Love That Shirt? Copy It.

I don’t often find stuff off-the-peg that fits really well. I’ve got bends in places other people apparently don’t, so everything that’s big enough around the middle is oddly baggy in the middle of the back. So if I buy any high-street garment, I pretty much always have to shorten and dart the back.

However, a top very like the above one came into my life almost fully formed, just needing a couple of inches taking up vertically mid-back. At which point it fit so well I decided I wanted another one. Or another 10 perhaps.

 

I had enough of this lovely sort of Islamic-decorative-art patterend fabric left over from making Julian a shirt to do the main body if the details were something else. (*raids scrap basket and comes up with just the thing*)

I have copied garments before by never something with a detail like the horizontal tucks on the chest. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The original garment was very cooperative in that it was a pinstripe fabric, which makes it ever so easy to know what the curves of the pieces are doing. You can just count how many stripes go by and measure that distance on another part of the fabric. So, to the drafting table!

As always, I start with the fancy fripperies, like tiny button loops made from a tiny foldover string of the blue fabric. What faff. But it worked well.

And of course the many tucks. You need twice as much fabric to make this effect. Seems almost wasteful. Except this fabric was already waste when I started.

I love the way the fabrics look together.

I never have enough of any one button to do much, but I have so many odd buttons that I can usually make up a batch of something that looks good together.

And for this version I kept all the odd little details like a sleeve-holdy-uppy thing that I might forego next time. Too much trouble for something that just makes the sleeve feel bulky and slightly uncomfortable. Still, it looks nice.

Unfortunately no picture available, but I’m really pleased with the fit, so I will absolutely be adapting and playing with this pattern. It’ll look awesome with my breeches!

Glass Painting Some More

Second practice piece, which came out pretty good… need to work on making sure no air bubbles at edges of colour. Back to drawing board. Virtual, automated drawing board, since the universe gave me Spirality with Windows 10. Thanks Windows! Gosh, I don’t thank Windows all that often…

Think how long this would have take me with paper and pencil. Doesn’t bear thinking about. Only trouble is, it’s ever bit as addictive as you’d think.

Right, time to either a) make the images for my giant bathroom window glass paint extravaganza or b) mindlessly doodle away the rest of lockdown.

Glass Painting. Well, Plastic Painting…

Hey kids, today’s craft is glass painting!

This is something I’d had a go at once or twice a long time ago, but never really knew what I was doing. Between an extra 10 or 15 years of general craft experience and an extra 10 or 15 years of the internet becoming a better research tool, I have been, if I say it myself, moderately successful this time.

This was sort of a practice piece for a practice piece for an interior window I want to do in the technique.  So although I have quite a lot of spare glass kicking around the place, I reached for a sheet of plastic, just to have a dab and see how the materials felt. But I got carried away.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with the thing, besides trim it and stick it in a window, I guess.

It’s nicely transparent, though the detail of the gold piping is somewhat lost in silhouette.

Anyway, here’s the process. I started with some concentric circles and radii.

And proceeded to doodle in pencil and then pen for the main ribs of the design, intending to do the details in stages.

Using Pebeo cerne relief, I outlined the main shapes. This stuff pipes a lot like royal icing, so there were some transferable skills there, but I still need a lot of practice to avoid the wibbles and splots and gaps I was getting.

After letting it dry for a couple of hours, which was not long enough, really, I set about filling in with the Pebeo Vitrail glass paint, which was lovely and thick and self-levelling, so it can look a bit of a mess at first, but it spreads into a smooth, even-ish fill. You do need to use quite a lot so it pools.

The initial lines were done with the clear cerne relief medium, but I wanted to do some decorative frippery with gold as well. Aside from one experimental bit that was put on before the colour (see above) I decided it was better to put it on after so I didn’t have to paint around it painstakingly. So I let the paint try overnight and this morning I had miraculously got better at the piping.

The gold isn’t dry yet, but I think/hope it will dry as shiny as everything else did. So yeah, generally positive experience! Now, on to the practice piece proper and then the actual windows…

 

Pants!

I’ll be frank, the pants situation was getting pretty dire. Like, not just tired looking but actual holes. And I really don’t like to buy new clothes, but pants… they are not easy to find in charity shops. Unless you find them in the form of t-shirts and other knit fabric garments, that is. So it was that I came away from Sue Ryder in Halifax with about £27 worth of majority natural fibre, stretchy fabric garments in amazing prints and complementing solids. That was, like, a year ago. I finally got round to it last week. By which time, like I said, the pants situation was getting pretty dire.

I am super, super happy with the results though. With careful cutting and a bit of piecing where necessary, I managed to eke 22 pairs out of 12 garments.

As post-consumer recycled garments, these babies can out-eco your £20-a-pair organic bamboo earth-chic knickers with eco to spare, and at less than £1.50 a pair. I’ll never buy pants again. Not as pants anwyay.

Lets take a look at the process. Here’s the pile of raw materials. Mostly t-shirts and tops and a couple of dresses. I was lucky to find a Gudrun Sjödén dress, so now I have pants from one of my favourite designers. Technically.

First I looked for pretty patterns, and then picked out plain t-shirts to complement them.  I was careful about fabric content because, while polyester is evil anyway, it’s particularly evil in the context of underwear. A little elastane is inevitable, though, and really does help natural fibres keep their shape.

I cut all the garments slightly differently. Sometimes I could get the pieces on without any seams, and sometimes a seam ran up the middle of the piece or in the hip area, I just wanted to get the maximum pants and minimum waste, really.

I generally cut some backs and some fronts from each garment, but then mixed and matched them for style, and included any fun bits of trim from the original garment wherever possible, as below, where the hem of the top has become the waistband of the pants.

Some of them just use fine elastic and a folded edge, and some have fancy elastic lace I got a long time ago at Abakhan. It turned out to be a great way to get rid of some ends and pieces of elastic, as you can piece it without really affecting the end product.

Some of the fabrics I found were really flashy.

My pants collection is a lot more colourful now.

This is my favourite combination.

So there you have it, post-consumer recycled pants from charity shop clothes at a bargain price. I think it’ll catch on.

 

 

Sewing Machine Maintenance

Well. That was an adventure.

I was messing with my machine, trying to work out why the  bottom tension was a bit off, and I noticed the feed dog drop switch wasn’t making the feed dog come back up again… that’s no good. I need the feed dog up.

So I went on YouTube, found some very very very helpful videos, and stripped my machine back to bare bones. Only to find on closer inspection that there was literally no problem, it’s just that the offset cam was in the down position while I was flipping the switch. If I turned it to the up position, the feed dog came up as expected. Well, that was a half day wasted.

I learned a lot about my machine though. Sigh.

Too Short Trousers Into Breeches

Ok, so this week, a charity shop coughed up four pairs of rather nice corduroy trousers in different, perfectly acceptable colours. They fit very nicely except for the length, which rendered them totally fashionably unacceptable.

Good thing I’d been looking for a pair of trousers to make into breeches! And the universe gave me four!

Cut them just below the knee.

Take a little out of the inside leg so they fit snugly.

Rip a tiny bit of the outside seam so that you can sandwich it in the cuff.

Cut the hem off the remainder of the leg and cut it up the inside seam, removing the entire old seam to leave two raw edges. Pin this lot to the bottom of the leg with all the excess on the front so it will form a button overlap. Sew it up, leaving a little room at either end for the cuff sandwiching.

Turn up the cuffs right sides together and sew up the open edges.

Invert and pin inside for slip stitching. Yes, slip stitching. I know it takes hours, put the TV on.

There’s lots of good stuff on BBC.

You’ll finish eventually and it will look amazing.

Whack some buttonholes and buttons on there (hello, BBC!) and bob’s your uncle.

Hell, yes. I feel historical-badass.

 

Tudor Headpiece

Just feeling pleased with myself over this headpiece. The crescent things were originally supposed to be shoulders for the dress, but as is always the way with me following my nose creatively, I ended up with a different plan and these left over. So I repurposed them.

Ready for hire today at https://www.royalexchange.co.uk/costume-hire!

Cake Cake Cake Cake Cake

Congratulations to Nicola and Rob on their wedding, and thanks for commissioning a cake!

Here are a few shots, including rare documentation of the awkward, not very sophisticated stages.

Sarah May ably assisted me in rolling all the little elongated teardrop shapes to be made into curls.

And then was kind enough to amuse herself by limewashing the gable end of my house while I spent hours painting the cake.

The finished article was worth al the effort and Nicola loved it, which is all I care about, really. Many happy years and success in everything they do!

Swimwear

Ok, so this is not really new news, but I dug out one of my custom made super-supportive, shapewear swimming costumes the weekend while the heatwave gave me the very un-british opportunity to go wild swimming.

This baby is so far above any expectations the world had led me to believe I should have.

Let me explain. I am not a small person. And, though I fight them tooth and claw, I have all the insecurities of a middle aged woman of girth when it comes to swimwear. Particularly, the fact that I’m a 34F and they’re not, erm… naturally perky… meant that all swimwear made me look like a loaf. Screw that.

So I took an old bra, some lycra fabric and elastic and went to work. The result is a tankini (it’s two piece because seriously, whoever invented the one piece never needed a wee while wearing one) that fits me as I want it to, fully covers my not-small bum, fully supports my not-small boobs and is comfy and flattering on the rest of not-small me. This one is more of a comfort model, but I’ve also made hefty shapewear versions, for when I want to pretend I’m just that toned. Ha.

I’ve recently made a bikini for a friend using the same model and it went super well, so I’m going to be offering a design and make your own swimwear course in the future. Probably not til next year at this rate, but if you’re interested, by all means get in touch!

Steven’s Suit

It kind of all started a few years ago, when I was making Catie’s wedding dress with her and Daisy was making the groom’s tweed suit. I was impressed. I mean, a tweed suit… you know you’ve arrived when you can make a tweed suit, right?

I expected it to be, you know, fine, but to look home-made, if you know what I mean. In reality it was magnificent. She said that tweed, far from being difficult and requiring years of secret knowledge acquisition, was actually really biddable and forgiving to work with.

So I threw down all my other projects and immediately went shopping for tweed. And then got distracted by other things, and years passed, and anyway, long story short, not long ago, Steven asked me about making him a tweed suit and I signed up on the spot. Nothing like a client and a deadline to sharpen the attention span.

So we went shopping, at a fantastical place, fantastically named The Fancy Silk Store (Birmingham) Ltd. and bought our tweed, a lovely, thick, brown wool tweed with rust accents. We considered silk for the lining, but I advised against it because Steven is going to actually wear this suit a lot and silk tends to perish quite quickly. We chose a deep-dark-purple-brown polyester lining that suited the fabric beautifully and will last.

I then had a bout of anxiety and imposter syndrome so bad I found ALL the excuses not to start. That lasted a few months.

But in the end I got over it and just got to work. Of course, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was making it in my head. Things pretty much went fine, and tweed *did* turn out to be quite nice to work with.

Horse hair interfacing not so much. I think I will do some more research there.

At least half of the project, time-wise, was fiddly hand finishing. I don’t mind that so much, because while it’s tedious and time consuming, you can at least watch old episodes of Buffy while you’re doing it.

And the whole thing came together beautifully in the end. I was almost absurdly proud of it.

Even the fact that the last part, the waistcoat, had a whole string of sort-of-disasters that required whole parts to be taken apart and re-cut, and one welt pocket that got sewn together three times before I got it right.

Thursday arrived and so did Steven. I’d finished everything I could do without a final fitting, and he patiently waited for me to hem the trousers and finalise a few other things. And then, the moment of truth. See for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

Steven was gratifyingly pleased, which is always nice. He says he will be wanting a lighter, summer suit as well. Hooray!

With that under my belt, I’ve decided to run a course to teach *you* how to do what I did. Join me the first week in September at I Make Everything HQ for the first ever Tweed Suit In A Week course.