Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Planner Pages - (Free Download)

Just recently I feel like I've got a better handle on the sewing/blog/life balance. For a while it was the case that I had so many ideas of things that I wanted to do, floating around in my head; that I ended up doing none of them. Do you ever get that? I have little chunks of time throughout the week when I can get some sewing done. But because I wasn't planning ahead for that time, I really wasn't getting the most out of it. I love writing my blog but was finding myself getting frustrated trying to squeeze everything in (and often failing!) So the other day, I decided to take the bull by the horns and add a little structure around my sewing and blogging....

I came up with these little planners. Nothing fancy. Just done in Microsoft Word using columns and text boxes. But the difference they have made to my productivity has been brilliant. I actually feel like I'm achieving things rather than just thinking about the things I want to achieve. All because of some little A5 sheets of paper, ha ha! These are they...

Like I said very simple. A box each for Mon-Fri on one side, (Nothing sewing or blogging related on Sat/Sun for me. That time, and weekday afternoons, is set aside for family and household stuff. Weekday mornings when Elliott is at pre-school is my "creative" time :) and a column on the right for ideas and a little to do list. For each day, I write in what I plan to sew and what, if anything, I plan to post on this blog. My ideas columns is rolling list of stuff I want to do. What doesn't get done one week will get copied over to next weeks ideas column. That way, a potentially good idea doesn't get forgotten in the midst of the million and one things that need doing every week! My "to do" box is usually to remind me of what I need to photograph or what sewing supplies I need to get.

So in the interests of sharing these small eureka moments, I've made this blog planner available to download here. It's in Word format sized to A4 (I scaled mine to print in A5 so it slots neatly inside my diary). When you view it via the download host I've used, it looks a little different. But once you download it and open it in Word, it's all good. (Any probs, let me know and I can just email you the attatchment direct) I've left it editable so that you can change fonts, text, move stuff around to suit your needs. They're very generic really and could be used to organise lots of different activities. I tweaked it to create a meal planner too (essential for me when dieting!). You can download the meal planner here too if it's of any use :)

So, a little mid week gift from me to you. If it helps save just one overloaded and frazzled brain, then I will consider my work is done ;)

Monday, September 24, 2012

FO - Cynthia Rowley Skirt - 2512

I mentioned an FO last week that I had to share with you. Well here it is. My second attempt at Cynthia Rowley 2512, except this one, I finished!

You may recognise the fabric from this post. Yep. I made a skirt from curtains....and I love it. This fabric is a vintage screen print by Wemco entitled "Antibes" and was way too nice to use for home furnishings! It's the perfect weight for a skirt like this.

Construction wise I used the waistband from View C with the skirt construction from View A. I hand picked my zip (I just can't seem to get a decent finish with machined zips!), used black bias on the hem and waistband; and black fabric from my stash for the pockets and waistband facing. I also lengthened the skirt by about 1.5".

I opted for pleating instead of gathering the skirt along the waistband. Again, I just can't seem to get a pleasing effect with gathering and nine times out of ten my gathering thread breaks, which just ends up p****ng me off! I might try sewing my gathering stitches by hand with a stronger (embroidery?) weight thread and see how that goes.

The pattern didn't call for a bias finish to the top of this waistband and to me it looks a bit obvious that it isn't supposed to be there. But my feed dogs decided to chew up the fabric a little around the zip. Cheers for that! (I guess you never know how a fabrics gonna behave until you get to sewing with it) So I used the bias to disguise it and protect it from any more fraying. A shame, but there we go!

Overall a pleasing and straightforward pattern to work with. If anything I may cut a size smaller next time.  I'm already pondering whether to use some denim I have in my stash  for another of these OR maybe use it for a Ginger? Hmmmm.....What say ye?

Friday, September 21, 2012

FO Sneak Peak....

Something turned out pretty well this week...

Only one thing left to do on it and then I can share :) Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oooh She's Cheap # 4 - Cushions

A couple of weeks ago we went Ikea shopping. I love Ikea. (I don't love shopping in Ikea with a stroppy toddler and an indecisive and tetchy fiance, but hey. We all have our challenges in life ;) We needed some reasonably priced frames for our lounge wall art and, among other things, some cushion inserts. Ikea have these cushion inserts at £4 each. It was only when we worked out we needed 8 of them, and we did the math......£32 just for inserts. Don't get me wrong. I don't think £4 for a cushion insert is alot. I'd just rather spend that money on fabric, and I have an inbuilt thing in my head that says "ok, that's the price. How can I do it cheaper?" So we scanned the soft furnishings for other ideas...

Well it just so happens that Ikea also do the pillows below for £1.30. Same density as the cushion inners but bigger. I know. Go figure!! I have to credit J with the idea for this. It was a conversation that took place without any words. It went something like:

J - Holds up a pillow, tilts his head to one side and looks at me questioningly
Me - Looks at pillow in J's hand, looks at cushion insert in my hand
J - Mimes a cutting action straight up centre of pillow accompanied by zzzzzzzp sound (presumably meant to resemble a sewing machine)
Me - Nods enthusiastically and approvingly (with just a hint of pride) and grabs 4 pillows from the display...

...and that's just what I did when we got home. Cut straight through each cushion with a pair of shears, then finished the 2 raw edges with an overlock stitch on my machine. Et voila......

8 cushion inserts for £5.20 instead of £32 :) We spent the money we saved on a new full length mirror for the hallway. Sorted!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting my House in Order # 7 - Finished(ish) Photo Gallery

Last week we finished up framing our family photos and got to work creating our entrance hall "photo gallery". I say finished "ish" because we still need to get some pics of certain family members, who it appears are masters at avoiding the lens! (We know who they are; they can run but they can't hide!) Anyhow, this is how far we have got...

We picked our entrance hallway for this project since it is essentially "dead" space. That is to say, it's too narrow for hallway furniture or shelving of any kind; and we were finding the bare walls a bit blah. We opted for black and white photos with a mix of black and white mounts in white frames of various shapes and sizes. The aim being to unify all the different photos without everything looking tooo uniform. If you know what I mean?!
Do you like the strategically placed shopping bag btw? (TK Maxx £7.99 in case you were wondering. I love that bag. It goes everywhere with me and holds soooo much. Great for thrifting!) It's hiding a plug socket. I thought the bag was infinitely more pleasing to look at in a photo than a plug socket. Unless of course you're into plug sockets in a big way,  and then I've just spoiled your fun ;)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Adding a Decorative Panel to a Front Bodice...

With two of my most recent makes I have been experimenting with inserting decorative panels....

As promised, here's a breakdown of how simple it is to alter a front bodice pattern piece to add this detail:

1: Draw in where you want the panel to be, being careful to avoid any darts. It will be half the width of your finished panel
2: Cut along this line so you now have two new pattern pieces
3: Trace the new pieces and add your seam allowance

You will need to cut 2 of pattern piece A, and then (once you have finished pleating/pintucking your fabric panel) cut 1 of pattern piece B, on the fold (placing what was the original centre front onto the fold)

For my pleat front tunic I pleated a panel of fabric, pressing and pinning the pleats in place one at a time. I then topstitched each pleat down and once my pleated panel was long enough to accomodate my new pattern piece, I cut the pattern piece from my pleated panel of fabric. I left a small section at the top and bottom unpleated so as to avoid bulk at the neckline and waist seams....then join it to the other two bodice pieces and continue on with your make as normal!

I used the same method for my black kimono tee except of course, the panel I drew in was triangular, and I used pintucks instead of pleats. The triangle also doesn't reach to the bottom of my original pattern piece on this make. So my pattern piece A in this instance, was cut on the fold; and when opened out had a deep V missing out of the centre ready for the triangular panel to be inserted.

And there you have it. A simple way to add some detail to a plain bodice front. The method will work for pretty much any shaped panel. Scooped, square, oblong, rounded etc; and you could use it to insert a panel of contrasting fabric, lace, a button placket, ruched/gathered panel, pleated panel, embroidered, pleated,whatever. Whatever your imagination desires!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

FO x 2 - Kimono Tee with Pin Tucked Panel & Refashioned Jeans (again!)

Dropping a dress size and a half, (thankyou peops for all your lovely comments and yes Marie. New hair too!) means that pretty much everything I had in my wardrobe no longer fits me. So I've started rebuilding my wardrobe pretty much from scratch. This week I finished up a couple of versatile wardrobe basics....

Refashioned Jeans:  I picked these up at a local charity shop for £1.89! They are brand new M&S jeans in a supersoft khaki denim with a bit of stretch. Guess what.....they're a size 10! I can't remember the last time I fit into a size 10. In my teens I think! Granted the stretch element of the denim probably helps, but who cares! Anyhow, M&S jeans always fit me nicely in the waist, bum and hips. But the leg styles can often be a little frumpy so I just narrowed them in my usual way.

Black kimono tee: made from fabric that J's Nanny Flo gave to me. The length means I can wear it out like this, (without fear of builders bum ;) or tucked into a waistband without causing too much bulk underneath.  It's self drafted using this method, and then sliced up to insert a triangular panel with pintuck detailing. (The "slicing up" part to be detailed in a post to follow shortly) The neckline, sleeves and hem are all faced with bias. Using bias as a neckline facing is a new revelation to me. I can't believe I haven't done it sooner! It's sooooo easy and negates the need to draft a neckline facing.

 I first used it on my pleat front tunic as detailed in the original pattern instructions.  I can see this being a particularly useful and time saving technique for future makes. Especially for refashioning; where if I wanted to recut a neckline, I would otherwise have to draft a facing by tracing the curve from the fabric. Something that has always stumped me in the past. Daft really when I think about it. I've used bias to bind a neckline before. So I don't know why it never occurred to me to go one step further to steam it into shape and turn it in as a facing instead! a bit of "doh" forehead slapping moment! I'm probably late to the party for that one. You clever lot all knew about it already I'll bet!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Getting my House in Order # 6 - Wall Art

Last week we finally got some art onto the walls in our lounge. 3 good ol' Ribba Frames and some rather unique original screen prints....

Some time ago now I acquired, via Freecycle, a full portfolio of artwork belonging to a student at the Royal College of Arts in the late 1940's!!! It was jam packed with original textile print designs from that era (I know, lucky or what!) What amazes me is how fresh and modern they still look 70 years later.....

We selected 3 that we thought best fit our colour palette for the lounge. Our favourite has to be the abstract one in the centre. But the portfolio contained so many more amazing screen prints and other artwork. It really is an absolute treasure to have been entrusted with.
The student concerned was undeniably a very talented artist. But her story alas was not a happy one. By all accounts she never fulfilled her creative potential professionally and suffered a lifetime of depression, eventually taking her own life in her 70's. This body of work (that I still can't believe has ended up in my hands) was rescued by a relative who walked in on her destroying her art piece by piece in a fit of what I can only guess was despair or rage. She was sectioned shortly afterwards. Her creations have sat in an attic for the past 40 years. Until now.
I guess there's a lesson there somewhere. Something about all of us being true to ourselves and pursuing whatever is in our heart. Because anything less would be, well, just less....
Some little part of me hopes that Sandra is up there somewhere seeing her artwork being appreciated with new eyes, generations later; and I hope she's glad that these didn't get destroyed....

Sunday, September 09, 2012

FO x 2 - Pleat Front Tunic and Refashioned Jeans

Yes peops! FINALLY the sewing famine has ended. Elliott started back at school on Monday and I was back in my sewing room like a rat up a drainpipe as soon as I'd dropped him off. So today I have 2 finished projects to share with you. A pair of jeans that I thrifted for £2 and refashioned from full length bootcut to cropped skinnies (see here for how); AND this pleat front tunic that has been rattling around in my head as an idea for weeks.....

I used this vintage pattern as a starting point and then set to work adapting it to fit my design. I fitted the bodice much more closely (seriously the ease on this pattern was ridiculous!), added bust darts and then sliced the pattern up a bit so I could insert the pleated panel......I opted for a more simple, ungathered skirt portion. I've dropped from a size 14/16 to a size 12 (Yay! Yes, you may congratulate me ;) in the past few weeks, and I didn't want a heavily gathered skirt adding volume to my newly trimmed down frame!! I think the simplicity of the lines works really well.........

I'm putting together some diagrams of the drafting process for later in the week. It's super easy and I will definately be using the technique again to add some detail and interest to plainer fabrics and garment styles..

There's a bit of a funny story attached to this make. I wore this outfit on Tuesday to a meeting I had in London to do with the...shhhh.....TV thing.....;)
I had been in a rush to make this tunic the day before and in my haste had neglected to finish the armhole seams securely enough. (I don't have an overlocker so opted for a simple zig zag seam finish). Well....act in haste repent at leisure! Turns out this fabric (a lightweight wool blogged here) is a b****rd for fraying. Half an hour before my meeting I realised that it had frayed right through my flimsy seam finish and there was a messy and rather obvious hole in one of the underarm seams! I spent the whole meeting with my right arm glued to my side and trying to only move it from the elbow down so as not to expose my slapdashery!

So I shall have to put my thinking cap on as to how to try and rescue this make. I rather like it and it would be a shame to see it consigned to the scrapheap after just one outing!!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

My Sewing Space - Pattern Drafting Paper

From time to time I've had readers of this blog ask me what pattern paper I use. The answer is that I've used anything from poster paper to wallpaper lining paper. Really anything that has a low enough gsm to allow me to trace through it, and doesn't cost a bomb. (Alot of my drafting can be trial and error so I don't want the added worry of wasting expensive pattern paper!) Over the past few months I have been working my way through this roll of childrens easle paper, and it's been ideal. So today I thought I'd share with you where it lives. This is how I've found it works best for me......

I have it fixed to the wall above my work table using a piece of dowel from an old tapestry/embroidery frame, and some simple cup hooks. When I want to do some pattern drafting I simply roll it out onto my work table. Then it rolls back again when not in use. All my pattern drafting "tools" (paper scissors, pattern weights, masking tape etc) are hanging close by for ease of access.

So that's it really. Cheap and cheerful, accessible and  ready and waiting for when I get that urge to hack up a pattern or draft one of my own. Simples ;)

BTW, that bodice pattern piece you can see in the main pic is not there for display purposes. I FINALLY, actually got round to doing some drafting and sewing AND some refashioning so I have a a couple of FOs to share with you once I get around to photographing them over the weekend. Hurrah! The sewing famine has ended and I'm a much happier Miss P as a result ;)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Getting my house in order # 5 - Photo Gallery in progress

Work continues here at chez P.  One thing that is sorely lacking in our home is a place to display family photos. We decided to dedicate a wall in our entrance hall to a photo gallery so I've been busy spraying a mismatched bunch of photo frames with white spray paint, to provide some uniformity to our display...
I particularly like how this fancy one turned out...

We have soooooo many photos of friends and loved ones to choose from. Trouble is, they're all stored on 3 different laptops and a couple of CD's. We've fallen into the "digital age" trap of never seeming to get around to printing any of them off. I spent a few hours trawling our digital photos for ones to add to our albums and for our new "gallery". One of the the things that struck me was how Elliott had changed. I'd forgotten some of these awful is that?!

Another thing I noticed is that there are very few photos of me with Elliott, largely because I'm usually the one snapping the photos! It put me in mind of a rather poignant story I read once that has really stuck with me for some reason. The story concerns a girl who, looking back at her childhood photos, had convinced herself that her father had never been around because he was never in any of the photos. It was only when she asked her Mum why her Dad had never seemed to be around that her Mum asked her "who do you think was behind the camera?" Like a revelation it dawned on her that her Father had been very much present, and had wanted to capture every precious moment of his daughter's childhood. So much so that he'd neglected to create for her, mementoes of he and his daughter together....
Note to self, let someone else take the photos once in a while...