Thursday, June 27, 2013

Top Tip: How to shorten a zip...

If you're like me and tend to have a stash of zips (I thoroughly recommend nabbing them when you see them at charity shops or on special somewhere), you'll know that if you're lucky enough to have the right colour for a make, then it will invariably be the wrong length. "Glaebas Legem" you might say ;) Anyway, it's super easy to shorten a "too long" zip to meet your requirements. Simply mark where you want the new stopper to be, sew over the spot several times with a double thickness thread (essentially creating a new thread stop as opposed to a metal one), then snip away the excess below...

Simple as! I'm tackling my first ever fly front zip right now. Wish me luck! (Any good tutes out there that you know of?)


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Top Tip: Foolproof notches...


I see alot of instructions out there that state "snip notches". My dressmaking tutor however, always drummed it into us to cut our notches outward rather than inward, and as a result this is how I have always notched my pattern pieces. For two reasons really. Firstly, an outward notch like this is a more visible guide for lining things up than little snips in fabric that can sometimes be barely visible. Secondly, as someone who invariably has to adjust my seams to fit, notching outwards means I retain all of the seam allowance to play with. Whereas if I were to make a snip into the seam allowance to the depth of that little triangle, I'm reducing the "play" I have in my seam allowances by almost half. Here's how...

Before cutting out each pattern piece, I use another pattern piece to trace the exact mirror image of my notches to create little diamond shapes...

On double notches like this, I'll join the tips of the two diamonds to create a tab shape. The resulting pattern piece, once cut, has a completely accurate and very visible outward notch. Which makes the pattern pieces much easier to line up when assembling the garment AND, leaves me all of my seam allowance to play with when inevitable fitting issues arise!

Cutting these notches out can require some patient scissor skills! I employ the method below, making my cuts in the numerical order shown, to keep them nice and accurate and neat...

When I first started sewing I was always in a rush to get those pattern pieces cut out and get started! Fiddly preparations like this were an annoyance! I've learnt to my cost though, that the quality of my finished garments starts from the moment I crack open that pattern and start cutting. And actually, now, this meticulous prep has kind of become a bit of a therapeutic, zoning out, zen kind of relaxation! You'll note also, that hole reinforcers have become my friends when marking and reinforcing my dots on pattern pieces!

How about you? Do you notch in or out? Or do you have any genius ways of marking your pattern pieces?
Please feel free to share!


Monday, June 24, 2013

DIY: Bugle Bead Multistrand Necklace


So here is the 2nd of two jewelry pieces I made as part of The Refashioners 2013. (You can see the tute for the first one here) Again, because of the use of black glass bugle beads in this make, it has an overall 1920's feel. I love how this one turned out, and although threading all those beads was a little time consuming, it really is very straightforward!

To begin, attach multiple strands of monofilament/beading thread to the looped end of a piece of jewelry wire. I attached 2 lots of 8 strands and used crimper beads to hold them in place. Thread your beads onto each strand in turn (to your desired length), securing the end of each strand with a knot before you move onto the next...

Gather all your loose ends together and secure to an identical piece of looped wire. So now you have two identical "ends".You can buy "end cones" like these, but I made my end cones by wrapping wire around my round nosed pliers. Slide them over the looped wire ends so they are snug; and finish the ends with a loop to hold in place. Then add your chain!

A great way to showcase simple glass beads which almost always looked most effective when  strung "en masse" like this :)



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

DIY: Bugle Bead Fringe Torque/Necklace


This is the first of two necklaces I made as part of The Refashioners 2013. I have shed loads of these black glass bugle beads left so don't be surprised if a few more makes crop up over time! Bugles lend themselves brilliantly to fringing and are kind of synonymous with the whole 20's vibe (think flapper dresses and The Great Gatsby) and I really like the contrast of silver and black. I also really like the look of torque necklaces, but always find they sit a bit funny on the collar bone. Of course, I've probably got weird collar bones! But in any case, I decided to try making a "1/2 torque" with a chain extender. And hey presto, it sits rather nicely! Here's what I did...

In addition to the black bugle beads I used some silver ball head pins and tiny silver spacer beads. I threaded the bugle beads and spacer beans onto the head pins and finished with a loop...
Next take a length of medium gauge jewellery wire and shape around a round object....

Thread on your bugle fringe lengths, interspersed with more of the silver spacer beads...

Finish the ends of the torque with loops and add your chain....

And there you have it!



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Refashioners 2013 - Round Up...


As this years The Refashioners challenge carefully folds itself up and puts itself away in the bottom drawer until next year; I thought it would be nice to see it in all it's glory in one place. When you look at it en masse like this...darn it's pretty cool isn't it?! How a group of bloggers turned this rogues gallery of charity shop finds....

Into these....

Just in case you missed any of them, you can click on The Refashioners 2013 button in the side bar to go to all Refashioners related posts and have a mooch.

On a selfish note I'd like to say THANKYOU for all the lovely comments I received on yesterdays post on my own contribution to this challenge and the series as a whole. I've been bowled over by all your responses and I'm chuffed as hell that this series has inspired so many of you with ideas that you can use for yourselves! That after all was the plan ;) I call that mission accomplished :)

The Refashioners is signing off....(until next year!)


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Refashioners 2013 - Me!

Well peops...today is the 11th and final instalment of The Refashioners 2013! I don't know about you, but the past fortnight of guest posts from some of the blogosphere's most talented and ingenious stitchers has left me gobsmacked and inspired in equal measure. It's been an honour to host these ladies here on my little ole blog and I've been so gratified by all the hard work that they've put in, AND the fantastic response the series has received from all of you out there in blog land.

But just in case any of you were under the illusion that I had managed to side step my own challenge and sit back while the others racked their brains as to what to do with the items I sent them....fear not! Sally very kindly sent me my very own little mystery package to transform; and my jaw kinda hit the floor when I saw what was inside! A rather showy little beaded number! This project was a challenge for me, not least because my "style" (if you can call it that!) has never been particularly showy or embellished. So what to do? How to incorporate all that beading in a slightly more subtle incarnation? Enter the "bumble bead" skirt!

I've been inspired recently by colour and texture blocking. So I decided this was the perfect opportunity to try out an idea that's been buzzing around in my head for a while. This outfit heralds a couple of rarities for me. Legs out, heels on, and much more dressy than my normal uniform. Although I feel a little at odds being "dressed up", I'm rather pleased with the overall look, and the finished garment. The bugle beads lend themselves rather nicely to what feels like a kind of 20's vibe with a modern twist...or is that just me??

This garment had it's technical challenges from the outset. The beads are sewn in a continuous undulating pattern onto a top layer of chiffon. The problem with this kind of embellishment is that once a thread snags/breaks...you're likely to lose whole lengths of the beading. There were several "bald" patches (like the one below right) around the dress. Add to that the prospect of cutting and sewing across beads, and, well...let's just say , I was nervous about this one! I wish I could have included audio with this post. So you could hear the sound of the pitter patter of beads hitting my sewing room floor at pretty much every stage of this make....

I decided to make a feature out of the beaded chiffon. So my first step was to deconstruct the dress(below left), remove the lining (set aside for later!) and  figure out what workable pieces of chiffon I had. In the end it was the front panel that gave me the most options because most of the beading was intact and it was the largest piece of beaded fabric uninterrupted by seaming/zips etc (below right)...

While I wanted to make a feature of the sheer fabric...I didn't want it to be see through. So I nabbed a pair of sandy coloured linen trousers from my refashioning pile to see how it would look as an underlining to the chiffon...that'll do then!

From one of the trouser legs I set about making my panels. After cutting along all of the side seams I was left with 2 large oblongs. I folded then in half lengthwise and squared off all the edges....

Cut along my squared off lines and then along the fold...

This gave me 4 linen panels...(in the end I only used 3)...

I pinned these to the underside of my beaded chiffon...

Now to stitch the underlining panels to the chiffon. I opted to sew with the beads facing upwards because a) I didn't want the beads  getting ground up or falling into the feed dogs of my machine, and b) I could better see what I was doing. If the needle hits those beads at the wrong speed/angle then the needle is history and/or you have bits of glass bugle bead shattering everywhere. (Just trust me, ok!) I opted for a long stitch to give the needle a better chance of skipping over the beads rather than through them. For the most part, this strategy works. (Only one broken needle) But, GO SLOW! Very, very, very slow...and watch the needle on every downstroke. If it looks like it's gonna hit, stop, lift the presser foot and adgust the position of the fabric oh so slightly, then carry on....

Voila, underlining stitched to beaded chiffon...

Trim close to stitching. It was tricky to cut this as every inch or so my lovely (once sharp) dressmaking shears would snag on a bead (man it sets your teeth on edge when stainless steel crunches on glass beads!). So again, it was a slow process, adjusting the angle of the cut ever so slightly to avoid the beads...

My floor is covered in this stuff!

Anyway, finally 3 underlined panels (below left) I then cut contrasting solid black panels from some plain black fabric in my stash....

Then sewed them all together, much as you would a patchwork, again using a long stitch. However a long stitch will not hold this skirt panel together for very long and the seams look all puffy, right? 'Cos I can't press those puppies properly because of those pesky beads, you see?! Sooooo.....

I removed all of the beads that fell within the seam allowances on each panel (left), graded the seams (middle) then flipped the seam allowances away from the beaded sections...

Becauce there are no beads under the black piece now, I can topstitch with a normal stitch length (below left) which reinforces the seams and allows the edges to sit flat and flush instead of puffing up (below right)....

Phew! I now had what was basically a flat piece of fabric to work with. Enter the Charlotte Skirt pattern. I simply cut my front piece from my panelled piece of fabric. (That's the reverse you can see, with the linen backing. Looks even more like a bumble bee!) The back pieces I cut from more of the plain black fabric...

One sticking point was that the darts on the panel overlapped onto the beaded section. I wasn't going to be able to dart the beaded section. B*****ks! Well, as luck would have it the fabric I was using had some stretch. So I just sewed the skirt as normal without the darts in front, then pinned it to fit at the waist/side seams.....worked just fine!

The rest of the construction was as per the pattern apart from the waistband, which I faced with grosgrain ribbon. (Just find a faced waistband more comfy). I used the original zip by shortening it and then hand picked it. (I don't think I'll ever machine a zip in since discovering the hand picked method early on in my sewing journey). The side seams received the same topstitch treatment as the panels. I also used the lining from the original dress to line this baby. The eagle eyed might notice that there are only 2 beaded panels in the final skirt as opposed to 3. Well, in the end, when it came to it, the length just looked totally wrong. Like AWFUL. It just hit at the wrong spot on my calf. It was only a matter of an inch or so to make it right. But if I had just taken up the bottom black band by that, then the panelling effect would have been completelyout of balance. Taking it up to the next panel would've meant hemming over beads! Ack!.So I just lopped the bottom 2 panels off, et voila!
Essentially I created the blocked front section using patchwork techniques; just in straight panels instead of squares/triangles etc. This technique can be employed to create your own unique piece of flat fabric using scraps/sections from any number of garments. Once you have your flat piece of fabric you can just go ahead and cut your pattern piece as if it were any other piece of fabric. When it comes to incorporating colour blocking into a commercial pattern, it seems to me to be a much more straightforward route to do it this way;  (make your colour blocked fabric first, then cut your pattern piece from it) as opposed to slicing your commercial pattern up into various pieces then tracing them and adding seam allowances, cutting all the fabric seperately then having to stitch it back together again. Don't you think??

Anyways, I didn't stop there. Some of you might be wondering about the rest of the dress? Well yes. Actually I did sit there and unpick all those beads over 2 evenings. Sad? Moi? Yup! What did I do with them? Ooooohhhhh.....

I made these too....

There are far too many photos in this post already, so I have some separate DIY posts lined up for these.

But in the meantime a MASSIVE MASSIVE THANKYOU to all the ladies that took part this year!! Has it inspired you to get out there and raid the charity shops (or plunder the depths of your wardrobes) for unloved items to lavish a bit of refashioning love on? I do hope so :)




Friday, June 14, 2013

The Refashioners 2013 - Elisalex of By Hand - London

Is it shameful to admit that I actually really liked the mystery item that Portia sent me to refashion…? I was even lacking a good denim shirt in my life… But that’s not what this is about. I’m sure Portia didn’t sign us up to The Refashioners just to send us thrifted freebies!

So, slightly reluctantly, I set about envisioning this shirt as something else. First thoughts were a button down mini skirt with a bandeau top made from a sleeve – but seeing as the shirt already fit me perfectly, there wasn’t going to be nowhere near enough fabric to fit around my backside, so that wasn’t going to work at all.  With a trip to the Deep South coming up, I eventually decided to use the denim combined with some white Broderie Anglaise cotton to make myself a dress worthy of the Grand Ole Opry (any old country lovers here? No? Hmmm just me then…). 

Shamelessly I went for my own namesake pattern, the Elisalex Dress, and only just managed to squeeze out the front and back bodice pieces from the sleeves and back panel of the shirt.

The rest of the dress came together super easily and quickly – I’ve made about a squillion of these babies by now so you know I can do that sh*t in my sleep! – and I decided on a pretty gathered skirt as opposed to the main tulip variation. With some of the sleeve’s leftovers I made a pair of little bows which I handstitched to the shoulders. I absolutely LOVE the resulting dress – and it’s right up my street with just the right amount vintage white trash country singer! Just need to get me some cowboy boots and a matching hat…

But what about the rest of the shirt, I hear you cry! Fear not ladies, I’m definitely not one to advocate waste of any kind so you can be sure that the rest of the shirt went to very good use.

I simply traced over the missing back panel and replaced it with the last of the white cotton Broderie, and hey presto! A sufficiently white trash sleeveless shirt – not quite to my taste but immediately snapped up by our very own Victoria:

So there you have it folks, one denim shirt becomes one entirely new dress and one refashioned shirt (and just a tiny pile of scraps for the bin). Now all we need is a flight back to Nashville… Anyone?

Portia, I can’t even begin to thank you for inviting me to be a part of the second (and hopefully annual?!) Refashioners! I am beyond flattered that you thought of me and humbled to be among such prestigious company.

Elisalex of By Hand - London (and Stitch Me Softly)

Oh, my, bloomin' word! Back of the net Elisalex! Denim and broderie...a classic combo AND two new garments from one teensy denim shirt! Actually I concur. The denim shirt was actually quite nice to start off with and I'd toyed with the idea if embellishing the front and back yokes myself. Which was another option. But my refashioning pile was large enough as it was and I knew this would be in good hands. Love the substitution of the tulip skirt of the Elisalex dress, with a simple gathered one. Totally changes the vibe of the original pattern. "Pieced" patterns like this, where the garment element (ie bodice in this case) is assembled from several smaller pattern pieces, are a great way to use small bits of fabric harvested from garments. Especially when you opt for the contrasting fabrics route as Elisalex has done here.  And you needn't run off and buy a length of fabric to emulate the skirt section in this refashion either. Bag yourself a denim shirt from the clothing rail of your local charity shop.....then go off and peruse the linens section for some pure cotton (vintage floral??) bedlinens/vintage tablecloths...










                                                                                                                                       
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