The Handmade Fair

On Friday I went to The Handmade Fair for the first time and despite the heavy rain for much of the day thoroughly enjoyed it. I came away with lots of inspiration so wanted to share some of my highlights with you guys.

Probably what I liked best was being reminded what a lovely group of people crafters are, everyone I spoke to was super friendly and it was great to chat to the exhibitors about their products and hear about what they are doing with their business as well as how they got to where they are.

The product I was most impressed by was this kingfisher applique and machine embroidery cushion by Jessalli who runs the machine embroidery workshops at Tilly and the Buttons. Isn’t it stunning?

Jessalli kingfisher cushion
Image source: http://jessalli.com/products/mabel-kingfisher-cushion/

While browsing through the great selection of fabrics for sale, I discovered some new to me fabric shops including:

Lovely Jubbly Fabrics who caught my eye with a variety of fun Disney prints. They are more quilting fabrics than dressmaking fabrics, but if I start doing some quilting I’ll be remembering them!

Disney films fabric

Mickey films fabric

On a similar theme, I was also drawn to some minions and superheros fabric at Fabrics Galore.

Minions fabric

No photo I’m afraid, but I was really tempted by the lovely rayon and jersey prints at Maud’s Fabric Finds, most of which were organic. I didn’t buy anything this time, but the link has definitely been bookmarked!

For a breather from the hustle and bustle of the exhibitors tents, I went to a couple of talks including Cath Kidston who had some great stories about turning mistakes into opportunities. I also had a go at one of the many workshops – making cat eye masks with Elisalex from By Hand London.

Cat eye mask

In terms of purchases, I managed to be reasonably restrained. I had gone with a plan of focusing on buying some knit fabric as I’ve been wanting to make the Sewaholic Renfrew top pretty much as long as I’ve been sewing. I ended up buying three different fabrics from knit fabric specialist Girl Charlee. I also couldn’t resist buying one of the many lovely woven viscose prints, this one was from Fabric Godmother:

Fair purchases

Clockwise from top left:

Two cotton, rayon and spandex mix prints (that are lovely and soft): first, second. A solid navy blue cotton/spandex mix. And a butterfly woven viscose.

Finally, as well as all the craft stalls there was also a food tent where I found myself drawn to a couple of chocolaty treats at the end of the day:

Dark Matters were selling a selection of vegan brownies, mine was scoffed before I could take a photo! And I’d not heard of Seed and Bean chocolate before, but they had lots of interesting flavours. The two I chose are so tasty that they won’t last long!

Seed and Bean choclate

Overall a very enjoyable day, think I may be back next year! Have you been to any craft fairs?

Plaid neck pleat dress

Back in January I went to the Pattern Cutting Weekend class at Ray Stitch taught by Alice Prier and thoroughly enjoyed it! Day 1 was making our custom fit blocks while on day 2 we got into the details of cutting patterns. Alice really knows her stuff and I came away super inspired with lots of ideas.

And viola, here is the first dress that I cut from my block!

Neck pleat dress front

I brought the fabric at Ray Stitch the weekend of the class, it is a mix of viscose and polyester and I was really drawn to the plaid. After the success of my plaid Laurel dress I was keen to have another go with some plaid.

When I brought the fabric, I was leaning towards making a skirt so I only brought 1.5m. However, after a bit of time to ponder, I wanted to use this for a dress. The dress was inspired by one I saw on Modcloth – I really liked the effect of the neck pleat with the plaid fabric.

Neck pleat dress profile

I calculated the position of the pleat such that when sewn up it would be parallel to the vertical line of the plaid. Although I originally planned for the shaping to be a simple folded pleat, when made it up I felt there was too much volume above the bust so I stitched it down more like a dart, but not all the way to the point so there is still a bit of movement and give there.

Neck pleat dress profile

The back bodice is princess seamed and the closure is an invisible zip down the centre back seam. I debated for a while about the skirt – a pleated  rectangle or some variation of a circle skirt. Turned out that only having 1.5m of fabric made the choice for me! All I could fit was a half circle skirt, but I’m pretty happy with this.

Neck pleat dress back

I took my time cutting this out so that I could center and match the plaid – I feel like I was pretty lucky to be able to do this so well with my limited fabric. I particularly like the way the plaid matches up in a diamond pattern on the side seams of the skirt.

Neck pleat dress side

Of course I had to add pockets to the design! Fabric limitations meant that I needed to use a different fabric for the pocket bags. So I used some black viscose that I had in my stash, which works well as it is lighter than the main fabric and drapes out of the way.

Neck pleat dress front

The neck and armholes are finished with an all in one facing. I used red cotton for a splash of colour on the insides. Then to match, I used some red bias binding from my stash for a hem facing that I finished with hand stitching (all 3m of it!).

Neck pleat dress insides

I made a couple of toiles of the bodice, which was just as well as they showed a few fitting adjustments that I still need to make to my block. Once I’ve done that, I’m very excited to be able to make lots of different designs that (hopefully!) will require minimal or no fitting adjustments.

I’ll leave you with some spinning photos that I tried out for fun with my new camera remote…

Neck pleat dress spinning

Little details

Do you find that since you’ve been sewing you notice a lot more details in clothing? I certainly have and sometimes find myself (subtly of course!) studying a garment that someone is wearing on the underground or on the street.

Here are a couple of some details I’ve spotted that have inspired me and that I’ve been able to take pictures of.

Check out this fantastic bird pocket! Found on a friend’s coat.

Bird pocket

Such simple but clever shaping and button placement – the button is functional, not just sewn on. I might try this on a casual Colette Laurel dress or see if I can think of some other clever pocket shapes.

While making my jeans I did a lot of studying of the jeans I own as well as out and about in shops and on the streets. One of the best things I discovered was that a pair of jeans I’ve owned for a few years doesn’t have the brand written on the rivets (as all my other pairs do), but odd little phrases:

Rivets right

rivet details

rivets left

rivet details

On the left pocket, both rivets say “over my dead body” but one in English and one in Swedish! (I brought the jeans in Sweden)

Now I want to find some unusual rivets to use in my me made jeans!

What details have you seen that have inspired you for your own makes?

Jeans!

I made jeans!!

When I try on a completed make for the first time that I’m particularly pleased with I find myself doing a little happy dance – these definitely got a happy dance!

Ginger jeans front view

I used the popular Ginger Jeans pattern by Closet Case Files and was very impressed. Heather Lou has done loads of research into making jeans and her passion for helping others to create this super satisfying garment shines through in the incredibly useful sewalong and ebook on sewing jeans. You could easily make the jeans with just the pattern and the sewalong for some extra detail, but I brought the ebook too for a few reasons – 1. I was so impressed with the effort put into the sewalong that I was happy to pay a bit more in appreciation of that; 2. it is useful to have all the resources in one place; 3. the ebook includes additional information such as how to convert the pattern into flared or bootcut jeans, which I fully intend to do.

Ginger jeans side view

I went for view A – the lower rise and stovepipe leg. However, I didn’t want such low rise jeans so I lengthened the rise by 3 cm. To check the fit of doing this, I initially cut everything out except the waistband then basted the jeans together (after stay stitching around the waist). The back was gaping so I took a wedge out there then adjusted the waistband pattern piece appropriately before cutting that out.

Ginger jeans front view

I cut a size 12 which from the measurements I was expecting to have a little room around the hips and to have to take the waist in (sorted out by the wedge mentioned above). Thankfully I basted the side seams after sewing up the rest of the jeans to check the fit again – this showed they were actually a bit tight around the hips. So I used a smaller seam allowance for the side seams from the hips down. I’ll likely do this extra fitting step for all subsequent pairs as the width required for a good fit will depend on how the fabric stretches.

Ginger jeans back view

I used the wider back pockets that are provided as a free download and also lengthened them (since I had lengthened the rise), which also means they are very practical and securely fit my phone. I forgot to lengthen the legs, but think I got away with this by finishing the hem raw edge and then just folding over once about 1cm. But I’ll certainly lengthen the legs before making again though as I think I’d prefer them to be a bit longer.

Ginger jeans front topstitching

I used this stretch denim from Minerva, largely because it wasn’t too expensive and I’d seen a couple of other bloggers make Gingers using it. In all honestly, I’d been expecting these to be a toile that I might get to wear around the house, but they have already been getting lots of wear as one of my proudest makes.

Ginger jeans side topstitching

For the top stitching, I used double strands of regular thread rather than top stitching thread and think this worked pretty well. I went for matching thread partly because I was nervous about it going wonky and being obvious, but also saw from research that the majority of coloured jeans don’t have contrast top stitching. I think the top stitching turned out pretty neat in the end, I didn’t rush it and used a soap slither to add guiding markings where I wasn’t just following a straight seam.

Jeans pockets elephant print

For a fun detail on the inside, I used an elephant print cotton that I brought in Brighton at least a year ago and as per Heather Lou’s recommendation sewed it up so that you could see the print on the inside. I french seamed the pockets and flat felled as many seams as I could. Took a bit longer, but I think worth it and I love how neat they are on the inside.

I can definitely see more me made jeans in my future! Have you made jeans or plan to make some?

 

Plaid Colette Laurel dress

I’ve been admiring plaid dresses for a while now with the desire to make one myself, so after the success of my first Laurel dress I dived straight into another with this cotton and viscose blend from Minerva Crafts. I think the fabric has a great combination of weight and drape for this style of dress so I’ll definitely keep an eye out for other cotton and viscose blends in the future.

Plaid Laurel dress front

I have to admit I can be a bit of a perfectionist which I did have to be conscious of at times. Part of the enjoyment for me of making this dress was working through the plaid matching and placement, but I also tried to make sure I didn’t get too obsessed with it and there were a couple of occasions where I stepped away from the dress for a day to two to check if the mismatch I was seeing was really worth unpicking and redoing!

Plaid Laurel neck binding
The neck binding did get unpicked and redone.

Cutting out took a lot longer than usual due to getting the plaid placement and symmetry right. But I’m pretty pleased with how it all turned out and think it was worth the extra effort. I found the plaid layout diagrams in this post by Really Handmade very useful.

Plaid Laurel dress back

With my first Laurel I used the bias binding as a facing but with this one I wanted it to be a feature so sewed it on as binding as per the instructions. For the back neck, I didn’t want to break up the plaid with a dart so I gathered the neck into the bias binding instead. I had expected the gathering to be visible, but actually with a bit of steam the fabric pretty much eased itself in giving a smoother neckline than I’d expected.

Plaid Laurel back detail

The other change I made was to make the pockets a little bigger so that they were the width of two inner squares. I also like the bigger pockets for practical reasons so will likely stick with this size for future Laurels. As I had plenty of fabric I cut out a couple of pocket plaid placement options to try out against the actual dress – one centred on an open square (my final preference) and the other centred on an intersection. So again, this was not a speedy sew!

The binding and hem are all sewn by hand, which I quite enjoyed and think it was worth it for the look of the uninterrupted fabric design.

Plaid Laurel dress front

The dress has a had good amount of wear already and is very comfortable. It works well with both under and over layers in the winter or on its own now that spring is finally here. All in all I’m very happy with my first plaid dress and doubt it will be my last!

Have you sewn with plaid? Do you enjoy taking time over matching or prefer a quicker sew?

My new favourite fabric marker

While I’ve been sewing, I’ve built up a small collection of fabric marking tools, some that get used a lot, some hardly ever. But recently I discovered a surprising new favourite – a slither of soap!

Soap as a fabric marker

I got the tip from Kathy Ruddy in the Craftsy class One Pattern, Many Looks: Pants and only recently tried it, but love it already! The soap glides very easily over the fabric and you can easily create a thin but distinct line. You can also be confident that it will completely wash out.

As I’ve tried a few different methods for marking fabric, I thought I’d do a quick run through of how I find them to work with:

Fabric markers

Air erasable fabric pen

  • Use frequently
  • Pros: glides fairly easily over the fabric to create a smooth line
  • Cons: only one colour so not useful on darker fabrics; with some fabrics it can fade pretty quickly so you need to reapply and/or only use with projects that will be made in a short period of time; if high accuracy is required, the mark created may be too thick

Chalk pencils

  • Use frequently, but generally just for making small marks unless the fabric is very stable
  • Pros: good control over mark size, mark doesn’t fade or brush off through normal fabric handling
  • Cons: need to use reasonable pressure to make mark which can pull fabric out of shape

Clover Chaco line pen

  • Use occasionally
  • Pros: can make a good mark with light pressure, so does not distort the fabric
  • Cons: if you aren’t careful, the chalk can smudge or get a bit messy

Dressmakers carbon paper

  • Only used once or twice
  • Pros: creates a neat marking (dots rather than a line)
  • Cons: I found it a bit tedious to use; I also prefer making a line than the dots this created, especially if you are using fabric with a busy pattern as the dots could easily get lost

Soap slither

  • New, but expect to be frequent
  • Pros: easily glides over fabric; can create a thin line; easily washes out
  • Cons: wouldn’t work on light coloured fabrics unless I can find a dark coloured soap; not useful if you will still need the marking after pressing as it quickly faded under the steam

Thread (using a running stitch)

  • Use frequently
  • Pros: Won’t disappear or fade (I join the ends together to be sure that it won’t get pulled out accidentally); easy to remove
  • Cons: takes longer as I typically use one of the other methods to draw a line first and then stitch over it

Do you have a favourite fabric marker? Have you discovered any regular household objects that make good sewing accessories?

Viscose Colette Laurel

Can you believe I’ve been sewing for around two years and this is the first dress I’ve made?!

Colette Laurel front

There have been a couple of false starts in the past (with patterns from Simplicity and McCalls) where the scale of fitting issues I was facing made me take a break for my own sanity, but I never got back to them. This time however, I used the Colette Laurel which allowed me a little head start as from my previous Colette makes I had an idea of some of the adjustments I’d need to make (lengthening and small bust adjustment). Sure enough, the toile was nearly passable for wearing so I went straight to “proper” fabric with my second round of adjustments. I used a metre and a half of this navy blue viscose from Minerva Crafts so at £6 it wouldn’t be breaking the bank if it didn’t turn out great.

I have to say I’m very happy with the result! I think this is a great easy to wear style, suitable for both work and an evening out. I don’t wear dresses very much (in part due to difficultly finding ready to wear ones that fit my tall frame), but when I do I tend to feel very put together.

Colette Laurel

I did end up making quite a few changes to the pattern:

  • Lengthened both in the body and the skirt
  • Small bust adjustment
  • Broadened the shoulders
  • Added darts at the back neckline
  • Shortened the sleeves
  • Straightened the curve around the hips
  • Increased the depth of the back waist darts
  • Curved the centre back seam in at the waist

But it didn’t feel too onerous as some of them were done while sewing up – deepening the waist darts and adding the back neck darts. Since this fabric is more drapey than the old cotton bedding I used for the toile, the neck darts were especially needed to stop the dress sagging into a hunchback shape.

Also worth mentioning, these are my first set in sleeves! I took my time and hand basted the sleeves before sewing, which was totally worth it as there is not a pucker in sight.

Colette Laurel pocket

Now that I’ve successfully made a dress, with set in sleeves to boot, I feel ready to tackle a host of different pattern styles. But first up will be another Laurel – I want to maximise sewing enjoyment knowing that the fit will be wearable and there’s a plaid fabric that I’ve had my eye on for this style of dress for a little while…

First knitted socks

Hello there! I’ve got some more knitting to share with you today – my first pair of socks.

While out shopping a while ago I found myself drawn to the lovely selection of self patterning sock yarns available. I think I’ve been a little envious of numerous knitted socks that I’ve seen on the blogosphere, so went ahead and brought myself a ball of Regia Snowflake Ski 07708. The practical side of me was very happy to see that the yarn is machine washable up to 40 degrees (can’t be doing with hand washing socks)! Then I set about finding a suitable pattern…

self striping socks front

The a nice ribbed sock pattern by Glenna of Glenna Knits fit the bill nicely – I figured the ribbing would help make all the knitting on small needles a bit more interesting while not adding to the complexity (since this is my first pair after all) and it is kindly provided as a free pattern.

I treated myself to some bamboo 2.5mm double pointed needles (dpns) for this, which were great to work with. I’ve found that I am more comfortable using 5 dpns than the 4 assumed in the pattern which meant I had to concentrate a little more when working the heel and gusset as the pattern references needle number, but it wasn’t a big deal.

self striping socks back view

As I have big feet (that are totally in proportion with my tall frame!) I sized up the pattern by casting on 72 stitches instead of 64. I’ve also since realised that the choice of a ribbed pattern was a great move for my first pair of socks as it makes the fit pretty forgiving!

The stitch repeat in the heel is not one I’ve come across before and I was a little unsure how it would turn out, but all is fine and I guess the pattern helps to give the heel a bit of extra strength? As well as the totally new to me technique of creating the heel and gusset, I enjoyed getting a bit more practice of Kitchener stitch (aided by the free Craftsy class Ins & Outs of Grafting) to close up the toes. It is so satisfying to create the invisible join!

self striping socks side detail

The perfectionist in me of course wanted to knit up two identical socks, so I made sure to start the first sock at a point where there was a distinct colour change in the yarn that I could use again for the second one. Came out pretty well even if I do say so myself!

I’m very happy with these socks and love wearing them around the house keeping my feet warm in cold weather. Unfortunately I’ve found that the wool makes them too itchy to be comfortable wearing next to my skin (a problem I always have with wool), hence I’m usually wearing them over tights as in the pictures.

self striping socks side view

For my next pair I’ll be hunting out some cotton sock yarn so that I have the option of wearing them as regular socks as well as over tights. I’m finding the vast majority of sock yarn is a wool blend, especially the ones dyed to be self patterning, so if you know of any good cotton alternatives please let me know!