Me Made May 16: The Pledge!

I'm really excited about Me Made May this year. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that my previous attempts haven't exactly been successful, but then, it is meant to be a challenge... For anyone who doesn't know, Me Made May is a fab, yearly challenge, organised by Zoe of So Zo... What do you know?, which encourages makers to embrace their handmade items and wear them more (for the duration of May and hopefully much longer after that!). This will be my third time giving it a go, and I definitely feel that it will be a case of third time lucky.

My attempt at gathering all my handmade clothes in a pile - this isn't even all of them!
My history with Me Made May goes something like this... 

In 2014 I jumped into it with great enthusiasm, predicting that I would have a rosy month full of handmade, when in fact I was still a very new dressmaker, with approximately 4 me-made items to my name. Of course, you can still play along with only a few handmade items if you set your pledge accordingly. But did I do that?...No.

- I felt more prepared for my '1 me-made item per day' pledge in 2015, but I let life get in the way. A house move and a holiday came up, and suddenly all my me-mades were in the washing basket and it all went out of the window by week two.

So it's 2016, and I feel like I've hit my stride with dressmaking; I feel confident and comfortable with my output, and I love wearing it. Here's a pledge that I'm going to stick to this year; I'm going to keep it very simple...

 'I, Shauni of The Magnificent Thread and @shaunimagnifique, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '16. I endeavour to wear 1 or more me made items each day for the duration of May 2016. I intend to use it as an opportunity to re-evaluate my handmade wardrobe, re-introduce long lost makes into regular rotation, and identify those that I no longer get great joy from wearing and assign them for recycling or re-purposing.'

Of course I'll be looking to identify any gaps too, one of which is already glaringly obvious... I'm seriously lacking in me-made tops. So I'll throw in a sideline pledge to make a couple of tops during May too :)

To find out More about MMMay16 and see other people's pledges, check out Zoe's post.

I'll be posting not-quite-daily but regular updates on Instagram and via the other social media streams below, and possibly the odd blog round up too. Can't wait to see everyone else sharing their Me Made May efforts!

Stay in touch!

Faux Leather Nita Wrap Skirt

After pattern testing the Sew DIY Nita Wrap Skirt, I just had to make another. Wrap skirts seem to be everywhere at the moment, and more than a few of my high street favourites are made up in leather/suede.

Really, I had a score to settle with a faux leather skirt that I recently tried on in Topshop (pictured below). If you read my last post, you'll already know exactly how I feel about the sizing on the high street, and this one was no different. I loved the garment on the hanger, but when it came to trying in on, the hip measurements seemed to barely change between sizes. This was just at the time when I was testing the Nita pattern, and I thought it would work perfectly in faux leather if only I dared to brave working with it...

I bought the thin leatherette from B&M Fabrics when the lovely Jess from All Stitched Up came to visit and we had a mooch around the fabric shops of Leeds. It has a slight stretch, and is backed with a soft, thin jersey. I was wearing my first Nita at the time, and very much sitting on the fence wondering I could tackle a second in a fabric like this. Big thanks go to Jess for encouraging me to go for it - I needed the back up with this one!

The pattern itself is super simple to sew up, but making it in the faux leather proved to be pretty challenging. Although it was fine to sew when right sides were together (with the soft jersey backing on the outside) it was an absolute nightmare any time the right side was exposed during sewing. The tacky leatherette side dragged against my machine, creating some nasty misshaping when I tried to topstitch my front facing in place. Unpicking this left some dodgy marks too (see below), but luckily they're hidden away on the wrap side that sits underneath.

This is so not a forgiving fabric for making mistakes with!
I hadn't planned on doing it, but at this point, I realised I'd have to line the skirt to secure the folded facing edge (and avoid the topstitching). I used some leftover black crepe from my stash, which worked quite nicely. I hand-basted the lining and outer together to avoid any further machine-drag issues. Then followed this up with more hand stitching to finish the waistband. This was much easier than I thought - it just took a sharp needle and a bit of patience.

Hand basting layers together
The inside waistband, hand stitched to finish
Pressing wasn't too bad. Where I could, I used a cool iron on the wrong side of the fabric, and for the front and belt I managed to get some use out of my cooking books - knew they'd come in handy for something!
Resorting to unusual pressing techniques!
I made View A this time (the mini length) but still wanted to stick with the D-ring fastening of View B - I think the hardware and faux leather perfectly complement each other. I added an inch to the length of the skirt so I had a bit more room for manouever when hemming... but when I got to it, I was stumped by how to actually hem it, if at all! I knew I couldn't topstitch it like a normal hem because of the dragging issue, so tried hand stitching, but that just threw the fit of the front panels right off, creating unsightly kinks on the diagonal wrap edges.
Close up detail
So its currently unpicked and hanging loose - not the end of the world. Now I see why a lot of hems are unfinished on high street garments made in similar fabric. I probably should've tried out some of the nifty tricks for sewing with difficult fabrics from the start of this project. I'm really interested to know if anyone's tried the tape on the presser foot trick? Does it really work?! I've since bought a walking foot - a real investment, but if you're in Leeds, buy one from the sewing machine repairs shop in the market for about half the price! I've already tried it out on some hard to handle stretch fabric and it was G R E A T so I'm hoping it will work magic with faux leather too!

Sorry for the creases! I'd been wearing it for half the day by this point
Despite some of the difficulties, its been SO worth it. I'm super proud that I braved a full garment in leatherette and I'm really happy with the finished skirt. Plus it only cost £10.50 to make - hell of a lot cheaper than the high street one! (And much more satisfying knowing I made it myself). It was really difficult to get pictures of because of the way it creases and shifts with movement, but then if you look back at the Topshop one, that does exactly the same, so you'll have to just trust me on this one! 

Thank you to Chloe for taking pictures of me in Sunny Bank Mills. Chloe makes beautiful accessories from reclaimed fabrics at By the Lock Handmade - check them out!

What does everyone else think of working in tricky fabrics like faux leather? Scary / easier than it looks / any tips and tricks? I'd love to know :)

Stay in touch!

Prospective crafters of Leeds!

I'm super pleased to announce that I'll be running some workshops in Leeds as a part of Stitch-Up's fabulous 'Festival Threads' series! It's been in the works for a little while now and Jen from Stitch-Up has been working hard to put together a brilliant jam-packed programme, so it's great to be able to share :)

Festival Threads is being delivered in association with this year's #BIGDISCO festival, so expect extra sparkles. I'll be helping people to make their very own fab festival kimono and sequinned disco capes, and I can't wait try my hand at all the other workshops (desperate to make myself a sparkly pom-pom headdress!). So come learn to sew, crochet, pom-pom and get generally all-round crafty at Duke Studios with some super talented makers (and me!).

For full details and to book your place see here.

The beautiful Stitch-Up studio in Sunny Bank Mills
Stitch-Up is an innovative social enterprise made up of talented local makers and designers, delivering exciting workshops, events and community projects. The aim is to engage and inspire people of all ages/abilities to learn a valuable new craft skill! Also I just had to put up a picture of the  d r e a m y  Stitch-Up studio (above) which I'm totally in love with. (Is it too much to ask my bf if we can move house so I can have something similar..?)

Just some of the Stitch-Up team
It's been lots of fun and super inspiring to meet like-minded makers, and I'm looking forward to meeting more people with an interest in all things crafty through the Festival Threads workshops!

Follow Stitch-Up on Twitter and Instagram, and check out the Facebook for all the latest news and events!

Please pass the message on to anyone who may be interested! See you there with sparkles on top :)

Stay in touch!

Homemade vs High Street: Can sewing boost our body confidence?

Today marks two whole years of blogging about making my clothes. It's something that I was initially embarrassed about for fear that what I wrote wouldn't be very good. But I'm proud that I stuck with it; proud that I can look back at all the posts and see my progress (and changing style). I've made some wonderful friends (internet and IRL), found out about hidden gem fabric shops, got involved with a bit of pattern testing, and I'm even trying my hand at some teaching soon!
A recent experience on the high street
So why sew? 
As my handmade output has increased and my shop bought count hits its lowest ever, I've spent a bit of time thinking about the positive impact that dressmaking is having on my life. It's become not just a hobby, but a positive lifestyle choice. Sewing (and blogging about it) not only gives me a clear head and something to focus on, but it's altered my relationship with my body for the better too.

I think the pressure to wear the latest trends, and fit into the standard dress size clothing available on the high street can have a negative impact on people's perception of their body. The high street may tout the 'typical' body shape through their limited offering of sizes, but there's a lot that's 'atypical' about our bodies. If you fall more than a little outside of the high street standard-size measurements, finding clothing you can feel confident and comfortable in becomes even more difficult...

Apologies for the side boob - well, extreme bra exposure. This is a size 14 top from the high street. I accept that my bust measurement is slightly above average, and pick my sizing with this in mind. However I'm absolutely baffled by how this garment could ever modestly cover someone with a 'typical' size 14 bust.
As this one clearly didn't fit, I'm going to try a hack of the Rise Turtleneck. Check out this amazing hack of the Named Beatrix bodice by Mady from The Wardrobe Project for inspiration too!
More often than not, I found shopping to be a demoralising or distressing experience - in one shop I was a size 10, in another, I could barely do up a size 16, the fit was off, nothing looked right... - so that was a big incentive to start making my own clothes. With sewing, I disassociated myself from a dress size or number. Although patterns still list dress sizes, it's the measurements that count, and it's all about the measurements matching you, not you matching them. There's so much more flexibility in sizing when you have the control over it, and no need to feel bad about the perceived 'extra inch' that stops you fitting into this size or that.

Unflattering and ill-fitting 'on trend' high street clothes (going to try making the Seamwork Catarina instead of this) VS...
...A proper fitting handmade outfit (Papercut Patterns Rise Turtleneck and Sew DIY Nita Wrap Skirt)
I still shop on the high street from time to time, but it's rare that I find something that fits as well or as comfortably as something I could make for myself. I appreciate that dressmaking isn't for everybody, and not everyone has the time or means to make their own clothes, so I'm thankful that I am able to. That it has also improved how I feel about myself and my body is an added bonus, and something I could've never foreseen when I started making clothes a few years ago. Maybe this is something that I've only come to realise down the line as I've become more confident in my abilities as a dressmaker.

All in the fit
Making my own clothes has relaxed my attitude towards my figure, and banished any thoughts that certain parts of it are 'difficult' to dress. I understand fit and proportions more, and I make clothing in styles that will suit me, without having to see a model or disproportionate shop mannequin wearing it first. Choosing my clothes has become an exciting and empowering experience because I'm involved in the process from the very start - it's 100%  my choice. I don't need to compromise on fashion, fit or fabric, and I couldn't be happier about it!

Does anyone else find that sewing has a positive impact on the way they view their body?

And if you took the time to read this post, thank you. Two years down the blogging line and it's the encouragement of fellow sewists that keeps me going and sewing :)

As ever...
Stay in touch!

Retro Rucksack #2

Here's my second Retro Rucksack (pattern by Radiant Home Studio), not made for me, but as a birthday gift for a friend! It's not often that I get round to doing any unselfish sewing - in fact I only promised this one after a glass of wine too many - but I really enjoyed making my first one, so this was a nice, stress-free bit of present making.

Retro Rucksack #2
My fabrics were once again from the always wonderful Fabworks. They have a great selection of showerproof and outdoors-y style fabrics that would be good for a a parka or a mac, and they work great for bags like this. I picked a more muted, classic palette this time with my friend in mind:
  • Khaki wax cotton for the bottom and the straps - it's slightly heavier in weight than the wax cotton I used for version 1. I actually used it wrong side up as I preferred the finish of the non-waxed side (which is darker in colour and marks quite easily).
Worn as a backpack on the model
  • Thin stripe fabric for main bag - this is a remnant of soft furnishing/curtain fabric. It's a really decent weight, so I skipped the interfacing on that bit, as it has enough body to hold the shape of the bag alone.
I looked really funny balancing and holding a lamp up while I tried to take these photos! I'd be no good at product shots!
  • Acetate/poly mix for the lining - this is the same design as I used the first time round, but in different colours. I avoided ironing it where possibly after last time's melting incident.

Zip opening
A little peak at the lining and inside pocket
I made my own straps once again, which is a truly satisfying process. I added a few inches to the shoulder strap - as much as my fabric permitted - so there's a bit more room for maneuver when adjusting the straps.

A lovely, neat view of the back
I love the Retro Rucksack pattern, and particularly enjoyed sewing this version up now I'm feeling a bit more confident about bag making. As I was making it with my friend in mind I thought I'd feel totally fine about parting company with it, but I ended up really wanting to keep it haha! I like how smart and professional the two outer fabrics look together - I put my all into that topstitching too!

Side view
My mum saw this one and has already put in a request for the next, so it definitely won't be the last time I'll use this pattern! My friend is planning to take hers on a trip to New York - we thought it would be a really secure bag to travel with because of all the fastenings - so I requested a picture as proof that my sewing went international! Until then, here's a picture of the bag in use, in a not so exotic, but quite sunny, Bradford - I feel all warm and fuzzy inside seeing someone else wearing something I've made!

New bag gifted to it's new owner
I've been doing a lot of sewing in the last couple of weeks, but I'm not quite up to speed with getting pictures of everything so they can be blogged. I have a few posts lined up, and a very exciting project in the works that I'll be sharing more about soon (it involves sparkles!)

And if anyone has any bag pattern recommendations, I would love to hear them! I think I've caught the bug!

Stay in touch!

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