Pattern-lifting for a pencil skirt

New quickie project: a pencil skirt.

I have a jeans pencil skirt i adore, from a friendly independent designer. I love it so much, that when i was pondering what to make next while wearing it… I… Umm… Well that photo wouldn’t be SFW, but basically i very quickly traced the skirt’s pattern onto baking paper!

It was easy enough. Trick was to pay attention to noting the darts, and making sure i contoured all the pieces as they lay flat, as opposed to the whole skirt (because that was not fully flat).

Then i cut up the pattern pieces, had to redo the one with the darts (you need to cut the dart’s seam line, twist the remainder of the skirt, and redraw the contour line. This creates room for the triangle of the dart.), and i was good to go.

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There was a lot of pinning involved, then sewing with bernina’s super stretch (No.9) stitch using overlock thread (super thin, super strong).

The finished skirt was worn to work today!

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Three dresses in three days: sew-insanity

Several Fridays ago, i took my sewing machine to my partner’s flat. His flatmate was on holiday for two weeks, and in this narrow timeframe I am allowed to commandeer half of the dining room table for the machine and its little collection of gadgets.

I am insanely grateful for this because i have been wanting to make dresses for months, but my flat gets too hot for it. Temperatures reach 29C in my room (normal temperature in the summer in there is 27C, 3 to 7 degrees warmer than outside), the side effect of which is that the second i walk in, instead of digging for fabric, i remove hot clothes, lie on the bed, and launch netflix while trying to move as little as possible…. “Unbearable” is a word that comes to mind. I avoid staying at home these days. And am planning to move out, ahead of contract end, in march next year. I do hope that goes all right. That place is not liveable from June to September, and does not deserve the nearly £1000 of rent (all bills excluded) i pay for one of two rooms. Ok. So flat-hate rant over (it is impairing my productivity!!!!) let’s go back to dresses.

So what’s been going on?

Saturday, I made a dress.
Sunday, I made a dress.
Monday, I made a dress.
Tuesday, I wore Monday’s dress to work and then to meet friends for dinner.

On Wednesday, I was going to dinner with colleagues, ostensibly to talk about work and taking over the world. So no sewing. And no new dress.

The fun thing is that for two of the three dresses, i made a pattern from scratch. The Sunday dress, i used an old faithful i love. And i didn’t finish it, i am still missing the zipper and hem…

For the Saturday dress, a bamboo jersey maxi dress with a button placket (that was the dumbest idea…), i measured myself and plotted the basic half-torso pattern pieces. One for the front, one for the back. (The back one is 10cm narrower in the bodice part, and 4cm longer in the skirt part)

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There are no photos of the finished dress…. It aggravated me too much.

Turns out bamboo jersey is like liquid mercury! A slithering little devil that tries to break your machine! I don’t think I have a single straight stitch on the entire dress! It was very difficult to work with, kept snagging, breaking threads, warping, wiggling, moving at different speeds under the foot….
I got super angry. But then two days later i wore the dress around the house….

So I will try again with two changes to my strategy:
One: teflon sewing foot so things glide nicely.
Two: masking tape! Apparently one way to make sure slithering fabric stays straight is to put tape next to where your seam will be! I’ll be trying that.
I already have jersey needles. What i might do is buy some thinner thread. Maybe my plain cotton one wasn’t right for the uber-lightweight stretchy fabric.

About sewing feet. DO NOT BUY THEM ON AMAZON IF YOU OWN A BERNINA 330. I bought 4 sewing feet compatible with my type of machine. Except one nearly broke my machine when the needle hit the foot, and on all the others, the needle also hits the foot, it doesn’t go through the hole. That would be a good £35 i have thrown away. And i still cannot apply bias tape or put in an invisible zipper. More money needs to be spent. Don’t make that mistake!!

Sunday dress was a pleasure to work with. I had bought the fabric in the winter, a lovely half cotton half viscose blend, with a brushed side that felt soooooo soft! (The other was a bit shiny) I bought it in two colours, and worked with the pink one this time. Stitches were perfect. Thread was perfect, everything just worked. One of the perks of working from a pattern and with fabric that resembles muslin (imagine lightweigt bedsheet fabric).

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And here is the dress I wore to work and then to dinner. It was fairly quick to make. Just one evening.

Beach bag with 50x150cm and 60min

Last week i went on holiday. I’m Greek, and love the greek islands (best sea in the world!), so it’s where i always go for my summer sea & sun fix. This year, it was Crete.

The night before my sparrow-fart flight, at about midnight, i realised i could not find my beach bag. Maybe it’s at my parents’ in Athens. Maybe it’s under my bed. Go figure. I needed to get to bed pronto, because my alarm would go off at 4:30am. So. What to do?

I could not wager on finding a beach bag on holiday. I know the gift shops down there. You can get olive oil soap and wooden salad stirrers easier than a fabric bag. I looked at my collection of generic fabric bags (many thanks to London Fashion Week, IKEA, SPSS, Mathworks, and many others) and thought “no. And where will the towel go?”

My options:
– go on a beach holiday without a beach bag.
– make a beach bag. Quickly.

I had fabric. Cath Kidston’s London landmarks print. Barely 50cm of it, but full width (150cm).

I knew i wanted thick handles, so my sunburnt shoulders wouldn’t be cut into, so i cut out two strips of about 20cm width each (of the 50cm height). I folded them, stitched them into tubes, and flipped them to make handles. I did not stitch them down again, i did not want them flat.

Then i cut a strip of about another 15cm (again 50cm high), and split it in half. This yielded 2 pieces of 15x25cm which i proceeded to turn the edges on so they could become patch pockets. Ah. Yes. A feature of my favourite beach bag of all time were two outer pockets, one of which carried a bottle of water, and the other sun lotion.

The rest of the fabric was my bag. I had about 95cm left (by 50cm height).

Here is a rough sketch of what the “pattern” for slicing up the fabric looked like.

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First, i folded in the top edge and stitched it down.

Second, i applied the patch pockets and also stitched them onto the bag.

Third, i stitched the side seam of the bag, to make it into a nice tube. I did a french seam on that (sew wrong way together, then right way together, to get a tidy and stronger seam).

Fourth, i stitched the bottom. I also made a modification. Instead of sewing a single line bottom, i made a T-seam, so the bottom would be wider. Think of the Longchamp bags. That seam. This was a bit tricky to do on the fly without measuring, but i was aiming for speed, not precision.

Fifth, longest, and last step, was to put on the handles. I wanted a narrower top, so i stitched them folded into the body rather than flat against it. Imagine having the bag pinched around the handle rather than the handle flat against the side of the bag.

This is the bag finished! (I am gutted that i was too rushed, tired and stressed to think of taking more photos of the work in progress!)

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And here it is in use, on the amazing beach of Elafonisi in Crete.

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I went to RegentTweet 2014!!

RegentTweet is a one-day treasure hunt meets marathon event happening on Regent Street, for professional bloggers. Apparently, I am one of those. I have been blogging since the late nineties, and running my SeamstressSophie blog since 2008. A few years ago i also added a blog to my main website (eurydice13.com), just because I wasn’t busy enough, clearly!

What happened….
The day started at Zedel, the french brasserie hiding under piccadilly… Sort of. It used to be a hotel, then things got bombed and it closed down… Only to be finally artfully restored and reopen barely two years ago! Speedy service, very good food, and the most old-world glamorous decor I have seen in a long time.

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I happily discovered through twitter that a friend was also attending, and as soon as we had registered, we snuck off to Godiva for some breakfast strawberries.

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That was a most excellent idea, because we then had to pose for the photographers…. And doing so on a stomach with strawberries in is a much better experience!

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The rest of the day was a blur of running from shop to shop, trying things on, discovering new brands, talking to shop owners, personal shoppers, sales assistants, and more. Here are some highlights, including the cutest miniature Paris Brest that goes with the “café gourmand” at Zedel.

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We finished the day at illy, at the north end of regent street. I love that caffe. It has inspiring and uplifting decoration, delicious coffee, excellent service, wifi, and huge windows that allow the light in. Heaven! Oh. And to die for sandwiches.

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And, lastly, thank you RegentTweet for all the wonderful things I got to take home on the day. I think my top three favourites have got to be the Brooks brothers non-iron shirt, the bootcut GAP jeans, and the illy art collection espresso cup! (the one thing not in the photo). I loved all gifts, these are just the three that I will most definitely keep forever and use the most.

A special mention should go to Karen Millen for the surprisingly well packaged yellow purse, and to Hackett for the wonderful monogrammed luggage tag. I LOVE it!!!

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A5 leather folio miniature paper prototype

This weekend, i noticed that i was going to interviews a lot. I mean quite a lot. Three a week? Maybe that was just a one time thing. Anyway. So it occurred to me that maybe i should get myself a nice present. A nice leather present. Maybe the kind that zips up, contains my notebook, and the iPad, pens and stylus.

So of course I went to Smythson, where I found this for £335.

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And then I dropped into Harrod’s, where only one design stood out. It was too small and all plastic, but a good design. (It’s by Ted Baker and barely £30)

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Later, pausing for coffee, I stole a page off my partner’s notebook and pocketmodded it. Then i doodled my prototype ideas into it, as if it actually was a folio, in miniature.

I made two versions of the outside and inside. Photos below.

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I then bought some leather and (just today, on myfabrics.co.uk) zippers. Total spend so far: £73.

Practice makes perfect… dresses for little girls

The lovely man i have been with for two years now got me a present this winter. He sponsored the acquisition of an amazing Bernina 330.

Here are some unboxing photos of that legend of swiss engineering.

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Thing is… I do not know how to use these fancy things. I’ve always used old machines. By old i mean late 19th or early 20th century. So. What to do?

Well, this calls for a new project, of course. With infallible (and humble, clearly) logic, i concluded that making a dress for myself might use most of the stitches, but would take forever. So. What to do?

Fortunately, i have an almost-niece. The lovely man’s brother has a daughter. I’ve never met her in person, but i’ve seen her on skype dozens of times. She’s going to be 18 months old very soon, and is adorable.

So a plan, and project, hatched: make a dress for my man’s niece. If I muck it up, i will have destroyed a lot less fabric than if i tried to make a dress for myself. If i succeed, she ends up with a lovely new summer dress of my own devising.

Here is a photo story of how this project is going.

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Indestructible travel card holders: coming soon!!

Ok. So maybe not “indestructible”. But if you use one of my travel card holders and it falls apart (you know, how the plastic ones do?) within a year of purchase, i’ll make you an identical new one for free! Yes, this applies to sit-on-it-daily young men too. No guarantees on the cards contained though!

If you opt for the rip-stop canvas one, guarantee extends to two years.

I’m slightly overpromising here, as I’ve only made two holders in my life. A quick and dirty v.1 prototype, and a v.2 iteration with improvements. Both are made in ripstop canvas, and refusing to look anything but cool and grungy and solid.

Two weeks ago, while paying for a pub lunch with colleagues, one of the guys noticed my little holder. He loved it and would happily buy one if they were on sale as he uses the format constantly, and has to replace it every month or so. Last week, another friend made the exact same comment. Uses it a lot, but it falls apart. Two days ago, rewind, play. Another friend. Railcard holder this time. Similar destructive scenario. Seamstress Sophie had to step in…

Therefore, a decision has been reached and is now being made public. I will be making travel card holders in three formats “solo”, “twosome” and “threesome”. Materials will involve leather or ripstop canvas for the outer, and fabric for the inner pockets, because leather would make it too thick. No plastic.

When will these be available? Ummm… I’m not sure. I will aim to make a few prototypes for people to test for me during October.

I already have three volunteers, and would love 2 more. Ideally, one would be a woman, so I can get more feedback on the handbag-fishing scenario. Leave a comment if you’re interested and I’ll get back to you!

Here are the sketches.

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This post was also published on http://exintaris.com/seamstressSophie.

The teal silk dress

A long overdue post, because I finished the dress and wore it in July.

This dress posed three huge challenges.

1 – I’d never worked with sandwashed silk before, and it’s a very delicate fabric

2 – I lost my trusty shift dress pattern, and had to create a pattern using my own body measurements from scratch

3 – My mother’s sewing machine was eating my fabric and tearing holes in it last time I used it. She confirmed it was “broken”, and so I was left with needing to hand-stitch every single part of this dress.

How did it go? Well let’s just say I’ve never worked harder in my life on a dress. And I made a friend’s wedding dress last year! This was harder. Less stressful, because I did have a backup plan for what to wear… But harder, for the three reasons listed above.

How did it go? Scroll past the photos to read a short version of the highlights.

I was lucky enough to have found, a few days before leaving, this amazing book on pattern making. It’s very simple, has practically no instructions, but for someone who can solve complex mathematical equations and likes building IKEA things without instructions (or, ok, confirming her guesses before ending up with a table instead of a bookcase…), it was enough.

One of the photos above shows me being creative and trying to use baking paper as my pattern paper. An excellent idea. Except I pulled the paper out of the roll, and had about 30cm in my hand. It was empty. And as I started this on a Sunday when shops are closed all over Greece… well… I was lucky to find some IKEA craft paper nearby.

The first version of the dress had no straps on the shoulders. Seeing how it sat, however, I had to do something, and decided to add straps. I made them by hand, each stitch done by hand, and flipped once I was done. I used an interesting trick and stitched thread inside the tube. I’d attached it at one end, kept it inside the tube I was stitching (while inside out), and when it was ready to flip, I used that thread to pull it inside-out! Worked like a charm 🙂 Of course I had to be careful and not tug at the thread until I broke it. It was more about using it to help ease the fabric through. It made a huge difference though!

The fitting was a bit difficult, as I had limited assistance from my mom. She likes things very loose, I like them well-fitted. In retrospect, having had dinner in the dress and danced for more than 5 hours wearing it, I should have made it a little bit looser. My stitches held beautifully (I was more surprised than you are), and the dress looked amazing.

Another trick I used to help the cowl drape properly. I noticed the dress was falling backwards. Normal, given how I’d cut it. So I decided to weigh it down on the front. I made tiny pouches from the same fabric as the dress, put three loonies ($1 coins from Canada) in each, and stitched them closed, and to the base of the straps on the front of the dress. I had to secure them on the sides, too, as they had a tendency to dangle and get in the way. They held really well through the night, and even through the subsequent handwashing of the dress. I didn’t have to tug at my neckline, it stayed where it was supposed to be, which was great!

What I learnt:
– You CAN make a dress entirely by hand. But you really don’t want to. It takes forever.
– If you’re going to dance in a dress and feed in a dress, leave yourself a couple of inches of room for it.
– Making a pattern from body measurements involves some guesswork and 3-dimensional magic (which I’m not sure I possess)
– You can make a gorgeous silk shift dress with barely 1m of material (at £15/m, this is a bargain dress!) and it looks stunning. I did spend a good 20 hours making it though, so your call.

I’m applying for the Great British Sewing Bee! Will you?

sewingbee

I haven’t yet seen the last episode (it’s sitting on my iPlayer, faithfully), but I will be applying for the next season of the Great British Sewing Bee, mostly because I would have loved to meet every single person in this first season’s four little episodes. That and I think I’d learn a lot from seeing others work. I’ve been doing all of this alone for my entire life. Time to move on.

Apply for the Great British Sewing Bee >>

Handbag design: more sketches

Our task for last week was to draw out the handbags we had thought up. These are my simple sketches for the bags in the small range I’m thinking of.

First off, there is a classic design, loosely inspired by the Birkin bag, with two short handles and one long strap to hold from your shoulder or from across the body.

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Then there is a basket-like laptop bag, which I would like to make in neoprene. It’s thick, solid, and protective both against bumps and water. Perfect for a laptop bag. It doesn’t look supremely professional, but it depends if you’re a scuba-diving web designer or a cycling city girl… errr… yeah. I’d have said city boy, but I don’t think men would be attracted to this shape.

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Next up, the holdall. I love going away, and this is what my ideal duffle bag for a weekend getaway would look like.

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Ok, I have no idea what I was thinking when I doodled this. It has pockets though!

 

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