Thursday, 13 November 2014

Sewing | No Longer Green with Envy

It was the summer of September 2013.  I caught sight of an inimitable shade of silk, called “Deep Lake” and was ruined.  I couldn’t take my mind off it.  Inspiration was all around me.  But the material was reedy thin, and dear to boot (£20 a metre).  The rational side of my brain suggested alternative options (poly chiffon and satin), but none would do.  I was smitten.

Initially, thoughts ran to the long and floaty; Vogue 1354 to be exact.  That beauty requires 4.6 m though, so that was not going to happen.  I tried other things, but they were no good.  So in April of this year, I bit the bullet and bought three metres to sew a dress for a number of weddings that we had the pleasure of being invited to this year.  Conscious of cost, I decided to make a simple dress – like other’s I had sewn successfully this year – so simple that the focus would be on the beautiful colour of this material.

Cue disaster.  The first attempt was just all over the place – bodice too tight and skirt too loose, and generally just TOO green (I know that sounds ridiculous given it is the colour I fell in love lust with).  Just goes to show that complacency is evil, even with 25+ years of sewing experience under the belt.  Back to the shops I went to purchase another metre in order to make another bodice.  At 110 cm wide, this was only just enough; but I didn’t want to spend anymore, especially as I wasn’t confident it would work!

So the finished article is a blouse and skirt, worn together to look like a dress and to increase potential wearability (I can wear the blouse to work).  It looks fine.  Nice even.  Just now, having bought 4 metres, a significant portion of my brain is wishing I had just bought the blasted 4.6 and made the first option. 

This raises two questions in my mind:
  1. Was it really worth it? i.e. would I have paid £80 for this in a shop?  The answer is “Most definitely not!” and that irks me.
  2. Should I have cut my losses and just turned it into a nightie and moved on, rather than buying the 4th metre.  I’m not sure about this one.  

Isn’t it so hard to have the presence of mind to know when something just isn’t going to work.  There’s almost a feeling of shame at not having cracked it successfully.  But then calm seas do not make a good sailor.  I’m just not sure what type of sailor I’m turning out to be!

So what have I learnt? 

I shall try to stick to my gut feeling about style.  If I can’t justify the cost, then do something else or save up.  Not to self: DO NOT settle for a “close” approximation of what my heart desires, as that may actually end up being way off the mark.

So for me, this is a fail, and will be refashioned.  I’ve mentioned already that I will wear the blouse to work.  Well, it is too short to remain tucked in (which is my preference), so I will add a band to lengthen it, or sew a bottom part to turn it into a bodysuit shirt thing.  As for the skirt, it is lovely and floaty and I have a great desire to wear it in summer with an equally floaty spaghetti strapped or racer backed blouse.  In fact, I have some left over ivory fine silk and sequined silk from this successful make from earlier in the year.  I will rise above this blimp.

In other news, my hair was done following possibly the best tutorial on youtube, which I'll direct you to as it has become my go-to hairdo for events.  It's fairly simple and yet elegant.

Does the trick every time for me, so I share it here on the off-chance it might help someone else, especially this Christmas!

Rachel J

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Crafty | Hamish the Highland Coo cushion

Like the season I find myself in, my sewing is changing.  Things are happening slowly, with attention to detail and love.  As per my previous completed article, this one had a v-e-r-y long gestation period. 
Friends of ours were married last September, and early in the planning process the Bride told me her plans to have a Highland Coo outside Neidpath Castle, the venue for the ceremony. 
Side Note: How many people can say that about their wedding?!  It was fantastic and so fitting.  It was a wonderful wedding – with many little elements that reflected the nationality of the couple: Scottish and Kiwi.  
About the same time I heard about the Coo (let’s call him Hamish), I saw this pattern from the Making Spot (which sadly is no more) for a cross-stitched version that I could not resist making up for them as a memento of the day. 
Little did I know that my cross-stitching fingers were a little rusty!  And by-gum the pattern made my eyes strain – Hamish required 10 different types of brown alone.  What a voracious appetite.
Now, 54 weeks after the wedding (yes, I am very embarrassed about how late it is, but we got them a real present, don’t worry), Hamish is ready to be released into his new home.  That is if I can pry him out of Mr. CT’s arms: apparently he is very good to cuddle.  As I spent the afternoon sneezing ginger fur after trimming the seam allowances I am looking forward to having a little space. 

His fur is bonny though.
Triming Seam Allowances
Balding Aslan
Finished Article

Rachel J

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sewing | An Ode to Vogue 8804

Might I suggest reading this whilst sitting in a sunny nook with a nice cup of coffee and a good album on – this could take a while because I am enamored with my most recently finished article and am going to tell everyone about it!

This creation was a very long time in the making, yet somehow, somehow, I don’t hate it.  Having a go at the cardigan jacket seems like a rite of passage for many a seamstress, and I can definitely vouch for having the desire to make one in order to “give it a nudge”, “knock the bugger off” or any other kiwi colloquialism for attempting something difficult. 

The requirements are the stuff of lore:
     The lining and outer fabric are sewn together in a series of vertical lines that need to be parallel;
     Buttonholes are made twice, or even three times: hand sewn, bound and then slipped stitched;
     Trim is attached by hand before the jacket is completed;
     Pockets are made completely by hand and sewn on with tiny invisible hand stitches;
     The simple design belies the extensive list of notions required: buttonhole twist, multiple types of trim, potentially two types of buttons (or buttons and fabric covered loops), beeswax, stay-tape, chain etc etc
     The “real” ones cost thousands of pounds and take H-O-U-R-S to make.

These are all true, and I definitely have more understanding/compassion for the commercial cost now.  It almost makes me want to save up and buy one too, but that would be r i d i c u l o u s for my life.

I bought the fabric, a lovely woollen plaid (predominantly mossy green, cream and silver in colour) at the Creative Stitches and Hobbycrafts fair in March 2012.  Yes, that’s right; two and a half years ago

The pattern was already in the stash (I think) or followed swiftly afterwards.  The next step was to purchase the lining: silk charmeuse.  Ladies at various fabric stores looked at me as if I was some sort of mentalist: “silk?  For a lining?  Surely not” they seemed to say with their quizzical stares.  I’m not really sure why it’s not a good idea for the lining of a jacket though: it’s durable, warm and feels amazing.  Granted, there are cheaper options, but linings often don’t require huge lengths and the extra cost would be eradicated to minimal in a cost per wear scenario I reckon because it feels far superior so it would be worn more often.  Anyway, I’m OFF TOPIC. 

So, without finding any options in Edinburgh I went online.  I was after something silk, something charmeuse-y, something with a pattern but in tonal colours.  It was quite a tall order.  However, persistence beats resistance and I found some wonderful silk on Ebay.  I crossed my fingers and clicked add to cart.

The silk arrived and it was gorgeous.  Cue cutting everything out: wool, silk, and very fine interfacing.  I am ready to roll.  Things progressed a-pace, well, a-snail’s-pace.  The pockets alone took me a solid afternoon to make.  I only made two. 

The sewing is not difficult, and in fact it is quite restful and lovely.  I sewed this in all manner of places – on the train to Manchester, in hotel rooms, in front of the TV.  

It’s possibly the ideal sewing project for me.  What did take a long time was deciding on the trims and buttons.  I went through at least four options for trim and despaired about them all, before deciding to just stick with one and get on with it.  Two types of buttons were bought and I had no faith in either.

I decided to go with my initial instincts and use the first options.  The decision was made very much in the “I’ll just finish it and if I like it, bonus, if I don’t I’ll focus on the learning process”.  I was turning a blind eye to everything invested in it at that point (fabric yes, but the time spent more).  I finally finished the cardigan on Saturday last weekend and instantly loved it.  To the point that I planned numerous outfits around it and wore it in 20°C weather (a veritable heatwave in Scotland) because I am infatuated with it.


My Mum was the first to see it, via Skype.  She approves, noting that it looks very posh.  Which I only mention because that is the only problem I foresee with this creation (after all those hours, toil and anguish it surely can only be termed a creation?!).  I need to be careful when wearing it that it doesn’t a) look like a costume (I’m pretty sure the pearls are out) or b) look too dressed up (a neck scarf on Sunday was touch and go).  So I’m sticking to wearing it with denim and t-shirts, like the cool kids do.

Poor Gwyneth, she looks so deep in thought/glum here.  It must be rubbish not being able to edit photos!

In terms of critique, I have only one comment: it feels a little big.  Yes, the pattern is boxy, but there is also a lot of room around the bust and hip and through the sleeves.  I reckon I could’ve made the smaller size (full disclosure, I basically mirror the measurements for a Vogue14 and made that size.  Sometimes they are too small, sometimes too big).  Having said that though, the jacket is already starting to mould to my body – after three cuddles (which is what it feels like when I wear this).

PS.  I am considering buying a new handbag because none of mine quite work (too dark, too severe, too casual).

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sewing | Work in Progress

Loads of hand stitching, silk lining, wool fabric... Any guesses what I'm currently sewing?

Rachel ☺

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Crafty | Brocade Trews | 11/2013/110A

Now for something completely different... some trousers!  Slacks don't get worn much in Crafty Traveller land (no reason other than I feel more 'me' in skirts), but that's not to say I don't like them.  In particular, last autumn's trend for brocade trousers tickled my fancy quite considerably.
Burda describes these trousers (11/2013/110A) as being a “straight legged shape [which] looks good with a variety of tops”.  It’s a simple style – fly front, side pockets, straight legs, cuffs.  Made up in a brocade, they look quite smart.  The length of the leg is cropped (tide out as we’d say in NZ) and actually looks alright in reality.  

The fit was good for me – I always find Burda good – the only problem being that I made these in more of an aspirational size rather than my actual size.  This was because of fabric shortages more than anything – I promise!

This fabric was purchased on my trip to NZ back in January/February.  It was exactly what I was looking for, but they had very little left.  I purchased the last 1.5 metres, and it is only 110 cm wide, so things were tight from the get go.  I actually ended up cutting it on the cross grain as I had to fold the fabric in half along the long (cut) edge and pretend that the short edge was the selvedge.  It worked fine, notably because it was perfectly perpendicular to the straight grain and because of the nature of the fabric (a tight weave).

The material is weird.  The gold bits are actually metal, and it kind of stinks.  I have NO IDEA how I will wash these trousers.  The stuff also frayed like billy-o so as soon as the pieces were cut out I used Mum’s overlocker (I was still at home at that point) to serge all of the raw edges.

Returned to the UK, sewed them up, tried them on and realised they were a tad too small in the puku region.  (Puku means tummy in maori – there is a really cool children’s book about a little boy with a big puku and his friend Moata Moa: Pukunui ).  As a result, there are puckers around the top of the legs/c.r.o.t.c.h area due to insufficient ease.  

I really liked the crisp finish to the trousers sewn/shown by Burda, but this fabric (and the metal in it) just does not stay pressed.  So, to get the look I wanted, I sewed centre seams down the front and back of each leg.
I am happy with how they turned out, and will be even more happy once they fit a bit more comfortably! 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Travel | T in the Park, Wind Farm & the Pentlands

These are some of the reasons I love living in Scotland: renewable energy (which makes me feel secure), beautiful scenery and taxing walks within 30 minutes drive and festivals.  What's not to love?  Only the distance to NZ.

Pentlands, south of Edinburgh

Pentlands, south of Edinburgh

Pentlands, south of Edinburgh

Pentlands, south of Edinburgh

Pentlands, south of Edinburgh

Pentlands, south of Edinburgh

Kasabian, T in the Park
Blue sky, T in the Park

Bastille, T in the Park

Cracking strength, balance and viewing spot, T in the Park

Paul Weller, T in the Park

Artic Monkeys, T in the Park

Artic Monkeys, T in the Park

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Sewing | A Parisian Dream | Vogue 1102, 2960 + Mrs CT patterns

In December 2012, I bought some cotton/spandex material from the Goldhawk Road.  I had no plans to get material for a dress when I went down there, but I just couldn't pass it up - it was lust at first sight!  A wee while later, I saw a lady on the train to Glasgow wearing a trenchcoat from this same material, but my mind had already been set on a dress with a fitted bodice, boat neck and full skirt.  I had originally planned on the back being two triangles that closed at the top with a button, with a big triangle of exposed flesh below the centre-back, but then I thought about suntan lines.... and reverted to something more normal.  I used a couple of patterns - Vogue 2960 for the back and Vogue 1102 for the front.
The back consists of two sides exactly the same, other than there being loops for buttons on one side and buttons with an underlap on the other.
The skirt is simply two rectangles sewn together, with a series of box and knife pleats. The box pleat at centre back is only sewn on one half - the other half is closed via a dome at the (underside) edge of the pleat.  If I'm splitting hairs, I think that the back straps would be better if they were slightly longer/if the dip of the bodice was slightly lower - it would be more flattering if it didn't end at my widest point (exacerbated in the photo above where I'm doing something odd with my shoulders and arms, but it was the only good one of the back).  Objectively though, I'm not bothered by it at all - I've been wearing this with a black cardigan to work anyway.