Saturday, 19 August 2017

Simple summer knit - windlass

Hello hello!!! 

I think this might be the first blog post of the year so far. How did that happen? I guess like everyone else I have been documenting my general craftiness on Instagram, but also I haven't been working on many personal makes. I have been feeling generally under the weather since Easter (although much better now) and also using any spare moments to work on new designs (yes they are coming) so don't have not had much to talk about, but I all of a sudden do have some garments I can actually share which is pretty exciting.

Today is a knitted garment as I am very successfully incorporating knitting into my daily life lately. It is making me so happy! I had a real hankering for some summer knits, so set about knitting with a soft and cool cotton/linen/silk blend yarn. It came on a cone (from ebay) and was a natural colour, but I hand dyed it this gorgeous blush pink. The pattern is a heavily modified windlass from Pom Pom mag, which caught my eye. I had intended to knit the lovely stitch pattern on the top of the bodice, but as I was knitting the body I just wanted to continue the plain design.

The length is cropped as per my mods with a level hem and shortened armscye. I also knit in the round as I was nervous about creating a beautiful side seam on such a plain garment.

I totally love it and I was completely happy with it, but then I had an idea which involved gold.

Yep, I printed some gold foil spots onto my hand knit that I spent hours making. Once the idea happened I couldn't not do it. No fear, just eager anticipation ;-) I ordered the foil and adhesive from here and simply painted on the adhesive and heat set the foil.

Ding, ding, ding!!! Over the moon happy!

The perfect earrings became mine (bought from independent maker Freya Alder) and were worn with this top last night. I do not subscribe to a konmari lifestyle, but I believe these things fit the bill nicely. My new top and jewellery fill me with nothing but joy and happiness.

I am now working on a second windlass tank in green which will hopefully be finished soon should the sun ever come back. See you again soon hopefully xxx

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Shoes for summer!

I have been thinking about warmer weather and my long lasting RTW sandals have finally bitten the dust! I normally eek out sandals for a fair few years by getting them re-soled etc, but alas their time was up! I do have other warm weather shoes, but just not a really good comfy flat pair.

I have not made any more shoes since my first and last pair here, but I have been thinking about it and forming ideas for construction during that time. I find that the time in between is really important for me to assess what I learnt from a task. What I did and didn't like and how I what lessons I would like to carry forward.

One of the things that has really struck me since my first pair is how I can fit this new skill into my life without it causing too much disruption. The tools and glue traditionally required for shoe making is not at all child friendly and seeing's as I'm with children for the majority of time I needed to find a way to make this more suitable. First off the glue! This is the worst bit, because although I know you can get friendlier less fumey glues the one I have is pretty noxious. I decided to be done with glue altogether as it seems too grim and I read somewhere that one of the reasons that shoes can't be easily recycled is because the components can't be separated easily. I am now using the power of the needle and thread and nails in it's place (with one tiny exception that I shall confess to later). I have also kept the tools as basic as possible and easy to store at my design/sewing space up high.

Another thing I find useful with many skills I've learnt is to research as much as possible about how to do things properly, try a few different methods out and then try and forget about what you've learnt in order to formulate a method that suits you and your style of working. Without going into the ins and outs of how I made each shoe, I basically adjusted my designs to suit my growing skills and constructed them in the easiest and most solid way I am personally capable of doing. I believe it took quite some time to figure out how I could achieve my end goal, but I am really happy with the results!

Here is the first pair I finished and these are my dino sandals ;-) The uppers and soles are all stitched together, which I was able to do easily by having the feature top 'spike' design. I sewed this seam last leaving the whole shoe open until the end. The stacked heels and rubber heel tip are nailed in place. The main shoe sole rubber is glued, which was the only bit I compromised on really. I hate that I did and I have since sourced some short shoe nails to be able to nail the sole in future. I have no idea how well these will hold up without glue, so the testing will be in the wearing, but they do feel pretty solid! The straight angles on the sole unit are an aesthetic I like, but are also much easier to cut satisfactorily neat, so serves a double purpose! The leather uppers are small pieces from a discontinued sample book (hence the non-matchiness) and the thick, whiter pieces of the sole and heel are some unknown leather scraps I bought off ebay. It is a large box of weird shaped offcuts that are probably of no use to anyone other than me! The yellow is not reclaimed in any way, but the thick leather is perfect for sturdy shoe parts and it is proving to be a great investment! The crepe rubber for the sole is from here.

The next pair I am making (not finished yet) are my favourite so far and definitely the most practical. All stitched so far and they will have a crepe sole nailed on at the end. The design is inspired by historical shoes with an unfussy fit and fastening. The back has been elasticated for a snug fit and the thick yellow leather from before is used as a heel counter. I am just finishing up the second one ready for the soles.

So that is me so far. Really enjoying my shoe journey and I am enjoying the breaks as well as the practice as this is a long term development of a skill. I can only really put my ideas into practice when I need or want a new pair of shoes, so it is fairly meditative in a way.

Anyway, that is all from me for now. Byeeeeeee x

Friday, 10 February 2017

Harriet bra

Hello hello!!!

I have not been doing any personal sewing for so long I have forgotten all about my blog, but I have broken my silence and been lured in by the brand spanking new and fabulous Harriet bra pattern by Cloth Habit. I love the Cloth Habit blog and it is one of those ones which I have read from start to finish as I didn't want to miss anything useful or inspiring, so when Amy released her latest pattern I bought it right away.

I have made two versions since and this pattern is probably the only bra pattern I ever need EVER. You may remember my experimentation with bra sewing and drafting over the summer which gave me loads of great experiences with construction and fit, well that has been super informative when beginning with this pattern. The bra block I drafted over this time is great to use as a comparison when selecting my size. I measured myself against the chart and came up as a 34C, but I often find bands a bit too snug from the patterns I've made up so I went for a 36B instead for my first Harriet.

The fit is good and after wearing it for the first half of the week is so comfortable I forget I'm wearing it, but it is probably not as snug as it could be. I needed some minor tweaks to the cups anyway, but I think the bra band is very true to size, so I could go smaller. I absolutely love this version though, so it will get regular wear and I may even move the hooks inwards slightly if it starts to feel too loose. All elastics were dyed by me using Dharma Trading acid dye in 'Radioactive'. In fact I followed Amy's advice for dyeing elastic here.

The second version I made is this silk satin one.

Taking into account what I learned about the fit from my first lace one I went with the same cup size with adjustments, the next size down bra band with the 36B centre bridge as I have a wide gap there. Oh the beauty of making your own bras and learning why RTW is never comfortable!!! I completely altered the style lines on this one to create a princess seam cup without the top section. I really like and prefer this cup, but I made the curve too pronounced at first and some dodgy alterations I made mid construction meant I had to hide the seams with this grosgrain trim. So annoying as I really just wanted a plain navy bra. It's really beautiful and comfortable though, so I can't be too unhappy with that! Again I dyed everything myself to co-ordinate and used a foam lining to give a smooth shape.

Note - The seam on the foam was nice and flat before dodgy alteration...

I feel like this pattern has been a breeze to get the fit spot on which I don't know if this is because of all the work I did over the summer or what, but I really think this is a top quality pattern. I didn't follow the instructions, but I shall be making this a few more times over the coming months so I have a decent  selection in my drawer. The bras I made over the summer are in a box in my sewing room and have been mainly good for teaching me about bra making. My bra block is great to have and again I learnt a lot from making it, but it is mainly good for helping me assess fit and I don't love it as much as I love the Harriet.

So there you go. Gushing over and if you want to try making an underwired bra then you could do worse than trying this pattern!

P.S. photographing lingerie is really hard...

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Wendy Ward - Culottes

Hi everyone, it is my turn on the blog tour for Wendy's wonderful new book 'A beginners guide to skirts'!

First of all I have been following along with Wendy's progress on this book from the beginning via the magic of Instagram so I was really looking forward to seeing the end product. You can tell as soon as you open the cover that a lot of attention to detail has been paid even down to aaaall the hand drawn illustrations so I was really happy once the book was released and I was offered the chance to review it!

The projects run through the book in order of difficulty, starting with a simple jersey tube skirt and ending with a gathered skirt with button front and pockets, but all look like they could be tackled by an advanced beginner from the offset. What I like about the projects is that they start with a fairly simple template, so my immediate instinct is to imagine what bold fabrics I could use or what pattern adaptions I could make. There is a lot of scope to make your own mark on these styles and as they stand they are really great wardrobe staples. My favourite being the Roehampton culottes I did make and the Rusholme midi A-line with pockets that I have yet to make.

The instructions themselves mainly reside in the back of the book where you are instructed to flick back to for things like inserting zips or making up pockets etc... There is a lot of detail here that could easily be used for projects outside of this book.

I made the knee length culottes in this linen look suiting supplied by Fabworks mill shop. I was trying not to get too excited about the prospect of free fabric and choose something that would slot into my wardrobe nicely and this has a really good heavy drape to it! I even managed to squeeze these out of 1.5 metres of fabric, but this was a risky strategy that I wouldn't advise...

The fit is spot on and the only change I made was to insert a centre back zip instead of in the side seam. I really, really love them! Ok, so that bubble at the top of the zip is annoying and also the waistband overlaps on top instead of underneath. The poppers hopefully make it look intentional, but all I can say is I was deeply distracted by the finale of 'The Fall' (creepy BBC series) whilst making up this area, which if you were watching it too you will understand why I was unable to fully concentrate!

Here we are demonstrating how wide they are!

I personally feel that this style works best in a soft drapey fabric, as they are lovely and swishy, but the book sample does show them in a heavier fabric for comparison.

Because of the plain fabric I had great fun finishing everything nicely with press studs and bias binding on the waistband. I also used a bias binding extension on the centre back seam where it forms the lap over the zip as the seam allowance needs to be wider to account for this (which it is as per the pattern on the side seam). This was only because of my deviation from the pattern, so you probably won't need to worry about that!

 So to sum up this is a great book in my opinion and a great basis for loads of different skirt/wide leg trouser options beyond those in the book!

The only thing that I was not such a fan of was the way the patterns are laid out on the sheets in the back. The leg of the trousers for example are split into a couple of pieces that you need to bring together in the tracing and the lines are all different colours which I found tricky as I was tracing a pale blue line which was difficult to see through my paper. If the publishers offered a link to download the pattern sheets to print at home I would definitely have gone for that and just cut them straight out (note to publishers). Anyway, just a small thing really to improve the user experience when locating the patterns.

Honestly though I really value having this in my collection and just picking it out of the shelf to write this post has filled me with joy and confidence in it's contents!

I hope you enjoyed reading my review and that it has provide you with a rounded view, but if you have any questions then just ask! xxx

Thursday, 10 November 2016

2 leather genoa totes

Hello, I have something very fun to share with you today. Not one but two leather bags!

I was contacted by Anna a couple of months back with a link to her new Genoa Tote pattern, which is what I'm showing you. I must admit that I don't love getting freebies because I can feel my creativity dropping when I feel obliged to use something, but I did not feel like that with Anna at all because it was a fairly casual exchange where I felt she wasn't expecting me to use her pattern. I was thinking of making a bag anyway and found it useful having a template!

On the note of freebies I am reviewing something next week, which is unusual for me, but again I really wanted to make the project for me so it was a joy not a chore ;-)

As mentioned above I used the pattern as a template, but I constructed it how I wanted to because I was using very different materials.

This bag was the first one I made in leather and was a gift for a friend. All the leather was bought on eBay and is reclaimed as it's offcuts that were being sold second hand. The strap leather was reclaimed of sorts as it was an offcut thrown in with something else I bought new! It's thick metallic olive green and is perfect for straps. The kind of thickness used for stachels.

The main front has a reverse applique design from some screen prints I have designed and used many times in the past. I sewed everything on my Pfaff Passport 2.0 with a leather needle in and walking foot engaged and it sewed very easily.

I backed the main back front and back with horse hair canvas for a bit more stability and I really like the structure it has provided. I also made the inside zip pocket a lot longer than the pattern.

I preferred to stitch my straps in place rather than use rivets. I punched the holes in a design to echo the cut outs and stitched them on with a thick waxed linen thread. I do have screw in rivets that I could have used, but I prefer this look! I also left the top edges of the bag cut raw rather than folded over as it looked neater than trying to grapple with the leather to fold over nicely.

The leather facing on the top of the lining only has one join (I didn't use the pattern piece for this) and it is joined flat with a piece of horsehair layered underneath to keep it together and reduce bulk. My leather needle snagged the lining on this one a bit which is a shame, but hopefully it doesn't show quite as much in real life!

Oh look, also my pockets are constructed differently! I don't mean to change everything, it just kind of happens as I try to use things from my stash. My red zip is an open ended one, so I had to cover the bottom of it. Rather than make a pocket with the seams on the inside I bound the edges with bias binding which does the double duty of covering the raw edges of the fabric as well as the opening bottom of the zip!

Next up is more of the same with more reclaimed leather. The orange is actually from my old handbag I am replacing as is the key chain thingy. The yellow strap leather was bought new (the metallic olive leather for the above straps was thrown in with this order).

Oh how I love this bag!

The only thing missing was a matching purse right? Sorted and with co-ordinating cut outs!

I made a very simple little bag which I just marked out straight onto the leather and sewed up. The lining is hand stitched to the inside of the zip.

A little flat gusseted bottom for a bit more room in there.

This was so much fun and sewing leather on my machine was way easier than I thought it would be. I would be interested to see if my old Toyota would handle leather with the correct needle, although the feed has always been a bit uneven on that one and there is no walking foot so I probably wont bother.

A review of sorts, but not really as I'm notoriously bad at following other peoples instructions. The pattern in general is very well put together and the instructions look very detailed, so although the pattern is simple you get a lot of guidance on how to make a really nicely finished bag. Hopefully this will provide you with some inspiration for what you can do to personalise your own bag or if you were thinking of working with leather then maybe this gives you some ideas of how you can make it more individual! No blank canvas is safe!!!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

My first hand made denim shoes!

As mentioned I my previous post, I have started and finished making a pair of shoes! It felt like I just really needed to power through from start to finish even though at times I wasn't confident they were working or if I was going to like them, but this was an important process for me.

First of all, I am totally proud of these shoes. I made the last, the pattern, the heel and all the things! The construction is something I am working on in my own way and I am slowly trying to form a way of making a pair of shoes that do not require glue. There are some really innovative designs out there for no glue shoes, but for now I just want to make fairly standard designs, as I am just getting my head around what shoe design even means and what I want it to look like! I feel like I need to get hands on with a whole process to confidently be able to think about how I can adapt it to my own desires or aesthetic (very much like how I approached bra making).

Enough about that though and more about these shoes. They kind of started out as a very rough mock-up of a shoe idea from some denim scraps. Below is how rough I'm talking here, but I kind of liked where this was going, so back tracked slightly and used this shell to turn into my first real shoe.

As you can see, I literally used the mock-up fabric with raw edges and all which I lined with a thin suede that has been in my stash for a loooong time! I subbed the straps with some leather scraps and topstitched the edges and fixtures of the upper with a jeansy gold topstitch thread.

The heels are stacked leather, which I bought as a massive job lot of scraps. It is suitably thick (5mm), but not what you might immediately select for shoe making. I have no idea what it is, but it has a darker leather central layer, which has a lighter coloured layer on the top and bottom. Almost like it is veneered or like a ply wood looks. You cant really see it in the pictures, but I ike it. It is also has a very soft texture on the cut and sanded edges. I guess this will be a trade mark of any shoes I make for some time as I have 19kg of it!

Everything about this pair of shoes is fairly rustic, even down to the tacked on heels!

The sole and base of the heel is a natural crepe rubber sheet, which I bought from here. I glued the sole on, but nailed the entire heel and base of heel together.

Here they are on! Aren't they cute? How amazing that my fist pair of shoes have gone so well....

Almost, but not quite! They are too long unfortunately. If my foot is rested against the back of the sling back as the picture above then there is quite a lot of room in the toe as per below. This does not make them unwearable, but I expect the toe cap to collapse after a few wears maybe.

If I push my foot to the front of the shoe then there is quite a bit of room behind the ankle. I still haven't worn them out yet, so I need to do that and make a fair assessment, but I have started on another pair of lasts with 0.5cm removed from the front of the foot. I think this is the most logical place to make the adjustment as I like the fit everywhere else. It's hard to know for sure if this is the right thing to do or not.

I have some new old resin lasts to play with now, but I really like using my dodgy homemade ones. I'm keen to make a pair of leather shoes on both and see how I feel about them, but I'm really enjoying analysing my feet in this way.

Now I know some of you want to know more about the construction so rather than do another post about these shoes I'm just going to make this an extra long one!

No pattern making advise here, but check out this site for some ace tutorials!

So I started by gluing my upper to my lining along the top edge and ankle strap using a contact adhesive.

I then cut away the bits of lining that are left in the above picture. I didn't cut them out initially as I felt it would prevent the upper shape from being distorted when I was gluing the two layers together. I then topstitched around all the upper edges with a gold topstitch thread, sewed the loop on my T-bar, sewed up the centre back seam and also attached the leather strap.

Next I positioned the upper on my last and pinned it in place as it is soft enough for pins.

I haven't photographed this part, but I punched holes around my thick leather insole (about 1cm away from the edge) with an awl and handstitched a long running stitch through the holes with a strong linen thread. The theory behind hand stitching the sole is to be able to hand sew the upper to something. Hand sewn uppers I have seen have been sewn to very thick insoles which are carved to reveal a relief channel that can have a thick needle pushed into it. It is a very skilled and labour intensive construction that I'm not sure I can confidently replicate without wanting to throw my shoe out the window, so this is my interpretation of the same concept!

Below is me starting to hand sew the lining to the insole!

Once it was all sewn I trimmed away the excess leather and glued the toe puff to the lining. Again helpfully not photographed, but I used some buckram left over from some hand pleated curtains that I used to make. I think I then glued the upper to the toe puff, but may have only done that on one shoe and not the other, whoops!

I did trim some of the bulkier leather pleats away and then sewed the denim upper to the same linen thread.

The back of the insole has no upper wrapped around it, so I filled this space with a scrap of folded over bias cut denim.

I trimmed my quick fit metal shanks to fit the space and nestle into the denim and glued it onto the insole.

Next up I trimmed three layers of denim to glue onto the front of the insole to make a level-ish surface ready for the outsole.

 I forgot to take a photo of the outsole, but here's a screen grab from a video clip off my Instagram account. I made sure to really hammer it in place once the contact adhesive was ready, as when I tried gluing the crepe sole to a previous pair of sliders, it came unstuck really easily. The mad hammering seems to have done the trick!

The heel is the last bit and was the bit I was most excited about starting and also the most worried about!

I formed an idea of the height and how I would shape it from comparing it to the last and created a block with a slightly stepped top two layers. Traditionally stacked heels are built directly onto the shoe, but I wanted to make mine to attach to the shoe. Now I've done it and kind of understand what I'm aiming for though, I may try building onto the shoe next!

I removed the central core as I could tell the shoe wanted to sit in a hole and then carved away at these top two layers until it fit the back of the shoe in nicely.

I carved away at the sides too, but it is all a bit rough and ready still. I think I need a better blade! (shouldn't really blame my tools ;-)). I could have sworn they looked better than this...

I should add that these leather layers are held together with a few nails at this point, but once I was happy enough, I went to town and hammered loads and loads of nails in to keep it all together!

Finally I attached the heels with some upholstery tacks straight through the insole into the heel. I hammered them in as much as possible to avoid any uncomfortable nubby bits, but if they prove to be annoying I can always glue some leather covered foam there.

Oh, the last bit was actually to position the gold coloured screw in button thing and then they were finished.

Well, that's it in a nutshell! I hope to improve quite substantially with my next pair. I kind of felt like I needed to get a completed pair of shoes under my belt to have some knowledge to build on, but I am excited to move on!

See you shoon! ;-)