Sewing frenzy

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I’ve just come out the other side of a bit of a frantic period of sewing. My brother is getting married next week, and so of course I wanted to make something nice to wear. Naturally, I have known the date of the wedding for ages, so I had plenty of time to plan what I wanted to make, and sew in a relaxed and leisurely way. Did I do that? Reader, I think we both know the answer that that rhetorical question. I did not. I waited until about a month before the wedding before starting my dress, then made some stupid decisions about a top layer, panicked, and ended up going on a three-day sewing bender less than a week before the wedding.

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Kalle and Flint

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Kalle tunic

As I make progress with my sewing, I’m trying to be a bit more strategic about what I make. When you start out, the giddy excitement of actually making things means that you flit between patterns, making anything shiny that catches your eye. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (and it’s certainly fun), but I’ve been trying to plan a bit more thoughtfully, and think about what kinds of garments I need to give me maximum flexibility. I’ve also tried to slow down a bit, and make each item as polished as I possibly can.

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Singer 201K

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Singer 201K

You might think that one sewing machine should be enough for anyone. I have a very nice, modern, computerised, Janome sewing machine (not to mention an overlocker for finishing seams and sewing stretch fabrics), and I’m very happy with it. It sews all kinds of stitches very competently (including zig-zag stitches), and has some useful features like stopping with the needle down (or up), so that you can easily pivot around corners, pulling the bobbin thread up automatically, and even snipping the threads automatically. And yet, I found myself browsing vintage straight stitch-only machines.

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Displacement activity: the French Dart Shift Tunic

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Maven Patterns French Dart Shift Tunic front

Well. That was a distressing, bewildering, enraging, and terrifying week. I don’t even know where to start with it. In response, I seem to have diverted into temporary displacement activity: who else would like to join me in a few moments of thinking about something other than the state of the world? I made a very red, very corduroy tunic: the French Dart Shift Tunic by Maven Patterns.

At the start of the winter, I had a plan to make a warm winter dress. My first idea was to make a corduroy pinafore dress, an idea that rather surprised me. I think I last wore a pinafore dress when I was about 5 years old. In fact, I have a photograph of me wearing it, with a ribbed polo neck jumper underneath, and a puddingbowl haircut with slightly wonky fringe above. I’m vaguely aware that they have become somewhat fashionable recently, but that wasn’t why I wanted to make one. I was after a dress that I could wear a thick layer (like a jumper or long-sleeved t-shirt) underneath, rather than covering up the dress with a cardigan. I was ready to try to draft something myself, when I saw another alternative that I could wear in the same way: Maven Patterns French Dart Shift Tunic.

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Ms Blue Cardigan meet Mr Blue Sky

2016 is certainly not getting any easier as it drags on, is it? Like many people, I’m finding it hard not to get anxious and disturbed by every new revelation or outrage on the news. There are certainly plenty of issues about which it is absolutely right and proper to get anxious, disturbed and angry, but there comes a time when you need to switch off for a bit. Personally, I find solace in both music and making things.

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Gingers for cycling

Front of cycling Gingers

My latest sewing project unites my love of sewing with my love of cycling: a pair of Ginger jeans made from showerproof, windproof, softshell fabric for winter cycling. I used the Ginger pattern because I’ve made it a couple of times before and know that it fits me well, and because it is intended for stretch denim, and the softshell fabric I bought has a similar amount of stretch. This is a project I’ve had planned for quite some time, and while I’m very happy with the result, it was a project fraught with difficulties.

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Making a Bunka-style sloper

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I have been wanting to buy a couple of the Pattern Magic pattern cutting books for a while. The author, Tomoko Nakamichi, is a professor at the Bunka Fashion College in Japan. These books distil the methods taught at the school for creating slopers, and adds her wonderful creativity, playfulness and incredible ability to wrangle fabric into improbable forms. They have fairly recently been translated into English, but I wanted to take a look inside one before committing to a purchase. Last week, I managed to find copies in Waterstones, and instantly blew a book token I had been hoarding since my birthday on buying the first and second books.

The patterns in the book are based on the so-called ‘Bunka sloper’ as a starting point, and the instructions and figures in the book show you — with incredible precision and economy1 — how to alter the sloper to get the designs depicted. There was only one problem: the Bunka sloper is based on the average body dimensions of young Japanese women, and my middle-aged Western body is very far from that kind of shape (more’s the pity). Would the sloper work for me?

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Self-drafted shirt version 2.0

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Full view of shirt as worn

I remember learning at University about the intricate mechanisms involved in embryonic development. So many processes have to happen at just the right time, in just the right order, and in just the right amount to produce — for example — five separate digits on the end of the hand that it amazed me that any of us are born with the ‘standard’ body plan at all. Since I started fitting patterns, and more recently drafting patterns myself from scratch, I’ve been experiencing the same kind of wonderment: how did I ever buy anything ready made that even vaguely fitted me, when there are so many variables to account for?

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Carolyn pyjamas

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Carolyn pyjamas

My latest sewing project has been a lot of fun: Carolyn pyjamas. I’m normally a t-shirt and jersey pyjama trousers kind of person, but I was taken with this pattern for ‘posh pyjamas’. I bought the pattern, and then around my birthday, I made a special visit to John Lewis to get some fabric befitting of such fancy night attire.

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