Overlockfest

overlockfest

Here’s the fruits of one sewist who’s VERY happy to have her working overlocker back. Going Konmari on my wardrobe left me with a very clear idea of what I needed to make immediately to fill some gaps, and luckily I had all the fabrics I needed to fulfil a lot of my needs. Not the most exciting garments to share, but definitely what I wear 90% of the time both for work and weekends. In fact these photos were taken each morning this week as I started wearing my new garments right away.

First up two of Grainline Studio’s free Hemlock, made in wintry sweater knits. The lurvely lofty rust-melange knit is from Tissu Fabrics and the navy slinky knit was a freebie from a studio sale in Shoreditch. Two new sweaters for £6.99 total, score!

Hemlock

The rust one is a very loose/lacy knit so I was worried about it unravelling at the seams. I sewed it all with a zigzag on my normal machine then trimmed and finished the edges with the overlocker afterwards, which seemed more secure than using just the overlocker for construction. The hems are folded up once then stitched right over the raw edge with a zig zag. There’s clear elastic in the shoulder seams to reinforce them too, so I hope all those things will make it last a while.

Hemlock

The navy one was much easier to deal with, just overlocked all over and I added cuff bands to make the sleeves full length (though still nearly always wear them rolled up). One thing about the Hemlock is I can’t seem to get the fit at the top quite right- it tends to slip off my shoulders and pull backwards a little. I tried reducing the width of the front and back neckline/shoulder on the rust one but it didn’t really seem to help. I’m thinking next time I’ll bring the shoulder forward slightly and also try adding a curve along the shoulder seam to try and anchor it in place. No worry though, I’m still going to wear the hell out of both of these.

Plantain

This is a Deer & Doe Plantain (another freebie!) made from some lush tissue-weight knit from Cloth House. I didn’t notice the sparkle running through it until I got it home – it’s subtle in real life. The fit is right off the pattern, except I raised the neckline a bit and cut a mid-upper-arm length sleeve edged with a wide band. The perfect tee pattern in my books.

Zippy top

Ah, my other go-to tee, the Zippy top, for when I can’t even be bothered to set in a sleeve. I especially like it with an added slouchy pocket in a drapey knit, like this lovely rust-coloured crepe jersey I got from Goldhawk Road. Obsessed with this colour right now, though I need to wear a different coat to avoid being orange all over, ha.

Up next, replenishing the lower half side of my wardrobe, which basically means more Gingers. If I can tear myself away from the overlocker for a bit…

Quick tutorial: Weave-in serger tails as you sew

Serger

This is a special weekend, because I have my overlocker back! The lovely man at Maury Sewing Machines in Hackney patched it up real good for me, and also gave it some general TLC – sharpening the blade, changing the bulb and giving it all a nice clean and oil. It’s like a new machine and I’m so glad to have it back in working order for only £50. I’ve spent all weekend sewing up the pretty knits in my stash into some much-needed basics to replenish my Kondo-ed wardrobe – tees, sweaters and casual dresses. I’ll share them soon, but for now I have a quick tip on how to speed up your overlocking process a bit by weaving in thread tails as you sew.

Weave in serger tails as you sew

I first saw this technique mentioned as an aside during Heather’s Ginger sewalong, and it’s also outlined in the Simplicity sewing book, which of all my reference books is the one with some really handy tips, especially in the overlocker chapter. It’s a really useful time-saver to neatly finish an overlocked/serged seam wherever you’ll be leaving the start of the seam open (ie not crossed over by another seam) in the finished garment. For example at the shoulder seam if you sew on a neckband in the flat, a sleeve seam with a flat-set cuff, or some types of pocket bag. I hope the photos and descriptions make sense, shout in the comments if not!

Weave in serger tails as you sew

1. Make sure you have a decent length of thread chain (a couple of inches) coming off the machine before you start sewing. Now feed in the seam and sew the first 1 or 2mm, so the needle is only just engaged with the fabric. Stop and hand-crank the needles to the down position if they aren’t already.

Weave in serger tails as you sew

2. Raise the presser foot. Grab the thread tail and pull it round the left-hand side to the front. You want to pull pretty tight so that any stitches on the little prongs behind the needles fall off and become taut.

Weave in serger tails as you sew

3. Pull that tail right around to the front so it’s in front of the presser foot in line with your stitching line. Lower the presser foot again.

Weave in serger tails as you sew

4. Now keep sewing, and your thread tail will get caught in the seam as you sew it. After a couple of inches you can pull it off the right-hand side so the excess is cut off by the blade.

Weave in serger tails as you sew

The result! Tidy seam edge, zero effort. Will you be giving this a go?

Konmari-ing my me-made wardrobe

Konmari wardrobeThis post is only tangentially related to sewing, but I think it definitely touches on things that every sewist must think about from time to time: how we choose what to make, how often we wear the things we make, and how we deal with things we don’t end up wearing. Thanks to Marie Kondo’s cult book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, I’ve been on a de-cluttering spree and have spent most of the weekend clearing out my wardrobe, books, and sewing room (well, got to keep myself busy while the overlocker’s in hospital…). I thought I’d share some musings on the process of streamlining my wardrobe and how I feel now it’s done.

If the Kondo craze has passed you by, check out this article for a bit of a primer. The ‘Konmari’ method outlined in the book has you obliterate your unwanted belongings in strict category order, which Marie states should begin with clothing. Now she suggests this category is tackled first because it’s likely to be the least emotionally-driven class of belongings, but I’m not sure how well that applies to a sewist who will naturally be more attached to garments she’s made by hand.

P2170332Nonetheless, I did go through my wardrobe as Marie suggests, holding every garment in my hands and asking myself ‘does this spark joy?’. The joy-spark test is Marie’s basic measure for determining if you should keep a possession or if it must be thrown out. I found it a bit more helpful to expand that question into two further questions: ‘am I happy to own this item or is it a burden?’ and ‘if this item was ruined/destroyed, would I be upset?’. Those two additional questions really helped me to focus on what I wanted to keep, whether handmade or not.

The keep-or-throw process was still a little bit heart-rending at times – not just for my handmade garments, but for vintage one-offs, holiday purchases that remind me of the trip and those super-soft favourite old t-shirts too. To ease the feeling of guilt or sadness, Marie suggests thanking your garment for the time you’ve had with it and remembering that the joy it brought you in the past was what made it worth owning, which is super cheesy but actually did kind of help. Also for every handmade garment I threw out, I made sure to take a lesson from why it wasn’t working for me – be it fit, fabric choice, style or construction – so that its little garmenty life wasn’t in vain. Luckily quite a lot of me-mades did make the cut to stay though!

Konmari wardrobeThe result after a few hours of hardcore sorting? Five bags of cast-offs! I was pretty shocked as I do a wardrobe edit fairly regularly and send a large bag to charity every few months, but I was much, much stricter this time due to following Marie’s joy test. I’m going to book a collection from my local Traid to pick up the cast-offs – it seems fitting to donate to a charity that values the craft of sewing and works to improve textile waste and worker conditions.

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Once the cull has happened, reorganising can begin. I put my clothes back in a nice logical order: tops on the upper rail roughly in frequency-of-wear order from left to right: cardigans, everyday tops, then seasonal items  – Marie doesn’t approve of packing away off-season items. As an aside, look at how embarrassingly clear my colour preferences are: hello grey, black, wine and khaki, you can stay.

P2170333

Skirts and dresses on the bottom rail again leading from everyday to formal/off-season. (Luckily I’m not a shoe person; that grey pair is my only pair of non-everyday shoes.) Having this much stuff hanging up is a bit against Marie’s methods as she doesn’t like garments on hangers unless strictly necessary, but personally I much prefer to see everything at once. My trousers do live in a separate drawer though, as do loungewear and underwear. Those latter categories were much quicker and easier to sort for some reason.

There’s no doubt the Konmari method works. For the first time my wardrobe really does feel lighter and fresher. I can actually see all my clothes and riffle amongst them on the hangers – I hadn’t really realised how cramped and unpleasant my wardrobe was to navigate before. I’m interested to see if it makes it easier to choose what to wear in the morning; my instinct says it certainly will.

P2170327The upshot of all this is that I am kind of going to be forced to approach my sewing choices in a much more careful way – to really think about what I want to make and if it belongs in my wardrobe, and ensure that trickles down into fabric choices, too. The good news is that after the big cull there are definitely areas of my wardrobe which need to be replenished a bit – mostly trousers, t-shirts and day dresses, which are what I wear 90% of the time. Luckily those are the garments I like to sew as well, so I’m feeling fairly confident that I can make stuff that will fit into the gaps.

If this whole process sounds a bit military and joy-sucking by the way, I don’t feel that way at all – it’s quite freeing to have less stuff and a clear idea of what kind of things will make me happy to make and wear in the future. And it wasn’t even that hard to throw out me-mades once I began to remember that the point of owning them may have been to learn something rather than to keep them forever.

Has anyone else got on board the Konmari train? I know from Instragram that Kelly and Morgan have been through it and both said it affected their sewing choices as well. Is sewing a wearable and ‘joy-sparking’ wardrobe important to you? How do you feel about throwing away handmades?

Barbados beach dressin’

Holiday sewing

Warning: this post contains a lot of idyllic beaches, warm weather and sunsets. It might not be suitable if you’re lodged in wintery gloom. I’m feeling that myself with an extra post-holiday crash this week if that helps, but I did have a lovely little break in Barbados and managed to get a few new me-mades into my case despite still being an overlocker down. (There are some more photos of my trip over here if you’re feeling brave.)

Holiday sewing

Firstly two more Zippy tops – well, a top and a dress variation – both made from House of Hackney silk that I got in last year’s excellent sample sale. This blouse I just love – what looks like leopard print from a distance is actually amoebas up close. Secret science print!

Holiday sewing

I accidentally cut the dress bodice a bit too high and ended up with empire line, which also made it end up rather short hence the addition of vintage lace trim to the hem. As well as having fabulous designs HoH fabric is so well-behaved and a dream to wear – I hope they do another sale soon.

Holiday sewing

You can barely see ‘em, but this is a pair of Katy & Laney Tap Shorts that I made last summer. It’s the same polka dot denim as these jeans, with the plain reverse side used for the front and the dots on the side/back. I love this pattern and was hoping to make a couple more pairs, but I didn’t fancy leaving raw denim seams without my trusty overlocker.

Holiday sewing

This is a Marilla Walker Maya top (with a different pair of Tap Shorts), which Marilla kindly gave me the pattern for. I bought the fabric when I met up with Marilla and a few other sewists on Goldhawk Road in January, it’s a super soft cotton with the pattern woven in; I think I used the wrong side out but I like the stripes. The top took just an evening to sew and I really like the construction method, with wide facing pieces for the neck and sleeves which are topstitched down. It fit perfectly with no adjusting and is so nice and comfy, both in heat and cold (I wore it back at home before the trip too). Winner!

Holiday sewing

Tiger dress! This is my second Pattern Runway Gathered Sundress (the first one’s here). The bodice fits me like a glove with no modifications, and I’m fond of the scoopy skirt pockets with sweet gathers. I just omitted the waistband both times I made it as they do nothing for me. It’s made from Cotton + Steel quilting weight cotton which I’d been hoarding for a while – it’s a bit novelty (and pale) for me normally but I think you get away with that type of thing on holiday. I didn’t quite have enough so cut the side princess panels from a plain black, and tried to tie it in with a black decorative stitch on the hem too.

Holiday sewing

I’ve been trying to get over my invisible zip aversion, so this one has one up the back. Getting a good screw-on Janome zipper foot for Christmas, rather than the flimsy proprietary one I was using before, really makes it easier to sew up the remaining seam accurately. There’s a neat finish inside the dress with a mix of French seams, pinking, and hand-sewing.

Holiday sewing
Holiday sewing

Finally, the reversible Turia dungarees I made my sister for Christmas got an airing – but only briefly because I made a BIG mistake. I didn’t prewash the fabric as I was in a rush to get them made.. after fifteen minutes in the hot sun, they’d bled blue-black dye all over her legs. Aaaaagh! I hope a gentle wash with a colour-catcher sheet renders them wearable. The good news is my sister (extremely impressively as she’s a beginner) sewed up her very own version of the pattern which also got worn on the trip. I just need to wrestle the pattern back to make my own pair!

A few peeks

Firstly, thank you so much for all the entries to my giveaway with Cloth House – over 200 so far! It’s open for another week and a half so keep the comments coming – it’s so fun to read them, but I’m sorry only one can win the voucher.

sewing

So I’ve had a bit of a disaster this week. No sooner did I get my sewing room back after its building work than my overlocker completely died :( A bit in the lower mechanism is wobbly that definitely shouldn’t be and it won’t make any stitches. My local repair place says that Toyotas are difficult to get new parts for, so I’m worried it won’t even be salvageable. Between the building works and nearly all my other (admittedly more urgent) electronic devices like phone, camera and computer also needing repairs or upgrades, I am not sure I can afford a new one right away. Such a bummer as I have loads of lovely knits begging to be sewn up!

sewing
sewing

Anyway, on the positive side my room is looking beautiful already, even though it’s far from finished. It’s full of light and feels much bigger even though it’s still comparatively small – my A1 cutting mat basically fits the available floor space! I can’t wait to get it all organised and decorated; I know it’s going to be a joy to sew in.

sewing

That will have to wait a little longer though as I’m off on my travels again – beautiful Barbados this time. While my plan to sew a couple of new swimsuits was foiled by the overlocker croaking it, I did manage to make a few new summery garments to take with me, doing some serious stashbusting in the process as well as honing my French seam skills. Here’s a little peek…. more on them when I return!

sewing

sewing

Fabric love and giveaway with Cloth House

Hello! Oh man, I am having serious withdrawals from both sewing and blogging. The good news is that the building work on my beautiful new sewing room is pretty much finished! I’m hoping to move back in and squeeze in as much last-minute vacation-sewing as possible this weekend before Barbados next week. Anyway, I do have a lovely treat for you today: a giveaway with probably my very favourite fabric shop, Soho’s beautiful Cloth House.

clothhouseno47

Cloth House actually has two shops on London’s Berwick Street. At no 47 you’ll find the wovens: cottons, linens, denim and shirtings, as well as stunning ranges of Japanese printed silks and handblocked cottons, plus beautiful trims and buttons.

clothhouseno98

At no 98 there’s a treasure trove of knits – jerseys, sweater knits and cosy wool blends, plus coatings and also interesting technical fabrics like neoprene and Tyvek. I’d dare any fabric lover to try and get out empty handed.

clothhousesite

Luckily if you don’t live in London, they set up an online shop last year too with some of their most popular ranges available to ship worldwide. You can also order swatches and get any other stock from the shops delivered to you.

ch1

As a regular Cloth House customer and general fabric fangirl I got chatting to the folk there last year, and they kindly offered to send me some goodies to sew up and share on here. The parcel actually arrived on my birthday last week – I might have done a little squeal when I opened it (almost as much as when I opened my present from Josh which was a trip to NYC plus Mood vouchers! LET’S HANG, NY sewists!) I got three super pretty Japanese prints – Mount Fuji cotton, pom pom manmade silk, and paintbox cotton. I can’t wait to plan some projects with them – any ideas? I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I visited the shops last week too and treated myself to even more goodness – some cosy knits to make Linden pullovers and some incredible black stretch twill for high-waist Gingers. The fabrics do cost more than I typically spend but the quality speaks for itself, and I think they have a particularly high-end RTW feel to them, so it’s an investment I am happy to make. Buying quality fabrics definitely ties into my resolution to sew less but better, and it’s such a joy to visit the Cloth House shops – real fabric lovers’ candy.

winclothhouse

So, would you like to win a £50 voucher to spend in Cloth House, plus a fat pack of swatches to help you decide what to spend it on? Just leave a comment on this post to enter – head to Cloth House’s online shop and let me know what you’d buy and what you’d make with it if you like! Be sure to enter your email address (it won’t be displayed) so I can contact the winner. The competition is open worldwide but please bear in mind that vouchers can currently only be used for in-person purchases in the Soho shops – but if you aren’t local I’d be happy to buy and mail your choices to you. The winner will be picked at random on Monday Feb 9th. Good luck, and thank you Cloth House for offering up this ace prize.