Thursday, 30 July 2015

Measuring up!

This week I've been working on a dress from a pattern I've not used before. The first thing I do with a new pattern is to figure out which size I need to cut. I'm not yet a proficient enough seamstress to be able to do too much editing to a pattern. I also typically don't sew muslins, preferring to make a wearable muslin as a first attempt that can be improved upon.

I find that my more successful garments stem from a good guestimation on what size to cut- choosing which size to cut can be somewhat haphazard and usually takes me a long time of deliberation to finally settle on which size I'm going to cut. It does however need accurate measurements. There's lots on information out there on how to correctly measure yourself. But here's the question - metric or imperial?

I've taken my measurements in both cm and inches, but I'm never sure which chart I should be looking at. Obviously the one of the left is in imperial (inches and yards) which is used in Britain and the USA and the one on the right is in metric (centimetres and metres) used in Europe. I find that in the UK however, this is somewhat confusing since we buy fabric in metres but generally measure garments in inches.

I've made garments from both imperial (Collette) and metric (Tilly and the Buttons) measurements with equal success. I feel somewhat guilty when I use imperial over metric due being taught to use metric units at school. When I began sewing I found I used cm more often than inches and as I progress I am becoming more competent with using inches. Things do seem to be more set up for inches, for example bias tape generally comes in 1 or 1/2 inch widths and my sewing machine only has inches on the measuring plate.

I guess that it doesn't matter what units of measurements you use as long as you are accurate and consistent. I'm happy using either.

Anyone know of any rules for when we should use which system of measurement? What units do you use?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Patchwork Sewing Machine Cover

Hello all. I've been a busy girly recently, so apologies for not posting this sooner.

I've just got back from a long weekend away in the Windsor and Oxford area. My Husband and I have National Trust memberships so we went to visit Cliveden House and had a lovely lunch there. We also visited Waddesdon Manor and Blenheim Palace which were both lovely and had a mooch around Oxford town centre on Sunday when it rained. It was a lovely relaxing weekend and got back this afternoon.

Before we left I finally finished my patchwork project ...  a sewing machine cover.

My new sewing machine did not come with any sort of cover and it collects dust sitting in our office. I wanted to use up some of my scrap fabric, so the idea was to create a patchwork cover.

I used this tutorial for information about how to cut out patchwork squares and this tutorial which guides you through constructing a sewing machine cover using measurements from your own machine. I took measurements of my sewing machine and worked out how many patches I would need to create panels for the net of the cover. In all I needed 62 red and 62 blue.

The actual cutting of the squares I did in a whole afternoon and then piecing together each patchwork square was done in stages during free evenings.

This week I spent my time sewing together the panels. I firstly sewed the squares into strips and then sewed the strips together to create the required size panel. I then followed the tutorial to construct the cover, basically sewing all the sides together like the net of a cuboid (maths teacher much?).

The only problem was that it was too big!! As I was constructing the cover, I used my sewing machine to test the fit. It was too long and far too wide - there were two extra patchwork squares in the depth of the cover. I did some unpicking and got the correct size, so it now fits perfectly!

The inside is lined in red 1/4 inch gingham, which I constructed using measurements from the outer patchwork cover. The edges are finished using red bias tape from my stash which I bought on my trip to Walthamstow. I really like the finish the bias tape gives but it was all sorts of fiddly to do. I had to look online for a tutorial on how to do corners (I found one on YouTube) but still didn't get 100% complete success. I would definitely use it again though, as I did get better with practise.

So there you go, a completed patchwork sewing machine cover!

I'm still enjoying the school summer holidays and I've got another project lined up to start tomorrow which will probably take me up to the weekend. I'm not planning any trips outside so it's a good thing the weather hasn't been good and isn't likely to improve, according to the met office.

What's everyone up to in this rainy summer weather?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


Hi guys, long time no post!

Well, it's official ... I survived another school year. Yay for summer holidays.

I finished school on Friday after a very very stressful working week. We just about managed to get timetables and classlists sorted but there is still so much to do. I did leave my classroom in a complete mess but I got to the point where I couldn't do anymore as I was physically and mentally exhausted. I know I will have to go in at some point in the holidays anyway so will deal with it then.

I had a massively busy weekend, hence no time for posting or indeed any sewing. We went down to the coast for a BBQ with my sister and her boyfriend, to celebrate his birthday. We stayed the night with my sister and spent a very enjoyable Sunday lazing about and going to the cinema to watch Ant Man!

I spent the first official day of my summer holiday yesterday, sewing. The whole day was dedicated to my patchwork project and I'm excited about getting it finished. I'm in the very lucky position that I now have a considerable amount of time to dedicate to sewing and knitting. We don't have any holiday's booked apart from a couple of weekend breaks, which leaves me with a lot of time for my hobbies. I've made a long list of projects to get my teeth around which I will be sharing in due course! Expect lots of shirts and shirt dresses.

What are you up to this summer?  

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Patchwork Progress

Hello everyone. Another long school week for me. Usually I'm starting to wind down right about now, but there seems to still be so much to get done! Never mind though, we break up at the end of this week and then I will get a much needed break.  

I've been managing to find some time to continue with my patchwork project. What I love about patchwork is that even though I don't have much time to dedicate to sewing at the moment, even half an hour can feel productive. 

It's hard work patchworking. For my project I need a total of 62 red squares and 62 blue squares. I've finally finished all the red squares and am really please with how they have turned out. I have got much better at developing a system to piece them together. It does still take ages though!

I've now started on the blue squares. To make two patchwork squares, I firstly take two fabric squares and cut each into quarters along the diagonal. I then sew the small triangles into pairs, one of each fabric. After pressing the seams flat I then sew two large triangles together to create a patchwork square.

I've started sewing 12 squares at a time, working through the process in stages: cutting all the squares into quarters, sewing small triangles together, pressing, sewing large triangles and then pressing. It certainly has made the process quicker. I've found that pressing the seams flat helps with the accuracy of the point in the centre although it does make the process take longer.

I've still got quite a bit to do before I can even begin constructing the finished project but I feel like I've made a good start!

What's on your sewing table?

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Walthamstow Shopping Pilgrimage

I had an amazing day in London last weekend. I made a trip up to city to go fabric shopping in Walthamstow. I was dubious about what Walthamstow would have to offer, but it was well worth the trip!

Textile Centre, Walthamstow photo courtsey of 
We got the tube from central London to Walthamstow Central. The market runs along the length of the high street so was easy to find. The first shop we came across was the Textile Centre, which doesn't look like much from the outside but has an amazing array of fabrics inside.

It turns out that this was the most expensive shop of the day with most fabrics between £2 - £3 per metre. I was spoilt for choice and spent quite a while deciding what to buy. I ended up picking three lightweight polycottons with lovely drape.

The first is a black floral print with little white polka dots which was the most expensive of the day at £2.75 per metre of which I bought 2.5 metres. I have this picked out for a dress. The second is a red floral print and the third a navy blue tile print, both were £2.20. I bought 1.5m of the red, this will make a lovely blouse and 2.5m of the navy for another dress.

We then wandered down the High Street a bit more and came across another fabric shop. I can't for the life of me remember what it was called, but I know it was on the opposite side of the street to the Textile Centre. This shop had a large range of sari fabric, some shirting and chiffon fabrics and an amazing selection of prints.

I came away with three more lengths of fabric. The first is a navy and white heart print polycotton, which was chosen by the Husband and the second the beautiful turquoise rose print. Both were only £1.40 per metre and I bought 1.5m of both. For the life of me, I have no idea why I only got 1.5m when it was so cheap, I hope I have enough to make a blouse of each! I also bought some white and blue striped shirting to make a shirt for my Husband at only £1 per meter of which I bought 1.5m.

I did find the man outside of Sainsbury's, but at that point felt a bit shopped out - my Husband is typical in that he doesn't have much patience for shopping so we wandered back the other way. We did stop into a haberdashery shop selling a massive array of zips, buttons, ribbons, etc. I bought some bias binding for all the sleeveless shirts and dresses I'm about to make. The red and navy blue were 80p for 2m and the turquoise, white and black were 25p per metre.  

It was a great experience fabric shopping in Walthamstow - a huge selection across all the shops and such great prices. I will definitely be back in the not so distant future!

We spent the afternoon pottering around London - lunch as Borough Market, walk along South Bank, popped into my favourite shop Joy at Bankside and a visit to The Serpantine Gallery in Kensington Park Gardens. We finished with an amazing meal at The Quality Chop House. Overall a great weekend!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Specs Cases

Hello! I thought I'd share with you some unselfish sewing I've been doing recently. I made these glasses cases for my Mum and Dad. They're both belated presents - my Dad for fathers day and Mum's for her birthday which was in June. I've been holding onto these presents until I next see them, which is this weekend.

I used a pattern and instructions from Sew! Cath Kidston which was given to me as a present. I'm not actually a fan of Cath Kidston, I find the prints too faux vintage for my taste, however the book has some great projects.

This is the first time I have tried one of the projects and I was very impressed. The book comes with a set of templates to trace. I hate tracing patterns, so simply folded the sheet and photocopied it.  

Each case uses very little fabric. To create my Dad's specs case, I used some leftover navy blue gingham with plain navy polycotton for this inside lining. For my Mum, I used another leftover, a green and blue floral print, and pale turquoise cotton voile for the lining.

I used some cream woven piping from my stash for both cases, which works really well with both colourways. This was the first time that I have inserted piping and it was very easy to work with. The only thing that I struggled with was the corners - until a quick google search, where I discovered I had to cut notches along the hem of the piping for it to fit around the corners.

The whole process was simple and the instructions easy to follow. I did manage to skip a few steps - I had iron-on quilting wadding so didn't need to tack this to the lining and I also machine tacked the piping. I hate any hand sewing and avoid it wherever I can. The instructions called for me to slip stitch the lining and cover together, but instead of this I sewed around the top with right sides together and then turned them out.

The button loops are hand sewn. Yawn! The book gives limited instructions on this but I found this tutorial to be really easy to follow and I managed to complete both fairly quickly in one sitting, without getting too bored.

I am really pleased with these specs cases- they're so cute! I generally spend far longer sewing something that is going to be for someone else, but despite this they were really fast to complete. I was also really impressed with the pattern and instructions from the Sew! Catch Kidston book. It was a great way to use up some leftover fabric and has got me thinking what other useful things I could make. Ovengloves? Peg bag? Washbag?

Have you done any unselfish sewing recently?

Friday, 3 July 2015

Sleepless nights and shopping lists ...

Hello, hope everyone is enjoying the sweltering weather we are currently experiencing? No? Me neither! It's way too hot to be marking exam papers and teaching in hot classrooms of 32 kids.

I have a busy weekend coming up. Tomorrow I'm off to London and Sunday I am visiting my parents. I'm so excited to be going up to London. It's not far (1 hour on the train) and we do go up often, but this time I have convinced the Husband to take me up to Walthamstow.

I'm making a pilgrimage to Walthamstow Market after reading about it on so many blogs ... fabric for £2-£3 per meter? Yes, please!

Map of Walthamstow fabric shops by Karen from Did You Make That? 

In fact I've been so excited about this shopping trip that I have been dreaming about fabric and sewing. I haven't bought any fabric for a while now, so I'm really looking to build up my stash.

I wanted to be able to take a 'shopping list' of sorts with me to Walthamstow, so that I come back with useful items and to avoid impulse buys. The issue with this is that I prefer to buy a pattern first and then match the fabric to the pattern.

I have been trying to decide on a pattern for a shirt dress (see shirt dress inspiration) and I was really stuck between Pauline Alice's Cami Dress and Sew Over It's newest pattern the Vintage Shirt Dress. This actually gave me sleepless nights. Every evening for the past few days I have been googling both dresses and almost got close to buying both ... but didn't.

In the end, it was a helpful comment by Kirsty from Scientific Sewing that helped me make my mind up. I wrote in a post on shirt dress inspiration about not liking the pleats on the skirt. Kirsty helpfully suggested I could gather the skirt instead of pleating! Queue a lightbulb moment - I've found my perfect shirt dress pattern. So I've bought it - and slept very well since!

So now I can make a proper shopping list of what I would like to be able to find at Walthamstow. Here's my list:

  1. Light/Medium weight cotton for McCalls 6696 shirt dress. I'd like something floral and maybe a gingham for some practise at pattern matching.
  2. More cotton or polyester woven fabric for shirts for both me and the Husband - I have shirt patterns for both of us and now just need fabric!
  3. Knits - I'm hoping to find some nice knit fabrics to make some smart t-shirts ready for the next school year
  4. Buttons- needed for shirts and shirt dresses.
  5. Bias tape - I'm hoping to pick up a few packets of ready made bias tape as I have none in my stash.

I know that realistically that I won't be able to get everything on my list, but hopefully if I can get some of these items I'll be a happy girly. Have a great weekend all and wish me luck with my shopping!

Has anyone else been fabric shopping in Walthamstow?