Monday, August 11, 2014

Something Slightly Different: The British Tag

'The maxim of the British people is "Business as usual"' - Winston Churchill

So although I love sewing and reading sewing blogs I also follow a lot of blogs about other bits and bobs too. I saw this tag on Just Jess's blog and thought it was a great idea! So why not put the tailor's chalk down for a second and have a read!

1. How many cups of tea do you drink a day? How many sugars?
Until quite recently I could easily power my way through up to 9 strong cups of tea with 2 sugars a day. I blame it on being a student. But then a few months ago tragedy struck! Tea started making me feel really sick. I tried cutting out the milk, the sugar, brewing it for less long, but nothing helped. I've started drinking a lot more in the way of fruit and herb teas, my favourites being Twinings Cranberry and Strawberry and Whittard's Mango and Passionfruit. On the other hand I've noticed that my skin and sleeping patterns have been improved so hey ho silver linings and such.

2. Favourite part of a Sunday Roast?
Can I just say ALL OF IT? No? Shame... Probably Yorkshire Puddings. They have to be homemade though.

3. Favourite dunking biscuit?
Has to be a ginger nut. It's crunchy enough that it's not completely soggy after it's been dunked which is nice. Dunking chocolate biscuits should be banned... You don't want chocolate in your tea...

4. What is your favourite quintessentially British pastime?
Hmmm this was a tough one. You can't call sewing especially British... Playing board games would definitely be up there even though I'm terrible at them. There's something quite calming about sitting round while the rain's hitting the windows playing Monopoly or Cluedo... Until things get competitive and people start getting angry.

5. What's your favourite word?
There are some amazing words out there but I think my favourite has to be 'cushty' meaning fine or alright. It just fits into sentences so well and sounds so good!

6. What's your favourite Cockney rhyming slang?
So I have the same problem as Jess where I know little to no Cockney rhyming slang because I grew up in Cumbria. I have grown up with Cumbrian dialect though so some good Cumbrian words include 'larl' meaning little, 'twine' meaning to complain and 'ladgeful' meaning embarrassing. If you want to find out some more have a look here. I will also add that any guy who calls me 'lass' will immediately have my heart. :P

7. What are your favourite British sweets?
So many answers so little time... I was really lucky to grow up near a proper old fashioned sweet shop where you could pick up anything under the sun. Tom Thumb Drops are a particular favourite as are lemon bon bons. And who can turn down pick 'n' mix?!
8. What would your pub be called?
One of my dad's favourite authors is called R.S Surtees and in some of his books there is a pub called The Cat and Custard Pot, which I think is a fantastic name for a pub and I think I would potentially use!

9. Number One British Person?
It might be such a cliche but I adore Stephen Fry. I grew up with QI, Jeeves and Wooster and Blackadder meaning he's just always been there and I find him a very reliable form of entertainment! He's had a very interesting life and his autobiography is fascinating if somewhat surprising in parts.
10. Favourite Shop/Restaurant?
There is only one answer here for me and it's Rogano in Glasgow. This seafood restaurant is designed around a 1930's cruise liner and its interior is absolutely beautiful! The prices range from fairly low in the Oyster Bar through to eye wateringly high in the famous restaurant but just experiencing the atmosphere over a drink in the bar is enough.
11. What British song pops into your head?
Errm? I can't lie I'm not a massive music buff and I'll listen to almost anything. Sticking with the Scottish theme I do love a bit of Paolo Nutini. And who doesn't love his song New Shoes? So here's some Summer feel good tunes...

12. Marmite: Love it or Hate it?
LOVE IT! End of! Anything can be improved by it. FACT. I even bought some Marmite chocolate today so I'll tell you how that goes.
I hope you enjoyed this slightly different post! If you've read this and want to have a blast go for it! I'm nominating everyone!

Happy tea-drinking!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mad Men Chic! (I hope)

'I like pencil skirts because they hug me in all the right places.' - Mandy Moore

Pencil skirts are a really classic piece that should be in every girl's wardrobe. On top of being super flattering, they can be dressed up or down for almost any occasion. So when I got this very Mad Men-esque Simple Sews Pattern free in issue two of Love Sewing, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to have a go at making my own. 

I was super impressed by the quality of the pattern and the instruction sheet. The pattern was printed on paper that was slightly sturdier than the normal tissue paper so I found it was much easier to preserve if I ever want to make it again but it was still flexible enough that it was easy to pin and it didn't damage my shears.
The instructions were printed on a folded A3 sheet making it much more manageable than other instruction sheets that come with patterns.
I also really like the fact that all the patterns are designed and made in the UK meaning you're supporting a home industry while you're creating something you'll love!
The only problem I had was the sizing that this company uses. Most patterns are cut in the same sizes as they were in the 1950s meaning you can take any pattern from any company and any era and blend it with another pattern knowing that it will fit. Simple Sew Patterns use sizes that are much more similar to the high street today meaning that I suppose in some ways it's easier to get the right size but could also be very confusing to someone who's used to normal patterns.
And here's the final result!

I'm really happy with the final fit and look of this skirt. I've never made anything this tailored before so getting the fit right was really important but I think it went pretty well. I bought the fabric from Minerva Crafts. It's a nice strong cotton drill so it holds the shape really well. 
I'm planning on wearing this skirt on my birthday with a top that I'm trying to find the right fabric for as we speak but I'm really struggling...
The Lottie pattern was an exclusive for Love Sewing but Simple Sew Patterns make another high waisted pencil skirt that I think would be a really nice edition to any wardrobe. 
So for your next project why not consider checking out Simple Sew?

Happy Sewing


Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Lowdown: Sewing Kit

A bad workman blames it on his tools. Although, so does a good workman.

The right tools really do make all the difference. You can be as good as you like but if you have a bad quality sewing kit the whole thing really will go wrong. I really wouldn't recommend going out and buying an all singing, all dancing '1000 piece sewing kit'.  The parts won't be very well made and you will end up having to replace the whole thing within a couple of years (if you're lucky). Instead, invest in separate pieces that suit you and you feel happy using. You will end up spending more in the long run but this kit will last you a lifetime and give you many happy memories.

1. Measuring
So there isn't really much to say here apart from you need a measuring tape. Any haberdashery or amazon will sell you one for about £2. Try and get one that measures in both centimeters and inches just because it's quite handy (body measurements for example are usually done in inches for example).

2. Marking
Tailor's chalk is the way forward here. You can also buy pens that do the same job but I find that the chalk rubs off and blends better overall. Again haberdasheries or amazon will provide. Make sure you buy a set of four colours so that you can make marks on all colours of fabric. I also really like chalk wheels but I've only ever seen them in white which makes them a bit less useful on pale fabrics.

3. Cutting
Ok, so I can go on about good fabric scissors for days. Good cutting tools will become the absolute base of your kit. It has become a firm rule in my house that if I discover anyone using my fabric shears to cut anything other than fabric and all hell will break loose. If you cut paper with fabric scissors you will blunt the blades and within a very short time they will be good for nothing. Your fabric scissors should be a lifetime investment that you learn to cherish.
Fabric shears are a very personal thing. Metal handles or plastic handles? What size? What make? What price? Mine are metal handled, 8 inch blades made by Premax and cost about £20 from amazon. What really drew me to these was that they are slightly smaller than the usual fabric shears. This means that they are a little bit lighter and makes cutting out lots of fabric in one go a bit easier. If you've never bought fabric shears before I would recommend going into your local haberdashery and having a look at some in the flesh to find out what feels right. Around £20 should get you a decent pair that will last for many years to come. Some of the best advice I was given about scissors is 'Don't get the cheapest but don't get the most expensive either'.

Next up are embroidery scissors. These are super small super sharp scissors that you can use to cut thread cleanly to make threading your needle easier. These are less important than your fabric shears but are generally very handy. About £5 will pick you up a decent pair and if you want to go super traditional why not go for some of these. Again I bought mine from amazon (what would we do without that wondrous website).

Finally are pinking shears. These are used to neaten the edge of a seam, leaving a zig-zag pattern and stopping it form fraying. Not necessarily essential to every sewer's kit but I find them very handy possibly because I'm a lazy sewer who can't be bothered to finish seams properly. Again around £20 will buy you a decent pair.

4. Fastening
So of course the key part of sewing is the fastening the pieces together bit. First, you have to consider the temporary fastening before the actual sewing. Pins are the best way to do this and any sewer will have many a pot of these! Again don't buy the cheapest ones you can find otherwise you'll get a load of unsharpened pins that damage your fabric (I've made that mistake...).

A good old fashioned needle and thread is another method here. Used for both tacking and finishing touches like hems, any sewer is going to have a stash of needles and thread. Again make sure you buy needles that are sharp so you don't damage the fabric and try to get decent thread, Gutermann thread tends to be my go to.

I think it's always a good idea to keep a few buttons and zips about the place just because they're handy for repairs as well as those spontaneous weekend projects. Nylon zips tend to be the standard although there are now a bigger range of metal ones if you want to make more of a statement with an exposed zip. Buttons of course come in all shapes sizes, colours, materials and everything else. The ones I keep in my kit tend to be slightly plainer just so they go with anything.

5. The Machine
A sewing machine is possibly one of the most important parts of your kit. John Lewis can sell you one for around £50 although I don't know if it's actually any good. They're also quite small meaning that big projects might be made a bit more difficult. As it is you can spend anything up to thousands on a sewing machine but that's not really needed. For a beginner's sewing machine I would suggest going to your local sewing machine shop and trying a few different models out. Another option is to find out about reconditioned machines. These are often very well built and although older have been looked after over the years meaning that they'll last for a very long time without costing you the world.
My sewing machine (a Frister Rossman 66) was given to me by my grandmother. She had bought it in the seventies or the eighties and hadn't been used for decades. I got it serviced just to make sure that it was in full working order and then got sewing. Honestly, this is the best sewing machine I have ever used! It's very smooth and the whole feel of it is quality. Maybe reconditioned is the way to go. You might have to get used to manual tension control but I didn't find that too tough.

I hope this post has been helpful for anyone who wants to start sewing but doesn't know exactly where to begin!

Happy sewing!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Read All About It

''What is the point of a book', thought Alice 'without pictures or conversations?' - Lewis Caroll 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'

Well my dear Alice, for learning how to sew! Over the past couple of years I've found so many books and magazines that have given me inspiration and guidance for sewing as well as allowing me to see other people's takes on projects. 

1. Sew Magazine
This is a fantastic monthly magazine that covers everything from clothes to homewares. This is a monthly favourite for me and I count down the days to the next issue coming out (8th August if you're wondering). Each issue usually comes with a useful free gift such as a sewing pattern or a fat quarter of fabric with a project card to give you some inspiration for what to do with it! They also use an awful lot of projects from 'The Great British Sewing Bee' TV show and book. If you've been sewing for decades or if you only picked up your needle and thread last week this magazine is really for you.

2. Mollie Makes
I've only ever picked up this magazine once but if I can find it again it's definitely a must have. If you're less keen on making your pieces from scratch but love the idea of upcycling and customising then this might appeal to you more. It's slightly more expensive than Sew Magazine at around £7 per issue but it's very well produced with beautiful photography and editing. If you feel that it's a wee bit expensive they have a website and are on twitter and pinterest. I like the fact that they are so accessible online and that you can get hold of all of the templates online.

3. Love Sewing
Again I've only picked this one up once but it's another fantastic read. It's very similar to Sew Magazine in terms of some of the projects and the inspiration that they gather from the Sewing Bee. I really like the fact that they use Indie sewing pattern companies for their free gifts instead of the bigger companies as it gives you the chance to discover some interesting ideas and projects that are often based on more vintage designs. To be honest I wouldn't say that you need to pick up this as well as Sew Magaine, they are incredibly similar.

4. Dressmaking by Alison Smith
This book is brought to you by the ever reliable DK. This lists everything from basic sewing techniques through to basic and highly adaptable projects for clothing. In terms of focus this is definitely making women's clothing from scratch. It gives both hand and sewing machine techniques and fantastic clear picture instructions. The only problem is that you have to draft the patterns for the projects yourself which if you've never done can be a bit of a challenge. I would say that for basic techniques this is fabulous for beginners and for projects it's great for slightly more advanced sewers.

5. 'The Great British Sewing Bee' Books - Series 1 and 2
Ok, so I love The Great British Sewing Bee. During the last series I locked myself away on a Tuesday evening with hot chocolate and a notebook and would not be disturbed until it was over. That's devotion. My flatmates thought I was weird as hell. I have no shame. The books that accompany each series are very different. Both include projects that are made on the show but the Series 2 book is split very cleverly into 3 key aspects of dressmaking. The first book comes with one pattern for a tunic whereas the second book includes a folder which includes patterns for all of the projects in the book. Reviews for these books on amazon do point out that there are inaccuracies so make sure that you read all of the instructions really carefully before you begin.

6. The Vogue Sewing Book
There are many different editions of this book and the most recent I could find was 2001. However, the edition I have is actually from 1978! This covers absolutely everything from techniques and styles right through to how to remove stains from different fabrics. This book is a really fantastic edition to every sewer's library!

7. The Liberty Book of Simple Sewing
This pretty book is full of super easy projects for beginners! Lots of homewares and accessories with the occasional piece of clothing thrown in. Of course they show them being made in beautiful Liberty Tana Lawn but you could easily find any fabric that you liked. The patterns and templates are all drafted in the back of the book but you'll need to enlarge them on a photocopier. Definitely a good book for those who want to boost their sewing confidence!

So if you want to start sewing but don't know where to begin here's some possibilities for inspiration! Youtube is also a fantastic source for instructions on sewing that are visual and easy to follow. Professor Pincushion is particularly good!

Happy Stitching


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Old Ones Really Are The Best

'I start each collection thinking how I can refresh my classics' - Jean Paul Gautier

This post was inspired by an article I found on Pinterest - 10 Fall Basics for Easy Audrey Hepburn Style. I sometimes feel that Audrey Hepburn is a vintage style icon who is somewhat overlooked, and while the sainted Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor are all very well and good I feel that their style is much more difficult to recreate on a day to day basis.

So here I have compiled a collection of the classics that every girl should have in her wardrobe with high street options as well as sewing patterns! Some are items that Ms Hepburn would definitely have approved of and some are pieces that I feel that I could nevr live without.

1. The Little Black Dress
If you've read my first post you'll know that this was the item where I finally lost all patience with the high street and put all my faith in my sewing machine. Unless you are prepared to spend a lot of money the LBD is an item that is very difficult to buy of the peg. I found that most high street shops were too keen to keep up with trends so insisted on putting in panels and cut outs that I simply wasn't interested in.

This dress is one that I found at Topshop, and has to be one of very few examples of unfussy black dresses that I have found. However, coming in at £46 you could easily make something for a lot less.

This pattern is available from Sewing World and is great for so many reasons. First of all, it's multi-style meaning you could combine the slightly sleeker skirt from B with the scoop neck bodice of D to make it suit you perfectly. I also found that this was highly easy to alter to a V-Neck. 

2. The Perfect Pair of Trousers
This is a piece that I'm definitely planning on investing in soon. I have a real problem buying trousers as if they fit round my waist they won't fit round my legs and vice versa. So this is one that I'll definitely be making myself. Having been inspired by the article about Audrey Hepburn I've decided I really like the cigarette style that she wore so have purchased this pattern from Minerva Crafts. I've never used a Burda pattern before so this may be a learning curve in more way than one.

If you don't fancy making these yourself, then as with the LBD this might be quite a hard one to find on the high street. The only ones that I've managed to find that I felt fitted the bill were these from Roland Mouret. However, at £450 they're hardly the thrifty girl's best friend. Perhaps somewhere like M&S might be the best bet for a lower budget.

3. A Good White Shirt
This is without a doubt one of my absolute go to staples in my wardrobe. Put with a pair of skinny jeans and a statement necklace, the effect is effortless but glamorous. I've only ever bought white shirts from Uniqlo and I've found that they last a long time and don't fray or wear at the collar.

If you fancy something slightly different and have your fingers itching to get on a sewing machine then how about this knotted shirt designed by Burda. Now I know what you're thinking. Oh my God. Trashy cowgirl, Steps, the nineties... I really think that done right this could work. I might be completely wrong. I might make this and hate it and it then I'll have to edit this post. But until then please try and keep and open mind.

I can't lie the more I look at this the more I have my doubts. Oh well. Let's wait and see.

4. A Go-With-Everything Jumper
This should do exactly what it says on the tin. No crazy patterns or prints, in a colour that you wear regularly or that goes with most of the things that you own. For me this would be either black or navy blue (I know, how exciting). Zara are fantastic for basics like this and this jumper really caught my eye. I like the detail on the cuffs and the quite slimline shape.

I'm afraid this is one of the kind of basics that I would never really to bother to make myself. Even I think that in some areas life is too short and although the high street can be frustrating in many ways it is still good for a great many things.

5. Flat Shoes
In my opinion you can never have enough pairs of flat shoes, and no I don't expect you to make these yourself. Be they elegant black ballet pumps a la Audrey, pretty laced up canvas trainers or smart brogues all flat shoes definitely have their uses and can completely change the feel of an outfit.

These plain black pumps from New Look are basic but have become a go to for me in the recent warm weather we've been having.

If you're looking for something that might prove to be a bit more comfortable during a long day on your feet then perhaps looking at Joules' Lottie Shoes. These canvas trainers come in a range of pretty designs, are super comfy and unlike a number of the other types of these shoes last longer than one summer.

If you're looking for something slightly smarter but still flat and comfortable Topshop have a wide range of brogues. I really like brogues for adding a slightly preppy edge to an outfit as well as being slightly more practical during the colder and rainier months. Try and get ones made from real leather as they will last longer and will mould better to the shape of your feet making them more comfortable.

So there you have five of my essentials for every girl's wardrobe! I feel that if your wardrobe is based on a few key items then being thrifty is much easier. You can dress each piece up with a piece of statement jewellery or a pretty scarf and it will always look different!

Happy Thrifting!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Groovy Baby

'Artists and Musicians of the Sixties were definitely into clothes' - Yoko Ono

*Sorry for the not great quality of the photos in this post*
Fun, colourful and unique. The 1960s brought us a completely new outlook on clothes. Thanks to new technology designers could suddenly bring women bright colours and prints that had never been seen before. It sparked off a whole new era of fashion that showed young people that they no longer had to dress like their parents.

And one piece symbolises the sixties over any other: The mini dress.

In their July 2014 issue, Sew Magazine were giving away a sixties inspired dress pattern which I definitely couldn't say no to. The simple style of the mini dress lends itself perfectly to bright fabrics especially florals which would normally be too much. Overall the effect is a timeless, fun piece that can be worn during the day with a blazer or dressed up with heels and a fun clutch bag for the evening.

Linky Link Link

On top of all that with only two main pieces, the sixties mini dress is super duper easy to sew. If you've never delved into sewing before and fancy making your own dress give this one a bash!

I decided to go for View C which I felt was the most classic. I've never been a massive Peter Pan collar fan (oooh it rhymes) and the bow didn't really appeal but as this is such a versatile pattern it would be so easy to alter and customise to do whatever you wanted (pockets, trim etc)

I went to my local fabric shop and chose a Liberty-esque print which was a fraction of the price of genuine Liberty (One day my pretty but not great for the thrifty students among us) and then set to it. This was a super easy project and very forgiving meaning that if you were feeling quick you could probably get it done in an afternoon. It took me a couple of days but I was feeling lazy and the zip took a couple of attempts.

So here's the finished result. As you can see I managed to cut it way too short, so it's possibly slightly less suitable for day time and deffo not one to wear without tights.

It fastens with a zip at the back which you could make concealed if you were feeling fussy or adventurous. I decided on a simple centered zip as with this busy pattern it doesn't show up too badly and it was easier to do.

Overall, I was really impressed with this pattern. Definitely a good one for a beginner with some core techniques such as facings and zips, as well as getting your length right... Result a lovely summery dress!

So why not get your 60s vibe on and have a go at a fun shift dress!

Happy sewing