Friday, 28 December 2012

Planning: January 2013

My sewing goals for 2013 are PLAN WELL and  SEW CAREFULLY.  In the interests of good planning, I think what I'm going to try to do is look ahead only about a month at a time, and try to keep what I consider my broader sewing life goals in mind (sew things that are useful, things that suit my life and style and body, and things that fit into my wardrobe near-seamlessly).

January is going to be pretty busy work-wise, so I won't have a huge amount of free time or brainpower to devote to sewing. I kind of want a set of projects that I can pick up and put down in short bursts. I usually give myself 30-60 minutes of sewing per day, and when I am busy I have to stick to that pretty carefully. To me, all those constraints yell one thing: MAKE BAGS. Handily, from the 16th January until mid-February, Pattern Review is also holding a handbag contest, so it's an easy decision to combine a personal want (a new bag), a contest and my available sewing time together.


1. Finish my red tunic top made from the Style 3997 pattern. I started this intending for it to be worn at Christmas but ran out of time. There's not all that much to be done -- sew on the sleeves and do the cuffs and hem mainly. To be honest I was rushing to finish this top before Christmas and made a poor job of the finish of the garment up to the point I'd reached, which does put me off a bit. However, I am determined to get it done all the same as I can always wear it round the house. It shouldn't take long, so it's my first project when I get home.

2. I need to restock my Etsy shop (again) with 5 new bags -- 2 large, 2 small, 1 clutch. I have one large bag and 1 clutch already cut out, and the other three will be easy patterns that are quick to cut and sew. All I need to do is choose the fabrics and I can get started. This is going to have to be the big project of my first two weeks back at the sewing table in January.

3. Make progress on one complex pattern handbag for myself. Aim to get a really great finish on the bag. The goal is to produce something I'd be proud to put into the PR Handbag contest.

I can't get started on this until 16 January if I want to go in for the competition so I have a bit of time to plan and buy any hardware I need. I'd like to make something right at the top end of my pattern complexity range because those are the type of bags I prefer to carry for the most part. At the moment, these are the patterns I'm thinking about, but subject to change if I think of something better:

Top row: Amy Butler Blossom; Bag from eBook; Bottom row: Olivia by ChrisW, Satchel by Lisa Lam
I adored the grey denim Olivia bag I made for my sister-in-law -- to the point where I really seriously thought about keeping it and getting her another present -- and I could definitely live with making one of these for myself. It seems a shame to repeat myself so soon, though.

I am also very tempted by Lisa Lam's Too Cool For School Satchel. I love this bag shape and style but I am not sure this particular pattern has enough interesting features. I'm a bit concerned about how it is put together as well (self-lined, with a layer of heavy double-sided sculpting interfacing sandwiched between layers). There's another Lisa Lam bag I'm keeping in mind, from her previous book, called the Oversized Fashionista. The problem with that one is the cost/availability of the hardware.

From WAY off the beaten track is the bag with a metal snap purse frame set into it. It's from a... Korean, I think, maybe? Or Chinese? e-book that I bought about a year ago, and I find it fascinating. Making anything from those Asian e-books is an adventure though, plus I'd have to try to find the perfect metal purse frame.

Finally, there's Amy Butler's Blossom Bag from Style Stitches, which has a really interesting internal structure and great straps, but is not totally disimilar to the Evelyn I've already made several times.

Actually, I'd kind of love any/all of these, if I am honest. It's really which one I make first! No matter what I make, I want the finish of the bag to be really great, which means spending some time getting things just right.

4. If I have time, I'd like to work through my Beginner Serging Craftsy class and see if I can get to know my overlocker better. I'm really not interested in any of the projects that the class comes with but I'd like to make up the stitch book. The sections I am most interested in come to about 3 hours of video in total, plus sewing time, so this To Do list item is optional.

5. Also if I have time, I bought both the Crochet Lab and Knit Lab absolute beginner classes on Craftsy just after Christmas in their sale. I'd like to do about an hour of each of these classes in total, and maybe get a few basic skills down.

Made: IdeaPouch by MIchelle Patterns

The very last thing I made in 2012 was this pouch. It's called the IdeaPouch and it's by Michelle Patterns. She shows photos of it with some kind of exercise book inside, but it's actually perfect for an iPad. I held off on making a case for my iPad for ages as I knew Michelle was going to launch one, and then when she released it it took me about five months to get around to making it. However, before I went on my Christmas travels, I decided I really needed to make one to protect my iPad in my bag.

This version wasn't totally successful -- you can probably see that I got my centre pleat on the front pouch in the wrong place -- but I like it all the same. I did change the closure method as I dislike those wrap-around string things as illustrated in Michelle's version and so I used velcro instead. I also altered the interior pen slip into a combination of pen slips and pockets of various sizes.

The fabrics are straightforward: red and black faux suede, with a white red and black quilting cotton lining. I interfaced with ultra heavy weight which was not my best idea -- it made the pouch a bit crinkly sounding when you fold down the top flap -- but it's fine for my own personal use.

The actual pattern is well-drafted and clear, just like all of Michelle's patterns. She's one of my all-time favourite pattern-makers, and I can't recommend her patterns highly enough when people want to make functional small bags and pouches.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

A (Sewing) Review of 2012 and Goals for 2013

I'm kind of glad 2012 is almost over, to be honest. It's not been a stellar year for me on a personal level, and the few things that seem to have been good about this year are heavily, heavily outweighed by the bad (illness, death in the family, PhD gloom). Roll on 2013, I say!

Bags and Accessories in 2012

I started the year only really sewing bags and the odd scarf. I do love making bags, and I am glad to keep it up by selling them on Etsy. I don't sell very many via the shop -- a couple a month at most -- but, along with commissions and gifts and things for myself, the shop sales are just enough to keep it ticking over as a hobby I can indulge in without ending up with WAY more bags than any woman needs. In total I made about thirty bags, pouches, clutches and scarves this year. I put all my photos in my 2012 Bags and Accessories Flickr set, but these are my four favourite:
Upper row: Olivia by ChrisW Designs in grey denim (a gift for my sister-in-law -- my review); City Tote (free pattern) by Martina with plastic handles in brown and turquoise.
Lower Row: Katie Bag by iThinksew in red faux suede; and Tulip bag from Sew Serendipity: Bags (book) in white, brown and black wool.

I'm pretty happy with my bag-making, to be honest. As far as the shop is concerned, I have a decent idea of what sells and what doesn't at this point, so I know what to keep making. I'd also like to make more bags for me and as gifts from the more complicated end of the pattern range. I enjoy making the complicated bags best, I think, although they are very time consuming.

I'm still a real novice when it comes to clothes. I've only made a handful of garments and I have SO MUCH to learn. This is simultaneously exciting and alarming. I've really only been sewing garments since April this year, and I took several months off in the middle of the year while I was ill. I feel like the number one thing I need to learn though is how to a really exceptional finish on my clothes. I know from learning to make bags that finish is a function of both practice and time spent working on getting it right.

This year, I really only successfully made three types of things: PJs, skirts, and tops (knits and wovens). I also made a wadder of a dress and a couple of muslins of woven tops.

PJs: New Look 6321: Hippo shorts (far left) (review) and white and blue raglan knit top (far right) (review); Ottobre 05-2011-02 "Sweet Dreams" shorts (review) in red and blue plaid; and a no pattern (it's just a giant rectangle) blue velour caftan dressing gown.

 Skirts (from left to right): Simplicity 8664 straight skirt (review) (I also only partially successfully made a second version); Ottobre 05-2007-04 A-line skirt (review); Simplicity 3881 skirt with a ruffle (review); Simplicity 5351 gored skirt (review)
Tops: (far left) New Look 6025 (review) woven dolman sleeved top; (second from left and second from right) Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono Tee (purple and white/turquoise) (review); (middle) Imagewear M1152 draped neck knit top (review) and (far right) Ottobre 05-2010-01 yoke-necked knit top (review).

As far as finding the things I made useful is concerned, the outcome is a bit mixed. I made the skirts for work and then was too sick to actually start work, so I haven't worn them at all unfortunately. By contrast, I wear all my PJs except the hippo shorts very regularly. The hippo shorts are made from a fabric that is intended for home dec. It's very lightweight home dec, but really it's just not soft enough to wear in bed comfortably.

My absolute favourite top is my purple Maria Denmark tee, which I wear pretty much every week. My least favourite top is probably the MyImage draped neck knit. It's not a bad top, in the sense that it is sewn quite well and it's a perfectly nice pattern, but I have worn it several times and I now remember why I just don't like draped neck tops. I am constantly fussing with the neckline and it's awful under jumpers and jackets, bunching up really unattractively. I MUST remember that before I get involved in making any more drapey neckline tops! I've worn the other three less, for various reasons.

Looking ahead

In 2013, I want to keep my goals simple: plan well and sew carefully. Rather than list all the things I want to do and make, I think it's better to say what I'd like to think about sewing at the end of 2013. I'd really like it if, when I look back at 2013, I decided that on balance I'd sewn useful additions to my wardrobe. I'd like to feel that sewing was a hobby that made me happy, not stressed. I'd also like to feel like I'd improved my skills levels and could see that I could do more at the end of the year than at the beginning, and that the bags and clothes I've made reflect that I've taken the time and trouble to sew them to the best of my abilities.

In practice, I think the best way to plan well is to do a little monthly plan like I did in December. That worked really well for me. So probably my next post will be my Plan For January.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The PR contest list for 2013

Thus far I haven't actually entered any PR contests, although I've thought about it a couple of times and went so far as to sign up for one (the handbag challenge) although I was too ill/swamped in the end to actually do anything for it. I have decided, however, that next year I'm going to try to structure some of my sewing around the contests, mainly because the schedule happens to work quite well with how I hope to improve and expand my sewing skills. I'll probably also post a more general 2013 Goals list in the next couple of weeks, as there are a few other things I want to make/learn/do next year.

Satchel from A Bag For All Reasons
January: One Pattern, Many Looks; Handbag

The "One Pattern, Many Looks" contest is kind of badly timed for me personally. There are certain things I want to make that I will want multiples of once I have a good TNT pattern (a really great blouse pattern, for example, is my DREAM) but I don't have time to do the kind of intensive learning/sewing that I'd need for this to work. Maybe another year.

Handbags, on the other hand? Hell, yes, I'm in for that. I have two things I really need to make that would be eligible: one really great bag for me, since I am bored of my current bag, and also potentially a raffle prize bag to donate to an event I am attending (hopefully) in March. For the bag for me, I am thinking about the School Satchel from Lisa Lam's A Bag For All Reasons. For luggage reasons the raffle bag might have to be a fancy clutch rather than a bag.

February: RTW Designer Knockoff; Challenge

The designer knockoff thing would depend on me seeing something between now and then that I want to copy and is within my skillset, which I feel is quite unlikely. I don't spend a lot of time looking at designer clothes, for a start, so my verdict is basically "meh" on this challenge, though I LOVED seeing the entries for this contest when it ran last year. The second contest is obviously an unknown quantity at this point.
McCalls 5522

March: Fitted Blouse; Pattern Stash

The "volume" contests do nothing for me (pattern stash, fabric stash), so I don't think I'd bother with that. On the other hand, Fitted Blouse is a GREAT contest for me AND it's perfectly timed. I should have plenty of free time in March, and this fits in perfectly with two things I want to do: first, learn and use the shirt-making skills in The Classic Tailored Shirt Craftsy class that I bought in the Thanksgiving sale; and second, recreate my Most Favourite Of All Favourite Blouses (Even Though It's Too Short). I'm going to use McCalls 5522 as the basic pattern, but I'll probably need to frankenpattern the front bodice to make it really work for me. I have a great crisp white cotton to use for this already in my stash.

Pantone Colours for Spring 2013

April: Pantone Colours

I like the idea of the contest, and I like several of the Pantone colours for spring (the dark blue, the poppy red and the african violet, in particular). I have fabrics in all three of those colours as they are colours I wear anyway. I do have one project/material combination in mind for 2013 that might work out REALLY well with this (unlined jacket, using the jacket classes on PR I bought, in poppy red needlecord) but I am not convinced by the timing -- April might not be the best month for me.

May: Challenge; Natural Fibres

I'm kind of indifferent to the natural fibres contest (the challenge being as yet unknown). If something happened to work out, so be it. If not, well, no loss. In May I plan to be working heavily on an outfit for a wedding in June, so if one or more items happens to be a natural fibre (and I am thinking about silk) that would work out nicely, but if it's not, so be it.
Jalie 2908

June: Jeans; Fabric stash

I kind of don't want to make my own denim jeans. I know, heresy, it's one of those things everyone seems to want to make for themselves. However, what I would like is to learn to make trousers that are STYLED as Jeans, but aren't necessarily made of denim. This might therefore be my excuse to make use of Jalie 2908, which I picked up ultra cheap (and still in the original packaging!) on eBay a while back. I actually don't know if jeans-not-made-of-denim would be within the rules but eh, whatever. I could sew along, and ALSO make use of the Jean-ius Craftsy class that I also bought at Thanksgiving. Fabric stash, on the other hand: no.

July and August: UFO; Sewing for Children; Challenge

Pretty much a no all round on the July and August contests unless the challenge throws up something that appeals. Unless something changes radically in my working style between now and then, I can't imagine I'll have a UFO: I tend to work on one project until it's done. I also have no children for whom to sew (the only children in the family are my niece and nephew in Australia, and my SIL buys them all the clothes in the world, they don't need more), no children's patterns (except for what's in Burda issues I happen to own) and no real desire to sew for them anyway.

September: Mini wardrobe

I am definitely doing this in 2013! I don't have any set ideas for it at all at the moment, but barring disaster, yes, I absolutely plan to put together a mini-wardrobe.

Vogue 7466
October: Lined jacket; Challenge

This is probably the most ambitious plan I have for 2013. I have this vintage Vogue pattern (number 7466) for a lined jacket. The seller claimed it was 1960s, but the sizing (size 16, bust 38") makes me wonder if it's 1970s, because I thought they didn't standardize on 16 = 38" until then. The styling looks very 60s though in the picture (check out her hair!). I actually already have the main fabric for this already (black cotton moleskin) and the lining (emerald green cotton satin with a strangely furry wrong side). I know so little about making jackets at this point that I don't even know if I am mad to consider making this, but doing so for the contest might be an idea -- it might encourage me to actually TRY IT, anyway, which is kind of my idea behind all the contests entries I am thinking about.

And again, the challenge is TBD. If I decide to make the jacket, I doubt I will make ANYTHING ELSE AT ALL in October.

If it were right now? I'd make this for the vintage competition!
November: Vintage pattern; Holiday sewing

I am definitely in for vintage pattern. If I had to do it from my pattern collection RIGHT NOW, I know what I'd choose, but I can't speak for how my pattern stash might develop in the nearly-12-months between now and that competition. Holiday sewing, eh, not really my thing.

December: Cocktail outfit

This is an event-dependent maybe. If I had an event I needed a cocktail outfit for in December or early in the new year, I would definitely try to make something and enter it. However, this is not the sort of thing I'd make unless I needed one. The last few years, I've not needed anything like this, but life is about to change radically, so we'll see!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Simplicity Early Spring 2013 collection picks

For ages I couldn't work out why both McCalls recent pattern releases and now Simplicity had some youthful looking formal dress designs in their mix, but then I remembered that Americans do that whole prom thing in the late spring/early summer. I suppose people making dresses for that must start looking for ideas around about now. At any rate, that explained the three very obvious young women's formal dress patterns that I saw in the new Simplicity Early Spring 2013 range. Not being either in the age range for those patterns or even in a country where proms are very popular, I shall ignore them entirely!

These two dresses are my favourite items in the new range. The Amazing Fit dress, 1686, I like very much -- I like the collar and the shape of the dress overall, and the faux wrap styling. The Project Runway dress, 1687, I am a little more sceptical about. On the one hand, I really love the bodice, especially as shown in the grey version with the contrast top. On the other hand, I am not totally convinced by that bulky pleated pocket at the hip. Still, definitely cute.

My other pick, randomly, is a craft pattern. Look at the little starfish pincushions! OK, I'm never going to spend £10 to get it, which is the minimum full price going rate for Simplicity over here, nor even buy it at sale price for £5. But it is sweet.

And finally, winning the award in the WTF category is obviously 1709. It's called a "Tailgaiting Accessories" pattern set. Now, I only lived in the USA for 2 years and only once spent about 10 minutes at a Tailgate thing (at the university where I was doing my Masters degree) so I can't claim to speak authoritatively. However I am pretty sure that you couldn't walk around many such events with a dozen cans of beer strapped across your shoulders like ammunition without people looking at you like you were OUT OF YOUR MIND.  For the rest of the world that Simplicity has apparently forgotten they sell to, the entire set of patterns is bafflingly hilarious, even the name. "Tailgating" here is a driving offence, not a party, as in 'failing to maintain a safe distance between your car and the vehicle in front'.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

In Potentia

My biggest problem in garment sewing is not the actual sewing, but the feeling that my sewing is a waste of fabric. There's the problem of my ever-fluctuating weight, which means it is quite possible I can make something now and not have it fit, one way or the other, in a couple of months time; the fact that I'm still learning to sew clothes so making a wadder is a likely prospect; and the perennial problem that really, I am not great at working out what looks good on me at the various sizes that I wear at different times. I also have the worst contradictory feelings about consumption: the desire to consume and have nice things, and typical, largely unhelpful, liberal middle-class guilt over actually consuming. This manifests itself as a penchant for thinking up weak justifications of purchases (95% of my fabric buying is second-hand, from private sellers on eBay! That makes it totally okay!); reading websites about simplifying your wardrobe and consuming less in the way of clothing etc (but not actually doing it); and making elaborate sewing plans to make my fabric and pattern consumption worthwhile (that I then don't implement).

The end result of all of this is total inertia. I don't want to use fabric I like on anything in case either (a) I ruin it; (b) I make something I love that I then stop being able to wear because of weight changes, thus introducing more waste; or (c) I make something and then discover the Mythical Perfect Pattern that I could better have used that fabric for. The potential of the pattern and the fabric starts to get more heavily weighted than actually using it in my head, and then I just don't do anything at all.

Muslin I made of Style 3997
Take, for instance, the muslin I made of Style 3997. I was so excited by the experience of making this, mainly because of the breakthrough it represented in doing an FBA. I fully intended to make a "real" version to wear at Christmas. Then I faltered. The fabric I had chosen is really cute. Do I really want to use it for this? Does this top really look good on me? What if I made it and it looked terrible? What if it looked really handmade? My family is actually not all that critical, I have to tell you, but I don't know, it suddenly all seemed so RISKY. Which, you don't have to tell me, is RIDICULOUS. It's only a top, it's only a bit of fabric, and there's really not much bad that can happen whether I make it or don't make it.

I have five days left before I head down to my parent's house for the holidays, although my sewing time today is spoken for, in that I am mid-way through an iPad case for myself that I want to finish. So the question is, cut out this top or not? Argh.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Made: Bags of Bags

It feels like ages since I made loads of bags, but this week I made five (!) for a shop restock. Of course, my restock is far too late for actual Christmas sales, but this is when I had the time, so I refuse to worry about it. I've made all these patterns several times before, which was actually nice. It was comforting to remember I CAN sew and make things and I'm not really as hopeless as garment sewing often makes me feel! I guess this is how people with TNT patterns feel -- I can turn out most of these bags without even thinking about it.

My go to bag pattern designers are always Michelle Patterns (formerly Keyka Lou) for anything small, and Rebekah Lambert/artsycraftybabe for larger bags. I do make bags from (many!) other pattern sources and my own designs, but those two pattern makers are my favourites for all sorts of reasons. I've got another two bags cut out and ready to go but I haven't made those before so they will take a little more concentration and effort. One thing I have learned is that really small fabric items -- wallets and pouches and whatnot -- just don't sell at all, so I don't make them any more except on request and/or for myself.

Once my seven bags are done though, well, it's time for a little selfish sewing! I've been so successful with my To Do List so far, I've added a couple of little projects for myself if I have the time before I go home to my family for Christmas: a new winter handbag, and a case for my iPad, which I've been meaning to make for lo, these many months. Neither of them are really massive projects, but they're also not things I would stress about overly if I didn't get around to them.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Pattern Acquisition

I am basically the worst hoarder ever when it comes to patterns and fabrics. I only started sewing 18 months ago and I've already collected so. much. stuff. It's only not ruinously expensive because I am pretty strict with myself on how much I'll pay for any single item. Still, there are definitely cheaper hobbies, and hobbies that take up less space.

At the moment, I am pretty successfully sticking to a self-imposed No More Fabric rule as I have just far too much already. I am TOTALLY FAILING to stick to a No More Patterns/Pattern Magazines rule. Luckily, I am mainly pleased with the things I buy, but there are always one or two things that creep in that I afterwards wish I hadn't bought.

My pattern purchases in the last 6 weeks:

1. Butterick 5849 and 5862. I picked these out of the new Butterick line-up when it came out last month as things I really wanted to own. Then the US BMV website had a 75% off sale, which made them about US$2.50 each. Normally shipping from BMV in the US is STUPID, like US$24 to post 2 patterns to the UK, so I had them sent to a US-based friend of mine and then paid back the postage to have them sent on. Insanely, this ridiculous purchase method is still cheaper than buying them from any UK website.

Style 2820, which is mid-70s, and Style 1578, which is very late 60s.

2. Two vintage patterns. I seem to have a real affinity for 1970s dress patterns, which is good because everyone else seems to bid on vintage 1950s/1960s stuff so I'm rarely competing with anyone. Ordinarily I pay no more than about £2-3 with p&p, but the one on the right is rare and I don't know, I just went nuts for it and so did another bidder and I ended up paying £6. Luckily I'd just sold a bag so I didn't really feel the pain of paying for it -- the money went into my PayPal account from Etsy, and straight back out again!

Scout Woven Tee
3. Two electronic patterns from Grainline Studio, specifically the Scout Woven Tee and the Moss Skirt.  This was one of those things where I'd been thinking about buying the patterns for a while, then I saw on the designer's blog she was having a Thanksgiving sale, and then on the SAME DAY I saw a review of each of the patterns on other people's blogs, plus I found myself mooning over a top on Pepperberry that I could see how I could make the Scout Woven Tee into and... yeah, I ended up buying them while they were on sale. I sort of regret this purchase, but not horribly so.

4. I've been waiting for the monthly free StyleArc pattern to be something I wanted, so that I could buy the Stacie Jean Jacket and have it sent to my sister-in-law in Australia and she could bring it over when they come to the UK at Christmas (thus avoiding, again, horrendous international postage charges). This was the last possible month for me to do this and hey presto, Style Arc offered the Eva Knit Top for free this month, which I probably wouldn't buy but am quite pleased with as a free pattern.

A regretted purchase. :|
5. I bought the Tiramisu dress pattern when the designer first pre-released it and I have to be honest, I've wished I hadn't bought it ever since. It was too late to do anything about it by the time I repented, and then I forgot all about it. It showed up on Tuesday and I was reminded all over again how annoyed I am at myself for buying it in the first place. Perhaps I'll feel more enthusiastic in the summer when a short-sleeved dress makes more sense to me. That said, I saw a version made by SuzyBee (on whose blog I regularly lurk as I love the clothes she makes) as a top that I liked very much, so perhaps not all is lost.

McCall 5522
6. Two McCalls patterns: 5890, which was recently recommended to me as a princess seamed knit top on PR; and 5522, an OOP PR Best Pattern of 2009, which is an empire waisted blouse with cup sizes. Both of these are things that I specifically was looking for. In fact, I've been hoping to find a copy of 5522 for months because my Very Favourite Blouse Ever is very similar in design. And then both came up at once from a single vendor, a little more than I usually pay but still MUCH cheaper than any alternative way of getting hold of them. \o/

New Look 6080

7. New Look 6080, which I bought (inexpensively) for the little unlined jacket pattern. I'm planning to use it as the pattern on which to practice skills learned in the jacket classes I bought on PR.

8. A couple of back issues of Burda that came up inexpensively on eBay. I mainly only look at 2008-2012 back issues, and then I use this really great Russian site I found that for at least the last several years has ALL the photos and technical sketches to decide if there's anything in it an issue that I want. This link takes you to the list for 2009. The translation is TERRIBLE, but I'm more about the pretty pictures.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Made: Tailor's Ham and Sausage

A tailor's ham and sausage
I decided the other day that I really did need a tailor's ham, but I was very put off to discover that the only hams for sale anywhere were either (a) ugly or (b) expensive for what is a very basic thing or (c) both. No way I was paying £10+ for an ugly tailor's ham when all it is is a stuffed rounded shape.

I therefore found a pattern here that I downloaded, as well as instructions that I mostly ignored. Traditionally hams are stuffed with sawdust but the one part of the instructions I did read suggested  that knit scraps were all right too. Since I've made quite a few things recently in knits I had a lot of medium and small sized scraps that I could use, although I have to admit I had no idea just how much I would need to fill what don't look like particularly large objects. I had what seemed like a huge bundle cut up to stuff in the ham but once I put them in it wasn't even half full! So, don't underestimate how much you'll need if you make one yourself.

Tailor's ham, stuffed very full of knit scraps
For the outer, I just used home dec weight fabric scraps. Since I'm mainly a bag maker and I make almost my bags in home dec weight I had a LOT of choice for small-ish pieces. The sausage is made of a tapestry weight fabric. I actually regretted this fabric because it shredded all along the seam line. I stitched it closed without even an iota of finesse but a LOT of thread in the hopes that it will not shred any more, but I'm not overly hopeful, if I'm honest. Still, it was easy to make so I can always run off another and just re-use the stuffing. The ham is made with Ikea dancing hippos in red. I ended up underlining this with a piece of scrap white cotton as I wasn't sure the fabric was strong enough. It looks pretty good though, and who wouldn't want hippos on their ham. :D

Other than taking the photos, I got the ham and sausage done last night and I also twin needle stitched the cuffs and hems on my blue floral knit top that was otherwise done three weeks ago. I'm only three days into December and I've already knocked off three fifths of my To Do list. :D Before I get too excited though I have to note that the other two projects are a little more demanding. Next up, I'm getting started on replenishing my bag stock for my Etsy shop, and I've got SEVEN bags to make in order to do so. So far, I've got two cut out, another three where I've chosen patterns and fabrics, and the remaining two I just have listed on my spreadsheet as possibilities.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Reviewed: ChrisW Designs Olivia bag

Yesterday I posted my to do list for December and started it off with:

"1. Finish the bag for my sister-in-law."

Then I knuckled down and FINISHED THE BAG, hurray! Although, extremely annoyingly, I am two rivets short and had to order some extra. I took the photos and wrote the review before the extra rivets arrived, so just imagine they're on there, all right?

Front view of ChrisW Olivia bag in grey denim

This is the second ChrisW Designs pattern I've made although I actually have another two of her patterns I have yet to try out. I've made three Evelyn bags -- one for myself, one for my sister-in-law, and one for my aunt. The one I made for myself is still my go-to brown bag and I love it, so I call that a wild success. I also own the patterns for the Snazzy Slouch and the Bella. And of course I've downloaded, although not yet used, her free pattern, the Coco. I have my eye on a couple of other new patterns she's put out recently (the Eve, and the Abigail), but my personal bag pattern rule is that I have to sell a bag in order to buy a pattern, and recently I've been spending on my shop proceeds on clothes patterns!

I would have to say ChrisW is my favourite "complicated" bag pattern designer. Apart from Amy Butler's Style Stitches book and some of her envelope bag patterns, and some (but not all) of Lisa Lam's patterns (including her two books) actually, she's probably the only bag pattern designer I know of who puts out this kind of complicated, hardware intensive pattern. I actually don't use her patterns at all to make bags for my shop as they're time and labour intensive and I can't price it accordingly.

Pattern review (also here) -- I'm missing off my usual nit-pickery and cost analysis as this is a gift for someone.

Back view with inset zip pocket

Pattern Description: From the designer's website: "The Olivia is not only roomy and functional but with loads of pockets you will be super organized as well!"

Pattern Sizing: The finished bag is approximately 40cm long by 25cm wide by 10cm deep (16" x 10" x 4").

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, I think so.

Straps folded over at the shoulder and riveted for durability.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes. ChrisW provides very thorough instructions with plenty of photographs. I've made enough bags -- and specifically, some of her other patterns, which share some similar features -- that I don't need anything like the detail she goes into. However, for the less experienced bag-maker, every step is spelled out. One thing I could fault the pattern designer for is the limited number of notches/markings she uses on the pattern pieces, although they're otherwise extremely well drafted and fit together exactly as expected.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The recipient of this gift is someone who carries around her entire life in a bag, so I wanted to make her something large, rugged, and with plenty of pockets. This pattern fit the bill on all counts. I particularly liked the front pockets and the various internal pockets, and the use of metal hardware. I also liked the complexity of the finished pattern, which gives a really good-looking finished product.

Side view with elasticated pocket

On the other hand, there are literally dozens of pieces to this pattern  -- I cut 62 pieces including interfacing, and since I was using heavy fabric I barely used any interfacing -- and it took hours upon hours to make. There's nothing particularly complicated in the pattern, especially if you've made bags before, there are just A LOT of little pieces and swapping out thread, machine feet, etc. I don't mind because I wanted to make it and am happy to spend the time, but the amount of time you'll need is something to keep in mind. There is one small detail I actively dislike, and that is the raw edge/satin stitch method of attaching the front pocket flaps to the bag. I went ahead and did as the instructions suggested, but I would do it slightly differently next time.

Fabric Used: Grey denim for the outer. This is a relatively lightweight denim I bought online imagining I would make a denim skirt with it. However, the description was misleading and when it arrived there was no stretch in it at all -- not great for a skirt. As a non-stretch fabric, though, it was very good for a bag. The lining is a designer home-dec weight remnant by Sanderson in duck egg and grey. The use of denim was probably the biggest challenge making this bag because it made for some exceptionally bulky seams and turning all the various straps and loops was a real chore in such a heavy fabric. On the other hand, the weight of the fabric saved on interfacing. I just used ultra-heavy weight on the base and fusible fleece on the lining for some extra bulk.

Top view with zipper gusset closed
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I didn't interface the bag in the way I was directed, mainly because of the fabrics I was using. I'm familiar enough with bag-making and interfacing to know what I can change and what effect it will have on the finished bag. I've made ChrisW patterns before for myself and sometimes I omit some of the bells-and-whistles, like the external zipper pocket and some of the internal pockets, just because I don't tend to use them. As this was a gift, I went all out and included all the details. I also added a key clip on the inside of the bag, as I do with all larger bags!

Lining: inside zipper pocket, patch pocket and key clip (just visible on the upper right)
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I'd quite like to make one for myself now I've made this first one. I wouldn't make it in denim again though, just because of the time it took to turn the straps! I really do recommend this pattern if you want to make a large, feature-rich bag, but it's not suitable either for an absolute beginner or the chronically impatient.

Conclusion: A great pattern at the more complex end of bag patterns, but not for the time-poor or novice sewist.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Ambitious plans for December

I'm not dead, I'm just spending every single moment I allocate to sewing endeavours on this flipping bag I am making for my sister-in-law for Christmas. I think the end is sort of in sight, maybe, possibly? It's not that it's hard -- I'm not unpicking over and over or struggling with the pattern -- it's just INCREDIBLY time-consuming because it has about forty pieces. On the plus side, now that it's looking properly bag-like, it's actually looking pretty great. I'd certainly carry it and be pleased if someone made one for me!

Since it's December 1st, I though I'd share my sewing to do list for the month. Well, sewing to do list for the next three weeks, since I'm heading down to my parents' house for the festivities the weekend before Christmas and not coming back until something like January 4th.

My December Sewing To Do List

1. Finish the bag for my sister-in-law.
I might even get this done this weekend as apart from the zippers I've not got much of the fiddly little pieces left to deal with, just the larger construction steps.

2. Make several bags to restock my shop.
I need to make: 2 large bags, 1 medium bag, 3 small bags, and 1 clutch in order to get my stock back to normal levels. I've got the medium bag and the clutch cut out, I've picked out patterns for all the rest, but I've not completely decided on fabrics yet. All the patterns I've picked out though are familiar except two, and only one of those is complicated.

3. Make a top to wear on Christmas Day using my Style 3997 muslin.
I'm probably most excited about this To Do list item. I'm using a red embroidered fabric so it's a bit Christmas-y already.

4. Finish up my "Nora" jersey top in blue floral jersey.
I wrote the review up for this top and posted it 2 weeks ago, but the hems and cuff hems still aren't done! I don't know why, it's not like it's complicated and it will take me at most half an hour once I get started. So this is a quick one to knock off I hope.

5. Make a tailor's ham and sausage.
It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and my mum got me a sleeve board as a present. Once I've made myself a ham and sausage, I should be all set for tailoring equipment. This should be quick, at least, since it's pretty simple stuff.

Oh, and I have to hit my PhD writing deadlines as well, of course. It's pretty much only the sewing that is keeping me sane though, so I prefer not to add that in to my list of things to do on this blog!