My sewing space

Sewing room

Good morning! I spent the weekend doing a bit of sewing, but also doing a few final jobs in my sewing room, to the point where I think I can call it ‘finished’. I thought I’d share a little room tour, since I always love seeing where other people sew.

Sewing room

This room has been a long time coming… it’s always been a multi-purpose sewing room, study, and occasional guest room, but a few months ago we knocked down a wall that separated it from the corridor leading to the back door. The extra 12 or so sq ft made a world of difference, and while having the back door lead right into a room isn’t ideal it did have the benefit of adding another natural light source to the space.

Sewing room

My keyword for this room was basically STORAGE. To that end, I did a lot of shopping in Ikea and Muji, and had a custom desk and shelving unit made by a local carpenter. It’s so nice to finally have a desk big enough to have both my machines out together – before I would be lifting one of the way to work with the other.

Sewing room

I’m asked fairly often, by the way, what machines I use – a Janome DC 3050, and a very old Toyota overlocker. My sewing machine sits on a silicon baking mat – great to prevent slips and skids and cut down on noise! I made the mat under my overlocker, which is even more cushioned and great for sticking pins in.

Sewing room

The shelves above the desk use up some awkward alcove space and hold my main fabric stash, which these days I’m trying to keep quite small (I’m basically at full capacity now).

Sewing room

All the fabric is wrapped onto mini ‘bolts’ – actually comic book backing boards. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to keep this up long-term but seeing my fabric so tidy and unwrinkled when I want to use it is a big motivator to keep things ship-shape.

Sewing room

I picked up the vintage spools from Brooklyn, they are perfect for wrapping trims around. Lint rollers an essential for threads and cat fur.

Sewing room

I try to keep the desk surface as clear as possible: I find that stuff has a habit of flying off the sides as you’re moving fabric around and losing your unpicker all the time is really not fun. So I pushed everything onto wall shelving – this unit, the pegboard and my trusty sewer’s friend, the Ikea Raskog trolley.

Sewing room

Thread rack from Amazon and yet more Muji cups and storage.

Sewing room

I save old spools and use them to keep loose bits of bias binding organised.

Sewing room

Over on the other wall is the guest bed (an IKEA Brimnes), which as well as trundling out to a double size also has very handy large drawers underneath. They’re obviously stuffed full already – bulky stuff like quilt wadding and those boring alterations projects I keep putting off, mostly.

Sewing room
Sewing room

This Argos box shelf at the foot of the bed unit holds my sewing books, PDF patterns and fabric overflow – bulky and off-season stuff mostly. Behind that are my cutting mats hanging on a hook (all my cutting happens on the floor in here). Yes, that’s an unfinished quilt with pins still in on the end of the bed…

Sewing room

This is my pride and joy – Muji vertical files to hold frequently used PDF patterns, sorted by garment type. It works so well!

Sewing room

Muji PP drawers under the desk hold printed patterns, and the binder on top is PDF overflow.

Sewing room

The iron and board live behind the door. I make my own covers and change them whenever they get tatty (ie this one soon) – current fabric is from Miss Matatabi.

Sewing room

Phew, that turned out quite long for such a small room. Here are some quick tips I’ve amassed that help me with staying organised in my sewing space.

> Use vertical space effectively: tiered trolleys, wall shelves, hooks and pegboards hold a ton and keep floor space free.

> Give everything a dedicated home, ideally away from your main sewing surface. Keep regularly used stuff closer and organise lesser used stuff accordingly.

> Tidy up between sessions. Yup, even though I’m lucky to have a dedicated space and can leave things out, I do tidy everything away when I’m done sewing for the day – putting tools away, cleaning the carpet of threads, stashing leftover scraps. It’s much easier to find everything easily when I pick up next time and means you avoid that off-putting bomb-site effect when things get out of hand.

> Clear out regularly. Perhaps as a result of doing the Konmari method, I get a bit stressed when I have too much stuff hanging around. I’ve got much better at keeping my stash in check, both at the buying point and getting rid if I feel I’m unlikely to ever use something. That applies equally to fabric yardage, scraps, patterns, tools and notions: use it (or have a plan to use it) or lose it.

Sources for my room:
Bed, trolley, picture ledges – Ikea
Pegboard – Block Design from Monoqi
Shelving and desk – custom made locally
Metal shelves – Tomado via Monoqi
PU drawers, files, canvas boxes – Muji
Ironing board hanger – Argos
Bedding – Primark
Blinds – made by my mum from Nani Iro fabric; roller blind on door from Tuiss

Be-zazzled Franken-dress

Darling-Alder

Finally, I made a new dress! I haven’t had much time to sew properly since before New York, so on Sunday and Monday I carved out some time especially to knock out a fun new frock. Plus the fabric’s a bit special too…

Darling-Alder

This is a true Franken-dress by design. The bodice is a sleeveless Darling Ranges, with the shoulder line extended out to make cut-on cap sleeves rather like the Burda 7078 I just made.. The skirt is from the Grainline Alder, lengthened by 3″ from my previous ones.

Darling-Alder

The patterns fudge together fine since you can just adjust the gathering at the top of the Alder skirt to match the bottom bodice edge. I could well have just used my v-neck Alder piece for the top, but I think the DR is just a slightly better fit around the chest and shoulders for me.

Darling-Alder
Darling-Alder

I love the drama of the full, swoopy Alder skirt at the back, especially when lengthened. Lots of swish-factor!

kimono sleeve

Tip for converting a sleeveless dress into a kimono sleeve: you’ll want to raise the pitch (angle) of the shoulder line or you’ll find it a bit tight and hard to move your arm up and down. You may also need to drop where it hits the bodice by an inch or so for more wiggle-room. I’m sure there’s a more technical way to make this adjustment, but eyeballing the angles and drawing straight lines worked for me.

Darling-Alder

OK, the fabric! I was really excited to be asked by Zazzle to try out their custom fabric offering recently. You can choose from their premade design library (there are some really cute ones), customise a design, or upload your own design entirely – which, being the control freak type, I went for. It was super easy to add my design (a simple moon and stars repeat that I made in Illustrator) and I was amazed that the fabric took only three days to get to my door from the US.

Darling-Alder

(I didn’t mean to have the print going in opposite directions on the bodice and skirt by the way, oops.) This is a Pima cotton, described by Zazzle as ‘high-quality, luxurious fabric… extremely soft to the touch and easy to work with…’ I’m REALLY happy with this fabric and would say the description is totally accurate. The handle reminds me of a cotton sateen but without the stretch – it’s smooth and silky, more drapey than crisp. The print is good and sharp and it doesn’t have that papery or coated feel like some digitally printed fabrics do. It had a slight inky smell but that was removed in the prewash (a 40 degree delicates cycle). Zazzle promise no colour fade despite their eco-friendly inks, and I didn’t notice any fading in my prewash. I’m keen to see if that keeps up as I wash the dress some more.

Darling-Alder

I’m really pleased that this dress turned out how I imagined in my head, and that it’s super unique thanks to the Franken-pattern and me-designed fabric. The question is will I ever make a non-buttony-up dress again? The jury’s out.

Zazzle gave me a voucher to try out and review their fabric printing service. Views my own!

Book review: Sew Over It Vintage

Sew Over it book

I’m the last stopping point on this week’s blog tour of Lisa Comfort’s new book, Sew Over It Vintage. I’m a big admirer of Lisa and all she does to get sewing out there, via her shops, classes, patterns, and events with brands and high street shops. She’s even vlogging now – I honestly don’t know how she has time for it all. Plus she’s a lovely person to boot!

Sew Over it book

Now as you know, vintage isn’t my go-to style, but I think Lisa has a good knack for taking the best ideas from vintage silhouettes and making them really modern and wearable. I made the Betty dress for my sister in a modern geometric print and it looked super modern, and I also adore Fiona’s take on the new Shirt Dress pattern. Proof that vintage doesn’t need to look chintzy or playing dress-up.

Sew Over it book

Anyway, onto the new book, which also isn’t exactly what I expected when I heard the title – but in a good way. The surprise was that the book covers basic pattern drafting, via making a kimono sleeved bodice block which you modify to make a lot of the patterns in the book. This is super smart for several reasons: there’s no need for pattern sheets to be included with the book; you learn pattern cutting skills in a practical setting; and the patterns are much more likely to fit properly!

Sew Over it book

Some of the patterns you can make with your kimono block include a tie-waist blouse, a sailor shirt, and a cowl-neck dress. I haven’t had time to have a go yet, but I definitely will be – I love a kimono sleeve and the possibilities for designing from it are really varied.

Sew Over it book

If you’re not in the mood for drafting, the book’s got a variety of smaller homeware, accessory, and upcycling projects too. The instructions are thorough and well-written, and while I don’t think it’s a book for true beginners, a confident beginner could tackle most of the projects. From my point of view I think this book definitely deserves a place on the shelf for its introduction to pattern drafting and manipulation alone. Will you be adding Sew Over It Vintage to your shelf?

The full blog tour:
Monday: lovesewingmag.co.uk
Tuesday: astitchingodyssey.com
Wednesday: didyoumakethat.com
Thursday: handmadejane.co.uk
Friday: houseofpinheiro.com
Saturday: whatkatiesews.net

Review copy supplied for free by the publisher, views my own. Amazon links are affiliate links.

Chambray Burda

Burda 7078

For this month’s Minerva project I picked out some gorgeous striped chambray to make yet another button-front dress.

Burda 7078
burda7078

The pattern is Burda 7078 with a couple of adjustments. It’s one of those patterns where the sample photographs aren’t particularly inspiring but the line drawing shows promise. I made a mix of the two views – the skirt and sleeveless bodice of A with the button-through front of B – and also extended out the shoulders by a couple of inches to add little cut-on cap sleeves.

Burda 7078

The funny thing is one of the things that initially attracted me to the pattern was the waist ties, but I actually removed them from the final dress because I thought they made it look a bit too twee for me. The fit is too relaxed without the ties so I stitched in some thin elastic to suck in the waist instead.

Burda 7078

I picked this pattern so I could play with the stripe placement over the princess seams. I cut the centre pieces on the cross grain, the sides on the bias and the rest straight. This fabric is absolutely luscious to the touch, almost brushed and silky soft. It presses well and gets that lovely linen-y rumpled look with wear.

Burda 7078
Burda 7078

The pattern fitted me well with no adjusting as Burda often does, though I’d say to check out the bodice length if you’re not short waisted like me – the waistline is quite high. You can’t really tell from the envelope views but it’s actually designed to be a couple of inches above the natural waist, though it’s more like natural waist on me. Next time I’d drop it an inch or so to be right on my waist.

Burda 7078

Anther sweet spring day dress in the bag! You can grab the pattern (currently half off!) and fabric from Minerva.

Alder-ish + NYC

Alder

I’m back from a luuuurvely week in NYC. The weather was mostly kind – and the food/beer/fabric shopping most definitely was (a bit more about that below). Here’s a little dress I made before I left with my trip in mind. I know NYC gets humid, so a breezy cotton dress was order of the day.

Alder

This is my second Grainline Alder, but it’s pretty far removed from the original pattern by this point! I’ve switched the neckline to a V like before and this time I removed the back yoke seam to cut the back as one piece, and cut the bodice and skirt as separate pieces rather than the continuous front panel piece of the pattern. So is it still an Alder at all really?

Alder

I used a random quilting cotton find from Manchester’s Abakhan – I think Alder works fine in a fabric with a bit more body and structure. I did slim down the skirt pieces by about an inch so they didn’t stick out quite so much. I meant to add a wee bit of length as well, but forgot. Still a super fun dress to wear and ideal for hot weather.

Mood

The day previous I went over to Mood for a little meetup with three of my favourite Stateside bloggers – Katy, Kelli and Sonja. Best shopping buddies ever! It was so great to meet those girls and we all bought some pretty amazing fabrics, with lots of egging-on from each other.

NYC shopping

My mission was to buy silk crepes for more Ilsley skirts or similar, and I did succeed! Baby pink with white scribbly dots, and a lovely olive/emerald green.

NYC shopping

A Liberty stretch poplin and a rayon jersey print. Amazingly and bizarrely, the Liberty in Mood is cheaper than nearly everywhere I’ve seen it in the UK at $20/yd, and they have an excellent range. I’ve never used the stretch poplin before – I think it has a bit of extra body and drape compared to the lawns that will make it even more suitable for unlined dresses.

NYC shopping

Second part of the shopping mission was denim for more jeans. Charcoal grey and bright-ish spring blue (this one was from B&J Fabrics over the road).

NYC shopping

In fact I’m well in for denim now, because I was lucky enough to also meet up with the adorable Jennifer from Workroom Social and she generously gave me some of the famous Cone Mills denim as used in the Ginger jeans kits. It feels amazing so I’m really excited to get sewing with it. Thank you Jennifer, it was great to have a beer with you!

NYC shopping

Finally, some more frivolous and fun purchases from the lovely Purl Soho. Robert Kaufman tie-dye print cotton and chambray, and a delicious Nani Iro double gauze. The Nani Iros are only $18 a yard at Purl – about a third cheaper than the prices over here!

cityquilter

Finally finally I also managed to pop into City Quilter and Brooklyn General just for a little looky and gift purchases. A highly successful trip all round, really. Better get pre-washing…

Bye MMM, hello NYC

Wow, it’s the end of me-made May already. It really zipped by – probably because I’ve been working so hard! The good thing is my me-made wardrobe saw me through the late nights, somewhat variable weather, and usual cycling round town. Here are a selection of outfits from the last couple of weeks.

mmm1

Jeans and tops, jeans and tops. Clockwise from top-left, a BHL Polly, a new Paprika patterns Onyx top, hand-dyed silk noil zippy top and silk zippy top. Some with Ginger jeans, some with RTW Uniqlo jeans.

mmm5

Outings for two pairs of Burda 7017s as a slight variation from the skinny-jeans-and-top silhouette. I actually made a new pair of 7017s during the month, I’ll share them soon.

mmm2

Frocks! Old Liberty print zippy dress and a new Plantain hack knit dress (which turned into a bit of a nightmare project as it needed underlining = two layers of differently-stretchy slippy, curly knits = PAIN. But I love this dress soo it was worth it.)

mmm3

My brand new cloud-print Ilsley skirt has already seen two outings – definite wardrobe winner.

mmm4

AND this self-draft dress saw two wears in varying degrees of weather – another firm favourite that I need to replicate.

Overall my MMM was definitely a success – I really like where my wardrobe is at now and it’s usually extremely easy to get dressed in the morning. I didn’t even get to wear some of my favourite me-mades before the month was out.

Brooklyn Diana

In exciting news, the beginning of June signals that my trip to New York is finally nigh! This was my birthday present from Josh back in January and included a Mood voucher, so more fabric shopping will definitely be happening. I hope to hang out with some NY sewists too! Can’t wait. See you in a week!