OK, ok so I didn’t actually win a lottery, but it does feel a bit like it! For years now, I have been signed up to freecycle and my husband is forever asking why. I signed up years ago to get rid of some of the stuff that came with our house and just never quite got around to closing my account. A local lady was clearing out her mums sewing stash, and I got lucky. I have now ended up with a stash about twice the size it originally was, but this fabric came at no cost, and therefore I am much happier to use it for toiles and learning, so it really doesn’t matter if the final garment doesn’t get worn all that much, just as long as I learn something.

In addition to the fabric,

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I know that some of you haven’t been reading my blog for all that long, so before I start, this is just a quick overview of the premise of my Use 5. This is not a challenge designed to reduce my stash (although that is a great benefit) it is more to get me to tackle my fears and expand my skill-set and confidence levels. Essentially, if I don’t cut into one of my Use 5 fabrics in the year they end up on the fire in the new year. It sounds rather drastic, but it does rather free me from that feeling that I can’t make anything with the special fabric unless it’s going to be perfect, and well, perfect is the enemy of good, right?

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The contents of the box from SewHayleyJane

A while back I made a cardigan for myself, and at the time the Cosy Cardi Challenge was going on on Instagram (I’m @sewsmartuk if you want to follow me there). As such, I decided to enter, and a couple of weeks later it transpired that I won one of the prizes. I won a super Stash Box from SewHayleyJane. Just to be clear, I don’t think this is one of Hayley’s usual monthly boxes, so I wouldn’t take my stash to be what you’d receive each month; I think this is more of a pick & mix. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but suffice to say that when the parcel was opened, I was so happy. Just have a look at the goodies.

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As I think has become clear on this site, I’ve taken up knitting. Up until this point, I’d knitted lots of scarves (I think just about everyone in the extended family has received a scarf for Christmas) and a few hats. I decided that maybe I should try and push my skills slightly further and knit something that needed to actually be knitted from a pattern and needed to fit! I decided that I would start with a jumper for me, working on the assumption that I’m easy to measure and likely to be more forgiving about fit.
I had been gifted a couple of knitting books by my mother in law, and found a pattern in the “Chicks with Sticks guide to knitting” that I thought I should be able to tackle. This pattern used a super chunky weight yarn and nice big 10mm needles – as such, I thought it would knit up quite quickly, and the challenge of using two balls of yarn at a time and the challenge of following a pattern would more than outweigh the boredom of stocking stitch. Continue reading

Early last year I was experimenting with sewing knits. I was placing an order at Minerva Crafts and saw this rib knit and just knew I had to have it and it would make a lovely cardigan or jumper. Unfortunately it then sat in my stash for ages until about a month ago when I bought an overlocker on impulse from Lidl – I’ve been debating buying one for ages, and didn’t really want to buy an expensive one until I knew whether I would use it or not. I decided that I needed a pattern that didn’t need to be particularly well fitting in order to give the overlocker a fair try – enter this fabric and the free scarf neck cardigan pattern from Swoon PatternsContinue reading

A Selection of 5 Fabrics to Use in 2018

Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted here, so sorry for that if you’ve been wanting a catch-up! Sewing has been happening, but I think it’s fair to say that it hasn’t been my top priority. I have been somewhat hampered by a bad back, but we’ve also just had a lot going on as a family that has significantly hindered my sewing progress. I’ve just not found myself able to settle to anything, and sewing has felt like too frivolous a pastime to really deserve my limited free time. I do know though that I need to be doing something creative to retain my sense of self and balance.

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About 15 years ago I owned a gorgeous RTW jacket. It was Faux suede on the outside, and a beautiful soft and warm faux fur on the inside. After much wear that jacket had to be disposed of, but ever since that day I’ve been trying to find a suitable replacement. When I was lucky enough to win a copy of Wendy Wards Beginners Guide to Dressmaking book, I decided that instead of looking for the jacket, I should look for similar material instead. Fast forward a while and I popped into Fabricland in Bristol just for a look around; in there I found this beautifully soft and cosy faux shearling. This material then sat in my stash (taking up a lot of space!) for about a year until I decided that I needed to get over my fear of it and get it sewn up.

Black and White Faux Shearling with Asymmetric Zipped Jacket Pattern

Black and White Faux Shearling with Asymmetric Zipped Jacket Pattern

I knew that before I went near the fabric I would need to adjust the fit of the pattern, just from looking at the final garment measurements I could see that I needed an FBA, and a simple measurement showed that I needed to lower the bust dart somewhat! Research showed that I should undertake the FBA first, as this process would naturally lower the bust point slightly, and then lower the bust dart by the required amount to ensure the extra space was where the girls actually require it. This worked out surprisingly well and the tissue-fit made me very happy. (NB – in all the finished photos you can see that the jacket doesn’t appear to fit so well as I had hoped – it actually fits much better than it appears, and it’s just how I’d put it on that day – I’m not going to take more photos to prove it though 🙂 )As such, I cut out the fabric using my altered front pattern piece and started work on the construction. The very first step is to apply interfacing, this is understandable, but in all honesty I took some convincing that thin strips of interfacing would adhere to the fleecy side of the fabric. I spent hours deliberating different ways around this, before my husband asked if I had actually tried to attach interfacing in the normal manner; cue much huffing and puffing from me about how it obviously wouldn’t work…then I tried it, and it did work. I’m still not sure whether I was more happy that it had worked, or more unhappy that I was wrong 🙂
Following that I clipped the fabric pieces together for a quick fitting – I needed to take a smaller seam allowance at the top of the centre back seam, and a larger seam allowance down the arms to the cuffs (I like my cuffs to be relatively tight to prevent draughts!) other than that though we were good to go.

All cut out and clipped for size

Trial fit of the clipped together pattern pieces

Construction of the pieces was rather more straightforward than I had anticipated – I used my walking foot to help feed the bulky material through my machine and other than the sheer bulk of the fabric at some points, I had no problems actually sewing the material although identifying where the edge of the fabric was, could be tricky!

It really is like trying to wrestle half a sheep under the presser-foot at times

Once the pattern pieces were all together I decided that I actually wanted the jacket to be a bit longer than it was. I debated what to do about this, but ended up adding a contrast band to the base of the jacket. This is literally a 10cm wide piece of fabric, not cut on the bias, which goes around the whole base of the jacket. This is then folded up on itself to give a 4.5cm contrast band at the hem of the jacket. It’s worth noting that with this additional length and the FBA I needed a longer zip than the pattern called for. It’s also worth noting that when the black of the zip was against the suede side of the fabric it looked ok, but with the contrast band, the bottom 4cm of the zip stuck out like a sore thumb against the off-white of the fleecy side. I had intended to bind this visible part of the zip with black bias binding to improve the look, and so I ended up encasing the lower portion of the zip in cream bias binding. Getting the black binding to overlay the cream at exactly the right point turned out to be far more fiddly than it had any right to be, but I am happy with the end result.

Bias-bound zip with cream and black binding.

Bias binding the seams took a considerable amount of time. To be honest, I think that it would have been easier if I’d done it before I added the contrast band at the bottom, but for a lot of the seams I’d probably bind the edges before constructing the jacket next time, especially with such a bulky fabric. I’m pleased with the result though. I’d originally wanted to use a contrast colour for the binding, to give the inside a bit of colour, but the colours didn’t seem to work against the off-white of the fleecy side, so I went with black in the end. I’m glad I did, because I’d not really thought about how it would look around the collar!
The next step was the collar; I found this much trickier than I’d anticipated. I’m not sure why, but the pattern piece didn’t seem to fit for me. This is probably because of the FBA and also the narrower seam allowance at the top centre back. I also made this more complicated for myself, because I am much more likely to wear this with more of a V-neck, than completely zipped up. As such, I wanted the collar piece to not meet at the centre of the neck. These issues resulted in me having to basically re-draft the pattern piece, which, to cut a long story short, assisted in the nearly-completed jacket standing on my dress-form for approximately 6 months.

Altering the collar – modified on the right, original on the left

Eventually I built up the confidence to carry out the redrafting, and it was a lot easier than I anticipated. I am happy with the final result. I used some black suedette that was left over from the two GBSB skirts as the under-collar, purely because I thought the thickness of the faux-shearling wouldn’t work well in a double layer!

The modified collar piece – paper is modified, fabric (below) is original piece.

I have now been wearing this jacket for a few weeks – it is so comfortable and soft, and super-warm.

Side view with zip done up

side view with V-neckline

There have been a couple of days where I’ve closed the zip fully, but on most days I’ve been right to make it more of a v-neck. I am so pleased I’ve made this, and so proud to wear it.

Faux shearling jacket back view

A Selection of 5 Fabrics to Use in 2018

Last year I set myself a challenge to use 5 fabrics from my stash that I was nervous about using for one reason or another. The intention was that any of those fabrics that I didn’t use would end up on the log burner at the end of the year if they weren’t touched. Well, to summarise, last year I only cut in to four out of the five fabrics. I have however, not thrown the last fabric on to the fire, because I have good reason for not cutting in to it. Over the past six months I have lost quite a lot of weight, and after losing that weight my shape has still to stabilise. I have decided on the pattern for this piece of fabric, but I don’t want to make a dress that is unlikely to fit me a month after I have made it, just so that I can complete the challenge. As such, this one piece of fabric has been added to my Use 5 list for 2018.Continue reading

My first ever knitted hat

I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m not an expert at knitting, but I do find it relaxing to do on a train on the way home from a long day at work. I bought a load of wool about a year ago and made scarves with the Sirdar Sylvan, finishing up the third scarf from this wool in August this year. Since August though, I’ve been wondering what to do with the remainder of the wool (two balls of each colour – I overbought because I didn’t really have a clue how much I would need). I started looking for a hat pattern, but couldn’t find any that had the same stitch, or used similar wool to this, so I ended up making it up as I went along.Continue reading

Finished Handmade Fabric Advent Calendar

10 years ago I made my husband and I a fabric advent calendar. The numbers were made out of an old green t-shirt, and the pockets were red I think, all on a white ticking backing. We used it for two years and despite its flaws, we loved it. When I say flaws, let’s just say that the numbers were all slightly different sizes and fonts, and the pockets were too small. I wanted to put in a wrapped chocolate for both of us into every pocket – but I had to choose the chocolates carefully to ensure they were small enough to go into the pockets! 2 years after making that advent calendar, we moved house, and despite unpacking every box, and looking everywhere, it’s not been seen since. Continue reading