29 July 2012

Summer treats

Summer finally arrived in perfect time for my holiday at the seaside! hooray! Don't worry, I won't bore you with holiday snaps. Ok, just one:
beach huts in Southwold, Suffolk
Before I left, I received my summer sewing swap parcel from the too lovely Mika of Savory Stitches.

This was my first swap, and I was thrilled with my parcel:
My parcel contained some lovely rayon fabric, with a border print (v exciting - I've always wanted to try out border print); a cotton lace insert (which I'm definitely going to use as a back-bodice detail); and some yellow mid-heavyish weight cotton (which is exactly the right yellow I've been looking for to line a bag - more details soon!). Thanks so much Mika for the fabulous package, and thanks Kerry for organising the swap!

And another lovely parcel was waiting for me on my return! Coming home from a perfectly idyllic, sun-soaked holiday can only be softened by receiving a perfectly lovely parcel:
This lovely handmade bowtie came from Lauren of Smunch. It clips on to collars, cardies, etc etc. I can see it becoming a staple of my work wardrobe. Plus, it's mega cute! Thanks so much Lauren! (You can make your own version with a pattern from IMakeItYouMakeIt.)

I feel like I haven't done any real sewing for a while. I've been working on some slow-paced, non-clothes projects, which aren't ready for sharing yet. But tomorrow looks like prime sewing time - that is, unless the horse-mad 11 year old within gets the upper hand, and I spend all day watching the Olympic Dressage event in my pyjamas.

speak soon

14 July 2012

Rainy day sewing: pot holder tutorial

I know it's so utterly boring to complain about the weather. But seriously. Non-stop rain since April is just so misery-inducing and it's left me so lacking in motivation to sew clothes. My initial plans for summer dresses seem pointless. Even my Simplicity 2444 was less than successful (more on that another day, however).

But, here's a lovely sewing project for a rainy day.

These make an excellent house warming gift, I think. They're a quick and satisfying make, and are great for using up scraps of fabric. Also, they're like very mini-quilts, so are great for practising the basics of quilting. There are loads of pot holder tutorials out there... one more won't hurt!

Here's what you need:

Fabric - I've used a cotton linen blend "Ruby Star" by Kokka, left over from this bag). 1/4 yard is plenty. Also some fabric for binding.
Batting - 100% cotton quilt batting (I wouldn't use anything poly - it might melt!)
Insul-bright wadding (or similar insulating wadding)

For a pair of pot holders, you'll need to cut:
2 x 8" squares of the top fabric
2* x 8.5" squares of batting
2 x 8.5" squares of insul-bright
2 x 9" squares of backing fabric
2.5" wide of your binding fabric (I was working from scraps, so I'm not sure exactly how much you'll need! oops!)

(*If you're using a lighter weight fabric, you might want to use an extra layer of batting in each pot holder)

You'll want to layer up your pieces into a nice little sandwich, with the backing fabric wrong side up, then the wadding, then the insul-bright, and finally the top fabric.

Pin all the layers together. I used a tiny bit of basting spray, which keeps the layers together without any creasing:

look - no pins!

Then mark your sewing lines. I used my trusty hera marker:

I marked diagonal lines, 1.5" apart.

Because you're working with four layers of fabric, I'd suggest using a walking foot, which helps feed the fabric through evenly. They can be expensive, but I bought a generic one from ebay (at a third of the price of the branded one), which works perfectly. It isn't a disaster if you don't have one, but your layers might creep a bit. Pick your thread and quilt!

Apologies for the poor lighting. It all of a sudden started POURING with rain and my flat was transformed into a cave

Once you've completed your quilting, trim off the excess fabric and batting, making sure that your pot holder is square.

Next, take your binding and press it in half lengthwise. (I followed Oh Fransson!'s great tutorial on making and sewing quilt binding.) You might want to add little loops for hanging up the pot holder. Twill tape or ribbon will do. Or some ric rac trim (thanks Scruffy Badger!). Two 6" lengths should do it.

And onto the binding. Again, I followed the steps in Oh Fransson!'s tutorial. Pin the binding all the way around, remembering to tuck in the loop (with the loop facing in towards the centre of the pot holder). Sew with a 1/4" seam allowance. Press, flip and pin the binding down on the other side.

You can machine finish the binding. Or sew it by hand, which makes for a lovely finish. I love sewing binding by hand - I find it quite therapeutic! Also, it can be done while watching Bridget Jones. (You may, of course, watch your own preferred rainy day flick.)

And repeat.

Hurrah! You have a pair of pot holders!

and here they are, all wrapped up and ready to be gifted ...

I found the whole process quite addictive and promptly whipped up another, using some more of the ric rac from Scruffy Badger!

I got a bit adventurous with the quilting on this one. I'm not sure it works with the cutesy polka dots and jumbo ric rac. But it was good fun anyway. I did this one a bit differently, to see if it was quicker to do it without the binding. It isn't. (But perhaps if you skipped the ric rac, it might be.)

For this pot holder, I used an extra square of batting, as this was a lighter weight cotton. I quilted each bit of fabric to a square of batting, basted the square of insul-bright to the back of one, and the ric rac border to the other. Then I sewed them together, with right sides facing, making sure to leave a gap for turning. If following this process, make sure to trim the corners and grade the seams before turning over - there's a lot going on in those seams! Finally, I turned the right side out and slip stitched the opening.

This is my first tutorial, so please let me know if anything needs more explanation or doesn't make sense. And if you've got any tips and suggestions, please leave a comment.

If you make a pot holder using this tutorial, please let me know - I'd love to see it.

Rumour is it might be a sunny day tomorrow. Hooray!

Speak soon!

3 July 2012

Wardrobe essentials and do I need to make anything else at all?

I know that one of the main points of women's fashion and lifestyle magazines is to make you buy lots of things you didn't realise you needed or indeed that you "must have". But I am always intruiged by the perennial "wardrobe essentials/classics" lists.

I often wonder who this everywoman is, and what her life must be like. I suppose it depends on each magazine's readership.

For example, here's Matchbook's 50 classics:
I personally think this is a pretty good list, and I would say it broadly reflects the bones of my wardrobe. There are a few things that I have no need of (or wish to own). Like a polo shirt. Also, I've never seen a lady wear a signet ring (perhaps this is an American thing?). And even though I wish I could, I somehow can't bring myself to wear a denim jacket - it's just too Bruce Springsteen for me.

But my little sister, would have a good laugh at this list. Being a "creative", she has very different ideas of what wardrobe essentials are (super skinny leather trousers; 100 gold bangles; ginormous sunglasses, etc). In fact, we can no longer enjoy shopping together as there have been too many "ugh, hideous - I wouldn't be caught dead in that... but it might look good on you" moments (said by her, I add). 

And while I was pondering wardrobe essentials, Kestrel's post on planning your sewing popped up on my reader. And that got me thinking. Why do I sew what I sew? Is it essential? (Probably not - I definitely don't need any more clothes!) Since I've started sewing, I've mostly stopped shopping because what's available in the shops just doesn't seem worth the price (and is usually poorly made/fitting). But blogs seem to have become my new shopping: I must have a Minoru like Karen's; Scruffy Badger will make a top that I simply can't live without; Marie will make a whole bunch of tees that I'm suddenly desperate for; MMM12 will come along and I'll be so inspired by what everyone else has made that I want to make it too!

So, I'm taking a step back. While I might not actually have a formal plan for my sewing (too easily distracted), I'm definitely going to give a lot of thought to what I sew. Here's my new three-stage test for each make (the WWW):
  • What? (With the sub-questions "Seriously?" and "Will that even suit me?")
  • Why? (Answers such as "because XYZ made one, it's so cute, and I want one too" are not acceptable.)
  • What will I wear it with? (Must consider shoes. Answers such as "pffft - I'll think about that later" are not acceptable.)
I'll use the same test when fabric shopping too.

Sewing is supposed to be fun for me, so I don't want to become too draconian about it. But a little bit of organisation is called for, I think. Let's see how long I keep this up.

What about you? How do you approach your sewing? Do you have a masterplan? A season-plan? (Me-made) Wardrobe essentials? or do you just sew what you fancy?

speak soon!