Saturday 28 March 2015

Sew It - Passage To India

Today in London has been dreary, really dreary (come on spring where are you hiding). So to brighten things up a bit I thought I would share a cheerfully bright gift I made for my brother especially for his recent trip to India.

I  feel that before you scroll any further I should give you a warning!
Due to the wild fabrics and floral curtains contained in this post (the only place with any sunlight at this time of the year is right in front of my living room windows, so you're treated to my floral curtains, sorry!), those of a delicate nature should view with caution!

Passage to India - Men's Shirt

Pattern From: 
TGBSB: Sew Your Own Wardrobe 2014
 Men's Shirt  Pg. 102-107

Size Made: 
Men's Medium Body - Large Sleeves


When I got The Great British Sewing Bee books at Christmas I showed my brother the Men's Shirt and he said he'd love a version of his own, so as a thank you for my gifts I decided to make one for him. I forced him to look at floral cotton on eBay hoping that he would find something he liked but expecting him not to really find anything, as it happens he found lots, so many gorgeous fabrics in fact that I was torn between making him a shirt or making myself one!

The fabric is all my brother's choice, he clearly has good taste (runs in the family don't ya know!).

Eventually, we settled on this gorgeous cotton lawn covered in flowers and butterflies, in a green colourway for the body and we choose the blue colourway for the contrast detailing. On closer inspection we found that the fabric was located in India, there's a theme developing here! Buying this fabric was hard, I mean, how do I only buy enough for what I need!

I ummed and ahhed for a long time and eventually decided to buy five meters of each colourway, so if I made any mistakes I could start again, if not, I'd have plenty left over for something for me, Muahahaha! With the price per yard including free international shipping being so low I was convinced it was good to be true, so I sat back utterly convinced that the fabric would not arrive in time for his trip and that it would be poor quality.

How wrong could I be, it was a mere few days later before I returned to work from the Christmas break, that the fabric arrived! And it was, is, gorgeous! It's a very lightweight cotton lawn which washes wonderfully with no colour loss and though it does crease quite easily it irons up a treat, not that I can see my brother ironing it anytime soon!

So after a pre-wash (I do occasionally follow the rules) I set to tracing off the pattern and cutting out my pattern pieces, everything went really well, I did notice that the sleeves seemed on the small side, I double checked that I had cut the correct size and I seemed to be correct but they looked far too snug. As my mum was staying with me for her annual new years trip she decided to take the shirt back up to Liverpool on her return for my brother to try on.

Lucky she did as it was clear it was going to need bigger sleeves! She sent it back a few days later with her detailed instructions and I set about cutting new sleeves and widening the arm holes. This was actually rather easy, despite me having to completely re-do one sleeve as it got caught in with the fabric when ovelocking and so had a nice hole cut into it, oops! Everything that can be on this shirt is top stitched, which gives a lovely sharpness to the edges of everything, but keeping it even was perhaps my biggest hurdle.

Top stitched to within an inch of its life!
The task I left until last were the buttonholes. I hate buttonholes, I'm pretty convinced that my sewing machine machine knows this and tries to make me loose my mind when using the 'simple' 4 step program. I made 6 of the 7 buttonholes beautifully, perfectly placed, sized and looking really neat. The seventh buttonhole was cursed, my machine suddenly decided it could no longer do buttonholes, nope, no how, no way!

S'cuse, the red chalk rotary wheel markings for the pocket!
No matter how many times I turned the machine off so the computer could reset, whilst I unpicked the latest disaster, it utterly refused, all I could get it to do was the end parts (wider zigzag on top of itself to lock the ends) ALL it would do! Now by this point I was under pressure to get this blighter finished, photographed and in the post, so what you see below is the result of a very sweary bodge job!

Pretty ain't it! No, well just look at that butterfly instead, lovely, lovely butterfly! I decided that I would have to leave it for now, it would function well enough, it's just not very nice to look at, so when I next get the chance I will attempt to fix it, for now, it stays messy!

All in all, this was a great little pattern to start my new year of sewing, though there are a few niggling negatives, which I really feel I ought to mention as they are worth being aware of if you are planning to make this pattern yourself as the pattern instructions are a little vague. OK, this pattern is not designed for a beginner the book sets it at an intermediate level, but I firmly believe a new or intermediate sewer can tackle anything if the instructions are clear and concise and these are not.
  • The button bands in the construction drawings and on the pattern pieces show the neck edge sloping downwards diagonally, but the photo of the shirt shows them going straight across.
  • The shirt cuffs have points on them on the pattern but the instructions for inserting them, skip to a women's shirt pattern for this bit, does not refer to them at any point (no pun intended) at all, so there is no indication of where about you should line them up. I ended cutting them off!
  • The book pretty early in construction on tells you to double roll the hem and stitch, this, as it is a curved hem, is a tricksy task, and could definitely use more explanation.

Despite these negatives, the shirt was a lot of fun to sew, was finished on time and promptly posted off to my brother a few days before his trip to India and his shirts trip home! (I like to think the fabric being an Indian native kept him safe on his travels) as you can see from the photo it fits and he loves it. Job done! Now, what to do with the remaining fabric...

Wendy x

Sunday 15 March 2015

My Sewing Space

Last year I found myself becoming constantly frustrated with my sewing set up, not my equipment mind you, my overlocker is a dream and my brand new Janome sewing machine (thanks, mum and dad) is an utter pleasure to stitch with. No, it was more the location of my sewing that was bothering me, constantly moving things here and there was hampering my productivity and eating away at my enthusiasm. I knew it was about time that I got myself properly organised!

I used to have my sewing space sorted, those of you who have been following my blog for awhile will perhaps remember my old room back in Walthamstow, where I had my dressing table/sewing/computing desk. It was small, a little cramped and with poor light, but having a defined space actually worked pretty well.

But once I moved, despite the extra space, I could not settle on the best place for my sewing endeavours. I resorted to using the kitchen dining table, as the kitchen is the best room for natural light. This has worked quite well for the last few years, but there are problems with sewing in the kitchen. One being that each time I want to cook or eat something, I have to move all the sewing stuff out of the way, usually into the hallway, and if I am lazy and don't move my stuff the smell of food gets into the fabric, which is not ideal.

Another problem is me. I am so easily distracted it's quite ridiculous, I just can't concentrate on sewing or knitting when the flat is untidy, those niggling housework chores keep rolling through my mind while I am trying to work, so the kitchen with its dishes sitting in the sink screaming "forget that hem, wash me, wash me!", the washing machine gurgling and spinning away and a floor that can always do with another wash was distracting me from my task.

Just before Christmas and before my morale sunk any lower (or my house got any cleaner) I started a bit of reorganising. It occurred to me that the best place to set up would be the bedroom, as there was some space under the window which was still just boxes.

I moved my old dressing table from the front room where Beau had commandeered it as his favourite sleeping spot, (he's boycotted the replacement) into the bedroom where I have managed to whittle away most of the boxes that had been languishing there (via eBay, charity and reorganising) creating bit of free space. The desk is now in front of the window where I can make the most of the natural light, the sun hits this room in the early evening, meaning it's the best place for a spot of after work, evening sewing.

My sewing machine and overlocker now have a permanent place side by side, which is honestly fabulous, though I do have to keep remembering to choose the correct presser foot. Also the desk being here means a bit more air can get to the wall, reducing the amount of mould that tends to grow up them (all outside walls are plagued with mould), that is why everything was kept in plastic storage boxes, to protect against the mould - it's glamour all the way here folks!

The new location means in the warmer weather I can make the most of the breeze from the lovely big window and it gives me a good view down the garden, meaning I can keep my eye on the furry one, or should I say, he can keep an eye on me!

What 'cha doing?

One of the best things about my new arrangement is that I can shut myself away from TV temptation, can anyone really sew while watching TV? My multi-tasking skills are just not that good.

I would struggle to absorb myself in my sewing without some music, it has magic powers over my usually wavering attention span, so my beloved record player and my small collection of records, have now found a permanent home on my chest of drawers within easy reach of my desk. I've just got to remember not to open a drawer while it's playing or I'll end up with scratched records.

I have dedicated the wall behind to my inspiration wall, it's a work in progress!

My tailors dummy Vera has found a semi-permanent home on top of my wool chest, which is full, no actually, bursting might be a more appropriate choice of word, I am on a wool buying ban until the lid doesn't have to be weighted down!

Alongside Vera are a few boxes of fabric, there are actually still three full boxes of fabric under the bed, I have even recently sold some off on eBay, almost a box worth! I would dearly love to have a shelving unit here to store all my books and fabrics but sadly because of the mould issue things would inevitably become blackened and ruined within a few weeks, so boxes it is, not as elegant but much more practical.

I decide to make use of my many head scarves by tying them to the back of my chair, it's worked out really well as it has given a much-needed softness to a rather uncomfortable chair, plus they are really easy to untie when needed!

So that's my sewing space I hope you enjoyed having a peek at it, I know I love looking at other people's homes and seeing how they organise things. I also know I am very lucky to be able to dedicate some sewing space like this, it's actually a huge relief to have finally made use of this tricky area, I am even a little annoyed that I didn't think of it earlier, but there was a lot of boxes and stuff to work through so perhaps everything takes the time it needs, oh and please be thankful you didn't see the before photos!

Right, I am off now to actually do a bit of sewing!
Wendy x

Saturday 7 March 2015

Wartime Farm Goes to India

Today is my little brothers birthday, he's currently on an epic three week long backpacking trip around India. As with his holiday last year to China he has been sending me daily Whatsapp updates and pictures of his journey so that I can assure myself and my internet free parents that he is safe and sound and clearly having a wonderful time!

Today his travels took him to Uttar Pradesh where he sent me pictures of his birthday trip to the Taj Mahal and imagine my surprise when I saw the below!

Wartime Farm pullover Goes to India

It's only the flipping Wartime Farm Pullover outside the Taj Mahal!! This is getting to be one well travelled knitted!

Wendy x