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

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Sewn in One Hour- Not! And a Re-fashion

This pattern, New Look 6483, came with the June 2016 edition of Sew Magazine.
It looked the answer to many a sewer's prayer- a simple top in woven fabric with neckline variations and a sleeveless or short sleeve option- plus the promise of a swift sewing time, one hour, as it had no zip to insert or buttonholes to make.
My partner, Nick, was keen for me to make it in the same fabric that I used for my carry-on luggage rucksack blogged here but I drew the line at wearing a garment in bright yellow with multi-coloured spotted and striped ponies cavorting on it.  However I did want something cheerful so went for this poly/cotton at only £2.99 per metre from the Sewing & Craft Superstore at Tooting Bec.
I bought 1.60 metre as I wanted to make version A but with longer sleeves and possibly a matching headscarf. 
I traced a size 10 (83 cm bust) using horticultural fleece as described here
and pinned the pieces together to check for fit.  Since my bust is just under 85 cm I thought that I might have to make an adjustment here but it was a perfect fit across the bust with just the amount of ease that I wanted.  However I did make several adjustments to the pattern before cutting out the fabric, due to my narrow shoulders, thin arms and rounded upper back, as follows:
1. Decreased the height of the armhole by sewing a larger seam allowance on the shoulders and decreased the size of the sleeve cap to match by making a horizontal pleat on the pattern across the sleeve head.
2. Extended the length of the sleeves to below elbow length by continuing the line of the original short sleeve pattern to the appropriate length but tapering the sewing line to create a slightly narrower sleeve.
3. Put a dart in the back of the neck so that it fitted my rounded upper back and amended the back facing pattern to take account of this.
4.  Instead of using one large button for the closure of the back neck opening I used two tiny ones as I thought it gave a neater look.  The button loops are hand stitched using red thread.
The photograph below shows the fastening and the back neck darts.
So how long did it take to sew?  By sew I mean actual machine stitching time- stay stitching, basting the sleeve head to gather for sleeve insertion, edge overcasting, sewing the seams and top stitching (which I did on the bottom and sleeve hems and around the back neck opening).  Definitely more than an hour.  I am not a fast sewer but I note that reviewers on Pattern Review also mention that it took them more than an hour.
 However, if not as speedy as claimed, it is easy and not a long project.  I like it very much and a complete stranger came up to me yesterday saying how much she liked it and was disappointed to discover it was not a RTW buy!  It can be worn loose or tucked in and goes with loads of separates already in my wardrobe.  The naive fabric design brings a smile to my face when I put it on, something much needed given Brexit and the dismal, dull weather we have been having.  I am already thinking of another version, with a different neckline and  longer sleeves, using fabric from my stash.
This fabric also inspired a refashion of a fleece pullover that I had.  Although it was a useful item, I found it annoying that it had no front opening so the only options were Fleece on or Fleece off.  I could get too hot wearing it but then become too cold when I took it off.  While I was in the store buying the fabric for the top I spotted, in one of their zip offer bins, an open-ended zip that was the same blue as the fabric and exactly the right 25 inch length at only £1.50.
To make the jumper into a jacket I just cut up the middle of the front of the fleece and stabilised the underside of the front edges with a narrow strip of  light-weight fusible interfacing before turning the edges under on either side of the zip and sewing the zip in.
 I used some horticultural fleece to trace off the underside of the little stand-up collar and created a facing pattern to cut out in the boat fabric.  Then I hand stitched the facing in place.  Eh voila!, a zip-up jacket that I can just unzip for a bit of a cool down.  Plus it makes a rather dull fleece a bit more exciting and individual.  My tame photographer had to leave for work so you don't get to see me wearing it but here it is.
But the best bit is the inner collar.
Costs for top and jacket refashion - Fabric £4.98, Zip £1.50, The white, the blue and the red sewing thread, fusible interfacing for the facings and the buttons all came from my stash.  Total £6.48.

Have you made something that puts a smile on your face when you wear it?  Tell us about it on this blog, contact Giselle, London Dressmakers Club Organiser through the Meetup site here
for information on how to write a post for this blog.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The woosh

I'm not sure why one of the pins sits diagonally? It was supposed to sit straight like the others

Are you a beginner?  Do you want to sew but don't find it easy to get started?  You fire up your machine and begin your first seams, but they could be nicer and better?

Here is a tip aimed at very new sewers: using your sewing machine so you get good results which in turn motivates you to sew more.

I still remember how difficult I found guiding my fabric straight through the machine. I did my best but my stitching line would still wobble from right to left and folds from the fabric would somehow get pulled under the needle and caught up in the stitching  it was driving my bananas.

Here's my tip:

For your fabric to move smoothly through the machine, the two layers of fabric have to run up as flat and even as possible. It all starts off so well but then things go wonky.  To make the fabric lie flat: put your left hand under both layers of fabric (I am attempted to demonstrate this in this photo: try and spot my hidden hand! That's why my thumb is showing) while holding the edge in your right hand (I would love to have three hands available for taking pictures!).  You can make the layers lie flatter by moving your hand up a bit (towards you) and then in a big sideway sweeping motion swoosh it all over to your left. I bit like a 'that's enough' gesture - if that makes sense.
I call that 'The woosh', I guess it's the sound of the fabric moving that makes me think of that.

Moving your material in this way makes sure that the stitching process hasn't dragged your fabric up in folds that will pull another layer into the path of the needle. A really big aside motion will smooth out your fabric the best. I have tried pulling at it from the left, or pushing from the top but neither of these work as well as letting the fabric layers run over your left hand.

Try it out, see what works best for you.

Some dressmakers swear by extension tables: the entire area around the machine's stitching area is flat and that makes it easier to move your fabric as a flat piece (thank you Pia for this tip!)

PS: my other tip about keeping the seam wobble-free: experiment with where you look to check in order to keep your fabric run through evenly. Do you look at your fabric only, or where it moves under the sewing foot? See if changing where you look makes a difference.

~ ~ ~

Do you find this a useful tip?  Is this something you already do, do you do this differently? Please let us know in the comments!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A 2 Day workshop on Patchwork and Quilting for Beginners.

At the beginning of April I happened to be in Devon when the Exeter Quilt Show was taking place and, loving all things fabric as I do, I was unable to resist its lure especially as I had decided to try to make a very simple single bed quilt to use up some of the fabrics left over from my dressmaking attempt.
A conspicuous amount of  imagination, hard work and patience had gone into making the items on display and I could see that it demanded more than sewing a few bits of fabric together to create a satisfying quilt.  Thus I signed up for this 2 day workshop, run by The Exeter Sewing Machine Company ,to make a mini-quilt and intended particularly for Beginners.  I was so glad that I did as I learnt about many aspects that I had not considered at all. This sample 24" x 24" was roughly what we students aimed to produce using our own choice of fabrics.

 Day 1. As requested, I arrived on the first day at 9.45 am for a 10 o'clock start clutching the only items that we were asked to provide- 4 "fat quarters" for the body of the quilt and 25 cm of fabric at least 110 cm wide for the binding plus a packed lunch.  All the fabric had to be 100% cotton and well-pressed (the instructions were very explicit) so as not to waste working time removing creases.  All other materials and all tools were provided.  The workroom was light and airy.  Each work station had its own Brother 1000 machine, large cutting board, iron and ironing surface and all the necessary equipment.  There were 4 of us at the workshop and, after settling at our work stations and finishing the coffee or tea provided, we were ready to go.  The tutor, Jenna Clements, was excellent, taking us in clear and logical steps through all the processes.
First of all, Jenna took us through topics such as types of fabrics to use, colour selection, the reasons for and against pre-washing the fabric, measurement and seam allowance while we all made notes. Looking at the sample mini quilt, we had the opportunity to think how we would place our own fabrics in relation to one another when constructing the blocks for our own mini-quilt.  I had brought along 5 fat quarters, one more than required, as I had been given one fat quarter for turning up dressed in vintage style at the 70th anniversary of the Sewing & Craft Superstore in Tooting Bec.  I decided to use all five in my quilt while another student went with just two for her design.
Then we learnt how to remove any selvedges and accurately cut on the straight grain to exact measurements using a rotary cutter and cutting mat.  I was really pleased to learn this technique and realised that I had not been successful in my previous attempts at using a rotary cutter because I was not doing it correctly.
The next step was to sew our cut fabric into blocks and, before we tackled this, Jenna explained what type of machine foot, needle, choice of thread and best stitch length to use.   To avoid adding bulk you must not back stitch when sewing the seams and you have to start at the very edge of the fabric.  This means that the feed dogs behind the needle are exposed and this can cause fabric to be dragged down into the feed dogs.  You can see what I mean in this picture, I have lifted the foot so you can see the feed dogs exposed.

To avoid the fabric being caught up in the feed dogs you can place a scrap of spare fabric over the feed dogs and immediately abutting the fabric that you are going to sew (as in the photograph below) - a useful tip that you may well be aware of but which was new to me.

 Using the correct method of pressing of the sewn block is very important to ensure a successful result.  Seams are not normally pressed open, as in dressmaking, but to one side. It does mean that you have to think carefully how the blocks will be sewn together so that you press the seams to avoid bulk where two seams meet by making sure that the seam of one block has been pressed to the right and the seam of the block to be sewn to it is pressed in the opposite direction.
This brings us on to the all-important "matching of points", that's where seam lines meet.  Apparently the accuracy of the matching is one of the key factors by which the standard of your work is judged.   Many points can occur on a large quilt.  Fortunately I only had to match five points in my mini quilt.  See if you can spot them, they are the points where four seam lines meet and the junction of those seams should be exact.  The joy I felt on achieving my first correctly matched point was enormous.
 By the end of the first day at 4 pm we all had the main section of our quilt sewn.  Here's a photograph of another student's work, she  decided to make her quilt as a linear runner instead of a square.  I love all those dramatic blues.

If you had not finished or wanted to redo a point that had not quite matched, you could stay on, as the shop remains open until 5.30 pm, but I went to explore the fabric section in the basement and the haberdashery on the ground floor, plenty of scope for shopping there.  However the thought of having to carry it all back to London on public transport helped me resist and not break my "No more fabric buying" resolution yet again.

Day 2.  Overnight the tutor had tacked wadding and backing fabric to our quilt fronts  ready for us to to begin the day and crack on.  So that we would understand this process Jenna explained the different types of wadding available, their uses, advantages and disadvantages and various other details about wadding, such as the maximum distance apart for quilting lines appropriate to each type.  This lead to an explanation of how to construct a quilt "sandwich" (the top, wadding and backing) and how to correctly tack it together preparatory to quilting.  Below you can see the 3 layers of my quilt before it was trimmed.
And here, on another student's piece, you can see how the whole quilt is tacked to secure the 3 layers together so the fabric is held in place while you machine stitch the layers permanently together.  This one is destined for a grandchild. The pigs are so cute.

Before we got down to sewing we needed to trim the wadding and backing to size with rotary cutters while using the quilting ruler to "square" the quilt i.e. making sure that the side edges were parallel and the corners at right angles. Luckily I must have been accurate with my cutting and sewing (an unusual occurrence for me) as my deviation from the required shape was so minimal as to have no need for correction since it would be hidden by the binding to be applied later.
To machine quilt the 3 layers together we used a "stitch in the Ditch" type technique using a walking foot and following the seam lines of the patches though not right on top of that seam but immediately to one side by an infinitesimal amount.  This means that, actually, you can't see the machine quilting on the right side but it is there, securely holding the layers together.  It was a slow process for me, needing concentration to keep the needle stitching in the correct place.  Jenna taught us an incredibly neat way of fastening off the stitching so there are no signs of stopping and starting on the front or the back.  If you look at the photograph below I hope that you can only just see the machine stitching, although the tacking is plainly visible.

I had hoped that we would do some visible machine quilting but there was insufficient time.  Jenna described some simple quilting effects and how they were achieved and discussed tools for marking out designs.  We pressed on to cut strips of fabric for the binding for the edges.  To make the necessary length we joined our strips with a machined seam on the diagonal so the bulk of the seam would be distributed when it was folded over.  This photograph below shows the diagonal sewing line I have marked on my strip,  once that was sewn I had a long straight strip.

This strip was folded in two along its length and a diagonal point created. 
This folded strip was laid around the top of the right side of the quilt with the raw edges of the quilt and the binding strip aligned and mitred at the four corners.  Then the strip was stitched to the quilt a quarter inch from the edge.
 The binding was folded in half to the back side of the quilt and, our time being up, we would be able to finish the quilt at home by hand stitching the binding down on the wrong side or machine stitching on the right side along the join of the binding and the quilt body. I had to leave my quilt behind in Devon to be continued next time I visit but I roughly pinned the binding in position to take this photograph, which gives you some idea of how the finished item will look.
I can see plenty of faults with it but I am quite pleased with this first effort.  I think I might try hand-quilting something simple on the four cream squares but I will wait until I have finished the binding before deciding on this.
One of the things that I liked so much about this course was the amount of information about tools and techniques so one understood not just how to do something but also the reasons why you did it and what other options were available.  I was able to comprehend the techniques to a greater degree than I would have done by reading a book in quilting.  It certainly taught me the importance of accuracy  and also some processes that I can use in dressmaking.  
Exeter is a very interesting city and there is beautiful countryside around it.  Should you be thinking of taking a long weekend break you could consider Exeter and combine it with one of the workshops run by The Exeter Sewing Machine Company. Honestly, I am not being paid for this!
I am now looking for some good dressmaking workshops that I would be able to attend  as I can appreciate how they can improve your skill.  Is anyone able to recommend some?  Do add a comment with the details if you have attended a workshop that you can vouch for and would like to bring to members' attention.
Happy Sewing, Barbara.

Friday, 10 June 2016

How do you deal with no sewing motivation?

My sewing year for 2015 was pretty poor and having recently emerged from a long spell of no sewing motivation I was inspired to post about this. 

Understanding why your mojo has disappeared.

There so many reasons that this happens but the ones that I hear the most are the following:-

Stress  - work, personal or just feeling out of sorts
Being busy – being away with work, holiday and not managing to fit into the day
Working on projects that are uninteresting or not going well
Feeling overwhelmed by your stash and/or works in progress

My recent bout of no sewing mojo was due to a combination of all three. I had a huge amount of work related travel in 2015 and particularly towards the end of the year. That combined with being out and about in London and a succession of wadders ground my sewing to a halt. 

What to do when you are lacking motivation?

1. Just because you are sewing less, does not mean that you are not sewing

When the motivation to cut out or sew projects is low I take the time to do sewing related activities. I also count this as time spent sewing whether I have my sewing mojo or not! 

These include:-
Re-organising your fabric and pattern stash 
Making a list of projects that you would like to sew for the season ahead
Making a wishlist of patterns that you would like to buy or techniques that you would like to learn
Preparing yourself for projects. Go shopping for your zippers, buttons, elastic and any other notions that you might need for when you get back you sewing mojo. I also count pre-washing my fabrics as sewing! 

2. Surround yourself with fun sewing related activities 

Despite having nothing to show for 6 months I really enjoyed attending LDC meetups to see what everyone else was working on and empathising with others that were feeling the same way and were struggling with a lack of sewing motivation.  Attending fabric swaps, fabric shopping trips, attending fashion exhibitions and reading other sewing blogs to keep up to date with sewing trends made me feel as though I was still engaged with a sewing community.

3. Don’t put pressure on yourself

Understand that you may not always have as much time or inclination to sew and that is ok. For me if I am sewing when I don’t want to I am bound to make a mistake so I just have to step away from my sewing machine. This also allowed me to become fully immersed in my new hobby of cross stitching. I found that it was pretty mindless and could even take it travelling with me.  

Remember - If you sew as a hobby it should be something that you do because you enjoy it, not because you feel guilty for not doing it

Keeping up sewing motivation

I am very aware that if I have a long spell of no sewing it can be difficult to get back into the habit of sewing regularly. Over the years I have discovered the following:-

Understand what hits the spot
For a long time I tried to get my sewing motivation back by sewing really easy tried and true patterns. I found that this didn’t challenge me enough and easily lost interest. For me now, I always tackle a new simple pattern that is likely to have minimal fit issues (for me this is usually a stretch knit dress). However for other people a Tried and True sewing project is the only thing that gets them back on track. Take time to think about which past sewing projects you have enjoyed and why. 

Sew with a purpose
Take time to decide why you want to undertake a project. I find that I am 10 times more likely to finish a project when I do this. 

Make sure that you have everything you need for a project
Nothing is worse than feeling like you want to sew and realising that you don’t have enough fabric or that it isn’t wide enough, or that you have no interfacing or are missing the zip for that work in progress you finally feel like tackling. It’s worth spending a little bit of time organising your projects so you can really enjoy sewing when you feel the urge to do so. 

It would be great to hear what other things people do when they have lost their sewing mojo! And are there any LDC members or otherwise that can relate?