip wine and eat pizza in Rome and Sorrento. Perhaps it would look good aboard a wonderful (terrifying? no way would ours look like this) boat en route to Capri…

Before I go I must apologise for this post being so long but Fiona at Diary of a Chainstitcher is technically to blame. I came across a super helpful post by her in which she details 5 things she wishes she’d known when she first started sewing. She suggested that new sewists keep a sewing journal to keep tabs on their projects and the things they did throughout and that’s exactly what I’ve started to do. I’ve even included swatches of the fabric I used. So that’s why this post is so detailed! It’s really been so helpful and I think it will come in handy the next time I sew these patterns!

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Oh and I hope this wasn’t too photo heavy for you all! Until next time…

Embroidery will be the end of me…

Argh, embroidery is bloody tough! I’ve been thinking about learning for a while but today I decided to suck it up and buy an embroidery hoop and some thread. By the way, did you all know that teachers get 10% off in Hobbycraft if you can show school related photo ID? Slow hand clap, Hobbycraft. Anyway, I bought the hoop and thread and I’ve spent a lot of the day tinkering with them (trying out various stitches and such like) and it’s so much more difficult than I thought it would be.

I don’t know why I’m surprised by this because hand-stitching is a real challenge for me. I have no excuse other than I’m impatient and scrappy. This is exactly why I figured that embroidery could be good for me though: it would give me something to do when watching telly or commuting to work, it would help me get a handle on basic stitches that I’m sure I must have learned during my childhood but seem to have forgotten, and most importantly, it might help to change  my slapdash, half-arsed habits that undoubtedly have a negative impact on the finish of my homemade clothes.

I’ve been drooling over various embroidery projects on Pinterest for a while now and figured that the summer holidays might be a good time to learn.

(click the image for the source) 

 

Unfortunately (and I do realise that I’m being overly harsh) my attempts at embroidery look like shit and will likely never look as awesome as the aforementioned loveliness from Pinterest. Woe is me. See below for evidence of this. Oh and I should say that I’m trying to make a little piece of embroidery hoop decor (which is such a fab idea! Thanks Pinterest) for my wee niece’s bedroom.

First attempt at embroidery

Ok, so my husband tells me that I’m a drama queen. I know that it’s only my first attempt but dammmmmnnnnn it’s annoying! I’m thinking of buying some patterny things online to help and of course trawling YouTube until all hours of the morning to pour over tutorials*. I think I maybe tried a bit too much today and got too frustrated by the final attempt.

I feel the need to add that I normally wouldn’t post stuff that looks a bit rubbish, which is silly, I know, but I figure that I’ll only get better. I wish I’d started documenting my progress when I made my first ever dress. The progress I’ve made since then is brilliant and I’m really proud of myself for it. I hope I can say the same about embroidery in a couple of years time.

Plan of Action

  • Print off lettering and trace so it looks a bit more fluid and less wonky
  • Work on producing consistent stitches
  • Keep practising the stitches I’ve learned (back stitch, split stitch and satin stitch)

Any advice on how to improve would be most gratefully received!

*I’ll post links to useful websites, tutorials or YouTube videos that I’ve come across soon.