May 12, 2013

Wrinkly fabric

Filed under:Plans-Ideas- Designs,Summer Wardrobe '13 — Aileen @ 21:46

I apologise in advance for the photos of wrinkled fabric. I wash fabric as soon as I buy it so that it’s done. It is unbelievable how much fabric can change after the first wash.

I was really looking forward to sharing photos of a sweater and a shawl I finished recently! When I went to upload them just now, I found that I must have deleted them by mistake :( So today, I’m going to share my plans for summer knitting and sewing instead.

If you follow me here, you’ll probably have noticed that this year, I’ve made a lot of work wear – lots of skirts, blouses and plain sweaters. I have gotten particularly good wear out of the skirts and blouses. I like to wear this combination to work because even with a less formal fabric, like polka dots or floral print, it looks well. Previously, I shunned blouses because it was so hard to find one that fit comfortably. Now that I can make them to fit, they are my favourite thing to wear. Coming to the end of the school year, I now realise I actually have very little casual wear that I’d be happy to wear in public. Rather than spend my time sewing light tops that I get to wear very little (which is what I did last summer), I’m going to sew some casual things that I can wear all year round.

First up: some Archer shirts. When this pattern came out first, I was sceptical. Thanks to the glory that is the internet, I’ve watched people from all over and with all different shapes sew this up with success. I think I will follow suit. It will look good tucked into high waisted pants or wide-legged pants, loose over tight pants and shorts. Here are my fabrics.

The bottom is a plain denim chambray I found in Hickey’s. I have been looking for a year for a nice chambray. I would prefer something a little bluer but the light drape of this is perfect. I’m looking forward to doing lots of detailed topstitching with this fabric.

The middle is a butter-soft cotton lawn I found in Murphy Sheehy’s. It’s got insects on it. Yep. If that’s not the perfect fabric for a summer holidays shirt, I don’t know what is.

The top is something I have refused to put away since laundering: a habotai silk that I ordered from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. It wasn’t cheap, but it was on sale at about $20/yard, which is pretty good for any kind of silk. I have never seen a silk print of this kind before and I love rope print. I dream of a blouse that will waft over a pair of shorts or posh up a taffeta skirt.

Summer is meant for skirts! I have a good few summer skirts already so I will probably concentrate on wearing them. However, I got the pattern for the Hollyburn skirt and I’d like to use this ridiculously old fabric to make it.

I bought this in Hickey’s before 2005. I loved it so much but didn’t know what to make out of it so I bought a ton. Thankfully, the Hollyburn takes a ton and the style will definitely suit this. The colour scheme gives me lots of options in terms of what I can wear with it. I think I will probably give the Moss mini skirt a go too. I have made so many skirts by now that they tend to be a quick make.

Other definites include a white cotton shirt and khaki canvas pants.

The khaki pants has been a long-term plan. I found the fabric for very cheap in Murphy Sheehy’s. I made a pair of Juniper pants (a Colette pattern) in heavy black cord and I wear them all the time. I have them all broken in just right, I’m happy to answer the door and pop to the shop in them. This khaki canvas is lighter than the cord and I think the colour is more summer-appropriate. The white cotton is a sort of gauzey shirting that Murphy Sheehy’s tends to keep in stock. It is ridiculously wide (I think nearing 80″, about 2m) and very reasonably priced (maybe €8/m). I have two metres here. If I was able to squeeze a fitted blouse and a loose shirt, that would be great. I made a Liverpool blouse out of the same fabric last November and it has softened into one of my most comfortable makes yet.

Other honourable mentions include Colette’s Laurel (shift dress – I’m hoping to salvage the dress from this post) and Iris (shorts – I love the pockets on these and I have something very specific in mind).

The one thing I’m setting my knitting sights on is Kate Davies’ Ursula cardigan. I have been dying to start a new colourwork project because it has been soooo long! I received a very generous voucher for This is Knit for my birthday recently. My voucher, this cardigan and me – it was destiny! I’m excited for this.

I am going to continue with being very strict about working on only one project at a time. I have just finished two sewing projects in quick succession. Before I start on anything I’ve talked about before, I’m going to sew my Mum a blouse for her birthday. I’m using this Amazing Fit pattern and I’ve already cut out the muslin. These are particularly detailed patterns so I am really looking forward to working my way through this one.


April 29, 2013

What I’m working on and some new tools

Filed under:Plans-Ideas- Designs,Stash — Aileen @ 08:00

A floral blouse for spring. Such a print literally makes me weak at the knees. Behold its tiny, delicate prettiness:

Finally cracking on with my tartan kilt. I got the whole thing assembled ok and tacked down all of the pleats. I started to topstitch the pleats when I realised that this is not going to work. The pleating is slightly curved and despite my tacking, was impossible to keep aligned exactly as I machined it. I let it sit for a while and then yesterday, decided to look up a youtube video to see if anybody else had the same problem. Whilst searching, I came across a very simple video of someone hand-stitching kilt pleats in place. It gave a totally clean finish so I decided to start again and do it this way. So far, so good. I can stitch two pleats in one quarter of NBA basketball so two games will see me to the end.

So, the new tools. I wouldn’t describe myself as a gadget person. I’m lucky that I often get very useful presents for Christmas and my birthday and consequently, rarely go on the hunt for those little things. However, recently, I have felt in want for some things to help me in my sewing.

On the top is a large clear ruler. I think it is 18″ x 3″ with marks throughout in both directions at 1/4″ intervals. There are also markings for 30, 45 and 60 degrees. I find it difficult to align pattern pieces absolutely along the grainline. I use a combination of a measuring tape and short ruler with varying degrees of frustration. This new ruler has a good weight which means I can move the piece very slightly underneath it.

The blue tin on the left is a tin of silk pins. Pins are funny things. I have two sets of pins – the long dressmaking pins I bought before starting the drafting class I took about five years ago, and the quilting pins that I use when sewing knitting together. When working with fine fabrics, I find that even my dressmaking pins leave holes. Sometimes they press out but sometimes they don’t. I suppose it doesn’t really matter but if I’m going to shell out for an awesome fabric, I’d like my finished garment to look as good as possible.

The weird pliers-like implement to the right of the silk pins is a pattern notcher. I noticed when making my spring pants that where I had cut my pattern notches, it significantly weakened the seam and caused a lot of fraying. I read up about this gadget and figured it would be worth it considering that I am sooo slow at cutting out notches and very bad about tidying up the million triangles that result. So far, so good.

Second from the right is a gauge. I think it’s more of a quilting tool but I am abysmal at marking hems. This gadget has a little red notch that you can move as a visual aid. It only cost me about £2 and was worth every penny. No more wonky hems! Then on the right is a little box of glass headed pins. I have a huge problem with my regular dressmaking pins – I have no nails because of the piano and it takes me ages to pick one up or take out of fabric. As my sewing has increased, so has my frustration. These pins were about £2.50 and I thought I would try them out. Verdict? I’ll never go back. The glass heads aren’t affected by iron heat and are easy to grasp. The body of the pin is just like my old pins so there is no compromise.

Nerdy, no?! The rulers and pins I got from an English shop called Cotton Patch. The notcher I found on Amazon.


February 28, 2013


Filed under:News!,Plans-Ideas- Designs,Stash — Aileen @ 10:29

Things are busybusybusy here as we get into competition and concert season! Alb and I are also busy counting down to Easter because we have had a little getaway planned for a long time. Of course, with holidays comes sewing for holidays so here are my plans for the next few weeks.


The green print is a cotton with some stretch that I bought in Murphy Sheehy’s last spring. I bought enough for a dress but never had the guts to sew it up. Dear readers, its time has come. It’s going to be a Cambie Dress. Given my previous success with just the skirt part of this pattern, I think it’s time to sew up the whole thing. The solid green cotton was a long-searched-for match. It is peculiar how the texture of a fabric can affect colour matching. Anyway, it is for a bolero. I looked through all my patterns and many online before finally settling on one that I have had a long time but never made: the cropped blazer from Salme patterns.


The black hole on the top of the photo here is in fact navy stretch cotton for a pair of pants. I bought this Burda pattern after seeing a few peoples’ successes with it, it seems like a good match for the cotton. The print is a light voile for an Airelle blouse. I will probably omit the collar given my track record for making blouses with collars that do not fit over cardigans!

And that’s it. I think two outfits to bring with me and still get wear out of afterwards is a good, achievable aim.


January 13, 2013

A quick one

Just to show a quick peek at my blouse that I finished yesterday.


I tried it in when I had basted both sleeves in and to my surprise, no fitting for the shoulders was necessary. It’s a miracle! I suppose I could have fiddled about with then to make them a little more sleek but that leads on to the problem of making both sleeve caps the same… So I left well enough alone.

I also may have started sewing a small fur cape. I sewed the lining first to make sure of the fit.


I bought this satin lining as a remnant along with half a metre of fur about 18 months ago, maybe more. There was never enough of the satin to make a top of any substance, and the fur, short though it may be, was taking up a lot of space. I’ve been meaning to make the pattern since I bought the fur so no time like the present.

I sewed a quick muslin of the skirt I’m going to make to go with the blouse; it fits just fine. In the course of my rummaging and stash clearing, I found a wonderful peacock lining in teal and I think I will just about have enough for both the skirt and jacket!


January 4, 2013

2012 roundup

Filed under:News!,Plans-Ideas- Designs — Aileen @ 16:35

2012 was a really good year. I started it not having a job and I finished it having a really good one. I teach five days a week now: three days in one school (so I consider that my main job and is enough to sustain me if the others don’t work out), two days in two other schools (both being very convenient). Just before Christmas, I took up a job as an organist in a small chapel on the southside. Working on a Sunday isn’t ideal, however the conditions are favourable (they have a real pipe organ as opposed to an electric one, it is always very warm in the chapel, the pay is good, the music is easy) and it means that I have a dependable income during the summer.

All of this change has meant a period of adjustment and therefore an adjustment in my knitting and sewing! I knitted less in 2012 than I have in a very long time but still accomplished a number of things I’m really pleased with. I finished the Bedford sweater and used up all of that deep, deep stash.

I also knit a little vest, pictured here, which has proved to be a wardrobe staple. Warm and neutral, it goes with jeans but can be dressed up with a skirt and blouse. I love it. I knit a lot of small things, such as a few shawls and a pair of mittens, as well as a number of things for Alb. He got a few new hats, mittens and a brown jumper in the autumn. I knit a few pairs of socks for my Dad, too.

I have to say that even though I have been knitting slowly, monogomously and constantly, the biggest change in my knitting as been that I now knit more for function than for pure pleasure. Don’t get me wrong – I adore knitting! But I consider carefully what I cast on now and tend to use or gift every single thing I knit. I have ripped out a few languishing projects because I know that I won’t wear them. This was the main one:

So, my main knitting goal for 2013 is to knit from my stash. I pruned it intensively over the year and now feel uplifted rather than burdened by it.

From the sewing end, 2012 was quite the explosion! I learned so much over the year! I think my biggest achievement was the fact that almost every single garment I have sewn is in constant rotation. Initially, I found sewing to be quite difficult and so was very picky in what I chose to make. This was a great way to start out because I now know that the greatest pleasure I derive from sewing is that I love to wear well-fitted, high-quality basics.

I made a ton of skirts, blouses and tops and are all in high rotation. I made my first jacket.

I made my first pants.

I bought a proper steam iron, a miniature sleeve ironing board and an overlocker and never looked back!

Here are some stats:

Most worn: My grey and navy Ginger skirts. Great pattern.

Most fun: The red dot blouse. It’s bold and fun and I don’t wear it nearly as often as I should.

Most challenging: The chiffon blouse. Probably the only project this year where I needed an overlocker. Not helped, either, by the fact that the fabric was completely biased to begin with. Wore it for a few concerts, though, and it’s very comfortable.

Best salvage: The denim Proper Attire. The pleat on the front wouldn’t lie properly and then I ripped a big hole in the front unpicking the hem. Fixed both and wore the skirt alot in spring and summer.

The other salvage I’m happy with, though undocumented, was the sleeves of the Market blouse. They were only ok and it got to the point where everytime I put it on, I would take it off because the sleeves were too restrictive. I took off the band, let out the seam and reattached it. Pretty easy and very effective.

Biggest surprise: The Clover pants. I did not expect to like them as much as I do. They are so stylish!

I don’t have many sewing goals for the coming year except to maybe learn some specific tailoring techniques. I would like to learn how to sew a welted pocket and make proper buttonholes for a coat. I also want to make myself a knee-length wool coat for next winter. I have a fantastic charcoal herringbone and was going to make a skirt and jacket out of it but I think a coat would be a good challenge.

That’s it! How about you? Any goals or resolutions for the coming year? Share with us!