Category Archives: Inspiration

Plans for 2015

pinterest

Happy new year and all that, chaps. I don’t really like new year time to be honest, and I won’t be doing any sort of 2014 retrospective. But one thing I do like to do is look forward and plan some exciting sewing projects for 2015. I certainly did learn a lot in 2014 across technique, fitting and my personal style so I feel like this’ll be a great year for my stitching. Seemingly like a lot of others, my key plan is to make less, but make it all with increased thought and care.

Unfortunately, I think January and February will pretty much be a no-sew zone for me which isn’t a very good start. Over the next 6-8 weeks I’ve got: building work starting on my sewing room (to make it bigger! yay!); two demanding work contracts; ten days in Barbados; a weekend in Berlin, and my 30th birthday. Phew. So here’s what you might be seeing on here some time around March…

(nb if you can’t see the pins in a feed reader, click to view.)

Jacket (not)January

I was really hoping to crack on and get a Rigel bomber out during Jacket January, but due to the reasons above I don’t think it will get done in time for the sewcial sewalong – I hope it will be done in time for wearing in spring though. I also really want to make Marilla’s Freemantle coat in a black tweed.

Swimmies

I actually kind of need another swimsuit for Barbados, so that’s a high-priority sew. I’ve been tinkering even more with my self-drafted pattern and have got everything I need to give it a go. I may well still make it available for download too, don’t hold me to that though.

Jeans

I’ve got a pair of Ginger jeans in plum-coloured denim (with baby pink topstitching) half-constructed already, so they need finishing up and I’m excited to see how the fit compares to previous pairs. I’m going to back to basics, closely following Heather’s fantastic instructions and sewalong to try and pick up some tips and hopefully get my best results yet. Hopefully more will follow!

Tops

Confession: I have a bit of a weird vendetta against sewing tops. Basically if I have enough yardage of a fabric for a dress, I feel like it’s sort of a waste to make a top instead. Stupid, right? I need to change that way of thought as it’s really too cold for a lot of my dresses at the moment and it’s much easier to layer a top. I wear a few of my favourite me-made woven tops to death so need a few more in a similar vein.

Dungarees

After making the short Turia dungarees for my sister, I rather fancy a dress or long-trousered version for myself. Definitely in something very neutral like a plain black denim so I’m actually inclined to wear them. Oh alright, maybe tiny polka dots.

Bras

I’ve been wanting to try sewing bras for a while as I’m fussy with RTW ones and they look so fun to put together. Plus as Lauren mentioned, lingerie is a great way to get to sew obsessively without adding yet more garments to an already-full wardrobe. I think I’ll pick up a kit and pattern and see how it goes.

Self-drafting

I’d like to carry on with my self-designing and drafting experiments this year, I find it incredibly satisfying. First up I’m desperate to have a go at knocking off a dress similar to these two beauties, with the darts converted into concentric square pieces. Shouldn’t be too difficult a job and I can probably stash-bust some complementary fabrics.

I want to make use of some of the pretty trimmings I’ve collected so have been saving some fun placement ideas.

And I’m really interested to experiment more in making unique textiles for garments, whether that’s piecing/patchworking, printing or dyeing.

Quilting

I have two quilts for myself in the pipeline. One, for the bedroom, is half-done and is more abstract with muted shades and lots of linens mixed in – very inspired by the Season Evans one above. I’m also planning a more geometric ‘tumbling blocks’ one for the living room in solid grey and yellows.

Well, I think all of that will keep me busy for a bit :) What do your 2015 sewing plans look like?

Inspired by… A trip to Manchester

I had a lovely weekend just gone visiting my parents in (an unusually) sunny Manchester. We hit one of my favourite fabric shops, checked out the high street then popped to a fashion exhibition at the Art Gallery.

Abakhan, Manchester

Obviously the first port of call was a trip to remnant superstore Abakhan. It looks pretty unassuming from outside, but I think it’d be impossible to come away from here empty handed: a rummage always turns up some goodies. I think surprisingly it’s actually pretty much the only fabric store in central Manchester, so luckily it’s a goodun.

Abakhan, Manchester

In case you haven’t been, one half of the store has racks with fabrics organised by type. It’s especially good for craft cottons (with some especially brilliant/bananas Americana prints), soft spandex jersey prints, viscose dress prints, swim lycra, plain georgettes and coatings. The pieces are generally 1-3 metres, and the staff will usually cut them down for you if you want less. You pay by the weight, which range from £8-12 per kilo. That works out at roughly £2-5 a metre depending on the fabric type.

Abakhan, Manchester
Abakhan, Manchester

The other half has fabrics by the roll – I usually only skim these, they aren’t that exciting – plus there’s an upstairs with notions/haberdashery. AND there are grab bags of zips, elastic and buttons for super cheap (25 zips for 2 quid), great for stash building. Heaven, in other words, and pretty much worth the trip to Mancs alone for the dedicated sewist. They do sell online as well, but not nearly as much range and you miss out on the joy of the rummage.

This time I was pretty focused in my buying (like with Shaukat, it’s good to go in with a plan) and I came away with a very cohesive little set of black/beige/brown prints. These are mostly nice drapey viscose prints with a couple of spandex blend knits. I’m going to have to be careful to not just make a billion camisoles which will only be seasonally appropriate for another month, so perhaps some sleeved tees and dresses are in order. I can’t wait to get sewing. Oh and my bill for this lot, about 8m of fabric – under 25 quid. My mum and my sister also bought fabrics for me to make things for them. Eek!

Afterwards, I was quite inspired by a nose in Urban Outfitters on Market Street. I hardly ever go into high street stores these days (though I still browse for sewspiration online) but it was nice to go and soak up some ideas for how to use my new fabrics. Here are some things that caught my eye.

uo1

I’m still into playsuits in a big way, and the neckline cut outs here remind me of the Deer and Doe Datura. *plots pattern mashup*

uo2

A slightly grungy button up skirt with lace trim. I did actually buy a dress with trim like this recently because I had some store credit, and I want to make a ton of copies. I think little details like buttons and lace trims help to make me-mades look a bit more rtw, and they don’t take long to do.

uo6

A few variations on the cami/babydoll dress. I’m going to self-draft my own dream version – so much scope for fun strap placements and skirt options.

uo7

Oversize roll-back sleeve Scout? Yup please.

Manchester art gallery

Finally, we popped to the Manchester Art Gallery, where coincidentally there was a temporary show called Cotton Couture, displaying a range of 1950s garments commissioned by the Cotton Board to promote the area’s cotton production and show its versatility as a fibre.

Manchester art gallery
Manchester art gallery
Manchester art gallery

The aim was to show that cotton can be used for everything from suits to ballgowns, not just the traditional workwear and undergarments. All these samples have an 18″ waist by the way, to fit the models of the time – JEEZ. All in all a lovely trip with plenty of sewing inspiration fuel.

Swimsuit sewing ‘spiration

Maybe it’s the approaching summer, maybe it’s my love of sewing all things stretch, maybe it’s that I’ve just booked my plane ticket to Barbados for next January… but I have swimsuit sewing very much on the mind at the moment.

swim wear

I want to hop on this bandwagon because I’m continually disappointed with the fit and flatter-factor of RTW swimsuits. I usually end up going for a one-piece or (unpleasantly-named) tankini because I don’t like my midsection being out on show but I always feel a bit frumpy in them, so it’d be great to actually make a two-piece that fits and flatters exactly right. Either way I want my dream suit to look cool and modern, probably in a print paired with graphic black panels.

swim fabrics

Luckily for me, Funki Fabrics saw some Twitter chat about my swim plans and jumped in to offer me the fabric for my suit from their amazing selection. I’ve got samples of the above (Prism, Chrome, Space, Feathers, and Lightning) on the way. I also picked up a clasp and some plain black swim lycra for toile-ing this weekend. Any tips for where to look for other notions: lining, cups, elastic?

swim patterns

I still haven’t decided whether to go one or two-piece, or indeed what pattern I’ll use. I’ve ruled out all of the Big 4 (so dated!) and also the most popular indie pattern around, the Closet Case Files Bombshell. Much as the Bombshell looks awesome on others, I have a ruched swimsuit already and don’t like it on me: I think it adds thickness along the torso. The newish Papercut Soma is a definite contender: I think the one-piece’s wrap top would be cool in a print with a plain black lower half. Another option is to look at lingerie patterns. I think the Ohhh Lulu Sophia pattern could be great for bottoms: I’d do the ruched side panels in black with a print centre. Maybe paired with the Ginger or Soma bustier as a top?!

So many options! Any more ideas or swim-tips to throw in for me?

Boro at Somerset House

Boro at Somerset House

Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day, Michelle and I went down to Somerset House to check out the Boro exhibition. To quote the website:

Translated to ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for items – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required and had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families repaired and recycled fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down to the next and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Cotton was an expensive and sought-after material in rural Japan, so worn-out clothing was passed along and used as futon/bed coverings, the worn-out parts re-worked and replaced with new patches as necessary. The pieces are beautiful and mesmerising to look at, so have been appropriated as highly collectible artworks in Western countries. As a sewist, I was particularly fascinated to get up close and see the various woven patterns, fabric combinations, dyeing and embroidery techniques used to create such a richly textured surface.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Varying lengths and patterns of hand-stitches for decorative texture.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

I love these dense rows of stitches: nothing is measured or straight, and it doesn’t matter. It seems to tie into the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: imperfect beauty.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Some of these patch-pieced ones look like English fields seen from an aeroplane.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Look close and you’ll see layer upon layer of patterns and textures. Woven patterns remind me of ikat, one of my favourite types of fabric, and some pieces seemed to have had patterns created by resist-dyeing and shibori-stle knotting and folding techniques.

Boro at Somerset House

You can see why the pieces are compared to art works: some have the Cubist arrangement of a Picasso or Mondrian, where others seem freely expressive like a Pollock or late Matisse.

Boro at Somerset House

This was my favourite, the decorative embroidery looks like mystical cave symbols, and the tan corduroy with the shades of indigo is gorgeous. It was very inspiring to look at a different way of combining and manipulating materials, and really makes me want to create an abstract hand-pieced and -embroidered quilt. The free exhibition runs until 26th April, daily 10.00-18.00. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.