D.I.Y – Draft It Yourself

Drafting my own pencil skirt began with the best of intentions. After noticing a few minor fit issues with the Wannabe Hack skirt, I thought it would be a good idea to have a crack at drafting my own, and I had just the book to hand.

Well, so I thought. I hadn’t bought “Patternmaking in Fashion Step by Step” due to any glowing recommendations of its patternmaking tips, rather, I’d bought it because it was only a fiver in Urban Outfitters. Also it’s in English, French and German. Lucia Mors de Castro had me at Schnittmuster. 

Now, patternmaking involves a certain degree of maths. You heard me. MATHS. Not my favourite subject at school, but this is where the lovely invention of calculators comes in. Calculators are a godsend for the lazy seamstress wanting to draft their own patterns. Number crunching is just not my forte unfortunately.

I was getting along just fine until I stumbled across a bit of a problem. To explain the process, a set of sample measurements are used, which were nowhere near mine. The difference between my hips and my waist is not that big, meaning I’m markedly different from de Castro’s sample. I hit a bit of a brick wall when figuring out the darts, so I turned to Google for help.

Which really, should have been my first option. When I taught myself how to sew, I didn’t do so from books, I did it by using the vast wealth of free lessons and tutorials available from the sewing community online. That’s not to say sewing books are worthless; I love books and own several about sewing, but it’s not hard to find a decent tutorial online. I found that and more on House of Marmalade, which hosts a fantastic tutorial on drafting your own skirt block and pencil skirt. Success! I started over on some fresh brown paper and got back to work.

It may be from the school of wonky skirt blocks, but I’m quite proud of my first efforts in pattern drafting. The real proof, however, will be in the pudding; I’m currently in the process of whipping up my first self-drafted pencil skirt. Wish me luck! Here’s hoping it fits…

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“Yep, I made it myself!” – Guest Post over at Fashion by Mimi

Mia Holt is a lovely young lady I met while she was working as Christmas temp at Lush Cardiff. This girl not only had some major skills with the hatboxes but also a shared passion for all things journalism. She’s pretty much proof of what an undergraduate making routes into journalism should be doing, using her Summer to pursue various work placements local and further afield. (A younger me should certainly take note!)

When she called for some guest posters on her blog Fashion by Mimi, I was more than happy to step up to the mark – I haven’t really had a chance to rant about sewing for a while, so it came surprisingly easy when I got down to it! Check it out here! If you have any interest in fashion at all, then her blog is well worth a read; she has a clear passion for what she writes about, and is always searching for ways to take her grassroots blog to the next level. So pop on over, and make sure you say hi! After all, we bloggers love a comment or two.

As for the sewing – it’s coming along! Currently in the midst of drafting my own pencil skirt pattern, details of which I will unveil shortly…

The joy of vintage patterns

Until now, I’ve always purchased my vintage patterns online. Sewing patterns are not items commonly found in Cardiff’s charity shops, which normally host scores of rejected items from Primark instead. The vintage and retro shops I have previously frequented in the city centre don’t tend to extend their stock to the kind of goodies those vintage-savvy seamstresses amongst us would be searching for. Yet I recently came across a beauty stocked to the brim with all kinds of vintage goodies, sewing patterns included, tucked away in one of Cardiff’s old arcades, renowned for housing unique shops and boutiques.

The arcades have always been, for me, part of Cardiff’s charm, and I’m not the only one who thought so. Photographer and journalist Amy Davies took up a project to document Cardiff’s arcades with the Cardiff Arcades Project, and the photographs are just beautiful! The shop which caught my eye, A Vintage Affair, has been documented through photograph in a post here.

Understandably, I spent about an hour being distracted by A Vintage Affair’s clothing, jewellery and accessories dotted around the shop. Popping into vintage and second hand shops normally scares me a little bit, possibly because of experiences had in various second hand shops in Germany, which were always so small I felt my every move was being scrutinised! Luckily this wasn’t the case here, and when I did speak to some of those working in the shop, I found they were lovely and approachable anyway! My favourite kind of shop.

Eventually, I came across the vintage patterns in the corner of the shop, kept in boxes overflowing with not only patterns, but also sewing and knitting magazines. There’s something quite unique about rifling through (sometimes) decade old patterns by hand. While I’ll always love the Internet for leading me to discover some beautiful vintage patterns in the past, you can’t quite beat actually touching the wrinkled, often ripped, packaging, surrounded by that musky smell of patterns pre-loved. This particular shop had stacks and stacks of vintage fabric, a sorely tempting prospect, but I thought better of it considering the extensive stash I’ve built up at home!

I did, however, come home with three well-worn patterns, all of them shift dresses, although each one comes with a little twist! The tucked bodice detail on the Style 1804 panel shift dress pattern was very tempting. I doubt I’ll go for the long sleeves – with the puff sleeves and all, I can’t see it being a little much overall. The vintage Butterick 4029 sports some varied neckline choices on a simple shift dress, while the collar on my other Style number 1937 is to die for.

Thanks to the Vintage Patterns wiki, I found out Butterick 4029 is a pattern dating from the 1960s, and one a fellow blogger has already whipped up to great effect, using the pointed collar design I’ve been quietly coveting. Kitty stayed faithful to the design portrayed on the pattern envelope,

While my two Style patterns were absent from the list, the back of 1937 tells me it’s also a ‘60s pattern (1967 to be exact), and I’m assuming the same of 1804, which is missing dates. If anyone has any idea of when this pattern was made, I’d be grateful, as I’m neither a historian or a vintage pattern expert! The only real clue I have is the front of the pattern states it was designed by a ‘Vanda Harvey’, and a quick google brought up an artist of the same name who doesn’t seem to have contributed to the world of sewing patterns.

I have a few other things to get through before I get cracking on these patterns. Which do you think I should go for first?

The Sewing Soundtrack – Ed Sheeran : You Need Me, I Don’t Need You

My sewing soundtrack seems to be more of a shorthand soundtrack these days!

Right about now I’m a little bit obsessed with a certain Ed Sheeran. I’ve been keeping an eye on his work since Becca reviewed his gig at Sin City for The Siren, and I’ve been playing ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ on repeat since he released the newest version of the hit made viral by his one take version filmed by SB:tv. Any live version of Sheeran’s work is well worth watching, as you get a far better idea of what it is which makes him so unique and so popular as an artist. Saying that, the single version of ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ is one which, without a doubt, captures the essence of his live work brilliantly, and the video’s pretty swish too!

The only problem really is I end up having a little dance to myself rather than sewing or practicing my shorthand outlines… what music is everyone boogying to in their sewing breaks at the moment?

Disaster!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I managed to get the graduation ball dress finished on time, meaning I had a fabulous dress to wear to the do. Now, I had noticed a fair bit of spillage on the dress, which was a shame as I’d originally planned to wear it to a wedding the following Saturday, but figured it would come off in the wash. However, I did notice a bit of discolouration on the dress as well. I somewhat foolishly assumed it would come off in the wash, despite the gnawing feeling this would not be the case.

After having washed it, I’ve come to the horrifying realisation that something may well have bleached the fabric, and there are tonnes of very noticeable splashes of pink/purple all over the dress. As you can imagine, I’m less than pleased. Sure, I could always remake the dress in another fabric, but I really don’t have the funds to accommodate that, so I’m in somewhat of a pickle.

I have no idea what could have caused this – the fabric is a combed cotton I’d pre-washed before sewing the dress. It looks an awful lot like bleach to me. A possible solution could be to just throw caution to the wind and get the entire thing bleach-splashed, though I worry about how that would look. Alternatively, I could potentially dye the entire thing with a fabric dye, but I don’t know if that would evenly balance out the colour of the dress.

Has anyone ever had this problem before? Any thoughts you guys have would be greatly appreciated!

Cutting it fine…

We’ve all been there. That deadline is looming and yet somehow your project is nowhere near done. There’s no question of my being able to meet deadlines; I may have been working right up until the deadline in some cases, but I’ve not yet had an instance of turning in an essay or a piece of work late just yet, and I don’t plan on starting anytime soon!

Where self imposed deadlines are concerned however, I’m a little more fickle. Unfortunately, this has been the bane of my sewing output for some time now, and I’m not the only one. Instead of rushing to finish whatever project I have on the go, I’ll more often than not leave it unfinished for weeks after my proposed deadline.

I was determined this wouldn’t happen with the latest item, the Grad Ball dress, and my work on it set off to a fantastic start. Now that I’m living at home, I’ve decided my brother’s room is to become my sewing room – that is, just as soon as he buggers back off to university. Luckily for me, he was off visiting his girlfriend the weekend before last, giving me plenty of space for cutting out my pattern pieces. Things were going swimmingly.


Then disaster struck. I woke up a day or so later nursing the most horrendous sore throat I’ve yet experienced, and thus began feeling well and truly sorry for myself. How I’ve managed to be running here there and everywhere while at Swansea without getting ill, I don’t know, but it seemed like it had caught up with me a week before graduation. Talk about crummy timing.


Turns out I had a nasty case of tonsillitis, thus followed more days of my feeling sorry for myself and looking pathetic in my fluffy pink dressing gown, nursing cooling cups of tea I couldn’t quite face drinking due to the pain in my throat. Cutting it fine is an understatement; I was up against the clock anyway with just over a week until Grad Ball and the dress nowhere near finished, and now I had wasted a few days being poorly, it looked even less likely I’d have a me-made creation to wear as planned.

Thank god my procrastination gland stopped working, because a few nights sewing like my life depended on it and I’ve just got some finishing bits and bobs left on the dress. In a way, I have a bit more confidence now in my ability to get things done. With so few projects completed of late, it’s nice to have pulled this one out of the bag against the odds.


On top of that, I somehow managed to also finish the scallop waist skirt for graduation as well. I guess when you’re up, you’re up! I’ve been in touch with my lovely photographer friend Martha to sort out some sort of photoshoot for the garments, so I’ll have a proper post for both up as soon as we’ve done that!

The Sewing Soundtrack – Janelle Monáe : Tightrope [feat. Big Boi]

After a bit of a hiatus, I’m bringing back the sewing soundtrack, where I highlight a few choice tracks from my iTunes playlist which dominate my sewing time.

My good friend Ki Shah recommended Janelle Monáe to me, guessing rightly that this funky tune would be right up my street. I have to say, I wish I could pull off a tux and brogues as well as Ms Monáe does – future sewing project perhaps? Listening to ‘Tightrope’, I instantly get the feeling I should put down the needle and thread and pull on my dancing shoes instead…

So who’s adding this one to their personal sewing soundtrack?