All posts by Alex

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt with buttons

The original intention for this fabric and wonderfully matching buttons was a Tilly and the Buttons Miette skirt with button tabs instead of the waist ties along the lines of this.  However, when Sewaholic started converting their existing patterns to PDF, I decided to make things easier for myself and go with the Hollyburn skirt which had everything I wanted from the skirt already in the pattern.  I purchased the PDF and starting putting it together within 24 hours of release!

Fabric and buttons

Since the skirt is only fitted at the waist, I didn’t make a toile.  It fits pretty good although if making again I’d probably change the waistband so it is slightly curved as I’m generally not so keen on the look of straight waistbands on me, maybe because I tend to prefer wearing skirts lower than my natural waistline.

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt

I went with view B for the length/flare as well as the button tabs.  I thought it was likely I’d want my skirt a bit shorter than this, but view C looked likely to come up too short on me given my height.  I ended up cutting 6.5 cm off the hem and using a 2 cm hem allowance.

The fabric is a lovely soft cotton drill/twill (I’m not quite sure of the difference yet!) from the same shop on Goldhawk Road that I got the fabric for my Miette skirt.  The buttons are from John Lewis – I was so chuffed when I found them as the small bit of pink is a near perfect match to the fabric colour.

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt button tab and top stitching detail

I decided to try top stitching instead of slip stitch around the waistband.  I’ve seen a tip on a few blogs to use a blind hem foot to help keep the stitching even.  This worked a treat and as a bonus means I’ve now used all the feet that came with my sewing machine!

Another first was inserting a regular, centred zip (I’d only used invisible zips previously).  I didn’t practice on a scrap beforehand and did end up unpicking and starting again, but that was more me being a bit picky and thinking I could do better rather than there being anything especially wrong with my first attempt.

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt back with centred zip

To finish off I decided to use one of the decorative stitches on my machine while hemming.  There’s something about decorative stitching in a shade to match the fabric that I quite like – maybe it is the added texture or maybe it just feels a bit more luxurious.  Given the width of this hem, I was quite happy to be finishing it by machine!

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt hem with decorative stitching

Overall an enjoyable make resulting in a skirt I can definitely see getting a good amount of wear.  And to finish, I couldn’t resist trying out a twirling shot, partly to see how much the skirt flared, but mainly just for the fun of it!

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt twirling

It’s a girl!

Having made minions for my dad and brother (here, here and here), I of course also had to make one for my mum.  Mum requested a girl minion, so meet Anna:

Anna minion front view

After a few discussions about how best to dress her, we agreed that she should wear the same practical clothing as the boys (don’t want her to miss out on any of the fun!).  So to give her a feminine touch, I sewed on some eyelashes and gave her long hair.  It was quite fun researching the different ways to create amigurumi hair.  I’m pleased with the option I went for.  It started out much longer and she got gradual hair cuts until it felt about right.

Anna minion side view

Otherwise, making her was the same as the other minions so I’ll just leave you with photos from the minions’ trip to a nearby country house:

Minions and mushroom

Minions at Uppark

Minions on a wire

Minions in sculpture

Minions in a tree

Minions outside dolls house

Minions in dolls house

Minions in ladder

Minions in beer cellar

Expressive paintings

I did these paintings in a class a few years ago and when I looked back at the photos for this post I very nearly decided not to share them.  But then I reminded myself that part of my motivation for starting this blog was to document my creative journey, warts and all! So, as this class was an important step in my journey into painting, it needs to be included!

The class was Expressive Painting with Ewa Gargulinska and lasted four days as part of the Central St Martins short course schedule.  I’d actually wanted to enrol in an introduction to painting class, but it was last minute and that was full so was recommended this one instead.

We weren’t taught very much around techniques for applying paint as that wasn’t the focus of the class, but it was pleasantly surprising what you could figure out just by way of experimentation over the days.  Instead, each day we were given a theme for our painting and then effectively set free.

There were no reference materials, so what we created was all from imagination.  It was fascinating seeing what everyone was able to produce and there was amazing variety in the reactions to the same theme.  So, here’s what I did:

Day 1 – “Simple and Complex”

Expressive painting "Simple and Complex"
Acrylic on paper

This is my least favourite.  Think the main problem was that I had an idea in mind of the image I wanted to create but then struggled to actually produce that.

Day 2 – “Sadness”

Expressive painting "Sadness"
Acrylic on paper

I was quite pleased with how this turned out as it is a personal representation of sadness and I actually got quite emotional at times.  It was the first time I’d used glazing in a painting.

Day 3 – “Vivid and obscure”

Expressive painting "Vivid and obscure"
Acrylic on paper

I’d just come back from a trip to Jordan and my original idea was to do a representation of Petra.  However after a discussion with the teacher that got scraped except to influence the colours.  The influence of the trip continued tough, as I ended up thinking of this as the red sea.  This one was quite fun to create and I was experimenting with different layers of glazes and wiping away some paint to reveal the colour below.

Day 4 – “An Imaginary Being”

Expressive Painting "Imaginary Being"
Acrylic on paper

For the final day we were given a theme that we could have a bit more fun with.  With this piece I was also finally starting to use the methodology we were being guided down of reacting to and letting the painting evolve rather than having a plan in mind from the start. I was quite frankly shocked that I was able to produce this purely from imagination/memory!

This course was great for giving me a completely new way to approach painting and while it was not focused so much on painting techniques I think it is a good style of course for a beginner because once you get into the frame of mind that Ewa was teaching it starts to feel impossible to get the painting “wrong” – so really proves that anyone can paint 🙂

A whole lotta toile

We had been having a lot of hot and sunny weather this summer in London and I’ve found that I’m happiest and most comfortable wearing shorts in such weather.  So since I’d been admiring the Sewaholic Thurlow trousers/shorts pattern for a while it seemed time to take the plunge and make my own shorts!

This pattern has a couple of key new sewing features that I was keen to learn (welt pockets and a fly zip front) and I really like the style of these trousers – I cannot imagine making shorts or trousers that don’t have good functioning pockets – so was excited at the prospect of making many different versions once I had the basic fit right.

Getting the fit right proved a lot more challenging than I expected!

I of course started out making up a toile (muslin).  This looked pretty good from the front straight away, but the back was all kinds of wrong.  Around the seat it looked like my bum was eating the trousers, but just above I had excess fabric causing an unsightly bulge.  I referred to LOTS of online resources on trouser fitting (Lladybird’s Thurlow sewalong is a great starting point for this) but was left feeling rather confused as the fabric eating seemed to imply I needed a longer centre back seam, but did the excess fabric higher up imply a shorter centre back seam was needed???

Thurlow toiles

To cut a long story short, four toiles, copious notes and plenty of help from the fitting lesson of Craftsy class “One pattern, many looks: pants” later I was finally getting towards a pattern that fit.  The key adjustments I needed to make seemed to be full seat and dropped seat (this is how Kathy describes them in the Craftsy class) but I also took in the centre back seam a lot (I think this was probably due to starting out with too big a size) which then meant adjusting the side seams on all relevant pattern pieces to get the balance back.

This might sound like a lot of effort for a pair of shorts, but during this process, I came across a few articles on the topic of learning which felt very relevant.  It seems that many of us as adults can be prone to giving up on learning something because we feel stupid for making mistakes, it is getting too hard or we just get really frustrated.  I particularly liked this post by Tara Mohr on Giving yourself permission to learnI’d forgotten — or maybe never fully realized — how much effort and failure is involved in learning anything“.  Being conscious of this, I gave myself breaks when I needed them and was determined not to give up.

When I finally had a toile that was looking decent I found myself putting it on a few times just to check that I hadn’t dreamed it!

Since I was making quite a lot of changes to the pattern pieces, I made up a fifth toile and this time included most of the details for some practice.  Funnily enough my first welt pocket looks better than the second – my attempt to streamline clearly didn’t work so well.  It took me three goes to get the fly zip installation correctly aligned so I’m very glad I practiced that and I’m now finally ready to make up a proper pair – just as the weather is turning and starting to feel like autumn!

Thurlow toile welt pockets

Thurlow toile fly zip

While I may not get much more chance to wear shorts this year, I have a few ideas for trousers I’d like to make so shouldn’t have to wait until next summer to feel the benefit of all this hard work.

The three minion amigos

If you have seen the Despicable Me films, you may have noticed that there are 3 different minion hairstyles, well my brother wanted a second minion (Ed the minion was his first) so I got to experiment with another variation – meet Bob:

Crochet minion Bob front view

Crochet minion Bob side view

I must admit, if I’d realised I’d be making a few minions I might have thought twice about all the fiddly details I put into them, they are definitely not a quick make, but at the same time I think it is those little details that make me love them so much.

Three crochet minions

Hopefully this isn’t a sign I’m going crazy, but I’m starting to imagine personalities for the minions!  Bob’s neat hair and slightly awkward leg angle make him seem a bit more reserved and introverted than his friends while I think Ed is a bit of a rebel and a joker and Kevin is laid back, curious and tends to go with the flow.

Of course, after meeting a new friend, the minions wanted to go adventure seeking:

Crochet minions meet some animals

Crochet minions on a bench

Crochet minions walking

Crochet minions bird watching

Crochet minions in rhubarb

Crochet minions and house

The next minion will be for my mum, who’s requested a girl minion.  An interesting challenge and a chance to try yet another hairstyle…

Oil pastels class

I enjoyed my previous two summer art classes so much that it wasn’t long before I’d booked myself onto another.  During July and August City Lit run lots of short classes that run on consecutive days (instead of one day a week for a period of time) so you can really throw yourself into something new.  I signed up for an introductory oil pastels class as I’d recently brought a box but was struggling with them.

I felt so inspired by this class that I managed to make time to practice between classes and have continued with some sketching since the class.  One of the big appeals I’m finding with oil pastels is that you can create quite vibrant drawings without the usual mess, so they are great for sketching on location.

Oil pastels lying pose
40 minute pose, A4

The first evening was warm and sunny so we heading out to a nearby park with a life model.  This was a really lovely way to draw and created a nice relaxed atmosphere for the class.

Oil pastels standing pose
10 minute pose, A4

We were restricted to using no more than three colours so that we could focus on different types of mark making and get to know the medium.  The model was wearing a lovely pink and purple dress, which clearly influenced my choice of colours!

Oil pastels sitting pose
20 minute pose, A4

For our second class we got to bring in our own photographs to work from.  I took in a few of my safari photos, but ended up choosing to work with the rhino image that I’d already used in the Painting and Photography class.  It was nice to work with the same imagine again as it felt a bit easier to get going.  I was experimenting with how to create different texture effects as well as layering and blending colours.  I’m still struggling with getting the texture right (feel that with painting and other forms of drawing too), so more practice is needed.

Rhino in oil pastels
1.5 – 2 hours, A3

In the final lesson we had a life model again, but in the studio this time.  We started out with a fun exercise that I’d not done before – you have 5 minutes to start the drawing (focusing on marking out the key features/composition).  Then we all had to move a couple of spots around the room to someone else’s drawing(!) and work on that for 5 minutes with a different focus.  This repeats until you’ve worked on four different drawings.  Here is the drawing that I started, but I wish I’d taken photos of more of them as it was really interesting to see the results.

Result of four people working on one piece
4 x 5minutes, A1

Using what we’d learnt so far we then produced two more drawings.  I felt like I was struggling a bit (working too slowly), but felt better at the end when we collected the previous day’s work and I realised we had been working on a much larger scale than the day before but had the same amount of time to do three big drawings as we’d spent doing one quarter size drawing the day before.  I guess I’m not a quick drawer so should work to a smaller scale if pushed for time.

First large drawing
About 45 minutes, A1
Second large drawing with rhino for comparison
About 40 minutes, A1, size compared with drawing from the day before

After the class I went to the National Gallery to see the oil pastel works of Degas that they have.  Beautiful works of art that could be mistaken for paintings, by my untrained eye anyway!  I clearly need a lot more practice to discover the full potential of this medium.

Hacked Sorbetto top with gathers

I felt I needed a bit of a break from the Colette Sorbetto top pattern after my first couple of attempts, but since then I have seen a few takes on it that have inspired me again.  In particular, this version where the bust darts are rotated to neck pleats.

Sobetto top with gathers front view

Instead of pleats, my initial idea was to move the darts to the neckline and then create a gathered neckline.  However, on further reflection, I thought that may not be the best idea for my first go at gathering as without something stable to sew the gathers to I could easily imagine ending up with a rather wonky neckline.  So instead I decided to create front yokes and then rotate the dart towards them.  I also removed the pleat, as felt the gathers were enough for design detail.

Moving the dart

Final front pattern pieces

Before adapting the pattern for the gathers, I made similar adjustments as for my London version (since after wearing the two Sorbettos a bit I realised that the first attempt was actually not such a bad fit).  With the London version I had thought that I’d lowered the armscye too much as the arm hole had a lot of gaping, but after making up this one I’ve realised that the extra length works, but that the base of the armscye is too wide, which was why I was getting all the gaping.  So I took the side seams in by 2.6 cm at each arm – took a bit of time as I’d used French seams, but felt the top was unwearable prior to this so it was definitely worth it.

I also trimmed the front of the armsyce a bit, would have liked to trim a little bit more but couldn’t without needing to redo all the gathering and I didn’t think it was that bad.

I made bias tape using the continuous loop method and hand stitched this down for a neat front finish.  The fabric pattern is probably busy enough that the stitching wouldn’t have been very noticeable, but I actually found the hand stitching quite relaxing and am happy to have done it.

Gathers and bias trim detail

I think the smallish pattern of this fabric makes for good bias tape that would look nice as a trim on a solid coloured top.  (Or maybe I’m just trying to talk myself into buying more fabric…)

The fabric is viscose from Goldhawk Road that has a lovely drape.  Finally feel like I’m starting to make some good fabric choices.  I loved the look and feel of this fabric so much that I had to stop myself going back and buying lots more as they had a few different prints.  I will of course be buying more of this fabric, but am trying to restrict myself to using the fabrics I already have or only buying new fabric for a particular project that I intend to sew straight away so that I don’t end up with an overwhelming stash.

Sorbetto with gathers back view

Looking at the back photos, I wonder if I ought to widen the hem a bit next time.

Sorbetto with gathers front

I’m really happy with this top, it is a very welcome addition to my summer wardrobe.

I would like to make this again, but might try adding a bit more gathering.  Also, I think it could look a bit better with a lower neck line and then longer yoke pieces/lower down gathering.

Have you ever had inspiration from other sewers that makes you go back to a pattern that you were struggling with?

A-line skirt: The Purple Ginger

For my next skirt I thought I’d go a-line – clean and smoothly fitted around the waist but more room for movement than a pencil skirt, and hence much more likely to get worn.  The Colette Ginger skirt gets pretty good reviews and I thought the instructions for their Sorbetto top were excellent, so this looked to be the clear choice.  I also liked the fact that it uses clever shaping instead of darts.

Purple Ginger skirt front view

“The purple ginger” reminds me of a fun weekend in Paris a few years ago with some friends as they took to calling me “purple carrot” (I have no idea why), maybe it is just my weird brain that makes that connection, but it makes me smile 🙂

Ginger skirt with pockets front view

Anyway, the main downside of the pattern was no pockets, but that’s one of the big joys of learning to sew – I can adapt the pattern to suit me!  I was particularly inspired by this version with side slant pockets (I also really like her use of piping and was tempted to add that too, but decided to leave that for another version).

Ginger skirt with pockets side view

I used the pocket pattern pieces from the first trouser pattern of Dressmaking: The complete step-by-step guide as a starting point.  Those slant pockets were straight but a lot of similar pockets I’d seen on skirts were curved, so on my toile I made one side pocket straight and the other gently curved to see which I preferred.  The curved version was definitely better as it sat flat against the body while the straight pocket stuck out and distorted the skirt shape.  For a fun hidden detail I used some of my London fabric for the pocket lining.

Ginger skirt pocket pieces

This skirt is designed to have a pretty high waist, but that really isn’t my style so I went up a size so that the skirt would sit lower.  However this meant that the straight waistband left a lot of gaping around the waist so I adjusted the waistband to be curved as per the explanation given by Mrs C in the comments of this Scruffy Badger post.  I quickly learnt the importance of keeping the fold line and edges at right angles though when I opened up the first front waistband piece:

First attempt at curving the waistband

Other adjustments I made to the pattern were:

  • Removed the curve near the top along the skirt centre front seam
  • Shortened the skirt centre front seam by 1.5cm at the top
  • Lengthened the skirt centre back seam by 0.5cm at the top of the skirt piece
  • Removed the curve near the top along the skirt centre back seam

I found it amazing how much of a difference just a small adjustment can make – initially I was getting some very unsightly diagonal lines from the centre back out towards the side hem, but lengthening the centre back seam by just 0.5cm sorted this out.

Ginger skirt with pockets front view

The fabric is a cotton drill from Goldhawk Road.  It is fairly thick and sturdy so not entirely sure it was the best choice for this skirt as the waistband stays upright and thus gapes at the front when I sit down.  I love the colour though.

I wanted this to be a skirt for all seasons, so as I was making it up I tried it on with tights – as soon as I started to walk I could feel it doing that annoying climbing up the legs thing, so the skirt had to be lined.  The lining is acetate from Goldhawk Road that I already had as it was originally intended for a cord skirt (that I won’t make before the autumn), but I liked how the colour worked with the purple shell.  It was a nightmare to sew!  I now know what people mean when they talk about fabric slipping all over the place.  I hand basted every seam before taking it to the machine which seems to have worked, well enough for a lining anyway.

Ginger skirt with lining

For the invisible zip, I referred to Sunni‘s Craftsy zipper class and Lauren‘s Invisible zipper tutorial along with the pattern instructions and am pretty happy with how this turned out both on the outside and inside.  The zip isn’t completely invisible at the waistband join, but I think this is due to the fabric being so thick.  I’ve since noticed that a lot of more experienced bloggers don’t use invisible zips with thicker fabrics, so I’ll remember to use a regular zip with such fabrics in the future.

Ginger skirt back view

This skirt actually took quite a long time to make with all the pattern adjustments and figuring out how to work with the slippery lining, but I’m very happy with how it has turned out.  Despite loving the colour and the finish, sadly I don’t think this is going to become a frequently worn skirt as it just feels a bit too stiff (hopefully it will feel so bad in colder weather), but I’d definitely use the Ginger skirt pattern again with a different fabric.  I’d like to try out the bias cut version too in order to create the chevron effect, especially after seeing Caroline’s lovely version.