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


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

And It All Starts Here

'One is never over or under dressed with a little black dress' - Karl Lagerfeld

Ahhh the Little Black Dress. That true symbol of elegance. The trusty staple in every woman's wardrobe. Also the hardest thing to find on the planet at a reasonable price. Ever.

High street shops just can't get it right. All I wanted was a black dress with no frills or cut outs or beads or what-nots or doo daas. Just a black dress. H&M were the most promising but as well as wanting a black dress I wanted something that was slightly more than a nightie in disguise.

And so finally I turned to my (or rather my mum's) sewing machine. The only sewing I had done in 3 years was for a couple of school shows which was very fun but also very temporary lasting about 6 weeks each year.

So resting all my faith on my GCSE Textiles and my mum's advice I set to making this:

I decided that this was a really classic design and could be dressed up or down. I chose a sturdy black poly-cotton to hold the shape in the skirt and a red lining to contrast for a bit of fun.

I found this was quite a challenge after not sewing for 3 years and was really happy that my mum was there to help with little things like the concealed zip and getting the lining to lie right (or as right as I could).

I didn't quite get the lining perfect, but the overlap's even around the neck line and most people seem to think that it's meant to be like that so I've left it. The fit around the waist could have been improved as well but I've found that just wearing a belt to bring it in has fixed that.

Anyhow, this is how it all started, and now, well I'm hooked. It's gone from a frustration with the high street to just wanting to make anything and everything.

So Hi! I'm Etta and you've stumbled across my little patch of the internet. Anything thrifty and it'll be here, from making and customising clothes or cooking a super meal on a budget right through to budget beauty products.

Happy Thrifting