Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Making It

If I was a proper craft blogger, the photo here would be a beautifully composed arty shot of my handmade clothes flying on a traditional washing line (with authentic vintage pegs) against a beautifully tweaked blue sky. But I'm not.  So it isn't. Instead it's a quick snap I took on my phone while hanging up my washing on a slightly grey day.

But the reason I took it and why I include it here, is because it helps to illustrate some of the things I feel about making and sewing. I've been making stuff for most of my life - my mother says she was constantly in trouble for asking me to tidy up 'work in progress', but have got back more into sewing when I started this blog over four years ago. And one of the things I've been thinking about is the little buzz of pleasure I get to see handmade things around my home, and not just made by me but by my children and my husband. Clothes, quilts, toys, furniture, pictures, pottery, weird 3D printed widgets... All things that are used but are also lovely and custom made to fit our lives.

So even putting the washing out becomes more fun :)

Friday, 3 July 2015

Just like mummy

Recently I was slightly perturbed when youngest asked me to make 'a miniskirt'. After further questioning, it turned out that she wanted was a mini *version* of  my skirt. Ah...

My husband jokes that I am making her in my image (as we already have similar haircuts) but of course there is a little part of me that is quite flattered she wants to be 'just like mummy' at the moment. I look forward to reminding her of this when she is a sullen teenager, when she will no doubt shriek at me for not dissuading her from matching outfits. Oh well!

But as I had a spare piece of fabric left over, it seemed foolish not to use it. So I made a rough a-line skirt pattern out of paper, just a front and a back piece, plus allowance at the top for an elasticated waist (much easier for little hands, plus I didn't have a zip to hand). And there we have it one 'mini' skirt.

And seeing as even my trusty H&M doesn't seem to have the clothes that youngest wants to wear at the moment (and I'm not prepared to pay Boden prices), making a few summer clothes for her seems the best way forward. I've already made a pair of cotton shorts (below), but in the interests of transparency must admit that this was the second go at shorts, the first pair being rather on the <ahem> voluminous side. And as they were in blue/white striped fabric, did look a little like pyjamas.

I also had a little moment in Fabricland this morning, and bought these two cute heavy cotton prints. After consultation with youngest, the pink will become a skirt and the blue birds another pair of shorts.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Catch Up

So I give up the day job and I *still* don't blog! Must try harder... So what have I been doing with myself?

Well there has been a little bit of crafting. I finally finished off this little knitted dolly (It's from a Debbie Bliss pattern I think) which had been languishing in my knitting basket for an embarrassingly long time. Typical of me I had completed all the knitting ages ago but hadn't got round to sewing it together. Luckily I had the spur of my friend A having a beautiful baby daughter so I set to and dolly was neat and trim in under an hour, just in time for a visit and squidge with the newborn.

I also made myself an A-line skirt, which although I slightly bobbinsed up inserting the zip, does function in an A-line skirt capacity i.e. it fits over my hips/bum and hangs nicely to the knee. I can now state categorically that I have made socks for each member of my family, finishing off some zingy yellow and pink ones for my daughter (well received). Pics are below.

I've been indulging in all the yummy mummy cliches too. Quite a lot of yoga has been happening (I know! formal exercise!!) and I've been meeting friends for coffee/lunch as much as I can. Including meeting up with old friends, which is especially lovely.

I'm doing my best to ignore the pull of the PTA, for fear I never escape their clutches. But baking a few cakes can't do any harm can it? I mean I can stop any time I want right? Right?! I am back being a reading buddy at school and really enjoying it, and at home I'm reading some corking books with Youngest, who's just got the book bug. We recently finished Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield, which I avoided as a child due to the ballet associations (I wasn't a fan of pink), but I've discovered that it's a great book, full of working women, with the three Fossil sisters full of ambition and determined to make their way in the world.

Next on the list is to try and get some summer clothes made whilst it's still summer. But don't quote me on that...

Happiness is a new pair of socks

Quick A-line skirt

Sunday, 22 March 2015

World Book Day Costumes

Our school is one of those enthusiastic ones that goes in for fancy dress on World Book Day. Now, I know the cool parent response is to roll my eyes at being asked to come up with an outfit, but the fact is, I *love* making costumes, although having been a working parent I appreciate that finding time to do it is always an issue.

And never forget that you can get canny and develop a range of 'costumes' which are basically normal clothes plus some accessories. Step forward Charlie Bucket (t-shirt and jeans plus a golden ticket) and honourable mention to Harry and his Bucketful of Dinosaurs (t-shirt and jeans plus... well I think you can fill in the rest). Last year I'd primed youngest child to go as Little Red Riding Hoody, minimum effort from me, only to be disappointed when the school decided they weren't 'doing' WBD that year...

This year we had a theme, which was SciFi or Superheroes. Oldest is really into Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy at the moment and gave consideration to being Zaphod Beeblebrox, but this was dismissed for practical reasons of having to manage an extra head and arm during the school day. So instead we went for Han Solo, which I refuse to be apologetic about (there are Star Wars spin-off books, deal with it). Mainly though, I think he looked pretty cool. He wore his jeans with red bias binding tacked down the outside seam, with a white long-sleeve top from H&M (which I did buy specially, but he will wear again). I then made a little waistcoat from black cotton twill fabric, with a few pocket and loop details. Husband made the belt out of brown leatherette fabric and duct tape, decorated with Sharpie pens. He also made a blaster out of cardboard, and I tried not to be all liberal hand-wringing about my child playing with a toy gun.

Youngest was keen to be Catwoman, and to be honest the choices for female superheroes are a little limited, some of them are a little bit on the sexy side for a six year old. When she was younger my daughter spent quite a bit of time 'being' a character called Red Cat, so anything feline was always going to be popular. I made her a little velvet top with stand-up collar and an over-the-head mask complete with ears stiffened with cardboard. I have to confess that I mucked up the top a little. The zip was supposed to be at the back of the garment, but when Youngest tried it on it was just too tight across the shoulders (even though the velvet had a bit of stretch to it. But when we flipped it round so that the zip was at the front it was a much better fit, and even looked quite cool that way round.

I like making costumes because of the freedom it gives me to create, but also I often find I learn a new technique which helps in my other sewing. This time for example, I created my own bias binding to finish the neckline of Han's waistcoat. And Catwoman's costume taught me some useful things about accuracy in measuring and making patterns (ahem), as well as more practise with accursed zips.

And now that World Book Day is safely out of the way for another year, I can focus my efforts on sewing for ME! I've got a few projects on the go and will update soon...

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Make a Pencil Skirt

So being unemployed does have its compensations, more time for sewing - yippee! I have made a bit of headway with my unfinished objects basket (finished off a denim pinafore for my daughter) been knitting squares for a blanket, plus getting costumes ready for World Book Day. So now time to start blogging about what I've been making...

I made this pencil skirt for my birthday night out in half term. These are definitely *not* the shoes I wore for the night out, that was a plenty of pints on the sticky floor kinda venue. But they look good with it I think.

So I started off by googling 'make a pencil skirt' and there are lots of great tutorials, this one on What the Craft particularly appealed to me How to make a Pencil Skirt.  Then I took my measurements. First my 'natural' waist - bend sideways as if you were singing 'I'm a little teapot' and that's where your natural waist is, seems quite high doesn't it? Then 'low' waist, which is sort of level with your belly button. Then hips, at the very widest part. Then I measured around my knees and added a little as I didn't want to be actually hobbled by this thing (more on that story later). Final measurement was from natural waist down to the point I wanted the skirt to finish, for the length of the skirt.

I made a basic paper pattern using these measurements (adding generous seam allowance) and then used this to make a practice skirt out of cheap lining material. Which was very fortunate, as the prototype turned out a little too snug (translation: it wouldn't go over my arse). So I let out all the seams equally (thanks to the generous seam allowance) and had something that basically fitted. I ended up needing to adjust it again over the hips as they then came out too big. But finally I was happy with it.  I then ripped the seams of this skirt and used them as pattern pieces for my real skirt. I found that I didn't need to add any darts.

The front is one piece and the back is in two pieces, as I needed to put a zip in as my fabric wasn't stretchy. I also planned a slit in the back for walkability reasons.

There is an invisible zip in the back of the skirt. I don't have an invisible zip foot for my machine, and although Youtube tutorials told me confidently that I could use a normal zipper foot, it didn't seem to work for me, so I ended up sewing the zip in by hand so that it truly was 'invisible'. I also machine hemmed, which I wouldn't normally do on clothes I make, because I think hand-hemmed looks nicer. But time was getting short and that red fabric frayed like a bastard...

To make the slit at the back I simply stitched around the seam that ran up the centre of the back of the skirt, up to the point I wanted the slit. Then I popped the seam up to that point with my seam ripper and removed any loose threads.

And there we have it, one party skirt, that I can walk in, and dance in.*

*but not as it turned out, go to the loo in, stairs also presented a bit of a challenge

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Busy Doing Nothing

You know how at the beginning of the year people make resolutions and decisions and all that jazz? Well, this year I actually did.

Seeing as I've been decluttering my personal possessions since Christmas (love a good clear out), I decided to have a bit of a life overhaul as well, which led to me handing in my notice 6 weeks ago on my day job. Now, if you know me in real life I've probably been bending your ear about exactly why I wanted to leave my job for quite some time, so I won't go into the exact reasons.

But the short version is that I'd become increasingly frustrated that I was juggling everything else (family, voluntary work, creative stuff) for a job that was making me (just a bit) miserable. So after discussing with my other half, and due to the fact that we are fortunate enough to manage on one salary for a while, I took the plunge. I felt like I wanted to leave before I became truly miserable - going into job interviews reeking of bitterness is not a good look...

My first official week out of work was last week, which was of course half term, so not much time to think about anything but entertaining the troops.  This week I'm trying to adjust of this strange new routine of time on my hands (between 9 and 3). School runs have already felt less stressful in the morning as I'm just focussing on dropping the children off, rather than seeing the school run as an irritation in the middle of my route to work.

There's been some dull housework stuff, sure, but also time to ride my bike, go for a swim and catch up on my knitting. Plus I've really been able to give some time to some voluntary projects, without guiltily having to squeeze it into my lunch break.

I finished a lovely new pair of socks (above) in time for my birthday last week, I made a pencil skirt from scratch (and without a pattern), I went to a foot-stomping Ska night on Saturday and have seen plenty of friends.

I feel like I'm still exhaling with relief, as my shoulders loosen up with the realisation that I have some time to decide what to do next.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Learning to Let it Go...

Firstly, apologies for the pun in the title, I just couldn't resist it... Even if you haven't spent any time recently  in the company of a girl under the age of eight, the Disney film Frozen has probably entered your conciousness on some level. But more of that later.

I hope you had a peaceful Christmas. Ours was very enjoyable, and although I hadn't made a Pinterest board of all the things I was going to make for Perfect Christmas, a fair amount of handmade festive things happened anyway, now I come to look back on it. I also completely relaxed about the children eating rubbish and watching telly, which has made the holiday particularly peaceful. I've warned them that it's back to gruel and strictly educational programmes for just 15 minutes a day come Monday.

Home-made stuff that I did this year included: Damson Gin (dead easy, just put damsons, gin and sugar into a big jar and leave in a cupboard for months), Christmas cake (easy to make in advance), and Gingerbread Houses (this was a bit faffy, but the children really enjoyed it). I also had a couple of lovely table decorations that were made by a very talented fellow WI member for our Christmas night out in mid-December. As the foliage was fresh it was looking a bit sad by Christmas so I headed out into the garden with a pair of scissors for new supplies. So I kind of made it myself, and will definitely be stealing this idea (and saving the pot & ribbon) for next year.

But of course I'm also desperate to be the kind of mother who just whips up a fancy dress costume with her sewing machine, so I did add a little stress to myself by promising youngest child a Frozen dress for Christmas. I used McCalls Costume pattern M7000, ended up going for the smallest size (3-4 years) as any bigger and it would have swamped my daughter, who has just turned six. Fabric came from trusty Fabricland, a slippery blue/silver slightly stretch jersey type stuff for the main dress and the net curtainy gauzy stuff (shown at the top of the page) with printed snowflakes and glitter for the top layer. There is a bit of lining on the bodice, I just used some grey cotton fabric I had in my stash. I muttered a bit about whether I really needed to do the lining at first, but it really does pull the costume together and make it more comfortable to wear.

Although I started at the beginning of December I was *of course* still sewing on Christmas Eve. All was going well until I buggered up putting in one of the sleeves and had to unpick it and re-do. But instead of stressing like I normally do (well, ok, there was a teeny bit of tension) I made a list of jobs that needed to be done and handed them over to husband. So he made mince pies while I sat and sewed, then the children decorated the cake (with Nana's help) while I sat and sewed. But by about 8pm the dress was done and I could knock back the mulled cider with abandon.

So was it worth it?

Absolutely YES! Smallest child is delighted with her dress and has been wearing it and twirling round the house in it pretty much constantly since. And I learnt a lot whilst making it (not least putting in a zip properly). Settling down on the sofa to finally watch the film on Christmas Day with her is a memory I will definitely treasure.