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I just about managed to complete my challenge to sew nine garments in 2017. I’ve been updating my original post, but I wanted to reflect a little bit more on the clothes I’ve made this year.

The nine garments I’ve made are very different from the nine I had in mind a few months ago when I decided to take part. This fact underlines to me that I am a very flighty maker- I should avoid stashing fabric and cutting out patterns unless I plan to start straight away.

I’m sad that the Liberty print shirt I’m planning isn’t included here, but I’m going to try not to let that stop me from making it. On the flip side, I’m proud of finally finishing my Macaron, which is made of fabric I bought when I was travelling in Indonesia. I cut out before I had a sewing machine and I’m glad that I finally sat down and sewed them up. It’s quite demoralising to have loads of half-finished stuff lying around.

Mushroom print Cleo

Raindrop print Bettine

Turquoise striped Bettine

Pink Macaron

Pineapple tulip skirt

Hidden panda Lark t-shirt

Liberty print Southport

Rocket print Southport

1960s coat

It’s so funny how craft life goes at times. I was really close to finishing the challenge in August, when I got some good momentum on my second Day Dress. After that point, life threw a lot at me that ate up all of my spare time. Just after booking onto the classes to make the 1960s coat, I was asked to appear on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas. The coat class then became all-consuming, but I was unable to finish it due to my thumb injury. It started to feel like I had so many projects on the go, but very little to show for my efforts.

Not long ago, I spotted that Julia from the class at Sew Over It had posted a picture of her finished coat on Instagram. I was instantly inspired. Maybe if she could finish her coat, I could. One day when I was too full of a cold to do anything else, I sat down to the enormous amount of hand-sewing required to finish the coat. And, in less than a week, it was done!

I really think I’ve grown as a sewist this year. I’ve gone from only ever working with woven material to makes using some tricky fabrics like jersey, wool and viscose.

I was going to make a separate post about my knitting in 2017 until I realised that I have only finished four things! (That I can talk about).

A real positive is that making my jumper for Kirstie weirdly seems to have reawakened my love of knitting. When I was furiously knitting away on Silver Island, I felt that it was going to have the opposite effect. Thinking about it, I feel like the coat class gave me a bit of sewing burnout whereas the sweater made me remember what I enjoy about knitting.

Now to decide what I want to make in 2018!

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I can’t believe that I’m finally getting to type these words- I have finished making my Sew Over It 1960s coat. Overall, I’m pretty happy with it. Though I’m not that happy with the pictures, this one excites me quite a lot.

This is what the back looks like.

Something I found notable about this project is that I never felt relaxed during any part of the making process. It felt as if disaster could strike at any minute. I suppose that’s the danger of investing such an enormous amount of time and money into something.

All in all, the hand-sewing required after the final class took a full day. There’s a little bit of pulling on the bottom hem that didn’t press out, but I haven’t fixed it because I’m considering taking some length out of the coat.

The next challenge was to select the buttons that would adorn the coat. I took her on a trip to Liberty to try out some different options. Black was the obvious choice, but I wanted to see if anything else tickled my fancy.

In the end, I picked the beautiful black glass buttons in the finished pictures. Nothing wrong with the obvious choice if it’s the right one! I decided to take the coat on a second trip to Soho to have the buttonholes professionally done. Marking out the holes was another source of anxiety. A small mistake could mean that the coat would never hang nicely.

I think my coat enjoyed the second trip into town. I’d rung up DM Buttons the day before to be told that the following day was their last before the holiday, so to go as early as possible. We got to see the Christmas decorations in the early morning light.

Before finding our way down a dark and scary alley to the lovely studio.

It was so cool seeing all the specialist equipment he has to finish garments. And the finished buttonholes look fabulous. I went for bar tacks for any buttonhole aficionados out there.

Getting the buttons to line up took FOREVER.

I have to say that the chances of me making another coat like this are slim. It’s an incredibly labour intensive process, and I’m not entirely convinced that what I can do at home is better than what I can buy. But I am happy with my fabric choices.

My biggest regret is not making the pockets bigger. This is a perennial problem I have with SOI patterns, so be warned if you like a capacious pocket.

Pattern: Sew Over It 1960s coat (size 12 with some fitting adjustments)
Fabric: 3m of wool and lining from Goldbrick Fabrics (I had 1m of wool left over)


I already wrote about the substantive making of my Port Charlotte jumper, but I added a few elements to make it ‘more Christmassy.’ Even though I knit this sweater specifically for Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, I was very clear that if I was going to invest so much time (and money) in a project, it had to be something I would love in its own right.

The words on the front are simply some chain-stitch embroidery. A top tip that really helped with this (thanks Jane) was to baste on the design with cotton first, to give myself a guideline. The only time I had to do it was on the train from London to Dorset, hence the uneven appearance. I’m definitely going to remove the embroidery once Xmas is over and done with.

I wore my jumper out and about on lovely day out in Bristol with my friend Jane to get some pictures. Here we are being geeks on the open-topped bus tour.

The yoke looks just as beautiful from the back.

I think this jumper fulfils its purpose of looking good with waisted skirts and dresses.

I STILL cannot pose for pictures.

Something that I wish I’d had some more time to work on was the light-up element of this jumper. I’ve been interested in incorporating lights into my knits for a few years now- this was my reason for backing a project on Kickstarter about making light-up cards.

The card kit didn’t really translate into wearable tech, but I backed another TehnoChic project that came with a load of cool LEDs, which were perfect for this. If I’d had more time, I would probably have knitted little pockets behind the sweater to hold the batteries. In the end, I just slapped them on using Velcro! I’ve been too lazy to get the LEDs out again since the filming, so they’re not pictured in this post.

If you want to see more about this sweater and see how I got on in the Christmas jumper knitting competition, you can see my second small screen appearance of the year at 5pm on Thursday 14th December on Channel 4. I imagine it will be available on demand after that (I hope so because I won’t actually be home when it’s on).

Pattern: Port Charlotte by Kate Davies. I made size 4 and my gauge was pretty much spot on.

Yarn: Titus by Baa Ram Ewe. Around 2 skeins White Rose, Gobstopper mini skeins and some Jamieson&Smith jumper weight from my stash

Ravelry project page


I can finally reveal the sweater that took up every minute of time I had available in late September. It’s Port Charlotte by Kate Davies, and I made it for a secret reason that I hope I will be able to talk about soon.

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I had three weeks and two days to knit a whole jumper. Including getting hold of the wool.

Port Charlotte is a pattern I coveted from the moment I saw Kate Davies post about it on Instagram. I have always been obsessed with rainbows, and I thought the design looked so clean.

I used a tubular cast-on throughout. I just love how it looks even though it’s a massive pain to do. I used Ysolda’s method, since I couldn’t figure out how many stitches I needed to cast on using the Brooklyn Tweed method.

Note for future me: do not use a smaller needle for the Ysolda tubular CO. After knitting the cuff, I realised that the cast-on was way too tight, so I decided to knit on a bit and use the sleeve as a swatch-in-the-round. It’s just as well I did- the gauge on the sleeve was quite different to the gauge square I knitted (back and forth) on the same size needles for my League sweater. The difference is so substantial that I need to knit a different size (4 rather than 3). So this was definitely one of those mistakes that turned out to be important.

Made some errors due to the lack of planning time I had for this project. I forgot to take into account that this pattern has bracelet-length sleeves, which is not a design choice I would normally make. However, the sleeves are made to fit that way so I just decided to follow the pattern.

I also cast on the body (the tubular CO took FOREVER) without thinking, and forgot that I am making this a cropped jumper. This means that I really cast on too many stitches. Rather than re-doing the CO, which would have destroyed my soul and taken too long, I decided to make the waist decreases in the ribbing. I’d never seen this done in a pattern so  worried it would look bad, but I have so little time for this project that I just have to plough on and hope for the best.

I did most of the knitting on a yoga retreat I happened to be going on during this time. I managed to finish the first sleeve in London, then cast on the rest of the pieces before setting off. I knew there wouldn’t be any wifi on Silver Island, so I didn’t want to risk drama with the tubular CO. This is what the sweater looked like when I was in Athens, the evening before I got the bus to the retreat.

For the week of the retreat, if I wasn’t doing yoga or eating, I was knitting.

Fortunately I had nice surroundings while I knit yard after yard of plain white stocking stitch.

The yoga helped stave off the RSI I’d started to feel in my wrist after a few days of intensive knitting. Having a digital detox was also a big help as I seem to use exactly the same muscles and tendons for knitting and swiping.

I did my cast off on the plane back to London.

Used Ysolda’s tubular BO. It was a stressful experience because I didn’t put in a lifeline, so couldn’t afford any mistakes. Fortunately it turned out fine.

I added some extra decoration to the sweater to make it more Christmassy. I’ll reveal all in a Friday post once I know when the episode is going to be aired.

Pattern: Port Charlotte by Kate Davies. I made size 4 and my gauge was pretty much spot on.

Yarn: Titus by Baa Ram Ewe. Around 2 skeins White Rose, Gobstopper mini skeins and some Jamieson&Smith jumper weight from my stash

Ravelry project page


Homework for the Sew Over It class this week (after week three) was super arduous. I spent the best part of two days working on it.

I started by unpicking part of the collar to insert a hanging chain.

I then tacked the edges of the fronts and collar down in preparation for pressing. That took ages and was quite stressful as my fabric doesn’t like steam. I also had to hand stitch the neckline facings together, which apparently stops the inside of the collar ripping when you hang the coat up.

Another task was putting the lining together, also known as making a second coat to put inside the first one.

The final thing I did was tack the sleeves into the coat so I can check the fit properly. The shoulder pads aren’t inserted in these pics, which is why the shoulders look a bit droopy.

I felt like there was still an awful lot of work to do during the final class, but I spent hours on the homework, so I just had to hope that I  wouldget closer to the finish line during the lesson.

After the lesson

Much of the lesson was spent inserting the shoulder pads and wadding. It was quite fiddly and I needed a lot of help from Julie to get the shoulder pads in the right place- this was my first time using them. Inserting wadding wasn’t in the instructions, but it was necessary in my fabric because the seam allowances were showing through at the shoulders, making them appear wavy.


The only other thing I managed to do was attach the lining to the facings of the coat. This was extremely fiddly and required me to go over a couple of bits. The wool and lining are very different weights, so I had to work to get them to feed through the machine at the same rate.


It’s not perfect, but I’m happy enough. The coat looks so much more finished now that all of the guts are covered up.

This is what the coat currently looks like on.

For the first time, I feel cautiously optimistic about coming out with a coat that I’m happy with. I now need to:

  • Steam the collar to get it to lie flat
  • Hem the sleeves
  • Trim and hem the coat
  • Buy buttons
  • Mark buttonholes and take to DM Buttons to get them done
  • Attach buttons
  • Remove tacking and gently and press the coat

Still a way to go, but hopefully I will manage to get everything finished for when the cold weather truly comes to London.


I started to feel a bit less grumpy about the coat after getting a bit more sleep following the second class. I have a ridiculous number of things on at the moment and it’s hard to stay on top of it all.

Homework 

I finished attaching the last piece of interfacing and sewed up some of the seams I was supposed to do in the first class. I managed to cut out all of my lining pieces. I had around 1m left (136cm wide). I was pretty lazy with the lining so could potentially have used less than 2m.

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Class

This week, I started to feel like I wasn’t miles behind everyone else for the first time. I attached the collar, which is very fiddly but the coat is starting to take shape.

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I have a lot of pressing to do in the next week, as well as making up the lining and doing some work on the sleeves. However, it’s half-term next week and I have the day off on Monday, so I will have some breathing space. I’m hopeful that I will be able to get everything done to be able to come out with a finished coat.

Week 4


I’ve wanted to take part in the series of sewing workshops to make the 1960s coat for ages, but the time was never right. At first, I was not an experienced enough sewist to undertake such a complex project. The workshop then became unavailable for an absolute age. So, when I saw that it was up and running again, I booked straightaway. I’ve been wearing some incarnation of a red coat for more than ten years now and my current version is really threadbare. I would have liked to replace it two seasons ago but red coats are not easy to come by. Now I’m going to try and make my own.

coat

Photo taken from the Sew Over It website.

The course notes state that 3m each of fashion fabric and lining, so the first step was to go shopping. My job semi-regularly takes me near the Goldhawk Road and I hoped that this was where I would find the perfect red wool. I didn’t have a huge amount of time, so I just headed to my best-loved shops. I was tempted by a bolt-end of red crepe in Misan West- £50 for 5m was a bargain, but wool crepe isn’t really right for a winter coat. They also had some nice red wool with a sort of herringbone pattern (£35/m) that was my only other option.

Goldbrick Fabrics is my favourite shop on Goldhawk Road. They have a great selection, good customer service, which is very important to me, and they didn’t let me down. The woman who helped me pulled out a sample of a wool and cashmere mix that was utter heaven. A stunning shade of pillarbox red that felt as beautiful as it looked. I balked a little when I saw that it was nearly £80/m, but I had to have it. Yolo. The lady was willing to negotiate, so I thought it made sense to buy my lining there too. I am a huge fan of a jazzy lining, so I had to have this patterned purple viscose.

All in, I spent £220 on the fabric for this coat. The course was just over £160, which means that by the time I get buttons and interfacing, I will have dropped more than £400 on my new coat- double what I spent on my last (red wool and cashmere mix) coat from John Lewis.

I like to be clear about prices because people often don’t realise the cost- both financial and in terms of time- associated with being a maker. On the other hand, this is a wonderful opportunity. I will spend twelve hours in the company of an expert dressmaker learning how to make something that is literally tailored to my body and my style. It makes sense to invest in fabulous fabric when I have someone so experienced to guide me through the process of creating this garment.

I had to leave the workshop early (for very exciting reasons that I hope to be able to reveal soon) so only managed to alter the pattern.

I think my whole Sunday will be spent cutting and ironing!

Week 2