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!