"" The girl who makes things

Thursday, 31 December 2015

2016: Looking forward

So here we are, on the cusp of 2016 and I literally can't believe that another year has gone past. It's been a fairly eventful year for me personally; I became an auntie for the first time and completed a whole year of teaching in Portugal. In a way, I'm looking forward to things settling down a bit more in 2016. I'd like to explore more of Lisbon - I know there's a lot of things happening in this city, I just need to go out and find them. I'd also like to hone my shaky Portuguese.

Sewing-wise I've kept things going at a steady pace. I've made a few pieces which I really love - namely my Alder shirt dress and my Plantain dress (which is threatening to fall apart I wear it so much). I've also had a number of fails - I'm yet to wear my jersey jumpsuit and I made a pair of high waisted denim shorts which never even made it on to the blog. In the coming year I'm not going to set myself any ridiculous challenges (sewing is fun - remember!), but I have five resolutions which I've outlined below:

1. 2016 will be the year that I get to grips with fit. My Mum got me a fantastic book for Christmas called Pattern Drafting for Fashion; Advanced by Teresa Gilewska. I'm going to measure up and make a good pattern block which I can use to start designing.

2. Following directly on from pattern blocks, I'm going to design more of my own patterns. This will obviously consume a lot more time, but what I love about sewing is the artistic freedom to make whatever you want, so now I feel ready to take sewing to the next level.

3. I will make a pair of Ginger jeans which have been waiting in my sewing queue since forever.

4. I will not beat myself up about not blogging any of these projects. I recently picked up on a post by Karen from Yes I Like That about why she stopped blogging, most of the points she made I totally identified with. I'm a self confessed social media sloth - I dip in and out and tend to be slow to react. But, hey, I set up this blog for fun and my sewing is a self indulgent creative outlet, so if I'm not Instagramming or blogging every single finite detail then I'm ok with that.

5. I will, however, resist going the other way and give up on blogging/instagramming completely. The greatest thing about keeping this blog is being able to connect with the sewing community. So I will hang on in there.

How about you guys, any similar/different resolutions for the new year?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Primavera peplum

For this month's Minerva project I decided to go slightly off-season and make a floral peplum shirt-top. Well, winter only lasts about six weeks here in Portugal so it won't be too long before I can wear it!

The pattern is k4102 from Kwik Sew which is a totally new brand to me. From the outset, the instructions and pattern pieces were very clear and well laid out. I was taken through each stage, step by step with illustrations to help guide me through the process.

Following the size guide on the back of the envelope, I opted for a size small. I wish, however, that I'd gone for extra small instead as the shirt turned out to be way bigger than I'd anticipated. Mid way through sewing I took about an inch off either side to get a closer fit, but I think the waist is still slightly on the larger side and the bodice is a bit too long.

The whole thing came together within one Sunday, making this a fairly quick (or should I say kwik?) project. There aren't too many difficult or fiddly stages, with maybe the neckband being an exception, but nothing a moderately confident sewist can't overcome.

I used some lovely floral cotton from Minerva which was really easy to handle and pressed neatly. I think this top would work well with a silky fabric too as the soft gathers at the side would lend themselves well to it.

If I used this pattern again I'd be tempted to lengthen it into a shirt dress which would be perfect for summer or layered up with tights and a cardi for winter. Overall, though, I'd definitely go back to Kwik Sew patterns again, I'd just have to remember to go a size smaller!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Simple pleasures

This post is looong overdue. While I've been sewing at a steady pace over the past few months, I've been getting behind on my blogging. In fact, it's been difficult keeping up to date with the blogging world in general as I never seem to have any time. That makes me sound awfully important and busy - the truth is I don't think I'm any busier than I was last year, I'm just not using my time very efficiently. I make To Do lists every day but other things always distract me and I end up procrastinating for ages... do you ever have that problem?

Anyway, like I said, my sewing's been progressing steadily and I've managed to churn out a couple of key items. This winter I've decided to really examine my wardrobe  and work out why I wear some things while others get thrown to the back of the wardrobe. The objective here is to reduce the amount I waste on clothes - that's time and money. We'll call it mindful making. What I've realised is that I'm very sensitive to the details in things. If something's the wrong length, too tight, too baggy, slightly misshapen, I find that I can't feel comfortable in it, especially if I've made it myself. And that's the key here: comfort. 

So, while on my closet crussade I spent some time going through the clothes I already have and found that I had space for a few basic items: a work skirt, work trousers and a jersey dress. A lot of my wardrobe revolves around my smart-casual work style so these pieces were pretty essential. Today, I'm starting with my jersey dress, which I have to say, has got a huge amount of wear already. 

I used the Deer and Doe Plantain T-shirt pattern which I lengthend into a dress. The fabric came from Feira dos Tecidos at a bargainess 5€. I've now got my head around cutting jersey fabric (which always used to give me headaches) and found that life got a lot easier when I started using pattern weights instead of pins, which tend to bunch up the fabric. The whole thing came together within an afternoon.

The devil is in the detail here: I'm a fairly lanky human being with long, monkeyish arms which tend to over extend most rtw garments. With this in mind, I added about an inch to the sleeves which has improved my comfort levels enormously.

I'd like to make this dress again in a slightly more interesting fabric, however, I'm quite happy with how simple it is. It's a versatile piece which can be worn with most of my accessories. So far, so good - roll on more mindful making.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Jumping into November

When I ordered my Minerva supplies three months ago, I literally had no idea about what I'd want to make for November. This time last year Lisbon was going through a mini autumnal heatwave and we were spending most of our weekends on the beach. This October's been a bit crap though, and the majority of our weekends have been spent huddled up indoors in woolly jumpers. It seems that the Portuguese weather system is just as unpredictable as the British. For this month's Minerva Make, therefore, I decided to take a stab at something I've never made before and never imagined wearing: a jumpsuit.

The pattern is Simplicity Project Runway 1158. It allows you to mix and match a number of different styles so you can be fairly creative with the overall design of your project. I really like cross-over style tops and dresses on me, so I went for View A with the narrow leg bottom half.

I wanted my jumpsuit to be super soft and comfy so I ordered navy blue jersey fabric which did the job perfectly. I used to be nervous about sewing with stretchy fabrics but I've since been converted to them. The only tricky stage is cutting out the pieces but after that they are really easy to sew, as long as you stitch with a slightly looser tension.

Once I'd cut out all the pieces, the whole project came together within a day. The pattern instructions were very clear and easy to follow. Normally I cut a size smaller for the top half but I opted for a straight size 10 this time which was fine as the fabric and elasticated waistband allow plenty of movement.  I didn't really experience any issues or problems and I even got to add a few extra skills to my set, such as making the back tie.

I'm not sure when I'm going to wear my jumpsuit, it might have to wait until next spring unless the weather gets warmer before winter. I'm glad I made it though and it's slightly different addition to me wardrobe which takes me out of my comfort zone. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A green button down skirt

Ola amigos! I hope all is well with you today. I'm very happy to say that I'm back in Lisbon and yes, the sun is shining while I type.

I'm also very pleased to present my first Minerva make, a green button down skirt:

By nature, I'm a very indecisive person. In fact, it's quite a joke in my family that every time we go to a restaurant I have to look at the menu the night before so that I can decide on what to eat. Therefore, when it came to deciding on what to sew for my first Minerva make I was quite over faced by choice.

In the end I had to narrow things down and make a plan. As we're now heading into Autumn, I decided to make a mini skirt which could be worn with or without tights. I've noticed a lot of button down mini skirts on the high street this season and I think I've slowly grown an appreciation for them. I opted for New Look 6346 which I thought best suited the look I was going for.

One thing I love about Autumn is the rich colour palette. I decided to go for bottle green this time and I was really pleased when the fabric arrived - it was exactly the right shade. The pattern suits a number of different fabric types, but I decided to choose this heavier weight cotton drill for the colder months. The fabric was easy to handle and pressed beautifully under the steam of an iron. I debated ordering metal buttons to close the front of the skirt, but I'm pretty happy with the choice I made of these wood-effect buttons - I think they go with everything.

The pattern is very straightforward. Once I'd cut out all the pieces it took about two hours to assemble and finish - a nice little afternoon project. Due to the A-line shape, I didn't have any fit issues and cut out a straight size 12 which fit perfectly at the time I made it. Since returning to Portugal, however, I've lost a little bit of weight so I'd probably pinch in the waist if I made this skirt again.

As the skirt is so simple, I decided to add a bit of interest to the front panels by stitching on patch pockets. These were super easy to draft. I just cut out two 6 inch squares (with seam allowances) and curved off the bottom corners. Next I pressed in the seam allowances, hemmed the top edge and top stitched the pockets on to the skirt. 

All in all, this was a quick and super easy project. I can see myself wearing this skirt with black tights, boots a scarf and jumper as the temperature cools down. It's a good little trans-seasonal piece.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

An Archer Shirt + some exciting news

Afternoon all! I hope you're well and not getting too dismayed by this soggy excuse for an English summer. Yorkshire is looking pretty sunny today - let's see how long it lasts. I've got a little piece of exciting news PLUS a new make to share with you.

First things first, the news: I'm joining the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network!

So what does this mean for my diddy blog? Well, Minerva Crafts will send me a 'kit' each month consisting of a pattern, fabric and notions which I'll use to make an item of clothing. I'll then review the products and post pictures of my finished items, just like I usually do. All opinions will of course be me own.

I'm very excited about joining the network as I first got into sewing blogs through finding other bloggers on Minerva's website. I've also bought products from them and attended the open day last year, which was an absolute blast. My first Minerva make will go live in October so keep your eyes peeled!

Now, for the my latest make: yes, it's an Archer Shirt.

I think I've already eulogised enough about my love for shirt making, but hey-ho, I'll say it again - I love shirt making! The Archer has been sitting in my PDF pattern queue since March this year so I felt like it was high time I used it this summer.

The first thing I'll say about this pattern is, heck, there's a lot of pattern pieces for one shirt. I cannot fault Jenny from Grainline Studios on her impeccable drafting, but piecing together the PDF took such a loooong time. And that's before I started cutting out the fabric. Despite all the faff, though, I can see how this pattern works well for the perfectionist seamstress - the two front pattern pieces are ideal for pattern matching checks.

Once I'd got passed the prep stage, sewing the shirt was actually fairly straightforward. The instructions were clear and the sew along added extra detail to the trickier stages (for me, the sleeve plackets).

The fabric came from B&M Fabrics in Leeds Market. The feather print sang out to me from the racks (I have a thing for feathers) so I knew I had to buy some, although I didn't have the Archer in mind at the time. The weight of the fabric and pattern went well together, although now I look at it, I slightly regret not using the fabric to make an Alder shirtdress instead. I wonder if the Archer is better as a plain or checked shirt? I guess time will tell whether I wear it much.

So that's my latest and last make before I head back to Portugal for another academic year. Time has gone like the speed of light this summer. I'm going to miss the UK, my friends and family but not the weather! The weather can stick it. Adeus os meus amigos! See you on the other side.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Some unselfish sewing

Hey folks, how's it going? I'm grand, I'm back in the UK (in Yorkshire to be precise) and enjoying some respite from the hot Portuguese weather. Ha, I'm joking. Seriously, what has happened to the UK summer? Ah well, I'm here until the end of August so lets hope that the sun comes back soon!

It's been a busy few weeks for me since I got back. I had a lot of catching up to do with family and friends, as well as getting back into teaching after a couple of weeks break. Not much time for blogging which is why there's been a little bit of radio silence in these parts. My apologies.

I have had enough time for sewing though. One of the bonuses of coming back to the UK is being reunited with my old sewing machine and overlocker, which my parents have been habouring at their house. As soon as I arrived, I was keen to get stuck into a new project, which luckily didn't take much time.

My Mum is a vicar. When she's not wearing a cassock on Sundays she's usually wearing a clerical shirt out and about. For ages she's lamented about the state of women's clerical shirts. Her main complaints are that they a) fit badly and b) are made from scratchy, sweaty fabric. Essentially they are men's shirts made in a slightly smaller size. So when I started dusting off my old sewing machine, threading up my overlocker and thinking aloud about what to sew, she asked me whether I could make her a shirt. And I said yes.

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I absolutely love making shirts. I love the technicality of them. Have you ever made a perfectly pointed collar? Or matched up the collar stand and button placket precisely? Best. Thing. Ever.

We started searching for clerical shirt patterns in the Simplicity catalogue but didn't find anything, not even in the costume part, so in the end we found a shirt pattern which my Mum liked. Her main criteria was some kind of fitting feature such as princess seams to add some shape to the shirt. We bought Simplicity 2447 and I adapted the collar stand so that it could accommodate a dog collar.

The fabric came from the Remnant House, an end of line fabric shop in Harrogate. My Mum was instantly drawn to the tye-dye cottons (she's not a grey vicar type) and chose this bluey turquoise combo. It's a super soft cotton, very stable and easy to work with. Plus the dye didn't fade in the wash.

I made the shirt in about half a day. It came together very easily and I didn't make any fit adjustments. I overlocked all the inside seams and finished the hem with some bias binding. There's only one change we'd make to the pattern if we used it again: eliminate the back pleat which makes the shirt a little too baggy.

Overall, my Mum's really pleased with her new shirt and wants me to make another. I'm pretty pleased with it too. It's nice to make something for someone else every now and then, although I am a predominantly selfish sewer. So how about you, have you done some unselfish sewing recently?