Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Finding My Place In The Sewing Blog Community

I haven't been blogging long, a couple of months at the most. So far I have tried to be like the popular sewing bloggers, I have tried to find a place with them but it isn't making me happy, it isn't giving me what I want from my blog.

I think what I want is out there though, recently I noticed that one of my posts, the Megan Dress one, had been linked to on Mumsnet, I have had lots of views come from over there so I clicked back through to see what they were saying, now only one lady had actually commented on that dress and it was to say I hadn't done it very well. Do you know what though? I was pleased to read that because no, I hadn't done it very well and that is what I want from my blog - constructive criticism, I want to be told when something isn't good, so I can take advice and make it better. There doesn't seem to be a lot of  any type of criticism about though.

I am not a beginner sewer compared to a lot of even the more established blogs, I have been sewing since I was a child and even if most of that in the early days was  bed sheets and curtains with a few sleeveless sundresses I know my way around a sewing machine and there is not much it does that I don't know or know how to fix when it throws a strop. Even so, I threw myself into trying to grab the attention of popular bloggers seemingly dying to get into the 'in crowd'.  That just isn't me, I have never bought in to 'in crowds' before, I didn't care at school and I don't care as a parent at the school gate (oh yes, those of you who don't have school aged children yet, the school gates are just as cliquey as the playground was when you were a teenager).  So why was I desperate to fit in here online? when the only responses I see on popular blogs are 'oh you are so fabulous' fawning ones, i am even guilty of leaving them in my hunt for acceptance. that isn't what I want, I want people to tell me where I am going wrong, I want people to say 'that would have looked better if...' and 'have you though of...' I want to offer the same sort of advice to others but people don't want that.

So with the help of Google, I set out to find people who wanted the same thing from there sewing blogs and came across GOMI (Get off my internets), on their forums I saw lots of people who seem to feel similar to me. I was more than happy to find that it isn't just me who thinks that maybe independent patterns aren't always all that and that other people are also quite happy to use big 4 patterns because they are for the most part good value and well drafted.

That's not to say that bloggers haven't played a role in the upsurge in dressmaking as a hobby, I am sure they have, just that for me the patterns they produce aren't what I want and the hand-holding baby stepping instructions aren't necessary.  I don't want to do things what appears to be the modern way either, I don't want to trace patterns and mark with a pen. I was bought another book, written by Alison Smith, and while she isn't a super popular sewing blogger (that I know of) she is a very experienced sewing teacher  and do you know what when I read through that book, every technique from layouts and cutting out, to stitches for hems, they were all the way my mum taught me to sew. This week I started a skirt from that book, it is almost finished, I shall post it when I am finished and shall show it next to a skirt made following the instructions of a sewing blogger. I would like to think that you will agree with me when you see the difference between doing something you have learned a book and something you have been physically taught how to do. I still have another blogger's book to work through, which I will but I shall sew things up my way and not hers. Then I am straight back to the big four and will probably buy myself that copy of 'Fit for Real People' that has been languishing in my Amazon basket.

So where is my place in the sewing blog community? well at the moment I don't have one, do I? but I would like to, maybe a little fringe group where we aren't afraid to tell each other something is a bit crap, where we can make each other better. If that sounds good to you please follow me, comment and keep commenting ,be honest with me and if you want the same in return I shall do so.  It doesn't matter to me if hardly anybody does though, I would rather have a handful of honest and helpful followers than hundreds of, to borrow a GOMI word 'fangurrrlls'.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

One Week One Pattern or More Correctly One Week One Blouse

First of all sorry for the delay with this post, it was my husband's birthday at the weekend and I just couldn't find the time to get it written so now after a short delay here it is...

This year's OWOP is the first sewing 'event' I have taken part in, it feels really good to be part of something so positive when often you feel like the only person in the world going out of the house in clothes they made themselves. I decided to use the Mimi blouse from Love At First Stitch as my pattern as although, as those of you who follow me on twitter will know, I was unsure whether it made me look older than my years I hoped that being a blouse I would have more styling options. I was very glad of these options as it turned out as; as the title suggests it turned out to be One Week One Blouse for me. I did have a second version of the blouse that I had whipped up from a lovely white scarf with pink and blue spots but seeing as it wasn't fabric straight from the bolt I decided it didn't need pre-washing - never do that. I think the least said the better about the mess it made in the washing machine both of itself and the school uniforms the better.

Right then I suppose the only way to record the week is by showing the photo's, all, I'm afraid taken with the smartphone and a mirror method but you get the idea.

Day One; Nice and simple, blouse buttoned up with jeans. I was really comfortable in this outfit and didn't think it looked bad at all.

Day Two;

Seeing as this week has been lovely and warm I decided to see if Mimi would be suitable for my favourite ever blouse and jeans look. I think it worked but at 31 I think I might be starting to get a little bit old to carry it off. Cropped jeans and shirt tied under bust.

Day Three;

Today I decided to make a change from trousers so went for a skirt, the blouse tucked smartly into a black skirt was, I think, my favourite look from the week. I can see me wearing this outfit as it gets a bit colder with thick wine coloured tights and black ankle boots.

Day Four:

Back to trousers, this time not jeans but my casual black trousers (I call them casual but the are actually demoted workwear) and to make a change I tried the blouse as a jacket open over a vest, I thought this actually looked really nice but the photo doesn't do it justice.

Day Five:

Having felt the blouse worked well as a light jacket I decided to go for it over a dress, I will be honest and say that probably wasn't the best idea I have ever had. I felt in this case the blouse confirmed my fears for it and I did look - just a little bit- like my Nan. Looking back at the photo now though it doesn't actually look as bad I as I felt it did.

Days Six and Seven:

As bad as it is to say this by the time I had worn the blouse for five days in a row I had no idea how to style it differently. So the final two days I did exactly the same thing, nice and simple with the blouse tucked into black trousers.

Looking back over my week it certainly changed my view of the blouse and think it will probably become quite a staple in my wardrobe. I shall probably make another one, maybe two, Thinking about the day I wore it over a vest got me wondering about a chiffon version to wear done up over vests and camisoles as this is a look I wear quite a lot - not sure about sewing with chiffon though. 

It has been great to be involved in this event and to feel like part of a community and I would like to thank Jane (of Handmade Jane) for hosting the event.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Draped Top from Sew Your Own Wardrobe

Hello all, well the children are back at school, even my youngest is now in reception so I am home on my own. Do you want to know what the first thing I did was? I started faffing about with my phone to see if I could take photos of myself for the blog. It turned out that I can but whether I should is debatable; you see it turns out I really don't photograph well and that in this case the make I was really quite proud of looks truly awful on me.

I really don't photograph well at all

As usual I made many mistakes making this item. The biggest one was probably believing that one size fits all because clearly it doesn't fit me. Well that's not strictly true I suppose,  the back actually looks quite nice 

I like it from the back

 This is the Draped Top from Sew Your Own Wardrobe, the book that accompanied the second series of The Great British Sewing Bee. It is the first thing I have made from the book and their are certainly a few more items I will make from it. The instructions in the book aren't as detailed as some of the other books available at the moment but they are certainly all you need for this simple make.

It was lovely and quick to make, I used a viscose I got from the rag market (I live near Birmingham,  I very rarely by fabric anywhere else). I thought it was very pretty, the man had it in blue on his stall and I was looking at it when he said he also had this orange/red colour.  It only uses a metre and has no zips or buttons so is a very cheap make as well.  The cutting out definitely took me longer than the sewing and I whipped this up in an hour or so, I found it a lot easier than I thought to gather the neck, gathers have been something I have never tried but as long as you make your gathering stitches long and loose, take your time making the gathers even and use plenty of pins to keep them in place it really isn't anything to worry about. There isn't really all that much to say about sewing this top, you just have two side seams, gather the top into the neck tie and finish the raw edges. 

As you can see my bust disappears in this top and not in a good way.

As you can see from the side view it is not a top you can wear a bra with, which isn't good when you've breastfed two children. It seems to push me down and flatten me out not very flattering and it looked much better on my dressform although did pull across the bust on her, it clearly need more fabric there but no more in the neck,

I do have a plan though, not to rescue this one but to make the pattern work next time. I am going to first of all work out a way to add some more fabric to the bust whilst still keeping the drapey unstructured shape, so I am not flattened out. Secondly, and rather more dramatically I am going to make it longer; much longer.

Next time i make it, I see this top, with a few adjustments, as a beach dress. It will be in a similar fabric but mid-thigh length with short splits at the side so I can walk. Best of all it doesn't matter if your bikini straps show so everything will be hoisted into the right place. That will be waiting until next summer though, my sewing plans are certainly becoming more autumnal and I shall be starting to think about a winter coat very soon, although whether a winter coat becomes a reality is anyone's guess.

On another note entirely, I am all ready for One Week One Pattern.  Although it does mean more photos of myself.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Back to School = Back to the Cupboard

Well it really wasn't the best decision I made to start a blog in July as I am sure every mum knows there is no time for anything other than the children in the summer and the only sewing I have been doing lately is the dreaded putting name labels in the new uniform. I am pretty sure that soulless job would put a lesser woman off sewing for life - it's nearly done now though and thoughts turn to proper sewing.

Week beginning 6th September I shall be taking part in my first social media sewing event 'one week hosted by Jane at Handmade Jane (who incidentally was the first sewing blogger I started reading)  if you haven't heard of it you should pop over to her blog ( here's a handy Link ,I hope) but it is pretty self explanatory you wear one pattern in different ways across a week.

I shall be wearing the Mimi blouse from Love at First Stitch, I quite like it now despite the fact the first one I made looked like a school cooks uniform. I shall save that story for next time though.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

My V-Neck Megan

This was a project with a few firsts and it was a challenge, to be perfectly honest when I first looked at the pattern I wasn't sure whether to give it a go or not. Mainly because I don't have the figure to wear the dress as it is designed, high necks always look awful on me and straight dresses and skirts always seem to cling round my middle and make me look  like I am still pregnant despite the fact my youngest child is four. Secondly sleeves terrified me - I just couldn't see how on earth that funny shaped piece of fabric fits into the armhole. Having heard good things about the detailed instructions in the book the pattern is from (Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes) and having a few metres of cheap printed poly-cotton I decided this might as well be my first go at sleeves and if I adjusted the neckline my first go at pattern hacking.

The bodice on this dress caused me no end of trouble, whilst I am sure for people who can just cut out the pattern and get sewing it is a quick make for me it took forever. I started with doing a FBA which was an utter pain, it created bust darts that were nearly five inches across leg to leg on the pattern they were also in the wrong place so had to be moved. this was wear my first first happened; I made a toile. Thankfully, even though the darts were massive,  the toile did seem to fit. I was right though, the high neckline looked awful I didn't have a clue how to go about changing it. 

Knowing it needed to be a V-neck but being vaguely aware that I couldn't change it too much because the back neckline would 'go a bit funny' I put the toile on my dressform and took my chalk and scissors to it. When I had something that looked ok. I transferred the changes to the pattern and drafted myself a not quite right but the best I could do facing piece  The end result of the neckline is better than I expected and not the worst part of the bodice, that accolade goes to <Drumroll> the dart tucks. I still don't know what a dart tuck is or what one is supposed to look like, after four attempts at carefully following the instructions and leaving it overnight and coming back to it fresh for a fifth try I was ready to throw it out the window. I imagine this problem was nothing to do with the instructions and everything to do with the fact my front bodice piece was enormous following the FBA.

My Adjusted Neckline

I still don't know what a Dart Tuck is but I am sure it's not that.
After all the stomach knot inducing stress of the neckline and mostly those dart tucks the sleeves were actually nowhere near as intimidating as I thought they would be. The page of instructions explaining it really helped. You can see from the picture that my sleeves aren't set in perfectly they look a little bit puffy if you ask me; I think know why that is though I am pretty sure I put my stitching line in the wrong place meaning that the gathers were visible on the outside rather than hidden inside. Do you know what though? I like puffy sleeves so they stayed that way.

Slightly Puffy- But it was my first try.

I have worn this dress out a couple of times but I won't be making another one, as lovely as the dress looks on its designer and on many of the other sewing bloggers, it is one of those styles that just isn't me. I knew when I started the project that it wouldn't look good as it was but even with the adjustments I made on me the Megan looks matronly and that is a shame.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Not a post really

Just claiming the blog on bloglovin so everyone can follow me. Hmm

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

That said I am sewing this weekend, making a lovely Mimi blouse from Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes.

Also I bought my first ever vintage pattern on ebay so very excited for that to arrive.  It is for 1970s trousers with big flares not quite my dream pattern but close enough and only £2.50 delivered.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Patterns and Plans...

Being the summer holidays and having two children to look after I am very limited in the time I can spend in 'The Cupboard' but I am full of plans both short and long term for where I want my sewing and therefore this blog to go. First of all I want to get through 'that difficult third post' so here we go.

I don't have a signature style when it comes to clothes, I like a bit of almost everything but I am not very modern or fashionable so you aren't going to see copies of high fashion on this blog. I just want to pick what I consider the best bits of style from across the decades - my dream pattern, if any one sees it , would be flared trousers/jeans that are high waisted, snug fitting across the hips and tops of legs then massive bell bottoms. I also like tea length full skirted dresses with nipped in waists, and the fabulous fabric prints of the 60s although the high necked shifts as beautiful as they are look ridiculous on me due to me ample bust.

An Idea of the sort of things in my Pattern Stash

So as you can see this blog is going to be varied, it is also going to be a learning curve because although I have been able to whip up a simple sleeveless dress for the best part of two decades (having been taught to sew as a child) I have not really gone further than that. I am working my way slowly through a selection of books to work through and improve both my skills and confidence; one thing I have already learned, from reading  'Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing' Gretchen Hirsch is that often the way I do something and assumed everyone else did too is the vintage way. Case in point being tailor tacks I was amazed not everybody does this, marking each indivdual layer of a pattern seems so much more of a faff than a quick stitch through all the layers. I seem to have gone of on a tangent a bit there - you'll get used to that any way back to my plans.

Short Term Plans

  1. Sew through the following books:  Love at First Stitch, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing,  DK Dressmaking and  Sew Your Own Wardrobe.
  2. Make up all the patterns I have in my ever increasing stash.
  3. Bite the bullet and try sewing with knits.
  4. Try some real vintage patterns 

Longer Term Plans

  1. Develop my own 'look' and become really good at fitting it.
  2. Get myself an overlocker.
  3. Learn to draft patterns and make things that are truly right for me.

My Sewing Dream

This doesn't even get a place under long term plans because I am a realist not a dreamer, I would love to be an independent pattern designer, for women like me who aren't fashionable, hate having to take in waists on ready to wear clothes and do Full Bust Adjustments on handmade. Yes, that is my sewing dream, my own line of patterns that just fit fuller busted, bigger hipped women. I have a lot to learn though so in reality just to manage it for me would be great.