By Hand London Anna Dress Number 2

I apologise for the highly unoriginal post title- what can I say? I never started this blog for my writing skills.   The autumn makes are slowly being churned out and I would like to introduce you to the newest member of my handmade family, By Hand London’s Anna dress.

This is my second Anna, the first being the red cotton lawn version I made in the summer.   I had originally attempted to alter the pattern to have a cowl neck at the front.   I used this tutorial from Craftsy to hack the pattern and used a soft red floral twill I had in my stash, acquired through hand-me-downs from someone.   I think it may have been a liberty print as I’m sure I spotted some dunagrees made by So Zo… for her beautiful daughter, Dolores, in the same fabric and she labelled it as Liberty.   Although, having now checked the post again, the floral pattern on mine is very similar but not the same- must be a Liberty rip-off.   Anyway, I sewed up a muslin of my altered bodice, cutting the front bodice piece on the bias to help with the drape.   This was not a success, there just wasn’t enough drape at the front for the cowl to be successful.   I was too desperate for a new dress to faff around hacking the pattern again to get a better drape so opted to just go for the slash neck pattern.
Fabric

I used this 70’s-esque soft wool (I think) twill which was another charity shop bargain.   I can’t remember how much I got it for and I removed the tags and threw them away when I pre-washed but I know it was probably in the region of £5 and I got at least 6 metres of it.   This Anna took about 2.5 metres and I still have about 3.5 metres left!   I’m thinking of using it to make a button-down shirt for nice snuggly winters.   I did my best on pattern matching and was pretty chuffed with the results, although the waist seam doesn’t quite match up.   The matching was never going to be perfect because of the diagonal seamlines on the gores but all in all it’s not bad at all.

I love the colours in this pattern.   From a distance it just looks black and orange but as you get closer you see the green and purple thrown in there too.   Loverly!

Construction

I hate neckline facings as they never seem to want to stay tucked in for me so I opted to use bias binding facing on the neckline.   I’ve fallen in love with this technique recently.   If you’ve never tried it yourself here’s a link to a tutorial.   I used some vintage satin bias binding I had in my stash to do this.

Otherwise, construction was very straightforward and I made no changes from the pattern- I used my overlocker to finish all the seams.   Unlike the last time I made the Anna, I made sure that I hadn’t missed any notches and I kept the pattern pieces pinned to the fabric until the moment I needed them.   Last time I got completely muddled which triangle was for what. Keeping the paper pattern attached meant that I knew immediately which piece I needed and the skirt came together easily.

This was a very quick make.   Tobi left for work at 2pm on the Saturday and I was just cutting out the last skirt pieces.   I finished the hem on Sunday morning while the kids had their breakfast.   Almost instant gratification.

Fit

Although I made a muslin for my last Anna, I have noticed that when I wear a slip with it the slip sits approximately an inch lower than the waistline of the bodice. Therefore for this version I lengthened the bodice by and inch so it will sit on my natural waistline. As usual, I graded the pattern from a 16 at the top of the bodice to an 18 at the waist and used size 18 skirt panels. I used my previously altered pattern in which I took some of the excess out at the underarm seams too.

This is definitely my best fitting dress so far and now that the waist is lower the shape of the skirt feels much more natural to me.

Project costs

Pattern: By Hand London list the Anna dress at £14.   I’ve so far used it twice, bringing the cost to £7 per dress.   As per my recent Emery, this cost will go down if I continue to use this pattern

Fabric: £2.50 approximately

Zip: £3.20 from Hobby craft

Notions: from my stash

Total cost £12.75 approximately

I really like this dress and, as it fits well, it feels really flattering.   The fabric is just thick enough to keep me warm on the coler mornings.   All in all, a success.

 

How’s everyone else’s Autumn/Winter sewing going?

An Autumnal Emery Dress

Believe it or not, I’ve already made a good start on my Autumn Sewing Plans   . I’ve got several warmer weight pieces of fabric in my stash and the first I decided to use is this gorgeous piece which I picked up in a local charity shop for the bargain price of £6 (I got about 5 metres for that!).   It’s a woven fabric with different colours used for the warp and weft threads- pink and purple, woven in a diamond pattern with four coral coloured stripes woven into the border.   I have no idea what the fabric content is but it feels like natural fibres to me.

I wracked my brain to think how to use the border woven design the best, knowing that I wanted to make a dress with this length.   After a lot of Googling and Pinterest gawking I decided to stick with what I know and make my third version of Christine Haynes Emery Dress, (which is now available in PDF format btw).   I decided to have the stripes placed along the bottom of the skirt and around the bottom of the ¾ length sleeves I’d opted for.   In order to do this I had to cut the pieces on the cross grain and I was a bit concerned about how this would affect the fit.   Thankfully it didn’t seem to make a difference and I actually think the fit is better than my two previous Emery’s.

This fabric frayed like buggery and I was finding bits of pink and purple thread all over my house.   Martin, my kids nanny and Tobi’s best friend, was cursing me when I came home from work one day as it had taken him half an hour to hoover the sitting room carpet because of all the threads that had been walked through from the dining room/my sewing space.   This frayiness (I’ve decided that’s a word and I’m sticking to it) caused a bit of concern when I hand stitched the lining down at the waist line as the graded seams wanted to poke themselves out.   But I think I succeeded.

I got as far as construction of the bodice and attaching the skirt when I realised I had no invisible zips around and, being a few days before pay day, I was going to have to wait to complete the dress.   However, I had a good old rummage in my sewing drawers and came across a pink, scalloped zip with flower cut-outs that I won earlier in the year in a bundle from Sew Magazine.

After a quick bit of advice seeking on Instagram I decided the zip went well with the fabric and started working out how to insert the thing.   Most of the tutorials I found for inserting an exposed zip, including this one from Project Runway, have you stitch the zip on the inside and only have the zip teeth showing.   However the feature of this zip is the zip tape so I had to work out a way to stitch the zip to the outside.   I basically used the same method as Project Runway just stitched on the outside.   To cover the bottom of the zip I just turned it under and stitched it down.   However, this left a scratchy bit on the inside at the bottom of the zip so I cut a small rectangle of the fashion fabric, folded it in half and overlocked the edges then stitched it down on the inside of the dress, covering up the scratchy bottom of the zip and slightly untidy seam.   This worked a treat and, although you can see the stiching on the outside, the pink thread I used blends really well and is barely noticeable.

I was concerned about the sleeves on this dress as I’ve used short sleeves on my two previous Emery’s and these were a little snug.   For safety I stitched the sleeve seam with a 3/8” seam allowance to give me a little extra room.   This was eased into the armscye seam.   These were the best set-in sleeves I’ve ever achieved.   They went in perfectly the first time with no puckers and no unpicking.   I was dead chuffed.   The change I’ve made is not having my gathering stitches on the loosest tension, as most books, tutorials instruct you to.   I find the gathers slips about all over the place and it’s difficult to get even and keep that way.   With the tension set a little higher- say on 2 or 3- the increased tension helps keep those gathers where you intend to.   Also, it turned out I could have stuck to the 5/8” seam allowance as there’s plenty of room in the sleeves.

After recently moaning about an RTW dress I have that has a polyester lining, I stupidly lined the bodice with… you guessed it, polyester lining.   But how could I not team this beautiful royal purple colour with my fashion fabric?

My kids got yogurt on the lining while I was stitching it.

The first day I wore it to work my office was so over hot that I felt as though I’d been wrapped in cling film for the day.   However, I’m sure it’ll be nice and cosy when the temperature really plummets.

I absolutely adore this dress.   It’s really the amazing fabric that sings and, as usual, the Emery dress is perfect.

The fit on the back of this looks a bit rubbish but I swear it’s not like that in real life.   I wore this dress to the Knitting and Stitching show with matching purple tights and purple converse all-stars (Tobi’s wedding shoes, we have the same size feet!) and you certainly stand out in a crowd wearing that much purple!

As I’ve been trying to show you all that it is possible to Sew on a Budget, I thought I’d start showing you the cost of my projects:

Sewing Pattern: Christine Haynes Emery Dress= already in my stash and used twice so perhaps £5

Fabric: Charity shop bargain £6

Zip: Free

Lining: Charity shop bargain bought for me by my mother-in-law so zero cost to me

Total= £11 approximately but this cost will go down if I use the Emery dress more

 

Giveaway Redraw:

Finally, I haven’t heard from Bunty W, whom I drew last week to win the copy of All the Fun of The Fair, so I have redrewn the names and the winner is…………….          Sammy!   Sammy could you please e-mail me at sewcial.warrior@gmail.com with your postal address so I can arrange to ghet the book posted out to you.

The Knitting and Stitching Show and Giveaway Results

Look at me go, two posts in one week.   I’m still trying to find the perfect window of time to get some pics of finished makes done.   However rain and Tobi working the last two weekends has meant it’s been impossible so far.   Do not fret, it’ll be worth the wait. I’ve been pretty productive since I got a dedicated sewing space in our new house.

I’m not just here to waffle at you though.   I want to tell you about the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace that I went to courtesy of a giveaway from Charlie at This Blog is Not For You.   I don’t have any sewing friends in real life and I wasn’t sure who to take with me.   Tobi volunteered but I pointed out he’d have to trail behind me while I bored him with sewing talk all day.   The plan then changed to him sitting in a cafe while I gawped but I thought I might as well go on my own.  My mother-in-law, Jayne, has been talking about getting a new sewing machine, after her last one was pronounced dead when it went in for a repair.   Like most of us, with our different shaped bodies, Jayne finds it difficult to find ready to wear clothes that fit well and so plans to alter charity shop buys to fit.   So, she seemed like the best person to ask to come with me and she agreed immediately.   Yay! the first day out with just the two of us.   Now, I know for some people this would be their worst nightmare but Jayne and I get on really well so I was really looking forward to the day.   Plus, FABRIC!!!!!

Although Andover is only and hour away from London on a direct train, we had to get across London on the tube and catch another train. Despite leaving Andover at 9:46 we didn’t get to Alexandra Palace until about 12:15.   I think the entrance was like a magical portway that induced a slightly maniacal grin from the moment I entered to the moment I left.

I wish we’d had more time to look at the galleries as we missed big chunks- I was too set on the shopping, having been told the night before by Tobi that my budget was about three times what I had originally planned.   We did see some amazing textile artists though.   As soon as you enter you were greeted by the knitted Pergoda, complete with budgies and a birds nest.

I did tear myself away from the shopping to see this lovely delicate head made of thread.   Unfortunately I didn’t make note of the maker.

My favourite display however was the Renate Keeping display with these amazing stuffed heads.

This Granny stole the show for me.   She had whiskers round her mouth and everything.   They reminded me of all of my social work clients, in a good way.

So I bet you want to see the haul.   I blew half my budget on this lovely mutli-coloured dahlia print on the Lady Sew and Sew stand.   This colourway is all of my favourite colours all bundled into one and the fabric feels really soft.   I have a feeling it’s going to be worth the money.

This is my favourite though- The COWS!!!   As my lovely friend, Chelsea, put it- it’s amoozing!   I had to have it as I’d seen this dress by Vanity Project dresses with the same fabric.   I practically elbowed someone out of the way to get my hands on the bolt.   I love the way it just looks like a black and white pattern from a distance but up close you see it’s a herd of beautiful bovine.

Last but not least was this lovely African Wax print.   It’s only half a metre but I’ve wanted to add some wax print to my stash after seeing so many amazing makes around the blogosphere, so it was snapped up.

Thank you again, Charlie, for your amazing giveaway.

 

On to the Giveaway.

Thank you to everyone who commented on the All the fun of the Fair post.   I’m glad you liked the makes.   They’re still much loved by my brood. And now, drumroll please…. the winner, chosen by the scientific method of putting names in a hat is…..

Congratulations, Bunty W!  Please e-mail me your postal details at sewcial.warrior@gmail.com so I can get your prize out to you asap.   To all of you who didn’t win you can still grab your own copy over at stitchcraftcreate.com and you can be stitching up your own animals in now time.

Catch you again guys.

Autumn Sewing Plans

The mornings are most certainly getting chillier and my summer wardrobe is increasingly leaving my cold and shivering whilst waiting in the playground in the morning for my daughter to go into school.   My thoughts are therefore turning to Autumn/Winter sewing, as I know a lot of others are.   I thought I’d share some of the plans I’ve schemed up.   Whether I actually achieve all of these remains to be seen but, here goes…

Border Weave Emery

I’ve tweeted a couple of pics of this work in progress, so this is one that I should definitely be able to achieve before the New Year, fingers crossed.   I love the Emery dress by Christine Haynes and this will be my third version (and the first not made out of a duvet!!).   I’m using a gorgeous pink and purple woven fabric with border stripes woven into it.   There is a subtle pattern woven into the fabric and the warp and weft threads are different colours so when you move the dress appears to change colour.   The fabric was also a complete bargain as I managed to pick up about 5 metres from a charity shop for £6.   I’ve cut the fabric so the stripes go along the bottom of the skirt pattern and around the bottom of the ¾ length sleeves.   I’ve also had to substitute the invisible zip the pattern calls for with an exposed scalloped, flower patterned zip that came in the bundle I won from Sew Mag a few months ago.

70’s print Anna

Anna Dress

Again using fabric I’ve picked up in my charity shop trawls.   It’s a medium weight wool twill and drapes beautifully and is so soft.   Think I’m going to go for the slash neck knee length version and I’m contemplating swapping the skirt pieces out for the pleated skirt pieces from the Garden Party dress I hacked earlier in the year.

Navy Palazzo Pants

I only own one pair of work suitable trousers and I’ve wanted a pair of vintage style high waisted, wide leg trousers for ages.   Following on from the success of the Burdastyle culottes I made in August (yet to be blogged) I decided to make the trouser length palazzo pants in a fabric I was gifted by a work colleague.   I’ve already got the pattern cut for this but got distracted with other prettiness and sewing for money!

Lilac floral Gertie bow blouse- Key hole variation

Again another one I already have cut out and did start construction but then unpicked what I had.  This isn’t necessarily Autumn appropriate but I planned it to go with the palazzo pants I had in mind.   Again, charity shop fabric.

Plaid Colette Meringue with pleather facing

I picked up a gorgeous piece of neon orange and blue plaid wool again in a charity shop (are you seeing a theme?   I’m really practising what I preached in my Sewing on a Budget post) for about £1.   I’m pretty sure there’s enough there for a Meringue skirt and I plan to put the facings on the outside, like I did with my first Meringue and use leather or faux leather for the facing fabric.   However, I won a copy of the Champagne skirt from Capital Chic Patterns through Winnie’s blog, Scruffy Badger Time, this week and this is the fabric combination that won so I may well try out the Champagne skirt instead of the Meringue.

Coral peachskin bow blouse

To go with the Meringue skirt I’ve had thoughts of using this pattern that my mother-in-law picked up from a vintage fair for me and make the dress but rather than as a dress, as pictured, shorten it into a blouse.   I have this coral coloured peachskin type fabric in my stash (another charity shop find) to make it out of (see above pic)

Mauve Gabrielle Blazer

I have a distinct lack of Autumn appropriate outerwear in my wardrobe and I would love to dip my toe in the waters of tailoring so I’m looking to make a blazer  out of a mauve 100% Worsted Wool suiting fabric that I picked up from…. you guessed it, another charity shop.   I think I got about two metres for the complete bargain price of £1.   I’m thinking of a pattern something like the Cropped Blazer from Salme Sewing patterns.

The colour has come out really blue in this picture but it’s a heathery mauve colour.

Button down shirts

I don’t have any button down shirts in my wardrobe at all, and I feel this is something that needs rectifying as they are so classic.   There are loads of gorgeous patterns around, I particularly love the recently release Bruyere shirt by Deer and Doe and it looks like a great Autumn staple with leggings and boots.   Or I could stick to the classic shape and go with the Archer from Grainline Studios.   I’m thinking of using the fabric below to begin with but I may also make a version out of the wool twill I’m going to use for the Anna dress as I have a million metres of it (that may be a slight exaggeration).

Last, but by no means least, I want to make the 40’s style blouse from Gertie’s new book, Gertie Sews Vintage Casual.   Yet another charity shop bargain (am I getting predictable yet?), I picked up the below fabric recently and I think it may be a genuine vintage print.   It feels like cotton and I got about 1.5 metres for only 50p.

Soooooo, not many plans then. Ha ha.   I may well have bitten off more than I can chew with all of these ideas and I have no idea how much I’ll actually be able to achieve as my sewing time is so limited.   But I will do my utmost to at least make some of them and share with you all.

How about you guys?   Have you achieved any Autumn/Winter makes yet?   What are your plans, I’d love to know.

 

 

Edit: I have changed some of the links in this post as I have been made aware of potential copyright infringement.   Not cool guys.   Use the sewing community for inspiration, support, hints and tips but ripping off someone elses work is all kinds of wrong.

All The Fun of the Fair- Blog Hop & GIVEAWAY

Hoppity skippety jump- welcome to my first blog hop!

I was recently contacted and asked to take part in the blog hop for this adorable new stuffed toy pattern book, All the Fun of the Fair by Australian Designer of Melly and Me fame, Melanie McNiece.

This book brings the reader five adorable toy patterns, based on the fair ground theme- there is a pony, a whole parade of elephants, a Lion, a Seal and cheeky monkies. It’s available in paper-back from October and if you pre-order the book through StitchCraftCreate.co.uk you receive a free electronic copy of the book

Now, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this book, being primarily a garment sewer, but the patterns were too adorable to pass over. I’ve only made one soft toy in the past and this was a knitted armadillo. I was therefore a bit apprehensive about my abilities and the skills I’d need. I decided to make the seal, who looked the most straightforward of all of the patterns. I’ll tell you this for nothing, it was easy peasey!

The instructions throughout are clear, with very helpful diagrams and a section in the back for the special stitches you will need in the construction. I certainly needed these as I haven’t done any embroidery ever so I needed some hand holding. The diagrams were clear and easy to follow and also had instructions on how to sink the knots into the body of the toy so they’re not seen- I had no idea how to do this previously and so my last toy make lost his eyes pretty early on. The templates are printed on pages in the back of the book, meaning that you’ll have to trace off the majority of them, as some pieces overlap or need joining together (Mr. Seal’s body piece is in two parts which are joined together when tracing off). This is no big deal though as the pieces are quite small and so this step took me ten minutes, maximum. The pattern pieces are full-size and to scale and also include a ¼” seam allowance.
I wasn’t sure about the make as it progressed but the part that really cinched the deal was as I started stuffing him. Slowly but surely I started seeing just how cute this little fellow is. When he was done my two children, aged 5 and 3, immediately fell in love with him and demanded a version in girly colours as well as all of the other animals from the book. Sure enough the girly version was lovingly nursed into being, before being promptly thrown over our neighbours fence by my daughter.

Everyone I have shown my little chip-chip to (as my children named the seal) have been blown over by how adorable he is and how professional he looks.

whoops just realised my washing’s in the background in this picture!

These animals have torn me away from my love of garment sewing for a while, which shows just how beautiful the patterns are.
If you like the look of this book head on over to Stitchcraftcreate.co.uk to have a look. They also have a large range of other sewing books which you may find interesting.

 

GIVEAWAY!!!
The best bit is that I have been generously given a paperback copy of this gorgeous book to give away to one of my lucky readers. So, if you would like a chance to win a copy of this adorable book please leave me a comment below and tell me which animal you’d make first. The competition is open until midnight UK time on Monday 13th October when I will pick a winner at random. The competition is open internationally. Good luck
Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this book, free of charge, to take part in the blog but the opinions are all my own.

Contemplating a change of career- Sewcial Warrior’s in Business.

I’ve posted a few cryptic tweets recently about thinking about becoming self-employed and I thought I’d share my plans with you guys, as some have shown some interest.

You may know that I am a qualified Social Worker with Adults and Older People.   My day-to-day job involves me going out and seeing clients, either in the community or in nursing and residential homes, to assess their needs and provide the right support to help them meet their basic needs e.g. hygiene, nutrition etc.   As you can imagine, this is a tough environment to work in at the moment with the massive funding cuts from central government.   I won’t go into the boring details but basically I got into Social Work to help people and I no longer feel able to do that as my hands are tied by massively limited resources.   This frustration with my ‘real’ job and my increasing obsession with sewing and developing skills has made me start to look at what I really want to do with my life.   Do I want to spend my days getting frustrated and angry with ‘the system’ and having families shouting at me as I’m offering them a load of rubbish? Not really.   Would I like to spend my time doing something I love, which relaxes me as soon as I get a needle and thread in my hand?   Yes please.

With this in mind I’ve been thinking about how I can make some money with my new found skills.   Here comes a bit of a strange story.   Tobi, my husband, was in the pub a little while ago.   Now, he’s the kind of person who will talk to anyone, and everyone who meets him seems to tell him their life stories.   He got chatting to a group of people and it turned out they were there for a meeting of local people who are interested in fetish and BDSM- see, I told you it was an odd story.   Being the proud husband he is, he started talking to them about my sewing skills and how I may be able to help them with some outfits for events etc., bearing in mind I am incredibly open-minded and non-judgmental and wouldn’t ask awkward questions.   They seemed genuinely interested and Tobi passed my details along to them.   They also gave him the name of a community interest website for this area and I posted on a few groups on the website the next day to see if anyone would be interested in a ‘kink friendly seamstress’.   I was blown away by the immediate response.   I had people asking me to make wedding dresses for their husband to be, cross-dressers after custom garments and a small shop asking me to do some alterations ready for a photo shoot they were planning.

So, the first job I took on was the alterations for the photo shoot.   I had a leather bolero that needed the shoulders taking in by an inch, sleeves shortening by an inch and some embellishments adding.   There was also a military style jacket that needed the shoulders taking in.   I happily said that this would be no problem whatsoever and then as soon as they left my house promptly googled how to do the shoulder alterations (Henry, if you’re reading this I did know how to do it really! Ha ha).   I love the internet and the increasingly popularity of sewing means that you can find a tutorial for any technique you could ever possibly imagine and before I knew it I was unpicking the shoulder seams and perfectly tailored jackets were hanging in pieces.   It only occurred to me halfway through the first shoulder alteration on the leather jacket that I was doing an alteration I’d never done before on someone’s brand new real leather jacket that probably cost quite a bit and if I buggered it up I’d probably have to pay for the jacket.   Nerves set in at that point and my heart was pounding throughout.   Thankfully it turned out perfectly and I had two very happy customers who may be coming back for some more alterations in future.

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So this is the very tentative start of developing a career sewing.   I’m already struggling as I need continue the ‘real’ job full-time as it pays the bills and when I get home I’m so shattered I don’t want to have to do other people’s sewing- I can barely motivate myself to do my own sewing.   But I’m sure this will improve.

We had a round of voluntary redundancies in the ‘real’ job about two and a half years ago and they’re talking about having to do another round.   If it’s open to my pay grade I may seriously consider taking it as the small redundancy package could help me set up a proper business.   One day I’d love to have a fabric store with room for classes and workshops and a tea room/social area.   These are pie in the sky dreams but for now I’ll continue doing the odd alteration and commissioned piece (not just for the kink community btw, I’m happy to do any alterations etc.).

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Sewing on a Budget

I am queen of the awkward silence! It’s been too long since I’ve posted but I’ve been sewing away and there are some posts lined up for the coming weeks.   Meanwhile, here’s my thoughts on Sewing on a Budget…

Many people get into sewing with the thought that it will help them save money on their clothing budget but quickly realise that the cost of fabric, notions, and tools can add up and all of a sudden you’re looking at a dress that cost you half of the national deficit to make.   There are so many beautiful fabrics out there that it’s easy to get sucked in and order all the pretty things and start cultivating your purse as a home to the local spiders, rather than where your money resides.   However, there are ways of successfully sewing on a budget and with a bit of leg work and savvy spending you can have a wardrobe full of beautiful handmade clothing and not have to organise a bank heist to fund it.   Here’s a few of my tips.

Sewing Patterns

The online sewing community has exploded over the last few years and there are so many free patterns and tutorials online that sometimes it feels as though you will never have to buy a pattern ever again.   In fact, it’s only in the last three months or so of my sewing career that I have succumbed to buying any patterns brand new.   Here’s a few of my favourite free tutorials from the interwebs.

Colette Sorbetto top

By Hand London Polly vest

Swoon patterns scarf neck cardigan

I’ve also managed to pick up pattern bargains in the local charity/thrift shops.   Here’s a few examples.

Equipment

If you are new to sewing and considering purchasing your first machine see if you can borrow a machine or try out a class before committing to purchasing your own. You may find that sewing just isn’t for you and it’s much cheaper to realise this before your fork out your hard earned pennies on the shiniest all singing all dancing machine.   If you do decide to take the leap and buy your own, start with a basic model.   All you really need to begin with is a straight stitch with adjustable length, a zig-zag stitch and a button hole option.   The machine I use is this basic model from Hobby craft which was an affordable price and had all the functions I needed at the time.   18 months on and beginning to tackle intermediate patterns, this machine still does everything I need it to do.

There are also often inexpensive alternatives to the multitude of gadgets you suddenly feel you must own to be a ‘real’ seamstress.   For example:

  • Use a kebab skewer or knitting needle instead of a point turner (I always have a bamboo skewer around somewhere)

-          Use a safety pin to turn tubes rather than a bodkin

Fabric sourcing

Many sewist’s happy place is their local fabric shop and they like nothing better than spending hours on end browsing the racks of beautiful bolts of cloth.   I can find this a bit overwhelming at times and I cannot see the wood for the trees.   Plus fabric in some of the higher end shops can cost an arm and a leg.   Now, I’m just learning fitting skills and I don’t think I can work out how to make something fit without all my required limbs.   Therefore, I recommend a bit more leg work in your fabric shopping and here’s my tips:

Charity/ Thrift shops- It seems to be that a lot of our local highstreets are being taken over by charity shops as more an more of our conventional retail moves online.   These stores can be a treasure trove and they often have lengths of fabric that are frequently underpriced.   There are also often vintage patterns in really good condition.   Here are some of the finds I have had.

I find that you have to think a bit more creatively with fabric bought this way as you often don’t have labels telling you fabric content and the colours/patterns may not be exactly what you are looking for.   For this reason, I normally grab any bargains I can find and consider sewing pattern second.   This can mean a risk that your fabric stash would grow exponentially without set plans for it, but this is just the way I like to work anyway (although Tobi may have other ideas and, as previously mentioned, has exiled my stash to the garage).   I would suggest trawling your local stores on a regular basis to keep an eye on new stock coming in.   If you find something that you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it’s still worth considering buying it for use in toiles/muslins.

Freecycle- I’ve posted before about the finds I’ve had through freecycle.   I have found in my local area that fabric doesn’t come up regularly on freecycle, but it’s always worth asking if anyone’s got stuff hanging around that they don’t want anymore and that can be put to good use.

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Car boot/ garage sales- people seem to be becoming more savvy about the increasing popularity of sewing and other craft activities and I have found sellings increasingly bagging up sets of buttons etc. and asking for more for their items than previously.   However, you can still get complete bargains.   Here is my most recent find from my local car boot sale- Pattern Magic and Pattern magic 2 for £1 for both books!   These were brand new and unused too.

Unconventional sources/ refashioning-  most supermarkets now have extensive ranges of sheets and bedding and these can easily be used as yardage. I have made three dresses using sheets purchased in charity shops- the Dr. Who Emery Dress, The Chemery dress and an unblogged 50’s style prom dress.   Sheets are also great for toiles.   Again, look in charity shops, not just for yardage but also for any of the RTW clothes that catch your eye.   With a bit of imagination these can be changed into beautiful new outfits.   There are several blogs that are brilliant for refashioning ideas.   Check out Refasionista , New Dress a Day  and Charity Shop Chic.

Other- Gumtree, Facebook and Yahoo groups can also be a good source for fabric.   If you have a network of local sewing friends see if you can arrange a fabric and pattern swap party for your unwanted items.   Several online stores also provide money off vouchers if you subscribe to their mailing lists.   Shop the sales, remnant bins and remnant bundles online- you can sometimes grab a bargain.

Other hints and tips

  • Keep your scraps.   They’re great for contrasting pocket pieces, bodice lining or for piecing a whole dress together.
  • Play with your cutting layout to make the most of the fabric you’ve got. Fabric estimates on sewing patterns are often an overestimate.
  • Buy the highest quality fabric/notions you can afford and these wash better and will last longer so you get more wear for your money.
  • Set a budget- I try to not spend more than £20 a month on everything related to sewing.   This helps to stop the spending getting out of control and helps you to be more aware of where those costs are adding up.
  • Shop your stash before you buy anything new- there could be the perfect length of fabric just waiting and the bottom of your stash for you.

-          Be aware of your style and what suits you and stick to it.   Coletterie have had a recent wardrobe architect series to get you thinking about your style.   If you stick to what you know makes you look and feel good you will get more wear out of it and your garments are less likely to be worn once and then remain languishing at the bottom of your wardrobe.

 

I think that’s about it for my sewing on a budget tips. Do any of you have any hints and tips you’d like to share?