Sunday 20 October 2013

Something a bit different

Long time so speak, my friends! It's actually been 4 entire weeks since I last posted - how time flies. And yep, that's because I have not been sewing in this time!! In case you are feeling nosy, this is because I have recently discovered Annie Sloane chalk paint, and am loving it! As I have been spending my weekends sanding, painting, waxing, and sanding some more, I thought I'd share some before and after photos of my painting projects with you today :)

Pine mirror - before                                                 after

Our new dining table - before (heavily marked)

After (sanded, waxed and painted)

So something a bit different today, and I hope you enjoyed the mini-makeovers. Now that my furniture painting projects are done (for now, anyway), it's time to get back to sewing, so I shall be back soon to report on my sewing projects. For now, I hope you all have a lovely week ahead! 

Sunday 22 September 2013

Giveaway winners!

It's time! Thanks to the "randbetween" function on Excel, I'm pleased to announce that the winners from the blogiversay giveaway are:

Winner of the fabric -- Elena from Tea for Two
Winner of the lavender -- Maud Parent from MP by Maud

Congratulations! I can't wait to see what you make!

Please could you let me have your postal address?

Sunday 1 September 2013

Giveaway - blogiversary and 100th post!

As promised, it's time for a giveaway! It's a special occasion -- today it's the 2nd blogiversary for this little blog of mine. This is also the 100th post on Moonbeam, and I just realised that I have 100 followers on Google Friends Connect as of today!

To mark this occasion, I've got 2 freebies for you to grab. First of all, this beautiful lightweight cotton. It's 2.50m long and 1.10m wide - don't you just love the delicate pattern? It would be perfect for a summer dress, or a cute little top (the Alma Blouse, anyone?)
The second freebie is some dried lavender. Remember the lavender bags that I made earlier this year for my mother-in-law's wedding as favours? I have over 500 grams left, and although it is making the house smell incredibly relaxing, I thought it would be time to part with it, and let it go to another home. 
To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post before the end of Saturday 21 September (midnight GMT). If you would prefer to enter for only one freebie, please indicate this in your comment. Otherwise I will assume that you are entering for both. Everyone is welcome to enter, and I will ship them worldwide. The winners will be picked at random, and announced on Sunday 22 September. Any questions, just ask. 

Best of luck! And happy giveaway!

Friday 30 August 2013

Kollabora - do you use/recommend it?

I was doing some research on new Simplicity patterns (did you know that Simplicity is having a half price sale till mid-September - at least in the UK by its main distributors it seems), and came across a site called Kollabora. I think it's another online community for the crafty kind, but I was 1) surprised that I hadn't come across it until now, and 2) quite liking its design and layout, and how the beautiful photos really stand out on the site.

Before I go ahead and register with it though, may I ask:

Have you come across it? Do you already use it? And if so, would you recommend it? 

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Simplicity 2413 floral skirt

Remember this fabric? This was the main ingredient for my picnic dress! I had some leftover, and it seemed like the perfect choice for Project Runway 2413, which is a pattern that I've had for a little while now. 
It's a timeless pattern, with pleated skirt in different lengths and various optional details. I made view B, knee length, with a waist band, and pockets! 
It was simple to put together, but at the same time I found adding pockets next to the invisible zipper rather intriguing. I cut a size 4, but that turned out to be a bit tight when I measured up the pleated waistline. Of course I don't have a 22 inch waist (!), but usually I find that size 4 Simplicity works quite well for me, leaving not a lot of ease, so naturally I cut it without thinking. So here's my warning for anyone who is thinking about trying this pattern - I think it runs a little small (contains less ease) compared to your usual Simplicity sizing, so do measure the pattern before cutting if you can! It wasn't too much of an issue for me, as it was easy enough to reduce the depth of the pleats to increase the waist size.   
I was pretty pleased to have squeezed this little project in before autumn arrives, and I'll look forward to wearing it on our holiday to the Cote d'Azur next week! Yippee! 

Before I head off though, a quick spoiler alert for the second blogiversary giveaway, which will go live this Sunday. Until then, my dear readers, I hope you all have a lovely week!

Sunday 11 August 2013

“Cuts out all fatigue!”

First of all, I’m so very pleased and relieved to report that my Singer 8280 is back, almost as good as new (I say almost, as there's currently some alignment problems with the slide-on table which was caused by transit that I'm trying to sort out). It arrived about a week ago, carefully wrapped in layers and layers of cardboard and bubblewrap (so much that I actually gave up before all the bubbles were popped). In fact, the machine sews in a much more smooth fashion, and makes less noise when it does so.

But this post is all about my vintage Singer 99k. When my modern Singer was away, naturally I turned to my beautiful 99k, as of course, a week or two without sewing was not going to be an option. Before then, although I had test sewed on a couple of fabric samples with the vintage machine, I had no real reason to use it for an entire garment, when my loyal and familiar is already on the table, ready to go.

As soon as I started using the 99k, I fell in love with it. Of course I can’t deny the vintage factor, where I feel that I’m touching a piece of history with my own hands, but man is it a good little worker. Here’re just a few reasons why I love working with it:

  1. It’s a solid piece of kit. The metal body not only looks curvy and attractive, but it is also more robust when compared to a modern version with a plastic casing. Also, it gets through thicker fabric without trouble, so is very versatile indeed. I’m already looking forward to working with some tricky fabric with it.
  2. The generous work surface. The integrated fold-up table helps, but the area below the arm is also much wider so that it’s easier to handle a larger amount of fabric underneath. I was really surprised by how much of a difference it made, and this was particularly appreciated when I was inserting the lapped zipper onto my dropped waist dress, and when I was adding the tape to some curtains. Big thumbs up for this one.
  3. The handwheel is so easy to use. These machines were first made as hand crank versions, so the handwheel was a critical part of the entire operation. Luckily my 99k is a 1950s version with a motor and foot pedal included already (see above the picture taken from the instruction manual, and hence the title of this post. The picture made me laugh!), yet I found the handwheel to be of great help at the start (to get the motor going) and at the end of each seam. It’s so much easier to turn, and gives you a lot more control manually.
  4. The speed. Once it gets going, and if you are sewing a straight line with your foot down, I’ll tell you, this machine does not mess about! It gets up to quite a speed! I don’t know what it can get up to per hour, but I was very grateful of this when I was altering some curtains. Once the thread is threaded, and the tensions are sorted, the project was done in no time!
  5. The backstitch function. I’ll be honest here - it took me a while to realise that my 99k had this function (as the older ones don’t often do this), and by then I had already convinced myself that I did not need this. But the massive relief when I realised that it did backstitch showed me that I was just kidding myself.
  6. Its compatibility with my various sewing feet. Although it does not have a “snap-on” foot like my modern machine, its shank is interchangeable with that from my modern Singer, which means that all my sewing pressure feet can still be used on the vintage model. Bravo Singer! This is a pleasant surprise and is very much appreciated, certainly in a world where everything appears to have new versions very quickly, which then render the original accessories largely useless, be it cables, chargers, cases, even sim cards... 

Of course, it is only a fairly basic machine, and did take me a little bit of time to familiarise myself with the threading, etc. A particular struggle I had was with winding the bobbin – the instructions and the pictures are for an earlier model, so I scratched my head for quite a while before consulting the knowledgeable YouTube. The other slight difficulty is that it does a straight stitch only – it was great to use when I wanted to assemble things, but not so great for finishing seams. In fact, I’ve still got the seams on my dropped waist dress to do! After wearing it out for our 1st anniversary meal at the end of last month!

So what's next? Now that my modern machine is back, will I continue to use the 99k? Yep, without a doubt. As I have been enjoying its smooth action so much in the last few weeks, I think I may actually try and do all the assembling with the 99k in the future, and let my 8280 do the trickier bits, such as inserting an invisible zipper, finishing the seams with the overlocker foot, and of course, working with jersey, which is what I’m hoping to do next!

Do you have a vintage sewing machine? Do you use it, and do you love using it?

Monday 22 July 2013

Tutorial: make your own dropped waist dress!

Would you like to make your own dropped waist dress? It was very simple indeed! Just follow the simple steps below:

1. Find a dress pattern that you like, preferably a princess seamed one (as darts may be harder to shorten) without a waistline seam. If you are struggling, perhaps give Simplicity 2146 a go? I would recommend using a tried and tested/toiled pattern for this, as you know how well it fits and how long the finished length is. 

2. Determine where you want the "dropped waist" to be on your body.

3. Shorten the pattern pieces accordingly, remembering to leave the length for the seam allowance. If in doubt, leave longer rather than shorter. 

4. Make up the short dress/long bodice according to the altered pattern from step 3, without inserting the zipper. 

5. Cut out a rectangle for the skirt piece – the size for this will depend on how long and how full you want the dress to be. For reference, my rectangle was 150cm x 30cm, but do bear in mind that I'm quiet short - you are likely to need a wider piece. 

6. Gather the long edge of the rectangle evenly to fit the bottom of the long bodice from step 4. 

7. Attach 4 and 6 with right sides together for the full length, leaving the centre back seams open.

8. Insert zipper - I used a lapped zipper, but you are free to pick your own! 

And that’s it! You’ll have your very own dropped waist dress! Do feel free to shout if you have any questions!

Sunday 21 July 2013

Touch of pink dropped waist dress

Update -- make your own dropped waist dress following this simple tutorial here!

Whilst my Singer 8280 is taking some time out to be cured (hopefully!), I have been keeping up my sewing activities with my Singer 99k, and have really enjoyed getting to know this beauty from 1957 (a separate post on this later). For now, here's my latest creation:

I have a soft spot for dropped waist dresses, especially those with a semi-fitted waistline (I do like the baggy type, too, but generally more on other people). So when I snapped up this cute polka dot stretchy cotton, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. It's quiet a thick material, much thicker than the stuff I used for the old favourites dress and my Alma blouse, so would be perfect in providing the structure that is needed for the desired effect of the skirt. 

I've called the dress "touch of pink", as the polka dots are actually in a very pale shade of pink. You probably can't see this from the photos, but they do just make the fabric that little bit "softer". I love it!
I used Simplicity 2146 (remember my last version?) as a base pattern, as I like how it fitted, as well as the princess lines. I chopped off the bottom of the skirt and replaced it with a gathered skirt. 

I made quiet a narrow hem, and used a lapped zipper. Instead of the actual facing, of course I used my favourite single-fold bias tape technique. And this had to be in a pale pink, too. There are no photos of the inside of this dress, as I'm too embarrassed to show you the inside... as it's not yet finished! I'm waiting for my Singer 8280 to come back before finishing the seams. But the outside of the dress looks good, right? ;)  

That said, my lovely 99k has been instrumental in helping me with this wonderful little project. I approve! 

Sunday 7 July 2013

Old Favourites Dress and SOS on my Singer 8280!

What a beautiful summer weekend! For those that don't live in the UK, I hope you had lovely weather too! 

First thing first. I am very sad to report that my modern Singer (aka Sallie Moonbeam) broke down last night...  The handwheel mechanism got jammed up, and would only move a tiny teeny amount back and forth. I took her apart almost completely (big mistake), didn't find anything that was caught (but man was it filthy and fluffy), and when I proudly put everything* back, there were 3 screws and a cylinder left!!! Needless to say, it still doesn't work, and I am getting more and more wound up over it. I didn't quite realise just how much I was relying on my sewing machine, until it stopped working! 

HELP PLEASE! Has this happened to you before? Also, if anyone has any experience of any sewing machine repair/service specialists in the South East (UK), please could you let me know? 

Now onto the project. This was a quick project with one of my favourite patterns, McCalls 2401 (see previous versions here and here), and the same stretchy cotton fabric that I used in my Alma Blouse. I've called it the Old Favourites Dress, though strictly speaking the fabric is quite a new favourite. 
It was a breeze to use this tried and tested version, which I have altered previously to fit me (see adjustments here). This time I made a View F, with the bateau neckline, and sleeveless. I love this pattern with a stretchy cotton - it hugs the body so well and it's super comfortable to wear.  


I finished the neckline and armholes with a navy single-fold bias binding as facing - you can't see it from the photos but I love the slight contrast on the inside. 

I think this is quite a smart looking dress. And did I mention how comfy it was to wear? A bit of stretch is all you need sometimes! 
Have a lovely week all! My priority will be to get my 8280 fixed but in the meantime, I'm going to try and use my Singer 99k to keep me busy... 

Sunday 23 June 2013

Alma blouse!

After drooling over the Alma blouse pattern since the day it was introduced to us all, I have finally taken the plunge to buy the pattern and make my first version. 
I must admit, I had really high expectations for this pattern, especially after seeing all the great versions on the blogsphere. But I was not a little bit disappointed! Thank you, Tasia, for such a wonderful pattern!

I made view B, cut a size 0, and needed no alteration what so ever! I know that Sewaholic patterns are great for pear shaped ladies, and although I am not exactly pear shaped, this was perfect for me as I would usually do a SBA.  

The pattern instructions were clear and concise, with all steps for all views fitted onto one single page. The pictures are really helpful, too. I liked the over and under collar pieces; in fact this is the first time that I have seen such distinction -- when I made the 1940s fitted blouse, the Peter Pan collar used the same pieces for the collar itself and facing.   

I used a floral stretch cotton for the top and polycotton for the collar. I was really pleased with how it's turned out. I love the way it fits -- the invisible side zipper really helps! 
Now I just can't wait to make another version - View A, here I come! 

Saturday 8 June 2013

Picnic time!

Update 16/07/2015 - You can now make your own version with the free pattern here! Enjoy ;)

Summer is here, people!!! After the longest winter in the history of the earth, and the shortest ever spring, I am so very pleased that summer has finally arrived! Hooray! 

What better time to enjoy a picnic in the sun by the Thames? For a change of scenery, we visited the lovely town of Marlow, and sat by the Marlow lock, watching the world go by. 

As soon as I bought this beautifully bright cotton fabric (all 5 yards for £5! can you believe it?!), I knew that I wanted to make a copycat of Betty's floral dress which was worn in two different episodes in Season 2 of Mad Men:
Having looked through my pattern stash, disappointingly I could not see anything that fitted the bill. So with sleeves rolled up, I drafted the pattern with a simple gathered rectangle skirt, with a princess lined bodice. I then added self-fabric spaghetti straps, with a couple of little bows as decorative details. All in all it took me a day to complete this project, and I had to wear it to my own picnic today!

I also made the picnic blanket last week, in one of the evenings. I used a 1.5m x 1.5m piece of cotton fabric which was leftover from my peplum dress, matched by some hardwearing outdoor fabric of the same size to make it more stain/water-proof. I stitched all four edges but about 10cm with right sides together, clipped corners, turned around and top stitched the edges again. Basically I made a baby blanket again, but with non-baby friendly fabric this time! 

Sunday 2 June 2013

What's on my sewing blackboard

I'm  not even speaking metaphorically!  
Do you see all the lovely rulers? Isn't it just fitting (get it?) for a sewing space? 
To complete the tailoring theme, I also tracked down a lovely photo frame!  

Do you have any sewing-related home furnishing items, too? Or is it just me that's this obsessed? 

Have a lovely week everyone! XX

Saturday 1 June 2013

Tutorial: how to add lining to a skirt with waistband

As promised when I shared my ultimate work skirt with you, here is a tutorial on how I added lining to the skirt when the pattern did not call for one, with the added waistband. If you are not using a waistband, I hope this could still be useful but you would have to pick and choose the relevant steps.

The pattern I used was McCalls 3830 -- if you haven't tried this already, please do! It has quickly become one of my favourites, as it's so simple but gives great results.

Please allow me to say that the steps below set out how I added lining to McCalls 3830, mainly by studying a RTW skirt that I had. This method may well not be the right or only way to achieve this, but as it worked for me, I thought I would share it in case it would be of help to someone.

Before we start, you may want to decide whether you want to make any design changes. I added a waistband by following this helpful tutorial on Coletterie here. My waistband was 2.5cm wide, but if I were to do this again, I would widen it to maybe 3cm or 3.5cm.

Now the lining. You will need slightly less lining fabric as the fashion fabric, as you won't need to cut out the waistband or the waistband facing pieces from the lining. To choose lining fabric, broadly anything that is marked as "lining" in the shop should work. However I tend to go for lightweight/thin and silky material (a faux habotai, or a lightweight satin), and if they are anti-static, that also helps. You could try and match the colours, contrast it, or insert some funky lining that no one would be expecting -- anything goes!

Part A: Making the skirt and waistband 

I have not gone into that much detail here, as each skirt pattern is different, so the key is to follow the pattern instructions.   

Step 1: Make darts, stitch skirt sections together, leaving room at the top of the centre back seams for the zip

Step 2: Stitch waistband sections (after interfacing them) together, leaving the centre back open. Do the same for waistband facing sections

Step 3: Attach waistband and facing right side together at the top edge 

Step 4: Attach skirt to waistband with right side together

Step 5: With the waistband facing flipped out (see picture below), insert the zip ensuring that the top edge comes in slightly below the top of the waistband (rather than the facing)

After step 5, your skirt should look something like this:

Part B: Prepare the lining 

Step 6: Cut the lining pieces
I used the skirt pattern pieces, without any change. I lay the pattern pieces so that the centre back seams of the skirt fall right on the selvage of the lining fabric. I often find that lining fabric frays very badly, so using the selvage would make your job a lot easier later on.

Step 7: Make tucks rather than darts in lining pieces
One thing that I noted from examining my RTW skirt was that whilst the skirt pieces had darts to fit the contour of the body, the lining pieces adjusted for this by tucks, leaving more ease and flexibility in the lining. So I did the same, and it worked. That said, I think if you made darts in the lining pieces to match the skirt pieces, that should not be an issue, either.

Step 8: Stitch lining sections together, leaving space at the top of the centre back just slightly longer than the zip length. 

Part C: Attach lining to skirt

Step 9: Turn the skirt inside out, flip the waistband facing back inside the skirt (on the right side). After this you should have the top of the skirt seam which is attached to the bottom of the waistband seam at the very top, ready to also have the lining sewn to it. Pin the top of the lining to those seam allowances with wrong sides together. 

You will see here that I have already graded the seam allowances so that the waistband seem is shorter than the skirt seam. 
When you are close to the centre back, where the seams are folded over, pin as far as you can, leaving a small gap. 

Step 10: Sew as pinned, within the seam allowance. I did a 1cm seam here, but really anything within the 1.5cm seam allowance is fine, so that this new stitching won't show on the right side of the skirt. 
 Step 11: Hand finish the small gap close to the zipper

Step 12: Slip stitch the lining to the zipper tape, leaving extra room at the bottom for the tab 
Part D: Finishing touches

Step 13: Press 1.3cm if you are using a 1.5cm seam allowances throughout (or just a slightly narrower seam than whatever you are using) down on the open edge of the waistband facing. 

Step 14: Fold the waistband facing to the inside of the skirt, overlapping the folded edge over the seams (bottom of waistband and top of skirt). Pin on the right side of the skirt. 

 This is what it looks like on the inside:
Step 15: Stitch on the right side of the skirt. I went very slowly so that the stitching fell right into the previous stitching line so it's almost invisible
Step 16: Hem
I pinned the hemline for the skirt layer first, blind catchstitching it by hand (see Sherry's tutorial here). Then I pinned the skirt lining to be a tad shorter than the skirt itself, so it won't be seen easily when I'm wearing it (despite a part of me wanting to show off the beautiful lining!)

Can you see how the pinned lining ends slightly above the skirt hem?
And there you have it! A fully lined skirt with a waistband! Give me a shout if you have any questions or would like to share your experience :)
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