Friday, 1 November 2013

Pre-Treatment: Not just a delay to sewing...

It is best practice to pre-treat fabric before sewing it up.  There are a couple of reasons for this, the most important of which I think is hygiene related: I don’t know what fabric has been through before landing on my to sew pile so it calms my mind to put through a wash and know for certain that it’s clean.
Pre-treatment can extend to all manner of things, but I tend to keep it simple:
  1.        Obtain fabric
  2.        Put through a wash
  3.        Store in stash, ready for the divine combination of inspiration and available time to match

Generally, I wash fabric as the label suggests.  However, there are times when I will purchase dryclean only material, knowing full well that it will only ever be washed in the machine or bathroom sink.  In such times, I launch straight in and wash it as such – better to find out it’s never going to work and only ruin fabric, rather than ruin fabric and all the time that went into making something I say!

Of course, sometimes I will purchase fabric knowing that I am going to dryclean it – I wouldn’t want any readers to think that I discredit these suggestions out of principle! In such times, I will dryclean and then sew.

Other than the hygiene reason given above, the other main reason I pre-treat is to know what the fabric will be like in real life.  There are all sorts of things that can be on fabric that can alter the way that it handles – I would rather know about these and factor them into the design process.

For instance, here are the results from a couple of fabrics that I washed last weekend.  Pre-treating at its simplest - standard wash and then drying over a doorframe.

This one gets a lot of static electricity in the wash – not sure what I’m going to do about that.  Line it completely perhaps?

This one has a different shape now – so I need to check the grain and not assume that the cut edge is on the straight grain.  This will affect how I place pattern pieces (or how the garment hangs if I don’t).  Grain should always be checked pre-cut of course, but this serves to remind me that this one might be particularly bad (and I may not have enough material for the intended garment - boo).

This one wrinkles a lot so will need to be ironed each time it’s washed.  This means I’m not now going to make it into a casual dress as I would never iron it but also wouldn’t wear it if it were crinkled.

A few little tips from me, Mrs CT:
  • Shrinkage – if there is a lot, you may want to wash it again before cutting out your pattern pieces – it may shrink even more!
  • Wrinkles – does it wrinkle and what are the likely ironing requirements.  Think honestly about whether you would iron the future garment, and if not, if you would wear it un-ironed.
  • Colour – has it faded/run?  If so, what other colours should it be washed with in the future?
  • Static – is this fabric going to cling to you when it is made up into a garment?
  • Grain – is the fabric still a rectangle? Or is it now more of a parallelogram?
  • Timing – wash it as soon as it is obtained.  That way, you can sew to your heart’s content when the mood strikes you.

Image sources/owners: Mr CT
DISCLAIMER – I have ‘ruined’ fabric with this cavalier approach.  I say ‘ruined’ because I don’t really view it as such, given that this approach is more close to my reality than if I pre-treated per suggested methods that don’t match what I would ever do in the future....

Also, I don’t pre-treat some fabrics (coat-weight wool for instance).  For things like that, where the fabric properties are unlikely to change, I’m too tight to pay for drycleaning before and after sewing.  Instead, I prefer to get it drycleaned just after the sewing is finished (and before I wear the garment).

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

(Vintage) McCalls 6798 - Tried and tested

One of the things I like about sewing with vintage patterns is that I know that if I like the style it’s because I intrinsically like it, rather than being swayed by what is trendy at any given time.  This argument is flawed, I know, but hey-ho.
I bought this pattern from Etsy a few years back.  I was instantly drawn to the smart casual vibe of the dress – pretty yet easy to wear and practical to boot.  The fabric was bought online so long ago that I can’t remember where I got it from, but I know it was put in the basket on a whim and that it was cheap.  When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the soft hand and sheen to the fabric.  It then took me AGES to use this cheap whim of a purchase – for fear of wrecking it.  How silly I can be at times.

The skirt is essentially two big rectangles, gathered and joined to the bodice.  The bodice itself is a simple style, with just the right amount of ease on me to basically be a sloper.  The front of the bodice is jazzed up a little (and becomes more casual in the process) through a band that frames the face nicely.   A bound buttonhole and self-fabric button completes it – functional, but not used due to the lapped zip in the side of the dress.  The sleeves hit just below the elbow, with cuffs that ended up being too tight on me, so I unstitched the seam, hand sewed each edge closed (separately) and now have little vented cuffs.  The entire dress is lined with soft, white cotton.  Only in Edinburgh would a fully lined dress still be too cool to wear by itself in summer sometimes....
(No idea why I am pulling this face folks...)
The vibrant colours in this dress make me happy every time I wear it, especially with that big flouncy skirt.  Funnily enough, this must be reflected in my face because people are always so friendly when I wear this.  Doors get opened and all.  Someone even offered me their seat on the Glasgow-Edinburgh commuter train.  Result.

This also works in the cooler months with black tights, patent accessories and a bright red lip.  I definitely have to wear make-up when wearing this dress.  But I’m OK with that.
A few little tips:
  • Sew the rectangles together and hem them before attaching them to the bodice – it’s physically easier to hem the skirt that way, and it’s also easier to determine the length that you’d like the dress to be
  • Use elastic to gather the skirt – this helps with attaching it to the bodice, but also gives a little bit of ease to the skirt
  • Sew the bodice and lining together after the darts & side seams have been sewn, but before the facings, sleeves and zip are sewn in.  That way, any handstitching required can be tethered to the lining without fear of the stitches showing on the outer layer
  • Sew the sleeve lining slightly shorter, but attach the cuffs at the same point (as if both sleeves were the same length) – this gives the outer sleeve a nice little flounce (if you like that)
  • Sew a waist stay over the seam that joins the skirt to the bodice – this takes some/most of the weight from the dress and helps it to hang nicely. 
  • Finish the waist stay with a button or a hook and eye, not a dome – the waist stay comes under some stress (even if a little loose), so a dome will just pop open at times of stress (such as hailing a taxi/giving a friend a hug/dancing)

    The Good:
The fit, the shape, the style.  Love this dress.  It’s so easy to put on, and yet people always think I’ve made an effort.  Ha ha!  Outfoxed!
The Bad:
Nothing.  If I’m quibbling, I’d say that I need to add 5-10 cm to the skirt.  My hem isn’t as deep as I would prefer it to be (in an ideal world) but it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of this dress at all.  Oh, and I’d also put another button (or two) into the front band to stop it gaping (I have tacked it closed now).  When it gapes, the shoulders get pushed apart, which in turn makes my shoulders look broader than they are.
The Ugly:
Cuffs are too tight (on me) as drafted – next time I would either make the sleeve 1 cm longer or enclose a loop in one side and a button in the other.

Sometimes it just pays to go with something tried and tested.  

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Review: Vogue 1199 Skirt – Too Ease-y?

I have liked this pattern ever since it came out.  My original appeal for this skirt came from the tabs at the waist, the narrow cut, the interesting rear waistband and the little hip pockets. 

Whilst on a trip to Mandors to purchase something else entirely; I happened upon some lightweight wool, camel in colour with yellow and black lines weaved in for interest.  I love camel, but find that plain camel skirts are not very flattering on me.  My mind has images of looking like a confident and healthy 60’s beauty (รก la Lauren Bacall); but the reality is more camel couch cushion (which would be OK if that was what I had in mind...).  In fact, I recently gave a camel skirt to the Salvation Army for purely that reason.  It wasn’t making me feel great when I wore it, so frankly it was time to be rid of it.  Donating that skirt did leave me with a camel shaped whole in my wardrobe though.  What to wear with that black turtleneck, or white shirt?  So wasn’t it just so good of the stars to align and show me the camel plaid material (photo below), even though I was looking for something totally different?  Thanks Sewing Gods, you always deliver.

The pattern is rated ‘average’ and I suppose it is.  The instructions expect the maker to understand and know things, but the actual requirements themselves are not too taxing.  It’s just a collection of straight lines.  I’m happy with my matching of the plaid on the side seams (there are plenty of useful notches and lines on the pattern to enable this).  Sadly, I didn’t even think (I know, silly right?!) about doing it on the back seam until I had put the invisible zip in and noticed that the stripes were ~2 mm out in the process.  My zip had gone in well, so I didn’t want to chance removing and redoing it.  I shall prep better next time!

Front - it appears I may be standing with my tummy poking out due to said poofiness.
...not ideal!

mis-matched back, but invisible zipper...sod's law
Funny Face - but happy with the pattern matching on the seams
I did have to give myself a pep talk before making the welts for the pockets – after all, they cut into darts.  Making darts is one of my least favourite parts of sewing (they are such a pfaff!), so the thought of cutting a perfectly good dart is a tad too close to madness for my liking.  But no matter, it all worked out in the end.  I did show Mr. CT the darts beforehand just in case it all went to pot, so that he would be more able to understand why I would be nutting off in my sewing room.  

Generally it went OK, until the right hand side started to fray...
I think I will interface the area next time

The only thing I would say about this pattern relates to the fit.  To be frank, I don’t think I actually know how things are supposed to fit anymore.  I think I generally wear things too loose.  I checked the flat measurements against my own, and found that the size smaller than I “should be” (according to Vogue) was 2-3 cm bigger in key places than I am.  This is nothing new to any of us.  I haven’t sewn the “correct” size for about 16 years, if ever.  Anyhow, as this was my first time with this pattern (I don’t usually make a muslin with things like this) I bowed to the knowledge of Vogue and stuck with my “should be” size.  It ended up being OK, but I generally think it could do with being a little tighter.  My main evidence for this being that the skirt rotates as I walk; which is quite frustrating, and surely not very attractive.  Also, I could probably pull it off if I was flat-chested.  And, it gets a little poofy around my tummy – it’s like it has muscle memory and retains the shape of that area at its worst.  Ho hum.  However, it is comfortable when I sit; which is something I do quite a lot of given my 2+ hour daily commute and desk job.  And that is why I don’t think I know how things are supposed to fit anymore.  It all makes for one confused crafty traveller.

Just how much ease is too much ease?
The Good:
Flattering, relatively quickly sewn, modest fabric requirements.  Our secretary at work loves it (calls it my Rupert skirt).  It’s always good to keep secretaries in good spirits, they have such a tough job and ours is a real trouper.

The Bad:
Confusing fit

The Ugly:
Nothing (hooray!)

All in all, I really like this skirt and have worn it so much since I made it I wonder what I wore before.  

I really should make another.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

I know all you sewing folk will like this

Look what I found on my travels at lunchtime today! I've bought 30cm to cover some shoes with....

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Grand Plans – Poor Execution

Lately, I’ve found I have lost confidence in what I can make.  Not in terms of the technical (sewing) side of things, but in terms of transposing my ideas into reality.  As a result, I have lovely fabrics sat on shelves or lying across hangers all forlorn and feeling forgotten.  They are not forgotten though, rather I’m too scared to cut into them and attempt my ideas in case they don’t work out.

  • Knowing that I spent good money (not necessarily a lot) on these fabrics should spur me on to use them, but it doesn’t.  (Counter argument - the money is really wasted if I make something gross).
  • Looking in my wardrobe and feeling uninspired should spur me on to make lovely things, but it doesn’t.  (Counter argument – I’ll have even more yucky things to choose between if I fail).
  • Recent past successes should spur me on to make lovely things, but they don’t.  (Counter argument – I’ve had some failures too).

And then I read two blogposts that made me feel a little less nervous and ponder things in a different light:

Karen’s post about a seriously interesting and inspiring woman.  That post taught me that even “failures” serve a purpose – to improve us.  This is not a foreign concept to me.  When I was learning to ski as a child (a child that hated getting things even slightly wrong), my lovely (and patient!) older sister told me: if you haven’t fallen over today, you haven’t learnt anything.  I know this to be true.  My big sis said so.  Then there is this great quote:

The second is Sunni’s post about improving your wardrobe one piece at a time.  Looking at all the items you love, but don’t wear, working out why and fixing it.  Seems unrelated, but the message (ha ha Keith Lemon has ruined that for me: Yes, but what’s the message of your new book/record/trash mag sponsorship deal...”), anyway, the message I took away from that post was in relation to refashioning things.  If an item isn’t being worn anyway, what is the harm in trying to refashion it?  If it all goes pear shaped it can be recycled/donated/thrown out (without guilt) because now there is a good reason not to wear it.

In truth, having a stash makes me feel guilty.  To me, it represents money that has been wasted because the fabric isn’t being used.  (Side note, I’m really happy for any readers who view their stash like the fabric equivalent of saving for a rainy day – that’s lovely, and valid.  Enjoy your stash for me!).  I need to bite the bullet and put my ideas into action.  So what if they are duds?  I’ll learn something along the way.

Here’s to facing our fears.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Plain Sailing

Empirical evidence would suggest that simple things seem to suit me best.  The evidence is purely that I receive more compliments when wearing simple things compared to "fussy" things.  Maybe they are just easier to understand.

Case in point.  This dress always gets commented on. Always.
This pattern, from 1969, is described as Simple to Sew. "The button trimmed dress with back zipper and shaped bias roll collar features a pleat below left front seam simulating an opening.  V.1 has short set-in sleeves and welts.  V.2 is sleeveless".  There are a couple of these available on Etsy, if you are interested.

I made version 1, without the welts.  I don't like superfluous design details, and these welts are not connected to pockets.  I could have made pockets, but they would be silly sitting there and imagine if I put a hanky in them - I'd have a big lump on my hip.  Erm, no thanks.

The design is cute and clever - the fabric is only cut wider at the start of the pleat, so there isn't any excess fabric above that point.  The sleeves hit at that most flattering point - above the elbow at the point where the bicep kind of goes in and before the bingo bit.  Simplicity 8541, I think I may like you a little too much.

The Good:
The fit of the sleeve: length, width, height.  The silhouette, length.  The way this feels to wear.  You might know what I mean, wearing this dress makes me feel happy and like I don't have a care in the world.  Nice.

The Bad: 
I sewed this straight from the packet (not knowing how much ease would be included) and it was too big.  Way too big.  So I took the required excess out of the side seams and recut the armscye and went from there.  I shaved off a little too much.  This dress definitely lets me know how much sport I've been doing lately.  By the looks of these photos, not enough (for my liking). 

The Ugly: 
Nothing.  Yay!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

House dressing

In the '50s, when women kept a well kept home whilst looking perfect, there was an obvious need for clothes that protected ones real clothes from damage.  Ladies couldn't hoover in ones knickers.  I would never do that lol, but only because Mr. CT does the hoovering (and I do the groceries).  So, to get around this, ladies had house dresses.  Nowadays, with our loose morals, they are great for wearing outside too.  In public no less!

McCalls 6617 from 1962 (as pictured above) is one such beauty.  How cute is the blonde lady?  I would be her in a heartbeat.  Pious fake Sophia less so.  But we have to give her some credit - she is wearing a dress made of brown domino's with aplomb after all.

This dress is described as:
"Back wrapped housedress with unpressed pleats in three-gored skirt.  Rounded neckline is pleated at front and purchased corded piping included in neck facing seam. Bodice is buttoned at back of neck.  Cap sleeve has opening at outer edge.  Tie belt, included in right bodice back facing seam, is  inserted through opening in bodice left side seam.  Belt is tied at center front; interfaced patch pockets on skirt front."    

Once upon a time, gender roles were more clearly and more uniformly defined.  That time was the 1950/60s.  Part of me (the dutiful, well brought up child of parents who used to have vol au vents at dinner parties and make me kiss all the attendees goodnight part) likes the idea of living in the '50s.  Everyone knows what they need to do and it's not confusing; therefore less stressful.  Part of me, the part that enjoys doing whatever I want, when I want, imagines that I would be a ball of rage if I lived in that environment.  Being pigeonholed would kind of rattle me.  Not to get too political on it (although this subject does interest me); but the '50s would have been at least a little rubbish for anyone that didn't fit the social norm.  And by norm, I think I mean, young, attractive WASPs.

But anyway, back to the sewing.  My version of this is worn on it's own, outside.  Egads!  It has no need for patch pockets.  They, to my mind, are silly. Nor does mine have corded piping, as I didn't have any to hand.  Mine is also a bit longer to fit with the current trend for midi-length skirts. I can re-hem it when the economy improves and shorter hemlines become fashionable again (a la the hemline index).

The fabric I used is a lightweight cotton (like poplin), with a big flowery/rhomboid print on it.  It's kind of crazy, but I like it.  I bought this at a fabric/sewing/crafting fair that I went to AGES ago with the lovely Debi of my happy sewing place (who quite frankly, seems to make any place happy).

The back wraps over itself, and so, for the sake of modesty, I had to sew up the back seam.  I wear a slip underneath it anyway, because that's how I roll.  I wear this dress one of two ways - per below, with red heels and red lips.  (btw - see that big rugby ball trophy to my left?  Mr CT won that for being "best tourist on tour" on a rugby trip to Dublin.  I envy blokes on two things: rugby tours and piddling abilities).


As well as wearing it like that, with red heels, I also wear it with a belt and pair of gladiator wedge sandal things.  These more "edgy" accessories really make it quite different, and take this pretty look to something more like "I am woman, hear me roar".  We're going on a date tonight (YUSS!), and I may just wear this outfit.

Which brings this pattern (and it's purpose) into the new age quite nicely I think.

The Good: Easily, quickly made.  Comfortable, elegant and nice to wear.

The Bad: The wrap doesn't overlap enough to be modest.  The sides need to either be extended or sewn together to avoid any embarrassment.

The Ugly:  Nothing really, former social mores excepting.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Box ticked - Edinburgh Half Marathon is done

Half marathon done and done well! Done well for me at least. I got around in 2'19"32. Get in my son!!

Even better, I feel like I could do it again next year. Last time, it took me ~7 years to consider doing it again. Lol

This photo is of me and my wonderful Mr. CT, without whom I would not have fared so well. He believed in me and pushed me out the door for training runs, spurring me on to do well. An excellent coach.

Whilst awaiting the start gun, I chatted to the chap next to me. He had arrived from Canada The day before, was running in a kilt and had raised over $8,000 for Diabetes Canada. What an impressive individual. I so hope he enjoyed his run.

Right know I am cream crackered and my joints are stiff; but I'm about to eat ice cream direct from the tub with a big spoon. Happy days.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

One of my main goals in life

Money? Success in the workplace? Travel? Property portfolio?

Nope, happiness and companionship would suit me. Better that I remember it sometimes ;-)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

EMF half marathon

My race number has arrived! Must be real then huh?! The race is a week on Sunday and I am excited and nervous in pretty equal measure.

I ran my first (and only other) half 9 years ago in a time of 2'32. For the longest time I was embarrassed at how long it took, until Mr. CT suggested I consider how many people complete one full stop. Gosh he is a great person to know. I'm hoping to do this one a bit quicker,  but we'll see.

It has been interesting to see how I have found the training this time compared with last time. I didn't run before the first one. I played hockey, but didn't run per se. I could eat what I liked and get hardly any sleep and it wouldn't affect me much. I started running after my step brother died, to act as a distraction/way of dealing with the myriad of feelings that brought with it. This time, I have a half in the bag, so that anxiety about being actually able to do it isn't there. But, if I miss lunch or stay up half the night or have a couple of drinks the night before the training is hard (er)!!! This time, I joined up so that it would stop me from working late. That worked, sometimes... :-)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Unexpected opportunity

I was in Manchester for work today; so I got to be part of the crowd that welcomed the team into Albert Square. I don't follow football at all really, but it was still something else to experience that. Sir Alex Ferguson is a good example in loyalty if nothing else!

Thursday, 9 May 2013


Yesterday evening a very close friend and I went for some pampering at Harvey Nic's. My friend, who always has *at least* one finger on the pulse, heard wind of an event being sponsored by Grazia and Harvey Nic's. The idea was simple- head along at 18:30, have some bubbles, and see some demonstrations about new trends in make up. A brilliant plan for catching up with a great girlfriend. :-)

We had a cocktail in the upstairs bar (which is nice and airy) to celebrate my friend getting offered a new job. Then sauntered (via an elevator) downstairs for the show. A couple of glasses of bubbles later and we found ourselves at the Chanel counter speaking to two great gals. We both came away with treats, which is just what the doctor ordered.

My treats are a bronzer and a coral lipstick. I never thought I would wear either of those, but boy do they make me look healthier (colour! Hello my old friend! This winter has been loooong).

I also sampled a couple of nail polishes, with April (pinkie) and Paparazzi (thumb) being my favourite.

Before anyone thinks I'm sounding a bit Sloane Ranger here I should throw in that I don't really buy much make up, so when I do I splurge.  My current foundation was bought for our wedding 3+ years ago (I don't believe in 6 month expiry dates lol).

All in all, it was a total treat that perked us both up no end. The feminist in me was not just held at bay, but seen preening at one stage (or three). I walked to the bus stop with my head held high and feeling confident.  Lush. And you know what? I was so inspired to create. Cue contented sigh.

It's amazing what the company of great friends can do.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

To lace or not to lace

This is my latest creation in the making. I sewed some lace along the bottom edge to hem the dress, and then wondered if perhaps I should leave it showing.  What do you think?

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Wedding cake buildings

Edinburgh is filled with buildings that look like wedding cake. Yum, cake! This one (the Balmoral) probably has wedding cake in it at any given time, and definitely has good alcohol inside (like all the best cakes do). I know this for definite because my girlfriends and I have been known to sample their cocktail menu on more than one occasion. But I digress.

Aren't these flowers pretty? They complement the lines of the building so nicely and draw attention it to really well. No mean feat given all the construction around the city at the moment.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The brainfog is lifting

This photo shows that the creative part of my brain is coming back to life. Hooray.

She was like a neglected plant as a result of work taxing my brainpower and spare time.

Oh, the world is good again. Hurrah.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Inspiration Bowie style

I think this post needs a little insight into my pysche to make sense.
As a teenager, I never had crushes on anyone. Fullstop. Not even pimply boys on the train.  I used to worry about what this meant and so I would pretend to have a crush on obvious folk: Damon Albarn,the bad guy from Beverly Hills 90210 (Luke Perry?), Marky Mark etc just to make sure I was normal. I was worried I was asexual for about 3 years,  ha ha no joke.  Then all of a sudden I didn't care anymore and almost simultaneously I developed a massive crush on David Bowie, that stays with me to this day.  I love how Bowie makes it credible to be ruled by creativity, and he sets such a good example in terms of work ethic.

So, imagine my excitement at the thought of an exhibition on my favourite super person at one of my favorite places in the world. I ordered tickets to coincide with the end of a holiday (that I must also tell you about)... I wasn't sure what to expect going in to the exhibition, as I felt that the last one I saw at the V&A (Hollywood Costume) whilst good, missed numerous opportunities. Not so with this one. My husband and I have a deal for situations where one of us wants to do something that isn't high on the priorities of the other. The proposer pays and the attendee only reimburses of it was enjoyable. Bit of a gamble, but it works. I was reimbursed.

Photography and sketching were not allowed, so here is a photo of my spoils.

Long live creation! And crushes! By the way, I have a few more these days: Mr. CT (obvs.), Jarvis Cocker, Chris Shiflett, Michael Fassbender...

ScotRail provides the answer to the old question...half full or empty?

Monday, 22 April 2013

A shard of progress

I'm in London for a difficult meeting today/tomorrow with the client and their lawyers. It's been a long day (15 hours and counting), but this is the view from my hotel room. It reminds me that forging new ground is always tricky, and will always unsettle some people but gladden others. Can't create an omelette without cracking some eggs after all...

Personally, I like the Shard.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The perks of running

Include experiencing views like this one that I saw on my run yesterday. Other perks include the ability to drink an extra Tom Collins or eat a slice of cake. Hooray!

I've been in a bit of a rut lately, so for the next wee while I am going to force myself to take a photo of something beautiful/inspiring/positive each day. Hopefully more than a few will make it on here.... x