Beat me to it!

One of my oldest friends became a grandmother, in the wee small hours of this morning.  She will be the best granny! [edit: I’d just like to point out that ‘oldest’, in this context, refers to the longevity of the friendship, NOT the age of the friend! Erk…]

I thought the occasion marked a quick and dirty tiny person quilt.  I happen to have bought a jelly roll of rainbow coloured strips from Doughtys, the last time I was visiting Penny in Hereford, and it was just perfect for a baby sized knock-up.  I used up some of the background fabric left over from the wedding quilt‘s early drafts, and backed it with a piece of flannel that’s been in my stash roughly forever.  In fact, it may well have come from a co-op organised by the new granny, since that tends to be where I bought flannel from in the olden days…

Anyway, since I don’t think the recipient will be reading this, I’m putting up photos before the parcel has been received.  Here’s my rainy Sunday, “You Beat Me To It, Granny” quilt for the new little person in that family.  I hope they all enjoy it.

Washi Dress

I’m on holiday, and the sunshine’s stopped, which means I can’t do the outdoor DIY jobs I had planned.  So instead, I am working my way through a pile of fabric, but had run out of patterns.  Also, I need a jacket for a thing.

Front view

I like the look of the Deer & Doe patterns, but didn’t want to wait for one to arrive from France.  And so by a process of clicking and looping back and clicking some more, I found myself browsing the fabrics and patterns at The Village Haberdashery.

One of the bits of fabric I need to use up is a lovely, rich purple jersey which I wanted to turn into a t-shirt dress.  But I lost heart at drafting a pattern myself, and so after my success with the Hawthorn dress, I’ve ordered Colette’s Moneta pattern.  I’ve also ordered the Zinnia skirt and the Sewaholic Cordova jacket, which is for my thing.  Perhaps.  And then, just as I was about to check out, my finger slipped on the mouse and a Washi Dress pattern fell into my basket.  Along with the fabric to make it up.

The postman looked slightly askance, this morning, as he handed me my beautifully wrapped spotty package (which included three free fat quarters! Bliss!!) and I tore into the sewing room, and then the packet, and chose to make the Washi dress first.

I did something virtually unheard of, for me, and made a toile of the bodice out of some cheesecloth that’s been lying around for a bit. It fitted beautifully, straight out the packet.  So I made the whole thing.  It was beautifully easy to put together, and fits like a dream. 

Pretty neckline

The bodice is very simple – darted, with a U-cut in the neckline.  The instructions for putting it together were really clear, and you could easily make it round necked if the U gave you the shivers.  I added some topstitch detail, too, which I hope will help keep the corners in line (though I suspect the success of this strategy will depend somewhat on which bra I choose to put underneath it!).

Back view, with shirring

The back is a single, largely unshaped piece, with 6 rows of shirring to give it shape.  It’s the first time I’ve used shirring for years, and the first time ever in this machine, but it was unproblematic.  I stopped following the instructions about half way through when I decided not to face the neck, but to use my voile as a lining for the bodice.  Even with that adaptation, it was a lovely smooth make.

Topstitch detail

I suspect this pattern will get a lot of use – I really like the fit; it’s a quick and easy make, and I think fairly flattering.  I can see it working well in needle cord and brushed cotton for the winter – I might try and draft some 3/4 length sleeves for it, to make it a bit more cold weather friendly.  But even as it is, with a long sleeved T shirt, tights, and boots I think it’s a winner!

Oh.  Freya wants me to mention that she took some of the pictures (which you can embiggen by clicking on them, incidentally).  And I totally would give her the credit, apart from this conversation which happened just after the optician had declared her eyesight perfect, this afternoon:

Freya: Josh….. MUM! I mean Mum!! Bwahahahahaha!! I called you Josh!!!
Me: Is it because of my slim, boyish figure?
F:……..
Me: No. It’s because of my youthful good looks, isn’t it?
F: ……….
Me: It’s because I’m young and gorgeous, isn’t it?!
F:  No, it’s because of your beard.

So she can go whistle for her photo credits.

Colette Hawthorn

Sewing. In my pyjamas.

Well.  One of my very favourite sewists, Lazy Seamstress (who’s now famous! But I knew her first, so there!) raves about the Colette Hawthorn pattern, and made herself a very pretty version…  And so when she did, I thought “hmmm… shirtwaister. I could make me one of those” and bought the pattern.

Now.  I am a size 10 on top, with good old fashioned child-bearing hips and a plenty-of-children-borne tummy.  Which makes me something between a 12 and 14 from the waist down, despite my frequent, more fidgetty than dedicated best efforts.  So I knew this pattern would need some redrafting, but no matter.

The pattern calls for cotton or linen, or similar light and floaty fabric, and I found a lovely, retro-ish linen in my local fabric store.

I find it really difficult to fit to my own body.  Obviously.  It’s kind of tough to look, measure and pin behind your own back.  But I have a kind of semi-functional tailor’s dummy, and I have some pattern drafting fabric, and I haven’t made any clothes in well over a year, and what the fuck can go wrong, right?  Right.

So I measured.  With the help of teenagers.  You’ll notice the lack of the adjective ‘willing’ in the previous sentence.  Don’t forget that…  And I drafted.  And I worked out how to flare the bodice so that what I ended up with would fit around my hips, and I almost completely forgot to take account of the fact that my waist is high, and my tummy prominent and yet despite those two things, my hips are just where you’d expect them to be, and anyway.  Half circle skirt.  Not much need for additional ease in the hip department, sistah.

Proper cuffs!

And then I put it together, and it flew together like a dream.  The pattern is well drafted, the instructions are clear and it all went beautifully smoothly.  I love doing shirty things – collars and proper cuffs and fitting around awkwardly shaped torsos.  It feels like a real skill, and it pleases me greatly.

Sewing, for me, isn’t a quiet exercise.  It’s not a head down, breath quiet, concentrate and get on with it thing.  Not at all.  When it goes well, I hum distractedly to myself.  Or sing along with the radio, whether or not I know the words.  Kids and dogs lie low in a mildly embarrassed, despairing manner.  When it goes badly I swear.  Volubly and in fluent Anglo Saxon.  Kids and dogs hide, from sheer self preservation.

This was definitely a singing along with the radio day.  And besides, I was kept in good company on my bing-bong email, and for most of the day the sun kept Hurricane Bertha at bay, and the chickens clucked contentedly and it was verily the epitome of domestic bliss.

Beautifully fitting dummy

When I’d constructed the bodice, I tried it on.  It fit beautifully across my shoulders (well done, teenagers!) and boobs (well done, me!) and sat nicely in the small of my back.  Obviously, it’s difficult to gauge the final fit until all the parts are together, but early indications were that there was nothing to worry about.  A pattern re-drafting triumph.

I whizzed up the skirt, and stuck it onto the bodice, and put the whole onto the dummy.  All good.

It turns out that when you’re a little stumpy person with good old fashioned child-bearing hips and a plenty-of-children-borne tummy, what you really need is a dressmaker’s dummy with an adjustable back waist length.  Mine doesn’t have one of those.  And the dress fitted her beautifully.

So I carried on flying it together, and did the magic buttonhole thing, and sewed on the buttons and turned up the hem and BADA BING!  All done.

And then I put it on.  Not on the dummy. On me.

And lo! It was too long in the back waist, and not really all that brilliant around the actual waist, and generally made me look like a sack of spuds.  So I decided, for the safety of all concerned, that I’d leave it till another day, but I would fix it.  I.  Would.  Fix.  It.  If it killed me.

This morning, I got up LIKE A BOSS (which is lucky) and took the skirt off the bodice, and unpicked a buttonhole.  I opened out the facings, and unpicked the top stitching.  I took off two buttons, and an inch off the back waist.  And then I put it all together again.  And it was better.

Better, but not good.  I could lose another inch from the back waist, I think – bringing the actual waist up to the bottom of my rib cage.  And I could fit the back better, with larger rear darts.  It fits well – even really well – across my shoulders and boobs, though.  Well done, teenagers! Well done, me!

I have looked carefully in every mirror I’ve passed, today.  And I have concluded that (a) I didn’t really need to re-draft the bodice; (b)  I could have cut gores in the skirt pattern, and made the skirt wider (and that mightn’t have been a bad thing) but (c) really the problem with the fit on this is that it calls for a light fabric, and much of the weight of the garment is in the skirt.  So no matter how well you draft and fit the bodice, it will be pulled out of shape by the weight of the skirt, a bit.

I might try silk, next time.  Silk and a higher waist.  And perhaps a lined, stronger bodice.  I might even buy a proper tailor’s dummy.

Hiatus

Well, yes. It’s been nearly a year, hasn’t it? In my slight defence, I’ve moved house and been preoccupied with other forms of creative expression – there’s been a lot of decorating, some mural painting (below left), a little bit of curtain-type bodging, a new sewing area created – indoors! (below, right), some gardening and a lot of silliness involving – sometimes – making stuff. But not really sewing.

And there’s been some other stuff – the end of Mr P, and a return to singledom.  Lots of work wrinkles. And some life stuff – a child’s wedding; a parent’s fairly significant health issues; a funeral; a difficult and dangerous teenager.  All of which have produced a new tattoo and a fresh piercing – it’s like a grownup way of dealing with my issues.  All of which has meant that I haven’t really had time to do much in the way of creating things.  All of which has meant I need, desperately, to regain some of the inner calm and peace that creating things typically brings me.
And now, it’s Easter.  The house is largely decorated – apart from the very small places that I haven’t been bothered to do because it’s hardly worth taking the time to move the coats out of the porch and living with the clutter, because painting it will take *no time* (yes, there is some logic in there somewhere.  No, I’m buggered if I can find it either).  And the very significant places that I can’t afford to do because bathroom suites and tiles and all that crap so I need to save up.
At Easter, I take time off work and I sew.  It’s what I do. I typically knock up a quilt.  This easter, though, I have lost my mojo.  I really just want to sit on my sofa and drool a while.  But then I have this lush new sewing area.  Indoors! It would be silly to have spent the time making it, and then not use it.  Wouldn’t it?  Why yes, it would.
So I am tackling the wedding present quilt.  I say tackling the wedding present quilt.  So far, I am 2/3 of the way through making a (very simple) back for it.  Then I will baste it.  Then I know exactly how I want to quilt it. Problem is, I’m not sure I can actually sew, any more.  Not sure at all.  So mostly my tackling it involves a series of displacement activities, including this, and middle distancing while contemplating the cure for singledom.
Oh well.  Here goes nothing.  And hello, by the way.  It’s (kind of) nice to be back…