Sunday 28 December 2014

2014 round-up

Oh guys, what a year! That's right, it's time to reflect on the year which is almost behind us. I know that some of you particularly enjoy posts like this, but equally some of you may not, but I wanted to do this for me, so that I can take stock of the good and the bad, and plan my sewing for the following year. 

As you know, this has been a year full of change for me. I changed jobs, and moved house, and as a result spent quite a lot of my spare time renovating the new house. Now, having been in the not so new job and house for almost 9 months, I feel very content, and glad that I took the plunge. 

Despite this, I was happy to find that I have managed a total of 17 sewing projects this year, 14 of which for me to wear, 1 for the hubby to wear (a pair of PJs, not yet blogged) and the other 2 non-wearables as gifts for others. Averaging more than one project a month is fine with me :)

I started the year by making a Vintage Sewing Pledge, and man did that make a difference! I tried out 4 vintage patterns, plus one from the Burdastyle Vintage Modern book, and made 7 projects using these! I've come across issues, and learned a lot from the process, but ultimately I'm grateful of Marie's wonderful idea. 

This wasn't the only "social" sewing that I have done this year. I took part in the Mad Men Challenge yet again, and have also squeezed in Sew Dolly Clackett

With hindsight, I am quite pleased with the variety of sewing projects that I have done, and also that I have stepped out of my comfort zone a few times. I tried out a jacket before spring was here, and finished the year off with a winter coat; I made 2 maxi skirts (I couldn't even see my comfort zone then!), 2 wedding guest outfits, as well as a dressing gown; what else? I finally tried sewing with knits, and there will certainly be more to come in 2015. 

What's in store for 2015? 

1) Definitely more projects with jersey. Although I've started tapping into this new territory, I'm ready to try a few new things with my overlocker. Goodness knows how many pieces of jersey and sewing with knit patterns I've got in my stash! 

2) A few skirts. Looking back I realised that I haven't made any non-maxi skirt this year! And shamefully there is one skirt that I have already had all the pieces cut out, but never got round to assembling it. So I will definitely make more time for skirts. 

3) Some social sewing still. I'd like to participate in the Mad Men challenge again, if there is one coming up, and also Me-Made-May! The latter is something that I have wanted to take part in in so long, but a few things had got in the way. I have a feeling that 2015 is the year. 

4) I have a few more ideas for the blog. In theory I'd quite like to host a sew-along (not sure yet if I'm quite ready for that yet), and maybe write a little bit more than simply sharing projects. I'm thinking about running a series about my sewing stumbling blocks/nemeses/"turn-offs", because I can already think of a few. These are just ideas for now, but I would like to introduce a new element to the blog in the coming year. 

I'll finish this post by naming three of my favourite makes this year:

Cheap as chips top

Vintage Vogue 1137

Navy wool coat

Based on the above (and my projects this year indeed), I am terribly fond of all shades of blue :) This is no surprise to me, but I will also try to use more colours next year. 

May 2015 bring us wonderful sewing inspirations and projects. Happy sewing everyone, and Happy New Year! 

Sunday 21 December 2014

Navy wool coat

I made a winter coat! And it's in time for the festive season. 

Ladies and gents, I am super pleased to share my latest project with you. This is the first winter coat I have ever made, and I don't think it will be the last!

Don't I look proud in my new coat?

 The fabric

The fabric is a pretty special one. When I was in Beijing visiting family and friends back in September/October, my mum took out a beautiful piece of wool from her cupboards. She had bought it when she was about my age, which also means that the fabric is probably as old as me. The price at the time was £1 a metre, and apparently she bought it due to peer pressure, as her friends were speculating that fabric prices were about to shoot up. I'm not sure if the prices did surge shortly after, but I do know that you can't get 100% wool for £1 a metre any more, or at least in the parts of the world that I've set foot in. . 

It's a truly lovely fabric, and has survived the years extremely well. But boy did I feel the pressure to do it justice! My mum has already requested a picture of the end product so that she can show it to her friends! 
The Surrey Hills, ladies and gentlemen! We are so lucky to have this right on our doorstep. 

The pattern

Update - this pattern is Pattern of the Week here at £2.95! Hurry up if you want your own copy. Thank you SylvieW for the heads-up :)

I've had the Simplicity 2311 (Project Runway) pattern in my stash for a while, but hadn't quite had the fabric or the courage to have a go at a full winter coat. Now that I've claimed back my sewing room from all the building mess, and as my normal winter coat started to fall apart, I knew that it was time. 

I've always been a fan of Project Runway patterns, and this one was no exception. I wanted a long-ish coat, to keep me warm and cosy through the winter months, but also one that is classic and timeless, without too many decorative details which might go out of fashion. After a lengthy debate, I went with the long, double breasted version with the tie belt and non-gathered sleeves. 

I had some issue with the fabric, as my mum, in her attempt to beat inflation, only bought 2 metres of the wool... Good job I am quite small (I cut a size 4), and just about got away with fitting all the pattern pieces on the fabric after spending a morning playing with the "puzzle" and shortening the pattern by a couple of inches. 

I did a muslin for it, with a plasticy fabric that frayed like there was no tomorrow (you can probably sense my relieve that it is no longer in my stash)! I did this because I couldn't afford to make a mistake with the wool (as there is literally tiny pieces of scrap left after carefully cutting out), and also I wasn't quite sure about the huge lapels from view B. 

Pattern adjustments

I made a few adjustments after the muslin, but overall the fit was decent anyway. Sewing the muslin also boosted my confidence with the project, as it was really no different from making a princess lined dress. 

I also consulted a couple of my sewing books, including Vogue Sewing (revised and updated) and Couture Sewing Techniques

After the muslin and the research, these are the adjustments I have made to the pattern:
  • The petite adjustment to raise the waist;
  • Shortened the length even further (it ended up being about 5cm longer than the shorter version) to squeeze into the fabric;
  • SBA on the side front piece using this method;
  • Took in a couple of cm at the centre back seam;
  • Reshaped the lapels - reduced the width and raised the breaking point. To make the latter effective, I also had to shift the dart;
  • I didn't use the same pattern pieces for the lining. Instead, I followed the pictures here. This method reduces the stress on the lining fabric, which is often less stretchy than the fashion fabric, and also allows the lining to be bagged without hanging down from the hem. 
Construction and instructions

The sewing process didn't take too long - I broke it down by constructing the outer shell without sleeves (as I have a bit of a sleeve-setting phobia), constructing the lining with the sleeves, setting sleeves on coat and attaching the belt carriers, and finally bagging out the lining. 

A word to say about the bagging out method. After a bit of searching, I ended up following this tutorial, which explained the steps really well with great photos. What I did do differently, was that instead of opening up a seam in the sleeve lining (as I had already serged all the lining seams due to excessive fraying - the thought of the seams melting within the bagged lining was driving me crazy!), I left a 20cm opening in the coat and lining hem to turn the coat inside out. It worked wonderfully, and took no time to slipstitch the opening afterwards. I will happily do the same thing again next time. 

Now I wanted to mention the pattern instructions. They are fine, and with some dedication and a highlighter I managed to follow them, but please be warned that they do jump around an awful lot, especially if you are looking to make the coat with Front B, and also there are often lots of steps cramped into each point. For those reasons, if you are a beginner to coat making/tailoring, I would highly recommend marking the instructions as you go along, and read everything twice! 

Finishing touches

I spent a bit of time umming and ahhing about whether to go with buttons with the belts or the tie belt with the carriers (following the phraseology in the actual pattern). I went as far as ordering some navy French vintage buttons, which are yet to reach me. In the end I liked the streamlined look with the tie belt, and liked that it cinches the waist in appropriately. I also inspected my wardrobe and realised that all my coats have buttons! So it's certainly time for something a bit different. 

Finally, the lining. This is an Indian silk/poly mix that I bought from my recent work trip to Dubai (at about £2 a metre!) and it was a match made in heaven with the wool fabric. I haven't quite decided whether to add a hidden button yet (as currently the coat seems to retain its shape pretty well without it) but this would be one international coat if I do, with the Chinese vintage wool, Indian fabric purchased from Dubai and vintage French buttons. How fabulous!

So there you have it, my first home made winter coat. I am 100% happy with it (and I don't say this about many of my projects), and am relieved that I was able to make use of such a lovely piece of fabric gifted from my mum. I am sure it will see me through many winters to come. Then I realised - this is the beauty about sewing outerwear, isn't it? This coat is going to see the world with me a lot more than my favourite dress/blouse would ever have the chance to. 

What's next? Perhaps I'll keep the momentum going by making a trench coat for the spring! I sense some planning/day dreaming coming up. In the meantime, I hope you all make the most of the Christmas break, and enjoy the wonderful festive season wherever you are! Allow me to leave you with the festive picture of Rudolph in front of the house at Polesden Lacey (where we were today for some festive fun, and where the photos above were all taken) to get you in the holiday mood :)  

Sunday 7 December 2014

My new sewing room!

Hello my dear readers! How have you been? I know, I know, It's been an awful long time since my last post, and I've been a busy bee. In this time I've gone to a couple of places (for work and for visiting my parents), and had quite a bit of works done to our house (knocking through the kitchen/diner plus a few other bits), which had some complications and delays, as well as a mess in a few of the rooms. I'm pleased to report, however, that I've now claimed back my sewing room, and completed the finishing touches to it. So greetings from my new sewing room! I can sew in peace again, and in warmth too as the radiator is now fitted - a must as the temperature has really been dropping lately! Some of you will know that we moved to this house back in March, and I thought I'd share a few snaps taken from this room when we first moved in:  

There was some old carpet in the room, which smelled badly, so that was thrown out on the day we moved in! 

Interesting colour choice eh? Odd place for the ceiling light, and what a shame to have the fireplace blocked up, with that radiator? 

So they all had to go. 
I'm particularly fond of the patchwork hearth (I just couldn't resist!), the framed vintage pattern envelopes, the stripped floors, and the classy radiator. Oh alright, I love every bit of it! 

 Then there's this little piece. I picked this up from a charity shop, and man, doesn't it clean up well with some elbow grease and a lick of paint! I love the little bureau compartment in the middle, and the mixture of open shelves/cabinet and drawers. It's also just the right size for the alcove.  


Those Liberty boxes are my 2nd anniversary present (cotton) from the hubby. Aren't they fabulous?

Here are all my sewing books:

Then we have the extendable dining table (fully extended) in the bay, where I do my sewing and cutting (except for the bigger pieces, where the floor is used), and the little shelving unit which keeps some of my fabric stash, and my overlocker. You'll also see a clear box and a vintage suitcase, where I keep the remainder of my stash. OK... you got me, there's not the end of my stash. Some of it is hiding in the chest of drawers and cabinet, too... and there's another box! 

So that's it! I'm returning to the blog after a little break, with a tour of my sewing space. It took us 8 months to finish it off, and I'm so pleased with it. I know I'm super lucky to have such a wonderful space to enjoy my sewing in, and I shall make the most of it in the months and years to come :) 
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