Friday, 28 June 2013

Re{sew}lutions DONE!

At the end of last year I made three resolutions. I later added an extra one for Karen's jar (finishing all my seams). I've been steadfastly sticking to my plan. So far, so good. But there was one that I hadn't really addressed...

Well, I can officially say that last Thursday I ticked off the final one - I learnt how to knit!

I persuaded my friend Tian (who is my brother-in-law's girlfriend) to come along to a beginner's workshop held by none other than Lauren of the Sewing Bee at her store, Guthrie & Ghani. There were five of us so it meant we got loads of one-on-one teaching and could take it at a really slow pace. Which was perfect as we all got a bit confused at one point or another!

I had actually been taught how to knit before, years ago when I was very little by my aunt. But I hadn't kept up with it and reading through the knitting book I got for Christmas just left me feeling clueless. It all started coming back to me though once Lauren went through it. Her method was great - she made us stand behind her and copy exactly what she was doing so that we could get all the hand and wrist movements. Then it was practice practice practice!

Look at all that yarn in the background!

We learnt all the basics - how to cast on, the knit and purl stitches, casting off and seaming. The aim was to make chunky wrist warmers so we utilised what we learnt to do some ribbing and stocking stitch. (Get me, all down with the terminology!) All this while drinking tea and dunking biscuits. Although not too much chatting as we were way too busy concentrating on getting our moves correct!

Oh, by the way, I gave up a works night out to go to this, much to the amusement of my junior doctors, who told me I was turning into a boring granny. Whatever!

Here's what I did during the evening. Yes, it took me three hours, but look! I'm knitting! I can't tell you how excited that makes me. If you look closely you'll see that I put some, ahem, extra design features into the ribbing. It was deliberate, that's all I'm saying.

And we all got to take home our chunky bamboo needles and yarn so that we could finish off our wrist warmers at our leisure. I tell you, if you take into account the whopping ma-hoo-sive needles, the ball of Italian wool and three hours worth of teaching, £30 is a bargain! I know a lot of sewists already knit but I would urge anybody who doesn't but who is thinking about it to go along to Lauren's class, it's well worth it. I'm planning on taking everything with me when I go on safari later this year to keep me busy when we're travelling between the different camps. Not, I hasten to add, while I'm out on the game drives, I'm not crazy, people!

Talking of safaris, I bought a satchel to take with me. My hubby said he wanted a new messenger bag as his canvas one was on its last legs so I couldn't pass up the opportunity either! I've always wanted a leather satchel and I've been looking at all the lovely ones on t'interweb - but as much as I loved their shiny looks, they looked a bit new and I wanted old school. So when I discovered Scaramanga, I knew that was it! I bought the mini wide satchel (they have loads of different styles and sizes). It has a distressed leather finish which makes it look a bit battered, as if I've owned it for years. A vintage look, shall we say. It's fabulously made with lots of pockets and a nice green canvas lining (my hubby's lining is a brilliant bright turquoise!) They're not made in the UK, which is a bit of a shame, but I suppose for me it's the next best thing, India, as that's where my ancestry hails from. The only frustrating thing is that Mr Sabs has banned me from using it until the safari. Gutted. I'm already thinking I may have to buy one of their smaller satchels to use as a handbag!

I'll leave you with a completely unrelated photo of Mini trying to get my attention from our apple tree. The little rascal.

Ps just to let you know, I wasn't approached by or have any affiliations with Scaramanga, in case anyone thought I was asked to write a review or something, I just love my new satchel!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Chasing butterflies

My very first attempt at PJs as part of the Pyjama Party sewalong over at Did You Make That!

The fabric I found at the rag market in Brum priced at a bargain £1.50 a metre is a supersoft cotton jersey.

Mini loved the butterflies...

This was only my second time sewing with jersey. This time, instead of using the stretch stitch on my machine, I decided to just use normal straight stitching but with jersey needles. I played around with the tension and the stitch length and made sure I stretched the fabric as I was sewing and it turned out fine - much better than the stretch stitch on my first jersey top.

I didn't use the Tofino pattern recommended by Karen. It looks great but I didn't get my arse in gear in time so I opted to draft my own pattern for the bottoms using an old pair of PJs and following an online tutorial at noodlehead. I really wanted to do the shirring at the back but my machine and the jersey had a major fall out so in the end, I used normal 1.5" wide elastic and followed this tutorial. Oh and I French seamed the life out of the whole thing to make it look and feel nice on the inside.

For the top, I used the Burdastyle Lydia T shirt pattern again. I really like it, it's a good fit  and very easy to assemble. As before I didn't use facings but put a  binding around the neck. And French seamed the entire top as well - the jersey was definitely thin enough to accommodate it without being too bulky.

So there it is, my first PJ mission complete and, as my friend Katie pointed out, my first pair of trousers! I know they're not go-out-in-the-street trousers, but still!

I'm excited to see what others have made. Hop over to Karen's blog tomorrow morning to find out... Did you make any?!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The best meetup ever!

Yesterday, I went to my first ever sewing bloggers' meetup. As it was local (Brum) I went into town on the bus, something I haven't done in ages.

I was gobsmacked at the number of girls that turned up - there was about 25 to 30 of us altogether! I was a bit nervous about it to be honest, I'd never done anything like this before where I met up with random strangers to go on a shopping spree. It didn't help that my hubby said to me as I walked out the door, "you're really brave to do this"....

But I needn't have worried! Everyone was so lovely. It was so weird knowing some of the girls from following their blogs but not really knowing them, you know what I mean?

We started off at Barry's - I was fairly restrained, spending a total of under £20:

Clockwise from top left: dark teal ponte knit (copying Jo), mystery chiffon-y print for a top, maroon heavyweight polyester (I think) for a work dress and grey suiting for my next sewing class project. The reason it was all so cheap was that that the print was £2 for 1m and the maroon fabric was £2 for 2m!

Then, after a thorough soaking, we made it to Cafe Soya for a delicious lunch, followed by an awesome mega swap!

I could only get half of the group in!

Here are my spoils from the swap:

I couldn't decide between the two green fabrics on the left so in the end I took both (sorry, Hannah!). I think there might be just enough to make (short) summer dresses (if the UK weather plays that is)...

After scoffing our faces, we roamed around the Rag Market (I only bought zips and knicker elastic here) and then everyone headed off home. But there was a little treat on departure - Claire had baked some amazing biscuits and brownies for the journey home, how thoughtful is that?

By the time I got home I was knackered so I just crashed on the sofa. I did, however, spend a little bit more money - Amy wore her lovely green aeroplane dress and had brought along a remnant for the swap. I didn't take it but did have a little feel and it was oh-so-soft. I couldn't resist looking it up online, seeing that it also came in a dark orange and, well, click click.... oops!

So thank you thank you thank you to Kat, Marie and Claire for organising. I had the most amazing day, it was fantastic to meet so many people who share a passion for sewing and fabrics. Oh and can I just say, the handmade outfits were fabulous!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

My new old thread box

As part of my job, I have to sometimes visit the hospital Bereavement Office. I was there a little while ago, filling out a form, when I noticed a beautiful, old, wooden box on the desk. Being curious, I asked who it belonged to and was told that it was the property of a deceased patient that had been unclaimed for a long time. The hospital policy is that an item has to be left for a certain amount of time (I think 3 years) to give family an opportunity to claim it but after that it gets sold or discarded.

Well, as I left the office, I said casually to one of the clerks that I really liked it and would be very interested in it if no-one claimed it. Lo and behold, I got a phone call later that same day from the office manager to say I could have it for a small donation! Apparently everyone in the office had been admiring it over the years but no-one had expressed an interest in it until I came along...

Merky trying to climb in

...And the best thing? The clerks suggested a donation of £10. A tenner!! What a bargain. That £10 will go into the charity trust fund of my department (Acute Medicine) to put towards equipment or training. I know it doesn't sound like a lot but every penny helps.

There are no markings or labels to suggest who it belonged to or when it was made. Inside there was a single, enamelled, lapel pin/badge with two hearts and a crown. I gather this was something given to blood donors once they'd donated a certain amount of blood to the Blood Transfusion Service, probably originating from the 1960s, but I can't be certain as there aren't any markings on it.

So, what have I done with it? It's the perfect size to store my threads!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

How comfy is viscose?

So far in my dressmaking adventures, I have mainly stuck to cottons and other "safe" or beginner-friendly fabrics. But I've heard an awful lot about viscose (rayon to US/Canadian sewcialists). So when I spotted some suitable stuff at Barry's in "my" sorts of colours, I quickly snapped up a metre to try out.

And omg it's so soft to wear!

But a bugger to cut out! I took me ages to line up the selvedges and even when I thought I got everything spot on and cut, I realised that the front and back pieces of my top were not quite the same shape or size so the viscose must have moved!

I made a variation of the Sorbetto (again!) - this time with no pleat, looser and longer, and cap sleeves using the Washi pattern pieces. I love the way these tops are so easy to make - it took me only one afternoon from start to finish. And I think it's turned out pretty well!  ('Scuse the wrinkled photos, I'd been wearing it all day)

I'm not sure if you can see in the photo above, but the only slight problem with the neck is that I stupidly used a cotton bias binding (it was all that I had and I wanted to wear the top the following day) so the neckline does get pulled forward a bit more that I'd like. I should have made my own from the leftover fabric. Oh well.

And hey, because of my wonky cutting, I've actually ended up with a subtle high-lo hem!

Monday, 3 June 2013

M to the power of 4: Week 5 and final summary

Me Made May Mondays weekly roundup

Day 28: Viscose Sorbetto variation (not
yet blogged) with black cord skirt

Day 29: Bottle green Cambie

Day 30: Another Sorbetto variation (sleeves)
with navy Kelly skirt

Day 31: Olive button back blouse
with Cambie skirt

Wow, what a month! I'm so glad I took part even though it was a bit of a pain remembering to get a photo every day. I pledged to wear me-made three times a week but actually in the end, there were only FIVE days that I didn't! I'm exceedingly pleased with myself about that! 

Lessons learnt:

1. I need more casual long sleeved Tshirts. For lazy weekends at home, I generally lounge around in my pyjamas or tracky Bs (how glam!). The only casual T shirt I've made is the green Lydia. I wore it four times, all at weekends. The only reason I didn't wear it more in the last two weeks was because I was working at the weekends! 

2. I could also do with some me-made pyjamas - for the reason stated above.

3. I need some more smarter clothes to wear to work. Some of my outfits were far too casual and made me look like a teenager (mainly anything paired with a Kelly skirt - think I should maybe save it for the weekends). Teenage is most definitely not the look of a Consultant Acute Physician. I (and my authority) need to be taken seriously at work. Although I was voted Pin Up Consultant of the Year by all the junior doctors...!

4. I hardly wore trousers all month as all my handmade garments are tops, skirts or dresses. I just got the Sewaholic Thurlow pattern after winning Amy of Almond Rock's giveaway so I really think it's time to make some. Soon. When I'm feeling braver.

5. I really do need to get better quality photos!

So, in summary, I now have a staple, if basic, me-made wardrobe that I wear regularly and that I will keep adding to. It was such a great sense of achievement to do my first me-made month - all thanks to Zoe - and I'm really looking forward to next year!