. . . . . . A place to contribute, exchange tips and ideas and find further info on the LDC group on Meetup.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Keeping Track

Some of us have out of control wardrobes and stashes, some have vowed to keep a better record of what they have and acquire in the future.  Below is some information about some sites or apps that I have come across that can help you to do this.  These are just a few and there are others out there.  Also some of you have an efficient manual way of keeping track.  Please share any methods, products and ideas with us by adding them in a comment below.

From The Sewing directory
These below are some apps listed on the Sewing Directory site
Pattern Pal
This app allows you to track your patterns, along with a couple of photos for each pattern, pattern notes plus details of the fabrics and notions associated with your patterns.  It is available from the iTunes store.
Sewing Kit HD 2.0
Taking the Fabric Stash concept a step further this app allows you to catalogue your patterns, fabric, thread, notions, books and equipment.  You can scan the barcodes of products to instantly upload the details.   You can also track the progress of your sewing projects, take screenshots or photos of anything that inspires you and save the measurements of the people you commonly sew for.
It is available in the iTunes app store and you can get more information about it on the developer’s website
Stash Star Fabric App
If your stash is getting so large you are losing track of what’s in there this is the perfect app for you.  It allows you to photograph and catalogue your stash, ideal for when you are out looking for matching notions.  You can also add in a wish list so you will always have a fabric shopping list to hand (not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.....)
It is available on the iTunes store here.

10 apps listed on an American site.
Thought this might be useful

 From Coletterie
This site has some great tips, tutorials and ideas.  I’ve selected a few about planning and keeping track of a wardrobe and stashes.

My sewing Circle  This is supposed to be the sewing equivalent of Ravelry, but it doesn’t really seem to have got off the ground yet in terms of people using it, despite a change of people running it in December 2014.  However it does provide a way of listing projects, stashes etc and recording your finished projects. 

More about Stash Star Fabric app
A review from I want to Be a turtle Blog

The Tale of a Fishtail

Another pattern from Wendy Ward's Beginner's Guide to Dressmaking, the Fishtail Skirt.

First of all, from the photographs in Wendy's book, this is how it should look, shown in different fabrics, to encourage you to come up with your own  interpretation.
This skirt interested me as soon as I saw the photographs- an ordinary looking skirt from the front but with a quirky surprise from the side and back.  I envisaged myself swishing stylishly across a room and that fishtail adding much needed "omph" to my derriere.  The fantasies we have!  And it was for beginners so it must be simple- right?!
I really wanted midnight blue satin backed crepe so that the matt crepe formed the main body of the skirt and the sheen of the satin showed on the fishtail.  I thought, maybe, of adding something sparkly, such as scattered hand-sewn beads or glittery thin swirls of thread, to the inner fishtail.   Could I find midnight blue?- no, though I tried shops in Sussex, London and Devon.  I came across some lovely colours, subtle greens, pearly greys and lavenders, forget-me-not blue, and I thought that many of them appeared to have less weight to them than I deemed  appropriate although, in retrospect, these may have been more suitable.  In the end, with time running out as I wanted to wear it to a specific party, I settled for a black that I came across at an exhibition at Excel and, at only £4 a metre, it was good value.  I must try and check out the shop from which it came at some point, Stitch of Wanstead at 10 Woodbine Place, E11.  Anybody been there?  I bought 2 metres, the amount suggested in Wendy's book, BUT forgot that I wanted to make it longer than the the stated length- more of that later.
I traced out the pattern using greaseproof paper as usual.  Although the bust measurement for size 1 in Wendy's book is almost exactly the same as mine, the waist and hips are much bigger  so I calculated the amount by which I needed to reduce the size, divided this by four and took that amount off all the way down on the side seam for the front and for the back of the pattern piece.  I also extended the length as I wished.
Due to my droopy flat backside I always have to make an adjustment on skirts and trousers by taking a slice out from the back of a pattern.  This I do by taking a tuck from the centre back of the pattern above hip level graduating to nothing by the time the tuck reaches the side seams.  With patterns with centre back seams it is very easy as I just draw a line at the relevant level, cut along the line and then move the bottom part of the pattern up over the top until I have taken out the amount I want.  I hope you can see the horizontal adjustment in this photo ( the vertical line is just from sticking the greaseproof paper together to make it wide enough to trace the pattern).
 Cutting Out Then I laid my pattern pieces out on the fabric to pin and cut out and realised my first mistake.  The length I had bought did not allow for the extra length I wanted so I had not got enough fabric to cut out the front of the skirt on the fold so that the front was all in one piece.  I would have to cut it in two pieces with an allowance to make a seam up the front of the skirt.  I did not want a seam up the front of the skirt and cursed my stupidity in forgetting to allow more for the extra length  ***!!
Luckily an idea suddenly struck me- why not make it a feature?  I remembered an article Wendy wrote in the Sewing World Magazine about Decorative Seams.  At first I thought I would try a Slot Seam where a contrast colour of cloth is stitched underneath  the line where a seam would go to hold the two main pieces of fabric together and allowed a subtle glimpse of the contrast but I found nothing suitable in colour or weight, even among my boxes of stashed fabric, to use as a contrast.  However  Brainwave No. 1 came- insert a wider strip of the satin side of the fabric in the centre front to reference the fishtail at the back.  So I cut a strip 3 cm wide, plus an allowance for the seams to sew it to each side of the skirt front, to go down the centre front.  I was so pleased with the effect that I was glad that I had made the mistake.  Besides, by cutting it this way I was left with quite a bit of spare fabric, enough, I think, to make a top. 
Making Up The book has clear step-by-step instructions - I just didn't follow them exactly.  Here is what I should have done ( abbreviation of the much fuller instructions in italics) and what I actually did.
Step 1.  Neaten the seam allowances. -  I didn't do this until I had sewn the seams as I thought that I might need to make alterations to the amount of seam allowance when it came to fitting and I wanted to trim the allowance to an appropriate amount once the seam was sewn.
Step 2 & 3 .  Iron fusible interfacing to the front and back skirt facing and join the facings at the right side seam - I didn't even trace the pattern for the facings from the pattern sheet, again because I might make alterations to the fit.  My intention was to rub off a facing pattern after making any necessary alterations to the skirt.
Step 4.  Patch Pocket - Not applicable as not adding a pocket to the front of the skirt.
Step 5 & 6.  Joining upper centre back seam and slashing to pivot point - Done as instructed.
Step 7.  Insert zip into left hand side seam - I can't bring myself to put a centred zip into a side seam so I did a lapped zip, especially as I was doing this on a Sunday (Shops shut) and I realised I had not purchased a black zip for the skirt therefore I had to use an available purple one.
Step 8. Tack right seam and try on.  Adjust this seam by amount required for fit before machining. - OH dear, the skirt was too big at the waist, I must have gone wrong in calculating the measurements.  Adjusting it on the right side only, as instructed, would mean that my satin strip would be skewed off centre and, additionally, the grainline would no longer fall down the centre front of the skirt.  To adjust it equally on both side seams would mean having to unpick the zip and the side seam; this I was loathe to do, especially as I was working to a deadline.  I tried inserting darts, just tacked to try it out, but they looked dreadful and interfered with the drape of the skirt.  Then Brainwave No 2 came - I took a tuck all the way down each side of the central  and top stitched it.  I thought this looked even better than the plain strip(see photo below).
Step 9.  Hem using bias binding.- I didn't do any hemming  until I had completed step 10 and I didn't use bias binding.  I did a very narrow hem by hand on the main body of the skirt and a narrow machine-stitched hem on the fishtail.
Step 10.  Close the lower centre back seam. - This I did but left a small amount at the bottom unstitched to turn up the hem.  Below I am marking out the seam before stitching.

Step 11 & 12.  Topstitch the upper 3 cm of the upper centre back seam to the inner back seam. - I did as instructed but  a diagram with the text (Figure 8 in the book), that seemed to me to indicate that I should see a seam allowance showing on the outside of the inner part of the skirt back, puzzled me for a while as I thought that, as mine did not look like that, I must have  interpreted the previous instructions incorrectly at some point.
Steps 13 to 15.  Concerning the facings.- entirely ignored.  It seemed to me that the outline of the bottom of the facing would be likely to show through when worn due to the drape and fit of the skirt (a Visible Facing Line instead of a VPL) and also, as the weight of the fishtail made the back of the skirt drag down that facings would not give enough support to prevent this dragging down.  Thus I decided to put on a waistband, which I did with the satin side of the fabric out ( see the photo above).  I liked this effect even more than having facings BUT, since I don't like my waistbands skin tight as my waist definitely expands with eating and drinking each day, there was still not enough "grip" around the waist to prevent the fishtail pulling the back down.  Even though I had managed to finish it on the very day of the evening occasion to which I had planned to wear it, I was too unhappy about that drag to wear it.   Lesson- always have a Plan B- and that's where Brainwave No 3 came in but that's another story.
Trying to Right Wrongs.  Thus the skirt was abandoned until the New Year.  I took it along to the first LDC meeting of 2015, along with other makings,  for advice but no-one came up with answer for this problem.  A few days later- gosh, my brain has been working overtime!- a possible solution came to me.  I tried it out with some elastic that I had and some pins and it seemed to work.  When I had time to tacke it again I bought some strong black elastic, which luckily came in a width just slightly smaller than the satin waistband.  I made a rough belt out of this to fit my waist with the elastic slightly stretched by sewing fabric tabs on both ends of the elastic and fastening it with 2 hooks and eyes.  I sewed the middle of the back of this belt into the inside of the middle of the back of the waist band by hand so that the stitching does not show through on the outer side.  The belt fastens at he middle of the front of the skirt and I then fasten the skirt waistband over it.
The elastic belt grips me and helps hold up the fishtail but still allows room for me to expand. I've subsequently worn the skirt all day, on to dinner and then the opera as it lends itself to dressing up or down  But the back still drags a bit.  I'm thinking of putting in some cased boning at the upper centre back to see if that would work.  Perhaps I was wrong about not using facings and the dragging would not occur if I had stuck to facings.  Perhaps the problem would not have existed if I had gone for a lighter weight fabric.  If you have any thoughts about what I should do or have done please put your comment below.
So here's the finished product anyway.
And don't you think it looks great with the Zip Jacket I made earlier also from a pattern in Wendy's book blogged here  ?

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Member profile - January

Member profile of the month

Barbara suggested a wonderful idea for a regular monthly blog post. We could do a member's profile each month, to be posted around the 15th. Barbara had another great idea for a regular feature at around the 1st of each month, that would mean two posts that will hopefully be accompanied by lots of non-themed posts by as many members of the Dressmakers Club as possible! The more the better: a blog like this lives from many different people posting, the different areas of interest, of focus and the different voices make the blog a more lively and interesting place to check out.

In order to kick things off with the member's profile for January we thought that I should do the first one. I didn't put myself forward for being first out of the gate, but it is a great idea that I really love so I better put my money where my mouth is!

Here goes:

Member profile of the month - January


I first became interested in sewing as a teenager, around 15 probably. I would get fabrics and patterns and cut into them blithely and utterly unconcerned. I made quite a few mistakes (catching huge chunks of the skirt fabric in the waistband? That might sound familiar to lots of people) but managed to make quite a few things. I wasn't really concerned with the technical aspects of sewing back then which now makes me feel even a little jealous of my naivité because it enabled me to just have a go. I could do with some of that now!

Life intervened with job changes and house moves and I only picked up sewing again when I moved to London quite a number of years ago. I did a few courses and particularly loved one on tailoring. Unfortunately I never finished the jacket I started then and still think of its lovely dark red colour. My figure changed since then so it's a good thing I got rid of it.

I started sewing again around six years ago. I am now very interested in the creative aspects as well as the technical skill that goes into dressmaking. My aspiration is to learn to sew well enough so I can tackle some of those creative ideas that keep whirling through my head.

I was going to write about a collar I did some work on, but will keep this for a future post. Watch this space!

My favourite sewing item to use right now is bias tape. I already wrote a bit about it: it is just so useful for bindings (around seam allowances) or as facings at necklines, armholes and even hems. I feel that using bias tape as a facing gives a much smoother result then folding over and sewing down does. I now make my own so I can pick and choose what fabric and colour I want to use.

A sewing technique or concept (is that the right word in the context?) at the moment is garments cut on the bias: where the pattern's "grainline" runs at a 45 degree angle to the two straight grain lines of the fabric. A bias cut top will hug your body and flow lots better. This uses up huge amounts of fabric though which is the main reason that I haven't made more of them already. That's on my to do list!

My biggest sewing frustration is the bad fit I get from most commercial patterns. I find it so very frustrating to be slaving over a new project only to find that I hate how it looks on me. I am getting better at figuring out how to make bought patterns work by using certain adjustment techniques (like FBA, and swayback adjustments etc) but I am still not completely happy with the results. Because of this problem I became interested in pattern drawing: making garments to your own measurements and your own pattern blocks. I attended a number of courses on that and absolutely love pattern drafting!

The websites I find most useful are Pinterest as already mentioned above, MySewingCircle (it is a bit like Ravelry but for dressmakers!), Pattern Review and other dressmakers' blogs - so inspiring!

Please tell us how you came to sewing, about some of the challenges and triumphs that you encountered and what you particularly enjoy about sewing!

Please post in the comments, and we would love a member profile to add in the coming months so that we can all see the many diverse perspectives of different members.

Here are some projects that I haven't finished yet:

Here is one I finished but I am not very happy with, the stiffening of the peak pulled the stitchline up on top of the brim:

Some other projects I started in the last two years, in various states of completeness, or I should say non-completeness.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

28 rather neat sewing hacks

Some of these sewing hacks are pretty nifty.  I particularly like No 21 (to prevent button hole butchery), No 22 which I desperately need, and No 17*:

28 Sewing Hacks That Will Change Your Life

When considering tip No 2, I would strongly advise to keep magnets away from your PC, laptop and other electronic devices: you don't want to wipe them.

*: You can squeeze a third pencil in between these two to get a wider seam allowance.

Do you know of more tips like these?  Have you tried any tips and hacks like these and how did they work for you?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Welcome the New Year Meet-up 2 January 2015

What's a London Dressmakers Meetup for social sewing at a public venue like?  Well, I think this one was fairly typical except normally we meet up for monthly meetings at Ev's, not far from Waterloo or Southwark tube stations.  This time, as it was an addition to the normal meet-up, we met at the Royal Festival Hall.  This venue does make it a bit more difficult for everyone to locate the group, especially as poor Giselle had lost her mobile while away from London for Christmas and couldn't field any mobile phone cries for "Help" from wandering LDC members who hadn't spotted our group.  Usually you can identify us by the sewing manuals and magazines, scissors and bits of fabric on the table.
I think there were 10 of us, including Maggie, who had never heard of us but, as a keen knitter and sewer, joined us and I hope we'll see her again at future meetings.
 So, what do we do?  Sew- by hand, of course- any one knowing of a cafe that allows you to plug in your own sewing machine at a table and start sewing please let us know immediately.  Usually tacking, hemming, embellishment, a bit of discreet cutting out, that sort of thing.  Diamond was tackling not just one but 2 jacket and skirt suits to a Vogue pattern.  Giselle had a dress with an amazing appliqued pattern on it rather like stepped patchwork.  Wish I had remembered to take a camera so you could have a view of these things and our group.
Some, such as Holly, bring another craft as their sewing is not at the portable stage, in her case she was knitting some colourful socks.
 For a lot of us, this time, we were looking for advice.  Marianne, who always produces garments to an extremely high standard, had brought a length of velvet that she had embroidered on her machine with an intricate multi-coloured pattern and was asking for suggestions about the neckline.  Catherine  wanted opinions on her idea for an ensemble as a winter wedding guest  and on how to embellish a hat to go with the dress that she intends to make in a beautiful tweed fabric.  I had a problem with two garments that I brought along with me, the first a skirt  with fitting problems at the back and the second a jacket where I felt the sleeve needed adjustment.  I had spent a couple of weeks thinking about what to do about both of them  and still hadn't worked out what I should do but Catherine immediately spotted that I needed to rotate the jacket sleeve a bit and not just take it in as I had thought might be best. 
Rholdah is fairly new to dressmaking but determined to give it her best shot.  She described how she had taken advantage of the sales to try on lots of dresses and see which ones truly enhanced her look and thus, despite the blandishments of saleswomen telling her that each one suited her, worked out the styles of dress she should aim to make.  Catherine then whipped out a book describing figure types which was pretty useful in defining your type and what styles best complement your figure; I think my figure  would best be described as a Dented Column.  I wish I had the courage to go and try garments on like this  but I get so disheartened  when nothing seems right or, if it is, I feel faint at seeing the price tag.  Best to stick to sewing.
While members were chattering, perusing technique manuals, magazines or the patterns Giselle had brought to give away  I was trying to get suggestions for or to hassle people into contributing to this blog, thank you to those who volunteered.  I would like to get some regular features going  with contributions from many different members.  Maybe you have thought of creating your own blog, why not write a few posts for this one to try out blogging.  Perhaps there is something you have recently experienced to do with sewing- a garment make, a visit to an exhibition, a course that you have taken, a good place to shop for sewers - that you would like to pass on to members. 
The features that I would particularly like to try and get going are:-
1.  Member of the Month - Post to be issued on 15th of each month.  You can be any type of sewer of any experience level. What I envisage is a bit about yourself and your sewing, what you sew and why, your sewing ambitions, the good and the bad in sewing etc.  If you would like to put yourself forward as Member of the Month please contact Giselle or myself by sending us a message on the meet-up site.  I hope we have someone lined up for January so we are looking for someone for February and later.
2.  My Sewing Machine- Members are often asking "What should I look for in a sewing machine?"    "  Should I get a new model?"  We would love to hear about your machine or machines, whether they be new or old.  There are so many out there  that it is useful to hear about actual experience of particular models.
Lastly Happy New Year to all and don't forget the Next Monthly Meet-up is on the evening of Tuesday 13 January.  Hope to see you there.