Back to Back Basics

This outfit is fast becoming a bit of a uniform for me! Here's another incarnation of the Papercut Patterns Rise Turtleneck, worn with a pattern hacked A-line skirt. Both are very easy makes, and great for mixing in with the rest of my wardrobe. I'm aiming to go mostly handmade with my clothing choices - I haven't bought any clothes so far this year! - so garments like this are great quick makes when I'm feeling the 'new clothes' need.

Repeat makes: the Rise Turtleneck and A-Line skirt
A close up of the textures - the ribbed fabric shows up black on camera but it's actually navy blue!
My friend Harriet brought me a metre of this fine cord fabric back from a trip to Copenhagen last year and I've been trying to decide what to do with it ever since! I love the texture and the pattern, and after my last one got a lot of wear, I thought it would be good for another A-line skirt. It's the same as the previous one (a pattern hack of a the GBSB pencil skirt) but this time, I took the sides out further to make it even more A-line in shape.

A handmade outfit for under £10
I really should have lined it - the fabric just wants to stick to everything - but I was too busy sticking to my own tips on cheap sewing, so it's one to wear with an underskirt. On the plus side, both the skirt and Rise Turtleneck cost less than £10 to make.

My other two Rise Turtlenecks have had so much wear that I had to make another one - this time in navy blue ribbed jersey. I added an extra couple of inches to the sleeve and body length as I found that the others came up a bit short. The only problem with this fabric is it's slightly less stretchy, making a bit of a tight squeeze to get over my head! In all though, I'm pretty pleased with it. I think the top and skirt go together quite well, there's some definite 70's vibes when you throw my coat into the mix too...
70's vibes: handmade outfit with French Connection coat
In other news, the lovely Aimee of Wrong Doll has kindly nominated me for my second Liebster Award! A Liebster is a fun way of spreading cheer and encouragement around fellow bloggers, and helping people to discover new blogs! As a recipient, Aimee has posed me 10 questions that I'm going to try my best to answer...

1. What/who inspired you to create?
The lacking high street pushed me, rather than inspired me, towards making my own clothes. But seeing other people create online and on TV (Sewing Bee!) was a great source of inspiration. My mum is also a brillinat maker, and very much instilled the 'I could make that' attitude in me too.

2. Motivations to write a blog
I like reading other blogs! Seeing other people share their fab handmade garments is usually my main reason for picking a pattern. It's also really nice to be a part of a making and sharing community, and helps me keep track of my own progress.

3. Introvert or extrovert
I'm probably more of an extrovert, until you get me near my sewing. (I actually did an online quiz that told me I'm an 'ambivert', which apparently means I fall right in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum - best of both worlds!)

4. Creative conundrums keeping you up at night
Usually how am I going to hack that pattern to make something I've seen on Pinterest/in the shops? Bag construction completely baffles me too, though I'm feeling much better after making the Retro Rucksack. I'm going to be ambitious and try to use the pattern as the basis for a faux leather harness-style bag.
5. Favourite make
As always, the Kielo Wrap Dress, particularly my first version. I'm also really proud of my my Retro Rucksack and the pattern hacking I did to make this faux wrap skirt too!
6. Least favourite make
Funnily enough, it's a Kielo Wrap Dress. I made it in this wonderful batik cotton which was unfortunately totally unsuitable - it has terrible drape and looks like I'm wearing a bed sheet! It's all in the fabric choice!
Worst make!
7. Fabric of choice
Anything with a nice drape - I like crepe and viscose. My number one fabric of the moment is this BEAUTIFUL Prada viscose I grabbed in Abakhan a couple of weeks ago - can't wait to use it!
Beautiful PRADA fabric 
8. Favoured patterns/designers
In terms of pattern designers, I eagerly await the latest Named Clothing collections. And with designers and brands, I like Comme des Garçons, Whistles, Cos and &OtherStories.

9. Pivotal moment on your creative journey
Quite strange, but getting glandular fever last summer was a bit of a turning point. I had a lot more time to spend thinking about the sort of clothes I wanted to make and wear, and when I could get out of bed, did quite a lot of sewing. I think my style shifted a bit - away from floral/girly, and more towards interesting silhouettes and quality fabric and making - and I got a lot braver with trying things that were a bit different. Getting a new machine was pretty pivotal too - I worked on a half size machine before that couldn't even sew concealed zips.

10. If money were no object …
I'd own a house with an ample sewing studio and pattern/fabric stash. Somewhere much bigger than my current corner, where I could keep everything set out and ready to work on at all times! 

As a thank you for the nomination, I'd like to ask everyone to check out Aimee's wonderful blog, and share the nice feeling by nominating a few blogs of my own. I haven't set any questions, but if my nominees choose to accept, then I'd love to see them share their favourite make, along with 3 facts about themselves or their sewing.

Bella from Bellbird 
Jessica from All Stitched Up
Rachel from A Study in Stitching
Tifaine from Madame Tifaine

As ever, I'd encourage everyone to share the (blog) love, whether that's visiting the above blogs, following a new blog, or taking the time to leave a nice comment about someone's latest make. Happy sewing and blogging :)

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The Retro Rucksack!

I'm so sooo excited to share this make - my Radiant Home Studio Retro Rucksack! It was a bit of an adventure into the unknown for me because, to be honest, I'm just not a natural bag constructor/maker - I find it really hard to envisage how all the layers and linings fit together with things like this. So it was SO great to find a pattern I loved with instructions that are so amazingly thorough and detailed. I think it might just be one of the most professional looking things I've ever sewn up!

The materials
I came across the Retro Rucksack pattern after seeing a couple of beautiful versions sewn up on Try Curious Blog and Cut Cut Sew - I just had to buy the pattern for myself! I loved the roll/fold down top, and the clever design that allows you to switch between carrying it as a shoulder bag or back pack. I only hope that my post and pictures can do the bag as much justice, as I think it's such a fab pattern.

A peak inside - it's a shame that lining is hidden from view!
I enjoyed the challenge of trying to find the perfect fabrics. I knew I wanted to use wax cotton for the bottom of the bag, similar to the ones I'd already seen made up online. I was quite close to buying some Nani Iro fabric for the main bag pieces, but I'm always reluctant to order online as you can't check the weight of the fabric. In the end, I took myself to Fabworks in Dewsbury (to compensate for not being able to make the Yorkshire Spoolettes 2nd meet up *sad face*) and managed to get everything all in one go! My eventual colour-scheme/choices were inspired by the palette of lovely Leeds independent shop Colours May Vary, along with all those minimal Swedish-designed back packs that are everywhere at the minute:

- Greeny/yellow taffeta for the main bag
- Grey wax cotton for the contrast bottom and straps
- Black and white graphic print nylon for the lining

The hardware is probably the the hardest to track down. The pattern provides some handy pointers for buying in the US, but I'm across the pond in the UK and too impatient to wait for international postage. I got my clip fastenings, strap sliders and D rings for a really good price from Green Grizzly - would definitely recommend! Le Prevo is also good for bits like this too.

Zip pocket in the lining
First up, you construct the lining. This includes a zip closure pocket which I must say, I found quite difficult to get right - I've never inserted a zip with a facing placket before, so it was quite fun learning a new technique. I imagine I found it a bit harder than I should have, because I shrank some of my lining fabric slightly with the heat of the iron (eek!). Anyway, with a very cool iron and some maneuvering of mismatching pieces, I just about got away with it. There's also a handy section-pocket in the lining that's designed to be around the size of a tablet.

Close up detail!
I decided to make my own straps as the webbing I bought was just too flimsy for the job. I used the instructions provided to make super strong straps - 4 layers of wax cotton and interfacing to be precise! My sewing machine was not happy. I had a few hairy moments with the fabric thickness, but I managed it with some careful turning of the hand-wheel and a heavy duty needle. I think the bag looks much better for having matching straps, and they should hopefully withstand a lot of use!

Front view
Back view
It all came together at an exciting pace then. There's just some very careful top stitching to be done along the v-shaped panel, and it was really cool to do the XX 'crosses' to add strength where the fastening straps are attached to the bag.

More detail - to show the XX stitching over the straps
I still had my unpicker handy for the few things I did wrong... It took me 3 attempts at inserting the main zip before I got it the right way round - entirely my fault for being a sleepy sewist and skipping through the instructions. When I finally got it right, I did feel pretty good about it! After that, you fold the top in on itself by 4 inches, and stitch in the ditch of the side seams to make it look something like this:

Inside zip view
And the finished Retro Rucksack on the model
I was meant to be saving it for festival-season, but I just couldn't wait that long - it was made to be used after all! It carries a decent amount of contents - my days of carrying impractical amounts of stuff on one shoulder are over. If I make it again (which I definitely will as I promised a friend one for her birthday) I'd make the straps just a little bit longer. As a back pack, it sits just right on me, but it would be nice to have a bit of flexibility to make them longer/wear the bag a bit lower down.

Retro rucksack!
A quick change and it's a shoulder bag!
In case I've not stressed it enough already, I just need to say that I love this pattern! I'm feeling really proud and positive about my first venture into sewing accessories! I think I have the bug now - does anyone else have recommendations for some interestingly designed bag patterns?

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10 tips on sewing at low cost

Here's a very brief look at a simple skirt, made on a shoe-string at the end of a very tight-on-money January. I find that sewing my own clothes is generally cost effective, until I get tempted by all the nice patterns and fabrics. So this got me thinking that I should probably write down some tips on low cost sewing - mainly for my own reference - and see if anyone else had any too!

The under £5 skirt
  • 1. Best for basics: Most of my craft-related expenditure is spent in Leeds Kirkgate Market, where I can usually pick up all the basics - and some extra indulgent bits -  at a really good price.
  • 2. Think about your thread: There are occasions where you really should sew with high quality thread - and yes it is nicer to work with - but most of the time, I'm happy to work with cut-price bobbins. I pick up bigger-than-average bobbins of cotton at 3 for £1.20 in the market.
  • 3. Cut corners with colour matching: Again on the topic of thread; I usually keep a well stocked collection of black, white, and a neutral grey/beige and get away with sewing in these colours wherever I can! Of course, you will need a nice matching thread if topstitching - unless you're brave enough for a neat row of contrast stitches - but I try and use what I have in stock where possible.
  • 4. Reusing and recycling: It can be pretty painstaking, but try disassembling old clothes and harvest their zips, buttons and other and hardware for your new projects.
Some excellent but entirely accidental pattern and nail matching with my zip insertion
  • 5. Review your stash: A totally obvious one, but it's always worth having a look over what you already have, and maybe even making an inventory. I've lost count of the times that I've bought a zip/some elastic/new needles and then found the ones that I already had.
  • 6. Hack your patterns: As tempting as it is to buy new patterns (or the whole of the new Named collection) sometimes it's worth seeing what you can do with a pattern you already have.. It could just be widening or narrowing a trouser leg, or shortening a sleeve and adding a cuff. My recent experiments include this skirt, which was made from an TNT pencil skirt pattern that I altered the side seems of, and see my last post for a detailed look at doing just the same but with added faux wrap panels.
A hack of a TNT pencil skirt pattern that I knew had a good fit on my waist
  • 7. Savvy fabric shopping: I'm a huge fan of rag markets and craft fairs (like the Hebden Bridge WI Rag Market) where you can unearth treasures at a snip of the regular cost. I made this skirt from fabric that I picked up for just £4 at a recent Craft De-stash in Leeds - check out my other spoils below! I love trawling the bins in Abakhans too - it's no end of fun and so satisfying when you find something you love!
My super haul from the craft destash - fabric, leather, stamps and more
  • 8. Feel your fabric: I have to touch everything, and it can definitely be a deterrent from buying. This doesn't sound like a good thing, but I've seen some of the best prints that I would have bought at sight value, but after touching them and seeing how they drape, found that they're not exactly what I'm looking to work with. *Technically* saving money here by never buying them in the first place.
  • 9. Work with what you've got: I love a long length skirt, but where fabric doesn't permit, I'll raise my hemlines. In this case, the fabric really did determine the length and shape of the skirt as it was a really narrow piece. I had just enough to squeeze it out.
  • 10. Skip lining: To be honest, its a very rare occasion that I line anything anyway. I find it more economical to have a slip or underskirt in my wardrobe to wear with any garments that need the extra layer.
Adding a bit of sparkle to my day wear - worn with my Papercut Patterns Rise Turtleneck
I think this skirt's worked out as a smart little number, and it just shows that you don't have to have a huge fabric budget or masses of fabric to make something worth wearing. I definitely have some other odd metres that could be used up in a similar way.

How does everyone else manage their sewing budget?

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See it and Sew it: The faux wrap skirt

I try to pin sewing inspiration on Pinterest, but often forget what's saved on there till I have a look. I'm glad I looked this week, because I rediscovered a wonderful street style image that inspired me to make a new favourite: the faux wrap skirt.

The original inspiration
My version! Sans hat and belt (not really my style), but it feels very 'me'
After a bit of consideration and a few sketches, I decided I could make my own version of the skirt with a few simple hacks to a TNT skirt pattern - the pencil skirt from GBSB (made wayyyy back here and here). The back pattern piece just needed lengthening, and I just needed to draft the panels that overlay the front skirt, creating a faux wrap look. This drawing might explain things a bit better:

Plan on alterations to original pattern skirt pieces
First up I altered the side seams of the front and back skirt pieces, taking them out slightly from the hip down, so that it would be more A-line in shape, rather than pencil. I cut the length of the back skirt pieces as long as I could under the constraints my limited amount of fabric - they ended up being about 16cm longer than the front.
Extra panel I had to draft for the 'faux wrap'
The starting point to make the faux wrap pieces was to trace the altered side seam edge of the existing front and back pattern pieces - the wrap pieces would eventually be sandwiched between the front and back skirt during construction. They only needed to be deep enough to meet at the CF top of the skirt, with a little bit extra added to allow room for hemming. It was almost an exact copy of the back skirt pieces, (without darts) but I trimmed around 3cm from the bottom corner, diagonally to the top CF corner, to give that diagonal line where the pieces don't completely meet in the middle.

Back view
And then it was pretty much a case of sewing it up as normal, with the addition of the faux wrap pieces sandwiched between the front and back skirt when sewing the side seams. I used a black, wool-mix that I had left over from making the Mary Dress (from Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress). I had to carefully consider my hemming - the front skirt needed hemming before attaching to the longer back skirt/wrap pieces - and finish the wrap panels as neatly as possible in case you get a flash of the wrong side during wear..

Skirt centre front
I wasn't so sure about how to join the wrap panels in the middle - you can't really work it out from the inspiration image. I was thinking of a tie or bow at first, but the fabric is a little too thick for that. So for now, I've just tacked them in place. Does this look ok or does anyone have a better suggestion? Ideas welcome!

The finished skirt - it's really hard to photograph black garments!
I'm so pleased that it sewed up just as I imagined in my head and on paper. It's always a nice confidence boost as a sewist when you can work things out! And I really feel like this is just the sort of garment I'd want to buy from somewhere like COS, Whistles, or Toast if funds permitted, so being able to make it myself is a real 'go me!' moment. Hacking patterns isn't so scary at all and I'd encourage anyone who's not sure sure to give it a try!

Finished and getting a wear!
I'm going to try the skirt again but in a lightweight fabric with a good drape for summer - just booked my holidays :) - and I would consider adding a tie front to join the two panels. I'm going to keep trawling for inspiration as I really like the idea of making 'See it and Sew it' a regular thing/habit - both to blog about and to really challenge myself as a maker!

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