Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Looking back, looking forward....

Looking back, 2010 has been a year of sewing and a year of not buying new clothes for me. I have so enjoyed sewing clothes and the challenges that come with it. I feel I have been on a real learning journey and my skills are developing but...there's a long way to go.
It has been a year of sewing 3835 tops, a year of finding inspiration from charity shop fabrics.
I still haven't quite recovered from the excitement of making a functional pair of trousers...need to make more now!

All this blogging about sewing and sewing itself may seem frivolous but I would like to say it has a deeper resonance too. When my dad died and I sat listening to his eulogy at the funeral service I was struck by how much he had crammed into his life, never a person to be wasting time, he had his passions and hobbies and followed them thoroughly and with energy and gusto. Now, I have different interests and hobbies from him and nowhere near a successful career path like he did but I decided from then onwards to try and really make the most of my time. For me this means using my free time to follow interests that I feel passionately about and that I really enjoy. And sewing is something I am obsessive about, I lie in bed thinking about seams and trims, I am working out construction while driving the car, I am considering fabric choices while pushing the supermarket trolley.

For me sewing is something that makes me happy and more like myself. An added and unexpected bonus for me this year has been the friends I have met through sewing blogs - I love that. I was always the kind of child who had penfriends and in a way blogging is an extension of that. Not only do I gain inspiration and advice from blogs but I also get a huge buzz from the comments I receive and from gaining new friends. So thank you if you do comment and follow, it means a lot. Now, I am British so I had better stop all this sentimental stuff damn quickly as it just is not a thing we Brits do very well.

So sewing resolutions for next year? I would like to have a go at learning to create clothes that fit better, rather than opting for the easier tunic style tops, I am thinking of waists, darts and gathers. I would love to be able to do passable pin tucks, folds and pleats with graphic edges. I am thinking of working more with solid fabrics rather than being seduced by patterns so I can concentrate on the shapes and techniques. I would like to have a try at sewing some of my vinatge patterns and also to continue seeing how much I can get out of the basic patterns I have from the Sew U books. I also now own a Uniform Project pattern which I hope to sew along with Ali and anyone else interested. It arrived just before Christmas and I haven't had time yet for more than a cursory looks. I also have a strong urge to make a jacket! And of course more dresses for the ongoing dress obssession.
But what I do not want to do is to transfer the consumerism given up on by not buying new clothes into consumersism of buying lots of fabrics and patterns. I have had some luck with charity shop fabrics and want to continue to use second fabrics where I can. This also means going to a fabric shop is a rare treat and something to be savoured.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The perils of having an old sewing machine

The past week I have felt a bit as if I were watching the outside world through the wrong end of binoculars....two sick kids followed by snow and ice has meant I have hardly been anywhere, seen anyone and the Christmas shopping has just had to stop.

Last week was odd as they both slept during the day and in the strangely peaceful house I was able to finish my skirt and the cowl scarf in the previous post.

My sewing machine (a 1970s Elna) had not been working properly for some time but with the unexpected time I had, I was able to get a look at it. I had previously joined the Yahoo group Elna Heirloom Sewing upon a suggestion from Sigrid at Analog Me. I found that my machine (a lotus) is not a common model in the group discussions and advice and I didn't get very far. But the group discussions showed me how many people out theere are fixing their own vintage machines, and reading the discussions gave me the confidence to have a look at the machine myself, rather than trek over to the repair shop.

I got it to work by carefully cleaning out the bobbin mechanism with a paintbrush. Previous to this, the bobbin kept sticking and then the needle would unthread and I would have a jam of threads coming from the bobbin. It worked and the machine started to run smoothly.

I was able to sew the facings and the piping onto the skirt. Then a couple of days later I tried to sew the seams - I had to repeat the cleaning process before the machine would work. Ah, the joy of an old machine...

In the meantime here is the skirt, with apologies for the poor photo quality. I left my camera in the car, and the cold seems to have affected it. I used the Sew U skirt pattern and added the facing to the outside so I could have the piping effect. I was tempted to put in side pockets but didn't want to spoil the line. The fabric is the greenish-grey I bought to make these trousers The binding is from some red and white polka dot fabric and I had the shiny red buttons in my button box.

I am hoping this skirt will be versatile enough to wear in lots of combinations. It was sooooo nice to sew a garment after not sewing any since September. It made me realise how much I love making clothes. I am working on my sewing plans for next year in my head.
My children are now much better but they have kindly given me their sneezing, coughs and temperature, so once I am better I can get outside and get some better skirt photos but I am too impatient to wait till then and wanted to show it now.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Cabin Fever

First T was ill with a high temperature, cough, cold bug, now Little has succumbed and this has been a slightly surreal week. I have hardly been out the house as T had two days off school and Little I has had time off preschool. On tuesday morning they both went back to bed and slept for three hours, this never happens. So, the remaining Christmas shopping has not been done, the tv and radio keep saying we are due for more snow, so maybe I can just give up on Christmas shopping. Having been up most of the night with a sobbing three year old who kept waking to shout "My nose is running!" I feel slightly detached from reality.
I have been knitting the above pictured cowl scarf for my brother and feel a bit cabin fever-ish.
After my wittering on about making a dress in the last but one post, I had a total mind-change and cut out a skirt instead. I am thinking versatility and maximising wardrobe potential as well as hiding my figure flaws. I do still want to sew more dresses but am realising I need to beware of dresses that look like they are for a small child.
I am optimistically hoping I can get my sewing machine to work long enough to make the skirt.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas tree control freakery and a tea cup necklace.

It is all very busy here, getting ready for Christmas. I am pleased that I have managed to post my parcel of gifts to our friends in Poland.

We put up our tree at the weekend, Little I was in charge of decorating it and there is a large clump of ornaments at the front just at age three height. I have spread them out a bit but she keeps putting them back where she wants so I have decided to relax and leave it. I could feel myself becoming too control freaky about aligning tinsel, I think it is the result of seeing so many beautiful christmas decorations on homestyle blogs. It is an addiction to keep looking at Beautiful Home blogs.
This week is the last week of term so we have been making cards for teachers and gifts.
Remember all those cards I put in a previous post? We used them all up so we have made some more using origami. We these christmas trees - so simple a seven year old can do them (and did).

Finally, I made this mismatched necklace for Little I's preschool key worker, a lovely person who also worked with T when he was at preschool. She has a fab dress sense and loves handmade stuff. Little I has decorated a matchbox to put the necklace into. As I have collections of stuff (not hoarding of course) I happened to have a bead collection dating back to when I was about 10. Lots of these are lace beads that would be traditionally put on lace bobbins as weights. (my mum went through a lace making phase!) I have decided to crack open the bead collection and started making necklaces. I added a couple of doll's house teacups because I like them. I could call it "A storm in a teacup necklace" or "put the kettle on dear, we'll have a nice cup of tea" (Any one spotting that quote can have a prize!)

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Dress plans and dreams

Self stiched dirndl dress from Built by Wendy Dresses Book

Source: Orla Kieley

Below dresses both source: Modcloth

Don't faint...it's a sewing post! Even though my machine is kaputt, I can still dream and plan.
I have a large piece of grey fabric left over from making my trousers in September. I am dreaming of making a dress from it and keep getting sidetracked from Christmas knitting by looking at dress ideas. I was thinking of using a Built by Wendy dress book pattern, maybe the dirndl (as pictured in top photo) with a matching belt or maybe the shift...oh the indecision....I love the trims and finishes on these Modcloth dresses,and the Orla Kieley one though I am not sure I can carry off the military dress. Mind you, a military dress for the school run? Why not? Maybe it would run more efficiently if I were dressed in a military style?

Thursday, 9 December 2010


No tree yet, but some advent characters have begun to appear here. Most of them have been found in the advent drawers.

How about your house? Do you put up a tree and if so, how early?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Tooth Fairy

Little I is a very stubborn three and a half year old who does not like me to clean her teeth. She will let her dad clean them, but often he is not here at teeth cleaning time. Finally after many tantrums,tears, and hiding under the bed, I made this chart for her, complete with a letter from the Tooth Fairy (yes, the Real One). The letter tells her she can have a silver star to stick on the fairy's skirt each time she lets me clean her teeth without a fuss. This morning she was not interested at all, but at lunchtime she deigned to let me clean her teeth and then carefully added her sticker to the skirt. Who knows if it will work again tonight or tommorrow.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Finished scarves

I have made three of these scarves so far for presents. The first one I made went a bit wrong on the ribbing where you divide your stiches and then rejoin to make the loop for threading the scarf through. But I have now got the knack of it. - hurray. The pattern is quick to knit and only takes 50g of wool so is a good one for using up your stash. I have also enjoyed knitting these as it is so portable and easy to do when waiting outside school, or watching tv. The hardest part was taking the photos as my self timer has stopped working.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Blue Birthday Bunting

I know the blogosphere is awash with bunting but here is a bit more...

It was my friend's youngest son's birthday and we had to cancel going over for a play and tea as Little had a cold and I still felt unwell having had a lingering cold for over a week.

I now am going to post this present to him. The slightly embarassing thing is I started this bunting for his third birthday present...um... he was four this year, the half made bunting has languished in my sewing box for a year. On saturday I fished it out and finished it. Turned out I only has to sew on the ribbon, so it was one of those times when I wondered "Why didn't I do this last year??" Especially as he has such a nice short name!