Saturday, 30 August 2014

Completed Project: April Rhodes Staple Dress (Unselfish Sewing)

Hello folks!

Hope you're having a good weekend. I'm having a quiet one after stuffing my face with ceviche and pisco sours last night, so taking it easy. We had a pretty full-on time last weekend too- we added a couple of extra days to make to most of the Bank Holiday and did a little 'staycation tour' to Epping Forest, Brighton (which had some great fabric shops in the Laines that I regret resisting), Notting Hill Carnival, and even a little eating and drinking tour round our local area in Peckham. I'm very pleased to add that I discovered some great new fabric shops in Peckham (Brixton used to be my regular haunt for this so it's nice to know I have some gems on my doorstep!) including a few places specialising in wax prints.

So many beautiful fabrics! I'm almost tempted away from my usual animal motifs towards some of these more geometrical designs. I didn't get the name of this place, but it's about half-way up Rye Lane if anyone is interested, and there are other smaller shops that sell thread and notions too nearby.

And, just for a laff, here's a novelty shot of me goofing around in some tudor costume! This was set up in a dressing-up corner in the hunting lodge at Epping Forest for a family learning event that we gatecrashed before heading out on a walk. Not a very flattering shape- but I love the slashed sleeves and fur collar.

So, onto the unselfish sewing! I managed to find a bit of time over the weekend to finish off the April Rhodes Staple Dress that I was making for a friend's birthday. I didn't manage to finish it in time for the actual day but gave it to her last week and am very relieved that it fits- and better- likes it! Here's birthday girl Holly in the finished article:

I love how this dress turned out, and I want to make a version for myself in a slightly more autumnal fabric soon! Maybe some houndstooth check or tartan? I chose to make it for Holly because it's a pattern that doesn't require any special fitting, and as I wanted it to be a surprise I had to just guess the measurements which worked out fine. It's a very simple but effective dress- the 'staple' is a good name for it as it's very much a dress that could be worn every day! Holly is a teacher so I wanted to make something for her that would be in her style but that would be good for wearing to her school; i.e. a modest (but not frumpy) length and with pockets. The fabric is a lightweight cotton with a kind of Japanese floral print that I picked up from Mermaid Fabrics in Hackney's Mare Street. I got the Staple Dress in Perfect Pattern Parcel #3. I bought #1 too as I was keen on the Lady Skater, but this is the first time I've got around to making anything from either 'Parcel'. They are a great idea though, a nice PDF package of curated basics and more fancy designs from indie designers with a chunk of proceeds going to charity. Keep an eye out for any upcoming ones here, they currently have a cute childenswear package especially for boys live at the moment:

This would have been a speedy make, even with several new techniques for me- my first in-seam pockets (or indeed pockets of any kind) and my first armhole and neckhole binding. It all turned out fine on the first go though, thankfully! The one thing I did have a little trouble with was the shirring. It was actually pretty easy (and fun) to run the first few rows of shirring in and looked great, but it turned out that I'd make the waistline a little wonky in following my pinned lines. So I unpicked, re-drew the waistline more carefully in tailor's chalk, and started again. But this time I'd taken off my detachable sewing table and I think having the waist of the dress moving around the arm meant that the shirring ended up a lot tighter- I could barely get it over my head in a trial try-on! So I unpicked yet again, re-attached my table and it was third time lucky. I think the lesson here is to definitely mark out things accurately, as I could have had it at the first go otherwise. Shirring was fun though and I have a few more projects lined up; adding a shirred waist to a RTW vest-top dress from Uniqlo, and re-elasticating the waistbands of some lovely old hippy skirts that my mum has passed on to me.

So, for the rest of the weekend I plan to finally finish off my Ultimate (Short) Trousers! Wish me luck.

What handmade gifts have you been making?

NorseOtter xxx

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Finally Fixed Sewing Machine! And a Deptford Adventure

Hello people!

It's been a monstrously long time since my last post, AGAIN.

And I still have no new projects to share with you! I actually feel a bit guilty as I still haven't quite been able to finish the Sew Over It Ultimate (Short) Trousers from the pattern that I won from Dolly Clackett. This feels like bad blogging karma, and I did want to get going with them straightaway- I traced them off the very day I got my hands on the pattern, but machine woes (expanded upon in my last post) got in the way. They're now *almost done*, I just need to attach the waistband and hem them (hopefully it will still be warm enough to sport them outside by the time they're done) but another new project has got in the way- a spot of unselfish sewing for a friend's bday! This is unfinished at the moment too, but as soon as it's done and has been gifted I hope to share it with you. It's coming along pretty well so far, fingers crossed it will be well-received.

A few kind people offered me some advice on potential issues with my new-old machine, but unfortunately it wasn't a dusting and fuse-change issue as I'd hoped- there were some serious electrical faults going on so off to the repair shop it went for a new motor and service. I managed to get my old Toyota back to get a little bit of sewing done in the meantime, but sunny evenings and lots of birthdays have been a bit of a distraction!

I took the faulty Bernina to a repair shop on Deptford High Street. They were very friendly there and seemed to know their stuff, so I left it with them for a week while they worked out the issues then called me with a quote for the repair which seemed reasonable, so I was pretty happy with them. The machine was running like a dream until I got a bit of a fright- after testing through the stitches a few times to get the hang of the machine and run out the excess oil the machine suddenly starting running at full pelt by itself! I couldn't stop it without unplugging it, so unfortunately back to the repair shop it went. Luckily this time it was just a while-you-wait jobbie- a part to control the current flow through the presser foot had gone through sheer age, but as modern electricity supply is more regular than in the past they were able to just take the faulty part out and discard it. They kindly offered to replace the presser foot for free if I have any more issues too!

So I've had three trips walking sewing machines around town lately- two bus rides with the Bernina to Deptford and taking the old Toyota on a 40 min stroll in a suitcase from my parents' house to my flat! Walking a massive sewing machine balanced precariously on a little trolley through the bustling crowds of Deptford market was quite an adventure! I trailed around blind and woeful-looking teddy bears, cracked vinyl records, ancient hoovers and other bric-a-brac then on through the delicious smells of the food stalls (Caribbean, curries, fancy breads etc) and then into the High Street through loom bands, rat traps, and yes a bit of fabric too!

Deptford is not a fabric mecca from what I could tell, but there's a decent fabric stall and a separate notions stall on market days and quite a few shops selling African fabrics on the high street. I resisted buying anything this time but kind of regret it, as one of the shops was selling 6 yards for a tenner of the horse print fabric I used to make my Horse-Anna (also worn in the photos below) in different colourways, plus a few bolts of the star print fabric that Dolly Clackett uses in this dress for the same price. But I already have some languishing African wax print to use, my fabric stash is overflowing and the weather is turning. So am being sensible! Plus I had a heavy sewing machine to lug around!

But the real treat in my Deptford Trip (other than that my long-awaited Bernina is finally fixed!) was the pizza bus- the Big Red. If you ever have a trip to that part of town do pop in, the pizzas are delicious, the beers are good, there's foosball and the occasional band playing, and the staff are friendly. Apparently there are awesome fabric shops in nearby Lewisham too to check out (when I'm not too burdened down) so hopefully will have another excuse to check out the Big Red again soon. Right, off to finish things off, and hopefully to make room in my fabric stash for exciting new things!

A well-deserved pizza I think!
PS I love my Anna dress but I do think it's a little too roomy in the upper chest and the sleeves tend to wrinkle. Any fitting suggestions? I'm planning on making another soon! 

I hope everyone else has had a more productive summer than I have! Are you still making summer dresses, or are you looking forward to Autumn with your sewing plans?

NorseOtter xxx