Podcast-tastic

There’s been quite a few posts around recently about what people listen to while sewing; like So Zo’s post, Phoebe and Egg’s post and While she naps post.    Lots of podcasts have been mentionned such as This American Life, Serial and The Sewing Affair.   Make no mistake, I listen to all of these too (in fact, while searching for the link for Serial I stumbled accross a new to me podcast called the Mystery Show which sounds pretty good and has been added to my podcast app) but there’s a few podcasts I listen to that I haven’t heard anyone else mention in the Sewing Blogosphere and I think they’re worth a listen to.

Risk! – This is my current favourite podcast and I love listening to it whilst stitching away (as long as my kids aren’t within earshot as it’s pretty risque).   The strap line for Risk! is “True tales, boldly told” and is real people, sometimes famous, sometimes not, sharing true stories they never thought they’d dare to share- think sex, drugs and rock and roll.   I love it and have found myself roaring with laughter and getting very strange looks, especially when I listen with my headphones at work and can’t tell my colleagues what I’m laughing at as it would turn the air blue.   They usually feature several stories each episode either recorded at their live shows or in a radio style.

Scummy Mummies – This is a podcast by two female comediennes, one English, one Australian, talking about parenting topics without being in anyway prim and proper.   They usually get drunk during the recording and eat copious amounts of humous whilst giggling about the latest revolting item they have found in the depths of their handbags, deposited by a small sticky child.   This is not the Annabel Karmel of parenting, with perfectly coiffed and preened mothers and children in spotless homes and ponies in the garden; it’s real life and they talk frankly about what it’s really like to be a parent in a hilarious way.

Story Worthy – This is another Story telling podcast usually featuring one story per episode, padded out either side with witty conversations between the two hosts as their weekly guests.   I’m really enjoying story telling poscasts at the moment and Story Worthy is no exception.   It used to be my favourite podcast until I was introduced to Risk! via an episode of Story Worthy.   I sometimes find the witty banter before and after the story to be just too much and I wish they’d pack in more stories instead.

Sex Nerd Sandra – This choice of podcast may reveal more about me than I care to, but nevermind, I’ve never been easily embarassed.   This podcast is a sex-positive podcast exploring different areas of our sexuality, some of the recent topics being “sex and disability”, “Asexuality 101”, “Mulitple Orgasms” and “Sex and Depression”.   I find it a fascinating, often funny, listen and the host, Sandra, is a sex educator whom is honest, funny and warm.   I’m a firm believer that natural functions of our body, including sex and reproduction, are not things that we should not shy away talking about and should not be taboo or embarassing.   This podcast may not be for everyone, and I’m sure I’ll get some very interesting traffic having mentionned it, but I think it’s worth exploring for the open-minded.

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Sewing Machine Review

I came in to a small amount of money recently and I decided, as this is unlikely to happen again in the foreseeable future, to upgrade my sewing machine.   I’ve had my new baby for a few weeks now so she has been given a good testing, so I thought I’d write about both of my machines- the basic model and the all-singing, all-dancing beast.

I originally bought myself a sewing machine two years ago, after borrowing a colleague’s to make a fancy dress outfit and falling back in love with stitching.  Although I didn’t buy an expensive model, The Brother LS14, it was a considerable outlay at that time as finances were tight.   Therefore my husband made me swear that I would use it at least once a week for 6 weeks.   It was that challenge that started me down the slippery rabbit hole of sewing obsession.

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This machine claims to have 14 stitch options but several of them are different lengths of straight stitch, or widths of zig-zag.   Having said that I never found myself lacking the stitch type I needed for all of the projects I made over 2 years.   There was a silly moment, bourne out of my lack of sewing experience at the time, when I returned my machine to the shop and got a replacement as I thought the tension dials had become faulty.   What I realised later was that this was not the case- it had just been skipping stitches as I hadn’t used the correct combination of needle, thread, tension and fabric.   However, the replacement of the machine did mean that I had a new screwdriver, having lost mine early on under the sofa somewhere.

This machine tackled everything I asked of it and I never had any troubles with it.   The only reason I changed was that my sewing abilities had improved and I wanted a machine with options of different settings that the Brother didn’t have.

When the time came to upgrade I ummed and ahhed for a while and finally settled on this beauty, the Janome DKS100. What a difference this has made to my life.   Not only does it have the option to backstitch, it also has a built in locking stitch and a pre-programmed stitch that automatically does the locking stitch at the beginning and end of the seams for you.   Utter genius as I so often forget to backstitch at the beginning.   When you take your foot off the pedal it automatically stops in the needle down position and there is a handy button to lower the needle before you start stitching- No more fiddling around with the hand wheel- in fact I don’t think I’ve touched that since I bought it.
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The foot control my Janome came with initially was faulty- it was trying to run off with itself when my foot wasn’t on the pedal.   I realised this halfway through making a skirt and Tobi asked how on earth I was going to complete my project. “Easy peasey” I responded and unplugged the foot control and used the start/stop button and the speed control to finish my garment.

There’s so many features of this machine that I love but what I didn’t really expect was that it would make sewing so much easier, smoother and quieter.   My four-year old son, Eli, hates loud noises- he can’t stand it when I get the overlocker out, but he doesn’t even comment when the Janome comes out.   It’s so quiet you can easily have a conversation whilst stitching and I definitely can’t say that for the overlocker.

Obviously I haven’t tried every sewing machine on the market but I can say that I love my Janome and I’m so pleased about the decision I made.   I keep my fingers crossed for many more years of easy sewing.

 

Disclaimer: I was not asked to review these machines by anyone and the opinions are all my own.   The Brother LS14 is available from other sites but the one I have included is NOT an affiliate link.

Me-made May 2015 Part 2

Well, I made it. Although I sort of cheated on day 31, but more of that later. If your memory is as fleeting as mine I shall remind you that I pledged you wear at least one me-made item every day during the month of May. My unofficial hope was that I would do this with no repeats; or if I did repeat a garment it would be with another previous unworn item.

So here’s the run down from the second half of May.

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I had some issues with my collage app this evening and couldn’t figure out getting the numbers on- technology fails me late on a Sunday evening. I’ll just go clockwise from top left.

Spit up and Stilettos Atalie top with Closet Case files Ginger Jeans, Colette Patterns Meringue skirt with RTW t-shirt and cardi, silk tee from the second Great British Sewing Bee book and my daughter wearing leggings and a Burdastyle dress.

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Tunic from a Prima magazine and self-drafted leggings. Top right needs a special mention as the skirt is one of my early makes which I made for my father-in-law’s funeral. I wore it on the two year anniversary of his death. Worn with grey Deer and Doe plantain top. Burdastyle Culottes and RTW top and gingham shirtwaist dress from Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing.

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Self-drafted sweatshirt skirt and RTW tee, oversized Burdastyle raglan sweatshirt with experimental lace overlays, By Hand London Anna dress and a new make- the wrap dress from Gertie Sews vintage casual.

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Burdastyle Palazzo trousers with a Portrait blouse from Gertie’s book for better sewing, Colette patterns Sorbetto top with mini version of easy knit pencil skirt from Gertie Sews vintage casual, Capri trousers from the third Great British Sewing Bee book and a Plantain top and my Ginger jeans again.

I cheated a bit on day 31 (capri trousers) because, although unique me-made remained in my wardrobe, none of them are particularly wearable, mainly due to fitting issues. These sadly need to be pulled out and passed on to better homes. So on day 31 I sewed up the Capri trousers, having been working on the fitting since the previous weekend. Being only 4 pattern pieces they sew up really quickly so I chucked them on and snapped my selfie mid-afternoon. However I quickly took them off again because I haven’t got the fitting quite right and they’re still a bit gapey at the back. I can’t make up my mind whether to unpick the facing and take in the back darts. I may just perfect the fit in the next pair.

Anyway, I didn’t find any massive wardrobe holes. My Burdastyle sweatshirt was made a little while ago to fill the casual lounging around the house hole. My work wardrobe had dresses and co-ordinating separates. I have a few cardis but I’m missing slightly smarter outer layers. With that in mind I have just ordered the Grainline Morris blazer pattern and the Moss mini just because. I’ve been after a stable knit blazer for ages, so I’m excited about my first steps into outer-ish wear!!

#sewingdares & Me-made May 2015

So apparently the emergency resuscitation the blog received back in February was not sufficient to keep the momentum going. So this time for motivation I’ve turned to Sewing Dares that Gillian is running over at Crafting a Rainbow. I asked for a dare and she very perceptivly dared me to blog about my current instagram feed and what I’ve been up to lately.   What have I come to where I have to be dared to blog! Ha ha!

Anyway, not being one to shirk on a dare here goes. If u follow me on instagram you can’t have failed to notice that I’m taking part in Me-made May again this year. Last year my Me-made wardrobe was considerably smaller than currently so I’ve upped my game this year and pledged to wear at least one me-made a day. I didn’t officially pledge no repeats but I’m aiming to only repeat items with another garment that hasn’t already been worn. So here’s the run down.

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1. Colette Patterns Meringue skirt (unblogged but one of my favourites- made from Charity shop wool plaid that cost me £1 and pleather hem facing), Burdastyle Wrap top (unblogged and rarely worn as it’s uncomfortable).

2. Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans in stretch cotton twill from Croft Mill

3. Gertie Sews Vintage casual easy knit pencil skirt in Scuba knit from Minerva crafts.

4. Second pair of Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans worn with Cotton Shell top from the third Great British Sewing Bee book
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5. Repeat of the cotton shell top from the third Great British Sewing Bee book, black mini skirt version of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual easy knit pencil skirt.
6. Prima magazine easy dress/tunic and Drapey Knit Cardi from the third GBSB book.
7. Dr. Who Emery dress by Christine Haynes.
8. One piece scoop neck tee from Drape Drape 2

 

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9. Drapey Knit Dress from the third GBSB book
10. Ginger Jeans repeat with Cotton version of the silk woven tee from the third GBSB book.
11. Colette patterns Rooibos dress in lovely Batik from Croft Mill.
12. Maxi skirt refashioned from an RTW dress, Drapey cardi from GBSB book three in a stretch lace.

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13. Burdastyle cowl neck sleeveless top, skirt hacked from free Garden party dress pattern by Honigdesign.
14. RTW pencil skirt with silk woven tee from second GBSB book.
15.By Hand London Anna hack with midriff panel and gathered skirt in the most amazing cow fabric from Makower
16. Deer and Doe Plantain hack/ mock lady skater dress

There’s a good number of garments there that haven’t been blogged. Gillian also dared me to make a pair of Ginger jeans and blog the fit. You’ll see above that I’ve already made two pairs, I just haven’t got round to taking pictures and writing posts. I will do asap.

The rest of May will be rounded up at the end of the month. This is probably the challenging part as I’ve worked through my recent and favourite makes in the first part of the month. There’s still a few beauties in the wardrobe to pull out though so keep your eyes peeled.

So, take that #sewingdares!

Seamstress Erin: Monsterwear Pattern Testing

I have been following Seamstress Erin  for quite a while now and when I saw that she was starting a line of patterns and needed testers I jumped at the chance.   I love Erin’s quirky sense of style and was sure that whatever patterns she produced would be fun to make and wear.

So I volunteered as a tester and before I knew it the amazing Monsterwear hood and mittens pattern pinged into my inbox How cool are the versions that Erin has made?

The pattern calls for faux fur or fleece material and I knew I had some fleece in the stash that had been passed to me from Tobi’s grandmother, Big Nana, so I immediately cut this out.   Unfortunately I only had the time to make the hood before the feedback deadline, but I do have the mittens cut out waiting for me to stitch up.

The hat is described in the pattern as a lined hood-style Faux fur hat featuring in-seam ears and ribbon ties.   I used the tester version for my version, which I received for free in exchange for testing and feedback*, and I know there have been some changes to the pattern as a result of testing.

The hat is a really quick and fun make and I got lots of smiles from my work colleagues and passersby on the day I wore it to work.

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It also goes perfectly with the infinity scarf I made from the same fleece over a year ago.

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Unfortunately Maya, my 5 year old daughter, spotted the hat and has completely fallen in love with it and so I am destined to never see it again.   My 4 year old son, Eli, has also asked for one for himself but the only fabric I have that is suitable is more of the same blue spotted fleece.   I think we might look like the Brady bunch if we’re all wearing accessories made of the same fleece. I’ll have to get some fun faux fur.

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I wont go into the construction process too much as I used the tester version and there are significant changes, as I said.   But if you want to have a quick fun project to make, that is sure to raise a few smiles, go grab yourself a copy at Erin’s shop.

It’s Alive!!

A harsh fluorescent light flickers into life, illuminating a stark white room.   Mysterious machinery crowds the room.   Beeps and flashing lights threaten to overwhelm the senses and the smell of chemicals and disinfectant fills the nostrils.   In the centre of the room there is a surgical trolley and a swarm of people of undetermined sex, swaddled in green scrubs and surgical hats, surround it.   Their eyes look worried and their motions are frantic, clearly trying to save what could be a lost cause.   The camera angle moves and we’re now seeing the trolley from above and the patient in critical condition lying in its centre.   It’s not the usual patient, it’s a laptop with its screen lit up in the ominous colour blue, the colour of computer death.

“Clear!” calls the leader of the green scrub brigade, rubbing together two metal plates in his hands, with wires spiralling down to the high-tech defibrillator perched on a stainless steel trolley next to him.   The scrub brigade step back, holding their breaths for the jolt they know is coming.

ZZAAAAAPPPP! Beep beep beep…

A flashing cursor appears on the screen with the words “Loading”.   The green scrubs lean forward, taking a collective gasp.   The screen flashes into life…

“Welcome to Sewcial Warrior” it reads.   “it’s alive!” call the green scrubs, high-fiving each other and celebrating a blog saved from oblivion.

I’m alive!!!!   Sorry for the blog hiatus, completely not intended.     Life just gets in the way when you have two small kids and work full-time.   I will always prioritize my sewing time over blogging time, so that’s why I’ve not been about much.   Anyway, my bad blogger status means that I’ve neglected to blog about some of my makes from last year, some of which were my favourite of the year.  I originally drafted this post to include some of the makes I missed blogging about last year then realised I hadn’t actually taken the pictures I was visualising in my head.   I’ll blog about those makes asap but for now I wanted to say I’m still here.

Vintage pattern pledge

Lets start with the bits I need to own up to.   Back at the beginning of 2014 I joined Marie from A Stitching Odyssey’s Vintage Sewing Pattern pledge and pledged to sew 5 of the lovely patterns I have accumulated in my stash.   The confession is… I made one muslin and that was it.   This was partly influence by the fact that most of my vintage patterns are in sizes that are wildly different to my current measurements and I’m not confident enough in pattern grading to get these to fit me.   This experience has also made me realise that, as much as I love following all the weekly/monthly/yearly challenges in the blogosphere, I’m rubbish at achieving them.   I think it’s partially down to my love of selfish sewing- somehow when it’s a challenge with a deadline it takes the fun out of it for me.   So I’m resolved to not officially pledging to any challenges this year and just sewing my own way in a relaxed fashion.   Stress in other areas of my life is sky high at the moment and I don’t need my hobby to be tainted with that too.   I will continue to drool over everyone else’s makes and you may see the odd thing from me this year that ties to a challenge, but don’t hold your breath.

Current work in progress

I have been lost in the depths of trouser fitting for what seems like an eternity.   I’ve been simulataneously working on a pair of Jedediah Pants from Thread theory for Tobi and I bought, with my birthday money, (back at the end of November) the Ginger Jeans pattern from Closet Case files for me.   I’ve been living in one pair of poorly fitting RTW jeans for an eternity and Tobi has lost a lot of weight over the last year or so so none of his trousers fit him either.   We’re both looking forward to having trousers that fit properly.

Keep your eyes peeled on Instagram for regular updates on my works in progress.   I find it so much easier to micro-blog on Twitter and Instagram than I do to find the time to sit down and write a whole blog post.

2015 Sewing plans

I don’t really have any sewing plans so far, although there are a few pieces of precious yardage that I’d like to get sewn up this year.   I’ve been finding it really hard to motivate myself to sew in the evenings so the pace of my creations may be a little slower than previously.

Hopefully the next time I post the blog wont need artificial resuscitation again and I’ll actually be able to tell you about those pesky unphotgraphed makes.   What plans do you have for sewing this year?   Are you already planning your Spring wardrobe

My Knight in Adjustable Shining Armour

Once upon a time there was a damsel in distress who was being held captive by the wicked Internal Critic.   Internal Critic punished her for every bit of wonky top-stitching she hastily produced.   He demanded nothing but perfect accuracy in everything the damsel did.   The damsel shrank inside each day as her stitches had a life of their own.   She soon became very friendly with Internal Critic’s archenemies Seam Ripper.

The damsel thought she would never conquer Internal Critic and would be destined for a life of ‘home-ec’ style projects.   Until one day her prayers to the Tailor in the sky were answered and a Knight in adjustable shining armour arrived to save her.   He had come from the Far East via the Amazon and he went by the name Blind Hem Foot.   With his adjustable guide she was able to destroy Internal Critic and create the most beautiful top-stitching in the land.   The garments she produced with the Knight at her side fractured Internal Critic into a thousand pieces and scattered him to the winds.   And she was no longer a damsel in distress; she was Sewcial Warrior.

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Do you want to know the serious bit about this make then?

Pattern

This little top is the Atalie top by the pleasantly named Spit up and Stilettos.   Now, I know there’s been some rumblings regarding copyright infringement and spit up patterns but, to my knowledge, the Atalie top has not been attributed to any other pattern designer so I’m going to go ahead and blog it.   This was a free pattern.   I really don’t want to get into the argument about the morality of this pattern company, but I don’t necessarily want to increase traffic to the site either so if you want a copy of the pattern you’ll just have to go ahead and google it.

The Atalie top is a pop-over blouse with turned up sleeve cuffs, polo style button placket and neckline finished with bias binding.   There’s no bust or waist shaping and it’s quite boxy.   The pattern suggests that it would be ideal for garden work where a loose-fitting, hard-wearing garment is ideal.   It’s cute, but not my usual style.   I’m a curvy lady and rather than smother my curves in fabric I prefer to show them off with more fitted garments.   Otherwise I feel I have no waist and look like a giant sausage.   But, I decided to roll with it and see how it turned out.

Fabric

For this make I used a printed cotton that I really can’t remember the provenance of.   I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a charity shop find but I can’t remember who gave it to me, think it was a colleague.   Anyway, you may have noticed I usually favour bright jewel colours and I wasn’t sure about this print as it’s so light and I didn’t want it to make me look washed out.   I fell in love with the little blue and pink flowers and the delicate almost egg-shell blue of the ground colour so I decided to step out of my colour comfort zone and go for it.

The pattern calls for a heavy weight canvas or similar and the instructions try to reassure you that it will work well but I wasn’t convinced myself so went with a lighter weight fabric.

Fit

The sizing chart on this pattern is really confusing.   The range goes from XS to XL but there are two lots of measurements for each size. How does that work then?   You think they’d put from X” to X” but they don’t.   My bust fits the bigger L measurements but my waist and hips hit the larger XL measurements (very usual for my bust to be two sizes smaller than waist and hips).   As it’s designed to be a loose fit garment I figured a bit of extra ease around the boobage department was no big deal so I cut the XL and didn’t bother with a toile.   I just roughly held the front piece up to my body and decided it looked about right.   I know, really accurate!

The fit’s not bad though.   I think if I make it again I would lengthen it slightly as it feels like an odd length to me.   I was worried about the sleeve width too as I’ve got flying squirrel wings.   My fears were unfounded and there’s plenty of room in the sleeves.   I like the cuff feature too.

Construction

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Button plackets!! Eek!   I mainly chose this pattern as this style of button placket is new to me and like to add a new technique to my arsenal with every project.   This is the first step you do, bar stay stitching the neckline, and actually the instructions were ok, although the diagrams leave a lot to be desired.   While we’re talking about stay-stitching, it has you stay stitch at different distances on the front neckline and the back yoke neckline.   The instructions say this is because you trim off the seam allowance later on but I still can’t fathom why they’re at different distances and why they even bothered putting seam allowance on the neckline if they just get you to cut it off later on. Anyway, I was surprisingly successful with the plackets.   I did have to do a tiny bit of hand-stitching on the inside as I hadn’t quite caught the bottom of the left placket when I stitched down the right placket.   Also, the left placket seems to be drafted too long, I had to cut about 5/8” away where it overlapped the neckline.   Although, that conclusion could be due to my inexperience at this technique.   /my new-found best friend, the blind hem foot, helped me get damn near perfect top-stitching.   I can adjust my foot so that the guide is either on the left or the right of the needle, making it really versatile for all sorts of jobs. I was very proud of my nice neat top-stitching.

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The shoulder yokes on this are another anomaly that confused me.   The pattern only has you cut one and suggests you interface it if using a lighter weight fabric.   What’s the point of having a lovely yoke if you can’t use it to hide the horrible seam allowances on the inside.   Therefore I completely disregarded that instruction and turned to the instructions from Colette Patterns Negroni shirt, which I made for Tobi a few months ago, to line the yoke using the burrito method (or shirt sausage as I like to call it) and hide all those raw edges.   The extra layer also added some body so the interfacing was unnecessary.

The pattern states that there are 3/8” seam allowances throughout, but halfway through the instructions it starts referring to 5/8” allowances, even on parts where the pattern piece labelled them as 3/8”.   Confusing and inconsistent, I found.   But I did follow the instructions and the fit turned out ok.

I used ½” self fabric bias binding on the neckline.   The pattern calls for 1” but I only have a smaller bias binding maker gadget so I went with that.   I think it maybe looks a little too delicate for the style of the top but oh well, it looks neat because I used my fabby blind hem foot again.

Outcome

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Not really sure about this make.   I couldn’t decide if it was too casual to wear to work or not but decided to go for it and wore it with a black pencil skirt.   I did get a couple of compliments on it but I can’t make up my mind whether I like it or not.   I was pleased with the finish I achieved though and it’s another technique in the bank.

I don’t think I’d recommend the pattern though for the reasons I’ve mentioned above; inconsistent instructions, confusing sizing, poor diagrams and odd construction decisions. I’ve just read the two reviews on the pattern website and they too comment on the poor instructions and diagrams.   Not just me then.   I might make it again but, to be honest, probably wont.

Project cost

Pattern: Free

Fabric: Free

Notions: already in my stash

Total: zero! That’s right, a completely free project.

See, it is possible to sew on a budget.

What do you guys think of this one?   A hit or a miss?