Biased

One of my plans for this year even before all the lockdown stuff happened was to do some more dress-making. I’m not a big buyer of clothes and in recent years many of my old favourites have got to the point where they are no longer wearable. Eventually fabric gets too thin to be repaired and has to be consigned to the rags.

Unfortunately, rather than being caught up in a whirl of creativity, I have found the lockdown stressful and draining, so haven’t done as much making as I would otherwise have achieved. However, I’ve now completed a second dress (first one here). I’m quite pleased with the end product, but it turned into something of a labour of love. I’ve done lots of dressmaking over the years, so am not too intimidated by a more challenging pattern, but it’s nice sometimes to go for a quick and easy make, which is what I thought I would do in this case. I selected a slightly unusual pattern that was cut in a single piece on the bias, so that it only had a single long seam up the back and two short seams at the shoulders. I had assumed that the neck and arm holes would be faced, but when the pattern said a single piece of fabric, that’s exactly what it meant. The suggestion was that all the edges were left raw, with just a row of stitches to stop them fraying – no hems, no facings, no binding. Since I had bought a piece of linen with which to make this dress, and since it does fray rather a lot, I was not prepared to make a garment that I feared would simply unravel. There was a bit of a throw-away line in the pattern suggesting that you could hem or bind if you wanted to, but that was it.

Anyway, not deterred, I made a toile, prototyped some pockets (like the ones on my Beatrice aprons) and ordered some bias binding. What I had completely forgotten to do was buy some thread that matched the fabric, and with no local sewing shops open and long delays on orders from my preferred online shops, I had to bite the bullet and do some top-stitching in the same colour as the binding (which I did have thread for). Once I looked at the pattern in detail, it turned out that some piecing together was required if the dress was to be possible in my size and in the width required:

Well, I would rather have known to buy wider fabric than to have to do this. Fortunately, my toile had revealed that I wanted the dress shorter than the pattern, so I was able to avoid the joining.

I cut the fabric, stabilised the edges (single row of stitches on the curves and round the bottom and overlocking the straight back and shoulder edges) and attached the pockets before joining any of the seams. I bound the top of the pockets, carefully stitched them on with my contrasting thread, noticed that I’d attached one the wrong way out (the one in the picture), removed it and restitched it, then bound the neck. Then I took hours and hours to bind the arm holes, including several attempts that had to be taken out, because the acute angle at the bottom was so challenging. In the end I had to tack the binding in place to get it anything close to neat, and even now it’s a long way from perfect. The neck was easy to bind and the closure is simply a button and loop. The bottom I hemmed using the contrasting thread.

I’m happy enough with the final version and it’s comfortable to wear, but I feel that the pattern description was incredibly misleading. Still, I love the fabric, the shape of the dress and the drape resulting from the bias cut. If I make it again, I’ll simply add seam allowances and line the bodice part, then top-stitch, which would be a very quick make. Oh well, you live and learn.

Oh, sheet!

Over the years you will have gathered that I find it almost impossible to throw things away that “might be useful”. This means that our house is full of stuff, and that can be challenge sometimes. However, there are occasions when a particular item turns out to be exactly what I need… which is just what happened recently.

A while back, when one of our large fitted cotton sheets wore through, I laundered it and put it in my fabric stash thinking that the more robust parts would be useful for lining bags, or something. This meant that when I bought a dress pattern that I was unsure about, I had plenty of old sheet to make a toile (an early attempt at a pattern in cheap fabric) and play about with length and pocket placement before cutting into the linen I had bought for the final version.

This gave me the confidence to cut my bought fabric, knowing that the final dress would actually fit. It’s not finished yet, but I’m making progress.

Because of the size of the sheet, even once the dress was cut out, there was still lots of fabric left, which turned out to be a good job. Recently Mr Snail’s hayfever has been extremely bad, and he has been using handkerchiefs very rapidly, so I shouldn’t have been surprised this morning when he announced that there were no more clean ones in the drawer. Remembering Kate’s recent post and comments on an earlier post of mine about making handkerchiefs out of old sheets/pillowcases, I set to work. I didn’t worry too much about exact sizes, although I aimed for about 35-38 cm square. If it hadn’t been an emergency, I would have hemmed them, but for speed, I overlocked the edges. This means they are a bit scratchy, but better than nothing. And the result, in less than an hour, was 11 large hankies.

Ignoring the fact that they could do with ironing, I’m rather pleased with myself.

Play time

Scrabble and chocolate mousse

Since we can’t go out to play at the moment, I have been finding some indoor things to play with. As well as regular evening games of Scrabble and Jenga in the limery, I’ve been playing in the sewing room. I have taken the opportunity to make something that I’ve wanted to try for a while and to sew with a new material.

Both my projects resulted from not being able to go to Wonderwool this year as it was cancelled. I had a trip planned with friends and had even bought the tickets. Instead, there was an online event and the organisers invited the exhibitors to contribute links to their shops . I don’t really need any more yarn (still working my way through my stash), but I wanted to support some of the small businesses who are currently unable to trade. I found a lovely little fabric shop – Black Mountain Fabrics – that does not normally trade online and, after several messages backwards and forwards, selected two kits that interested me.

First, a Japanese knot bag. I keep seeing pictures of these and thinking that the construction is interesting. So, what better way to have a go than with a kit? I told the lovely lady who owns the shop what sort of colours I’d like and she sent me photos of fabrics to choose from. I was smitten by some with peacock feathers and we combined it with a teal lining. It was a quick and simple make and I think I’m likely to make more of these – they would be ideal for little gifts and only require the fabric – no interfacing, clasps, zips or drawstrings.

Second, a little kit that included cork fabric. I have been fascinated by the idea of cork for bag-making for a while, but wanted something simple to experiment with. This bag has a simple construction and the most wonderful octopus lining. The handle was easy to fit and it was another quick make. I was interested to discover how flexible the cork is and how beautifully it sewed (at least on my sewing machine). I would certainly consider using it for other bag-making projects.

I know that several friends have found their creativity lacking during this period of enforced confinement, whilst some people are flourishing. Have you been playing with new materials or media recently? Or have you simply wanted to crawl under the duvet and not come out?

All dressed up and nowhere to go

No mending this Monday, so I thought I’d share a make instead.

Last autumn, when we could travel and see friends in the same room, rather than only electronically, I went to London. The main purpose was lunch with an old friend, but I slotted in a bit of fabric shopping and bought a lovely piece of Japanese cotton. I chose it to go with a specific dress pattern and intended to make it almost straight away. However, the need for a cotton dress in the winter is limited and so other projects took precedence. Now, however, it’s spring and the time was right for this piece of sewing.

It’s a simple garment, with raglan sleeves and a zip at the back. The idea was to choose a fabric that would take centre stage. It turned out to be a fairly simple make, although I did have to adjust the shoulder darts a little and may revisit them, as I think the shaping could be better.

So, I give you the Raglan dress (a pattern from the Avid Seamstress):

Now, I just need to be allowed out in order to show it off.

Mend It Monday #10

As my friend Sarah says “If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

The mending pile is greatly diminished and it may be that these posts become monthly rather than weekly in the not too distant future. However, there are still a few things to get through and this week I returned to an old favourite: a much-mended pair of Mr Snail’s jeans. I first wrote about them here: they were my first attempt at boro style mending in 2017. Since then, they’ve had multiple mends and are becoming quite a work of art; there are more pictures of them here.

One of the legs, above the knee has developed weak areas where the fabric creases naturally. Before they disintegrate entirely in that area, some reinforcement seemed appropriate. I rummaged through my scraps and found a swatch of really tough upholstery fabric that doesn’t fray if pinked and made use of this. It’s a big area, so I secured the patch inside by means of machine stitching, and then I got out my embroidery threads and did some freeform stitching. Today’s work is the darker purple stitches.

What do you think?

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

ScrapHappy April 2020

A month down the line and how things have changed… I thought that this month there would be more scrappy cards, but events have overtaken us.

Instead, it’s all about face masks… perfect for using up scrap fabric. There are lots of patterns out there, but two different friends recommended the same pattern, so that’s the one I went for. Kate Chiconi wrote about it here and then, when we were chatting via Zoom, my friend Katie (who only lives a few miles away, but might as well be in Australia at the moment) modelled the one she had made from this same pattern. I have, however, added an extra component: non-woven Vilene. Although it’s not medical grade, adding Vilene increases filtration because it isn’t woven. If you are thinking of making a mask, you might be interested in the information in this post from the lovely people at Empress Mills which discusses suitable fabrics.

Anyway, when I mentioned to Mr Snail that I was going to make face masks, he said that he wanted to make his own, so this is our first joint ScrapHappy project, and you can read about his take on it here.

I started off by trialling the pattern and working out which parts might be a challenge for Mr Snail (none, as it turned out). I collected together some likely-looking fabric and in the end I made one mask from a scrap of organic cotton left over from an apron I made (outer) and some Tana Lawn (lining) and one from some snail fabric (outer) and some lovely soft cotton that had once been a pyjama leg (lining). The Vilene (applied to the lining fabric) was a variety of small pieces left over from dress-making projects and there was just enough for two face masks each. Mr Snail’s masks were also made of scraps, and I managed to find enough elastic in my sewing box to complete our projects.

-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 folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancyAlysKerryClaireJean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawnGwen, Connie, Bekki, PaulineSue L,
Sunny and Kjerstin

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.

Mend It Monday #9

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

This week I’ve finally got round to repairing something that has been in the mending pile for a couple of years. The reason I haven’t done it before was that I wasn’t sure a mend was really possible. It’s a loose cotton tunic made of very delicate fabric, and after a lot of wear, one of the sleeves just started to disintegrate:

It’s too delicate to embroider onto or to back it with fusible interfacing which only left patching it. I chose a scrap of Tana Lawn, which is fine but robust and edged that before stitching it over the problem area. I made sure that one edge was along the cuff, so that I could sew into multiple layers for strength. After it was attached (a difficult job because of working inside a sleeve) I managed a few rows of stitching across for reinforcement.

To be honest, I’m not sure this mend will last long, but we’ll see. If the fabric turns out to be too weak to hold the patch, I’ll just make it into a short-sleeved garment rather than a long-sleeved one.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

Mend It Monday #5

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

This week I finished repairing the cardigan that I darned last week. Once the holes were repaired, I moved on to the frayed cuffs. In fact the fraying wasn’t too bad, only affecting the very ends of the sleeves, but sorting the issue out now will save a much more difficult mend later.

I started by reinforcing the frayed edge, so that it wouldn’t fray anymore, catching any free stitches to avoid ladders forming. Then I worked a row of blanket stitch around each cuff, a couple of centimetres in from the end. I used these stitches as the foundation for crocheting new cuffs. I worked two rows of double crochet, then three rows of treble crochet so that the work was long enough to fold over the original end of the sleeve and enclose the raggedy ends. Although the original cuffs were cream, I decided that black would actually be much more practical. I used sock yarn, so it should be robust and, hopefully, last a good few more years.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

ScrapHappy March 2020

The other day Mr Snail asked whether we had any greetings cards in the stash and when I ferreted them out I discovered that, whilst we did have some made by other artists, there were very few left from my last scrappy card-making session. So, I dug out a random pile of scraps in the hope that inspiration would strike.

Perhaps there’s some left-over inspiration in amongst this lot

During my last card-making session I had started to experiment with sewing paper and fabric together, and I want to continue to explore this. One reason is that, by sewing, I can avoid using glue, much of which is not very environmentally friendly. If I only use natural fibres, my cards will be completely compostable.

I discovered three leaf skeletons and I know that these always look effective on cards. One problem with working with paper is that you can’t pin it in place, but the clips that I use for bag making did the trick , as you can see in the picture below. I stitched the leaves onto fabric scraps (two bits were furnishing fabric samples and one a scrap from a very old dressmaking project – so old, I no longer have the dress!). Next these were sewn onto handmade paper scraps and then finally onto some folded card. By working in layers, only the last round of stitching is visible inside the card, and it doesn’t look too untidy The fourth card was simply made by framing a scrap of snail fabric using some strips of handmade paper. I’m less happy with this card than the others as it’s a bit wonky, but it has all been a bit of a learning exercise and the card will get used anyway – after all, it’s unique.

I had hoped to make more than four cards, but time got away from me, so there may be more next month.

-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, Sue and Sunny

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.

Mend It Monday #4

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

After telling you about a cardigan that I don’t like in my last post, today I want to tell you about one that I really love… and that I have really loved for about 30 years. I am pretty sure that I bought it when I was a postgraduate student, and I haven’t been one of those for 29 years, so it can’t be younger than that. Anyway, it has started to show signs of its age and a couple of weeks ago I noticed a large hole and some smaller ones in one of the sleeves. Originally I thought I’d crochet a flower to cover the big hole, but then I discovered that I have some cotton yarn that matches the cream (also cotton) and thought that I would stabilise the holes first. Having done this, I’m going to leave this particular mend alone, as it has worked so well.

I am not, however, finished with this cardigan, as the cuffs are starting to fray, so more work is required before I feel ready to wear it again. If I notice any worn patches after that, I think I will add some black crochet flowers or leaves, as they would be fun to make.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

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