Saturday, 28 December 2013

Belated Festive Merriment and Looking Forward to the New Year!

Well hello everybody! I hope you've all had splendid Christmases! I'm typing this while compulsively chomping down slices of Terry's Chocolate Orange from my stocking that was lovingly put together by my bloke. As is the Christmas tradition I have eaten, drunk and made merry with family and friends and it's been very nice and cosy. I was also the very happy recipient of not one but three By Hand London patterns for Christmas (my folks take hints well) as I just couldn't choose between them and have seen so many amazing mash-ups and pattern hacks doing the blog rounds that I'm super-keen to try (I am very inspired by Roisin's 'pattern-hacked' versions of the By Hand dresses, especially this one and this one!)

I've just had a pretty productive day selecting materials from Brixton (the fabulous Simply Fabrics, as Atlantic Silks has been stripped bare in the closing down sale, bar a few ribbons and notions) and starting to trace and cut pattern for my very first Anna Dress! I've been following the tutorials on By Hand London's blog and am very pleased as I have nailed steps one and two today, and am just waiting for my fabric to dry before I can get snipping! 

I haven't got too much to show right now as my traced pattern pieces are resting under a pile of heavy books as I cut them from a roll of greaseproof paper (a tip from a nice lady that happened to be in Simply Fabrics who overheard me asking where I could get pattern tracing paper from) and so have to press them flat to stop them from rolling up! I'm quite chuffed with the results so far - I cut my very first FBA (made very simple from the tutorial) and decided to add the 3/4 length sleeves too (which aren't on the printed pattern, but again the tutorial gives simple instructions on how to make this addition). Excuse the overuse of the word 'simple' here but I really do find the Sewalong tutorials helpful and a bit of a confidence boost, I feel I'm gaining skills!

As I haven't got much in the way of finished products to show, here are a few shots of my fabric finds from Brixton...

Printed cotton drying after its prewash on the banister, destined to be my first Anna dress
Amazing Paul Smith elephant-print shirting cotton! My bloke has this pattern on a Paul Smith shirt in a different colourway - I had been teasing him about making matching outfits but now how can I resist?!
Tartan and garland printed rough silk. Destined to be another Anna I think, with the V-neck (when I get confident enough to start pattern-matching)

That's today's lovely haul from Simply Fabrics. Not sure what to do with the elephants yet- I don't think there's quite enough to make an Anna (there were only 2 metres left in the shop) but I've never made a shirt and wouldn't want to use this on my first try! Some kind of smart top would be good- suggestions welcome!

And these are a couple of nice bits I got for my stash last time I was in Brixton when I found out Atlantic Silks was closing down and had to get a couple of mementos.
Mugsy always has to get involved!
Very pretty but very sheer. Only bought a metre as it was just £1 so might have to stay as a scarf.
I have a pair of trousers in mind for this lovely stuff, if I bought enough! I'm thinking a snappy '60s-style ankle-swinging pair of party trousers from the same Simplicity pattern as my column skirt, once I get a bit more experience!

And that's all for today! I'm off doing more family things in the next couple of days, then myself and the Salacious Sirens will be performing for New Year's Eve, so I won't get a chance to move on with my Anna for a little while yet, but as soon as I have any progress I will share!

Until then, I hope you've all had a lovely festive time over the last week and have a smashing New Year!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

How the Secret Santa Went Down, and What Friday 13th Brings

I'm writing this from bed, feeling a little queasy after a night out on the tiles for the work Christmas do. I had a great night, lots of fun, banter and dancing, and far too much gin! I was also really pleased that my homemade Secret Santa was very well received. £5 is a really tough budget these days so I much prefer converting that into materials and spending the time making something rather than trawling the high street or even the web. Here are a few photos of the work in progress (I did have a few false starts...) and the finished piece!

Here's Muriel 'helping' me cut the pattern. It's the Grainline Studio/ Designlovefest Envelope Clutch I mentioned in my previous post. I think it's come out a bit smaller than intended, as when I printed on A4 the 3"x3" guide square was 2.75"x2.75". I think the size is fine for the bag though, and I couldn't seem to get my printer settings to print any bigger anyhow.

I chose white 'pleather' for the clutch as it is supposed to be a leather make. I had a bit of trouble finding material that I liked and had given up on the pleather and thought I'd try making it up in a thick upholstery fabric instead, and found a fun metallic painted boucle that I thought would work from Simply Fabrics in Brixton. Although I did ending up finding some decent pleather in their sister shop after all.

 My first try in pleather was very quick and easy, but it was almost too easy- I didn't trust the glue and the interior of the pleather made it look a bit too cheap for my taste.

It doesn't look too bad from the picture, but the it just wasn't quite right.
 So I made it up again in the boucle, results below (with Matthew MacFadyen pulling a funny face in Ripper Street, and my trusty Toyota).

 I made a buttonhole on the machine where the pattern has the clasp marking- I found I only needed one in the top flap, but the pattern has one underneath as well which I guess is useful if you're using a button or press stud instead. I'm not very experienced with machine buttonholing so it came out a little messy (I think the tension needs sorting on my machine too). I zig-zagged all the edges to stop them fraying and handstitched the flaps for the construction. It's lovely (and pretty festive I think) but it's not quite stiff enough really to be a clutch bag- it just flops over when held in the hand.

So I had the ingenious idea of using both fabrics together. For the Secret Santa clutch I used white pleather for the outside and the blue boucle on the inside. I think it's quite a '60s colour and styling combo. Here's the finished result.

I hand-buttonholed this one as I wasn't sure how my machine would react to both fabrics together and didn't want it to get chewed up!

It was a little tricky keeping the pattern pieces lined up as the boucle tended to warp and stretch a little when zig-zagging together. I found that cutting the pattern pieces a little larger then leaving an allowance when zigzagging meant I could trim the edges and neaten up afterwards. Again I handstitched the construction. This was a little tricky as I was stitching underneath the flaps to keep the sewing invisible, and it's come out a little warped. I left it under a heavy book to flatten out overnight before giving it as a gift and it looked much better afterwards!

I'm really pleased with the results (even my duff prototypes which I'm sure will come in handy for something!) and have made a reverse version too for my brother's girlfriend for Christmas (see below, could do with a bit more book-pressing methinks). A pair of good sharp scissors comes in handy when retrimming the edges as the boucle is a bit of a tough customer and prone to fraying so doesn't give as clean an edge when used for the outside as the pleather.

I also bought a black version of the metallic boucle and some dark green pleather that I plan to make a birthday present for a good friend out of.

What do you think?

Aw, I also mentioned Friday 13th didn't I? Well, unfortunately it was unlucky for me this year. My bloke and I just got the bad news that the seller of our lovely little flat has withdrawn. After months of waiting for the process to go through (our offer was accepted in late August!) and hundreds of pounds down the drain in solicitors' and surveyors' fees, as well as having to still pay for the storage for the furniture in Manchester, this is hugely disappointing and frustrating. Hence why I had so many gins at the xmas do last night, I was drowning my sorrows a bit.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Secret Santa, Sad News for Brixtonites, and Mancunian Treasure

Hello! It's been a week since I last posted and I have to confess I haven't really done much more than daydream and seek inspiration from other blogs rather than being too productive.

 I have some excuses; work is very busy and I tend to feel a bit zonked after a day hard at it. Also I had a flat tyre on my bike and have failed at fixing it despite some very messy and time-consuming efforts (I am pathetic, I know). Plus it's taken me far longer to get back from work without my bike.

Anyway I did have a great idea for some nice Christmas gifts- which I thought I could use for my Secret Santa at work and hopefully make more of for other friends if it turned out well. It's this lovely envelope clutch that I stumbled across on the Grainline Studio blog, from Designlovefest. Maybe the flashing '8 days a week' thing reminded me a bit of advent calendars too, who knows.

Here's the clutch in its 'Fancy' incarnation, perfect for Christmas parties! Image from Designlovefest
But after a quick recce to Brixton Market I discovered there was no way I could pull off one of these within my £5 Secret Santa budget as real leather is far more expensive than I'd realised and the fake stuff is still pretty pricey and, let's face it, pretty naff-looking, at least from the slim pickings on offer. However I made the even sadder realisation that Atlantic Silks, supplier of most of my fabrics for many of the projects I've turned my hand to over the years, is closing down! They tell me they have 3 weeks left. I wonder what will take its place.

In other news I am shortly to be moving house, from one end of the Victoria line to another - (and coincidentally another haven for fantastic fabric shops).  The process seems to be taking its sweet time, and although I'm keen to move in with my boyfriend and discover a new neighbourhood together, one of the main things that's making me impatient is that I can't get at all the amazing stuff that we salvaged from my boyfriend's gran's old house, which is now sitting gathering dust storage in Manchester instead of being played with by me! 

I basically inherited her entire sewing cupboard- a lifetime's worth of scraps, buttons, notions, a beautiful Bernina sewing machine (that I was so excited to find among the boxes that I dropped it on my toe) and some fabulous patterns. I regret not taking her dress form too, but our flat is tiny.

Here's a bad photo of one of the patterns I rescued but can't get at right now- and it's not even the best example of what there was!

I am so excited to get my hands back on all these outfit patterns, which range from elegant 1930s evening wear through to hilarious 1980s 'zoot suit-esque' ensembles.

Anyway, that's it for now. I need to get moving on my (rather more basic) Secret Santa project. Does anyone know of any tasteful faux leather or other durable interesting fabric I could use for this clutch?

Hasta luego (I've also been procrastinating wildly on new favourite game Duolingo)

NorseOtter xx

Monday, 25 November 2013

It begins...

Although I've been sewing in one way or another since I was small (I used to make tons of clothes for my Barbies out of old socks, laddered tights and scraps) I've always been a little lacking in discipline and maybe a bit too keen to use up old tat! Anyway, it shows.

I've recently started sewing again after purchasing some beautiful vintage patterns from Etsy. In this spate of inspiration so far I have only attempted a pencil (or column?) skirt from Simplicity 3257. I made a right mess inserting the zip but I get a lot of wear out of the skirt regardless! Here it is, photos from a trip to Vancouver earlier this year. When I get going properly with this sewing malarkey I'll start posting up better pictures of the actual clothes, I promise!

Simplicity 3257 skirt made messily by me (note the creased waistband), and the tartan shirt my mother made in the '70s. I have to get her to dig out the pattern!
Here it is in all its 'glory'. Forgive the terrible tourist posing.

Another make I'm a little more proud of is my self-drafted lion costume that I wear for a routine in my burlesque troupe, the Salacious Sirens

The downtrodden lion, Ottolie Divine, and smug tamer Lady Libertine.
Note the terrible zip insertion (again!)
Lion costume in action at its first ever outing in 2010 (note the clumsily rolled short cuffs!)
These shorts have had so much wear now that they're starting to split at the rump! Not something I'd like to be surprised by during a performance. If anybody has any suggestions for easy-to-make but showgirly-looking shorts I'd be keen to hear from you. 
Until next time,
NorseOtter x

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