Modifying Mimi

Over the summer, I bought Mimi, a tailor’s dummy, to aid me in my dressmaking activities. In my younger days when I made a lot of my own clothes, my dear friend Mrs Robinson (although she wasn’t Mrs Robinson then) lived just up the road and we’d help each other out with dress fittings and adjustments. On one memorable occasion, we adjusted a dress that she was making to wear for a wedding three times before the big day (it had a fitted bodice that really needed to fit) as she seemed to expand and contract somewhat unpredictably (or maybe it was my fitting skills). Anyway, we are still very good friends, but she lives a couple of hundred miles away now, so help with dress-making is something more of a challenge.

Mimi in a shawl

But the arrival of Mimi means that I can make clothes – even fitted ones – without help. So, my first project using her has been one that allowed me to test out how useful she is… and whether I got my dimensions right. I chose to make an apron dress using a pattern from The Assembly Line. I bought some wool/linen double gauze fabric from Merchant and Mills for this project… never again (the fabric not the vendor). It’s lovely soft drapy fabric, but the loose weave and double layer means that it moves unpredictably as it is being sewn, so requires very careful pinning and stitching otherwise pattern pieces don’t align and it doesn’t hang properly – something that was essential with the particular pattern I had chosen.

The pattern itself, however, was clear and easy to follow, with the pattern pieces printed on thick paper, making them very robust. I ground to a halt at the point when I had fitted the dress to Mimi, but needed to see whether it worked on me. For quite a while Mimi wore the garment and I kept forgetting to try it on when I was getting dressed in the morning. Eventually I set aside some time and made the effort to get undressed again during the day. I’m glad that I took the time to do this because it turned out that the straps were much too short (they were only pinned in place, so this was easily remedied). When I considered it, I realised that, whilst Mimi had been set up to be the right distance around, she actually has a chest rather than a bust and she doesn’t stick out at the front much. I actually knew about this issue but it had slipped my mind. The resolution is easy – put Mimi in a bra* and stuff it so that It’s the right size. This done, the fitting went very smoothly and I’m happy with my new pinafore dress.

The process has given me confidence to make garments that require more shaping and, therefore, more careful fitting and I have already ordered another Assembly Line pattern.

-oOo-

* Good grief, I can’t believe I’m showing you my underwear AGAIN!

Snail's pace

You may recall that back in April, my dear friend Lizzie sent me some fabric, all packaged up in a parcel tied with string. I dithered for a while about how to use the fabric, but in the end I decided to use a small amount of it to make a wallet (pocketbook). I chose a wallet because it’s an everyday object and so I would get to enjoy the fabric all the time.

I had all the bits I needed for the project, including the metal closure and I set to.. in July. All went well to begin with but then I started having problems with my sewing machine – I just couldn’t get the tension right. I sewed one seam about six times and unpicked it each time. I fiddled with the bobbin and the top tension, I rethreaded the machine, adjusted the feeder dog, applied oil in all the appropriate places, changed the needle and still I couldn’t get it right. In exasperation I put my sewing to one side and and decided that I would have to get the machine serviced.

And then I had some inspiration – I looked at the needles and discovered that the eyes were misaligned. In fact all of the needles in that particular packet were affected. So, I bought some new needles from a trustworthy manufacturer and, hey presto, the tension was fine. However, my enthusiasm was severely affected and I just couldn’t get back to this particular project. And so it remained like this for months:

Last week, however, I pulled myself together and got started again. Of course some of the pieces had become separated from the rest of the project, and it took me an hour or so to locate them. Then I got to a point in the instructions that I didn’t understand. Fortunately, the designer was on hand via the British Bag Makers group on Facebook to sort me out. So, all-in-all, it’s been a bit of a struggle. Nevertheless, I’ve soldiered on and finally completed this (far from perfect) Accordi-Anna Wallet by Lisa Lam (you can find Lisa’s designs on her web site here):

It’s the first of two sewing projects I was determined to finish before I start a scrappy thing I have in mind. Hopefully I will get the second one completed in the next week too. Do you have any stalled projects at the moment?

Swooning over a new bag

Some time ago Sam destroyed one of my bags… a particularly useful little backpack that I had taken on many excursions. Rather than dash out and buy a replacement, I bought a pattern for something similar (the Lucy Backpack by Swoon ) and then I procrastinated. First I couldn’t decide what sort of fabric to use and then I read the pattern through, thought it sounded rather complicated, and put it aside for when I had a clearer head. And so it sat unattempted waiting for inspiration, which finally arrived in the form of need.

My recent trip to London was due to coincide with some damp weather, so the handbag I have been using recently, which is not waterproof, was not really suitable. In addition, a small backpack is ideal for carrying a bottle of water and other essentials for a trip involving a train journey. Of course, I left it until the last minute, but some time spent cutting and then a couple of evenings sewing were enough.

I was in such a rush that I didn’t take any photographs of the process, but the bag came together well, the instructions were good and I only made one mistake – accidentally doing some top-stitching through an extra layer, so that the pocket was sewn shut. My mistake was easy to resolve. I slightly modified the pattern, using a piece of ribbon for the drawstring rather than making it from scratch, and making use of a salvaged slider (from an old waterproof jacket) to secure the drawstring closed.

Earlier in the year I had bought some African waxed cotton remnants, so I decided to use some of this fabric for the outer, The lining /straps were more problematic, but I rummaged through the pile of old fabric I have squirreled away (all bought at least 20 years ago) and found some lovely wool suiting that I thought would be robust enough for what I wanted. I already had the hardware that I needed and there was a suitable zip in my store of random zips (I have no idea where they all came from, but were probably given to me). The interfacing and foam to provide structure do have to be new for this sort of project, but I had already bought those in preparation, so I didn’t have to go shopping.

I would certainly recommend the pattern and will be making it again very soon… watch this space.

London – fabric and friendship

I don’t visit the capital very often, but with Mr Snail in Reading (25 minutes away from London on the train) at the moment, it seems like an ideal opportunity to make a few trips in and do some of the things on my ‘list’ (not a real list – it’s just in my head).

The week before last I travelled down to Reading on Thursday so that, whilst Mr Snail was at work on Friday, I could go into London. I had two purposes: meeting up with a friend who I haven’t seen for over 20 years and visiting Berwick Street. I’m not sure whether you know the significance of this location, but I felt that it was important to go there without Mr Snail so as not to bore him to tears. You see, Berwick Street is known for its fabric shops.

Lovely Japanese waves

In the end I only had just over an hour to spend in Berwick Street and I could have spent the whole time in just one or two shops… one specialising in silks was full of such delicious fabric that I felt as if I needed a lie down before I could proceed. If I’d had more time I would have looked round, had a coffee to gather my thoughts and then gone back to make my purchases. However, in the limited time available I decided to visit as many shops as possible to get a flavour and so that I’d be better able to plan future visits. Finally, I only bought a length of Japanese cotton (in an indigo shade that the picture doesn’t do justice to) with which to make a dress, but I left with lots to think about for future makes.

After Berwick Street, there was a quick underground ride to Great Portland Street, where it turned out that neither me nor my friend have changed too much since we were in our 30s and so recognising each other was no problem. We went to Honey and Co, a lovely middle eastern restaurant that I can highly recommend… although you’ll need to book if you want to eat there because it’s very popular. There are some friends who you just feel comfortable with no matter how long it is since you saw each other, and so it was… the conversation flowed as we shared mezze, sipped orange blossom iced tea and then tucked into the most amazing feta & honey cheesecake on a kadaif pastry base. There are no photographs – we were far too busy eating and catching up on each other’s lives.

After lunch she took me on a quick tour of BBC Broadcasting House, where she works and I was lucky enough to be taken down into the newsroom – an extraordinary place full of people and technology collecting information from around the world. We criticise our state broadcaster sometimes, but the sheer scale of their news operation is something to be marvelled at, plus it was interesting to see the place for real rather than just on the television screen. A stroll up to Regent’s Park and a stop for tea and then it was back on the underground to return to Paddington to catch my train back to Reading. We agreed not to leave it another 20 years before our next get-together.

ScrapHappy October 2019

I really had no excuse for not writing a ScrapHappy post last month other than not feeling like writing… I wasn’t as if I hadn’t done anything scrappy.  I just couldn’t rouse myself to blog.

However, my newly restored enthusiasm for writing ( actually, that’s a lie, I’m still finding it hard) means that this month you get to see something yarny made using scraps. I have lots of scrap sock yarn, partly because one 100g ball can make me three socks and since I only have two feet, I often have a third of a ball left over. I could use all this yarn to make multi-coloured socks,  but I have decided that it would be more fun to crochet with it. So, I’m making little squares (just five rounds each) and I’m planning to join them together with black yarn (I have some scrap black, but probably not enough) to give a sort of stained glass window effect. You’ll have to use your imagination, though, as currently all I have are these:

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This is only the start

In addition, I continue to tie short lengths of scrap yarn together to make an ever-growing ball. When it is big enough, I will crochet it into a hat and that will be donated to charity, as I’ve done for a while now.

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Not big enough to make anything yet, but getting there

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

ScrapHappy August 2019

This month was another one when I finally got round to making something that I’ve had in mind for a while. Actually, the thing that was holding me back was the fact that my overlocker was not on my work table and I was too lazy to get it out for just one project. However, because there ended up being several items that I needed it for and all of them required white thread, so I had to re-thread it anyway, there was no excuse not to get on with this particular make.

Because my hair is long and I always let it dry naturally, I’m a big fan of wrapping it in a head towel after washing. I’ve only ever owned three of these – one I lost and the other two are showing signs of wear. My favourite is an organic cotton one that I’ve had for about 10 years and that I really, really wanted to clone. Being extremely reluctant to buy new, I unearthed a towel that belonged to my grandmother (she died about 25 years ago) that was a bit tatty, but still looked like it had some life in it. When it was bought is was baby pink… all these years later it’s white with a hint of pink, but that’s ok.

So, I started off by placing my head towel on the old towel and drawing around it. Them I folded the towel over and pinned the two layers together

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Marked up and ready to cut

Next,I cut around the shape away from the line (an overlocker trims the fabric as well as stitching it) before overlocking the two pieces together along the long curved side. Oh, and one of you might recognise that pincushion!

I overlocked the opening, all the way round, then turned a hem and stitched it using my sewing machine, inserting a loop of scrap tape that was left over from mending a baseball cap belonging to Mr Snail. Finally, I added a button from my button box (one with a shank, as I thought that would hold the loop more securely).

And there you have it…

A new head towel made entirely from bits and bobs I had hanging around the house (please excuse the poor selfies… I’m not very good at taking them and Mr Snail is away).

And the trimmings from the overlocker didn’t get thrown away… I used them to tie my chilli plants to their supports:

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Woolcool

IMGP7223In order to support small producers, we buy most of our meat direct, and it arrives by courier. In general, it’s packed in a cardboard box and insulated with a product called Woolcool – basically a thick layer of wool in a recyclable plastic cover. Some of this has been returned to the producers for reuse, but we have also been finding new uses for it, as encouraged by the manufacturers.

There are a couple of pieces of it in the cool bag that Mr Snail carries back and forth to Reading each week with his supplies – it provides additional insulation and stops everything rattling around and falling over. I’ve also used some as mulch in the garden. I had put one piece aside, however, for a specific project which I finally got round to this week

We have an old plastic dog bed that both dogs are rather fond of. For years it’s simply had an old blanket or duvet in it, but the current blanket is disintegrating and so it’s time for a revamp. To begin with, it needs some padding in the bottom, and this is where the wool packaging comes in. The Woolcool is a long thin strip and the bed is oval, so I had to cut the strip in two and then join the pieces side by side, but there was plenty to do this. I used a little fabric glue to hold the two bits together and then stitched them using some knitting wool. As the pad is used the wool is likely to felt, so the yarn and the fleece will probably become one. I made a cotton cover out of some more of that old sheet that featured in July’s ScrapHappy because the paw prints seemed appropriate.

The off cuts of the wool went into the compost heap because I’m very keen to see how well it breaks down, and the plastic cover went in the recycling… I wish they didn’t use this, I’d be perfectly happy with unenclosed fleece. Now all I need to do is make a new blanket… I might just have a few yarn scraps somewhere for that.

ScrapHappy July 2019

For some time now I have had it in mind to use some scrap fabric to make present bags. When Mr Snail and I give each other gifts we tend to wrap them in paper that has been reused many, many times – we never buy new wrapping paper. I have to confess that all the paper has all seen better days and it has become increasingly difficult to give a present that looks presentable. So, I had a rummage and found some nice scrap fabric left over from various sewing projects, as well as the remains of some old pyjama bottoms. I wanted to make draw-string bags, so needed lengths of ribbon and tape. Looking through my collection, I found some pieces from chocolate boxes, some quite long lengths that had been around clothes and household linen from ethical suppliers (to hold them neatly without the need for plastic), a piece that was once a curtain tab, two bits that were the hangers from the aforementioned old pyjamas and some other bits left over from long-forgotten projects. Not all the tape was long enough, but it was easily stitched together.

As I worked on the bags, I realised that I could also do with three in which to store plastic bags in the kitchen. Until the doors were replaced on the kitchen cupboards, plastic bags lived jammed into a cupboard and there was always the risk of a bagalanche when the door was opened. We reuse plastic bags, but storage has always been untidy, so three drawstring bags (one for small bags, one for medium bags and one for large bags) seemed like the answer. I made them in different colours so I would know which was which: the last of the spotty fabric from the dismantled night dress (the rest lined the scrappy satchel a while ago); a bit of an old sheet that had worn through in the centre, but has good edges left to be salvaged and has a cute paw print design; and a piece of stripy fabric that remains from a long-forgotten project. When Mr Snail saw what I was up to, he requested a bag for bags to use in his rented flat, so I made two of the stripy ones.

I’m very pleased with these scrappy creations – easy to make and all scrappy apart from the sewing thread. Even the little plastic tool I used to thread the tapes is a stirrer that came with a takeaway hot drink many years ago and has been living in my sewing box ever since, used lots of times and still going strong.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki and Sue

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

ScrapHappy April 2019

Last month I was really inspired by Alys’ ScrapHappy greetings cards, so this month I decided to have a go myself. I have loads of card blanks and piles of scrap paper and fabric. I’d also got a 2018 calendar that I couldn’t bring myself to throw out, some old greetings cards and some bits and pieces left over from the days when I used to make a hundred or so Christmas cards to send every year.

I started simple with some glue, paper scraps and the old calendar. The first one I made was a bit messy and I applied  my glue unevenly, so it came out a bit wrinkled. Never mind, it’s a learning process and I was very pleased with my final attempt on the yellow card.

I made several just with paper and then moved on to some including paper, fabric (some swatches from when I was choosing curtains some time ago) and some leaf skeletons that have been hanging around for ages:

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Fabric and leaves on paper

And then I decided to add some stitching, using my sewing machine. I made three cards from scraps of fabric, including some leaf motifs from an old net curtain, having become rather taken with leaves by this point. These are fabric on fabric, plus one leaf skeleton, mounted on card. The one on the left incorporates lots of the tiny trimmings from all the other cards, thus using scraps from scraps.

Finally, I had a little play around with sewing a leaf skeleton onto paper. This was an experiment and I haven’t actually made this into a card, but here it is anyway:

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leaf stitched onto paper

So, here’s the complete set of scrappy cards (except one, which has already been sent):

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scrappy cards

So, thank you Alys for the inspiration, I’m sure I’ll be making many more.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie and Bekki

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

ScrapHappy Update

I simply can’t wait until next month to share my completed February ScrapHappy project with you. I used a pattern from etsy called the Carina Satchel and, apart from a few places where I scratched my head a bit, it all went quite smoothly. I took Kate‘s advice and used a denim/jeans needle and didn’t break a single one – thank you for that tip. In addition, I worked almost entirely using the walking foot on my sewing machine, which coped well with multiple layers and ‘sticky’ vinyl.

In the end I used a few new things: the hardware (a magnetic clasp, two D-rings, a slider and two swivel clips), some waistband interfacing (to make sure the strap was nice and tidy) and a small amount of ready-made piping (which I could have made myself, but decided to buy). Working with vinyl meant that the bag mostly couldn’t be pinned, because pins leave holes in the plastic, so I used the sewing clips that I’d bought specifically to use for bag-making. Of course these are going to be used time and again. All the fabric and most of the interfacing as well as the fleece, which helps to give structure, were scraps.

And here it is completed:

Now, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t look at that and think ‘scrap’. I’m now on the look out for other old vinyl tablecloths, although I have lots more of that one to play with still.

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