Sunday, 28 June 2009

Tourist Trap

Remember the vintage California souvenir tablecloth?

It's now turned into this:

I sewed this skirt last weekend, but had no buttons for the pockets until yesterday.

This is the second skirt I made using Sew What! Skirts, a wonderful book (I blogged about the first one I made here):

It contains lots of different styles of skirt - apart from this simple A-line, there are pencil skirts, circular skirts, layered skirts, tiered and ruffled versions, and wrap-around versions. All the skirt patterns you could ever need, in fact. If you want to see other styles from the book made up by real people, try looking at the Sew What Skirts Sewalong group on Flickr.

There are instructions on how to draft a pattern for each style of skirt, so you can make a skirt to fit you, whatever your size. All you need are your measurements, a measure (a long wooden ruler works best for drawing patterns), a pen and large sheets of paper. You can buy proper dressmakers' tissue paper, but I used large sheets from the FT.

The book assumes no knowledge, so clearly explains the basics. However, it doesn't skimp on the more complex stuff; for example there is advice on adjusting for fit and explanation of how to make darts. I think I could have improved the fit on this skirt by including darts at the waist, so next time I sew an A-line, I will have a go at making some.

For this skirt, I had to make facings and attach custom patch pockets:

I also had to put in a zip. I hadn't sewed a zip since 1985, and I couldn't actually remember ever attaching the zipper foot to my sewing machine before, so I'm not sure how I managed it previously. This time, I used the zipper foot and zipped away nicely.

I'm very pleased with my retro skirt, and because of the tablecloth edge, I didn't even have to hem it!

I shan't be wearing it to work though. This is definitely a holiday skirt.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Technical difficulties

I've had rather a trying week.

My daughter's 3 month-old digi camera came back from being repaired at the manufacturer's, but dd is now stamping about because they did not also replace the viewing screen, which had a tiny scratch. As I pointed out to her, it's just cosmetic, but she is Not Happy, and her temper is worse than usual because she just had her orthodontic braces fitted (finally. We have been waiting for this for over a year).

The DVD-drive broke on our family PC. My son was sad because his games did not work. After trying everything advised by Tech Support and my PC-expert brother (yes, including use of a cleaning disk), in the end I had to take out the drive and send it back to the computer company for a replacement.

Our boiler is also playing up. If it keeps cutting out, an engineer may have to be called to take a look at the thermocouple. Obviously heating is not such an issue in mid-summer, but we do need hot water.

I was glad to turn to the soothing knitting after all that. Thank goodness for crafts, especially knitting, where absolutely nothing has to be plugged in or switched on - no electronic circuits at all!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Knitting on a deadline? No thanks.

I've made quite a lot of progress with the Regatta shawl, although inevitably, not as much as I would like. I was hoping to wear it to a party early in July - that's looking pretty unlikely now. I've finished the main panel, but there is still a border to knit all the way round.

I'm not good at crafting to deadlines - I have enough deadline-driven stuff at work. Instead, whenever I sense a craft deadline starting to form, I have this contrary, childish urge to put the item down and not do any more work on it.

I have a job, a home and two children, so you might wonder how I fit in crafting at all. To tell the truth, I hardly ever watch TV myself, although I do sit with my children while they watch and I knit - I keep up with Raven: the Secret Temple and Trapped! that way.

I find knitting soothing and so tend to knit in the evenings, whereas sewing mainly happens at weekends. Also, knitting being portable, I take it along with me when I'm travelling or waiting, e.g. at the pool while ds has his swimming lesson.

The how-do-you-find-the-time question is frequently put to all crafters, in one form or another. If you're a non-crafter reading this, and think you don't have time to knit, consider how many hours a week you spend watching TV, playing WoW or similar, or pointlessly frittering time on the Internet... just like I'm doing now [sigh].

Friday, 19 June 2009

Sew magazine

Earlier this week, idly wondering when I'd get my next fix of Sew Hip magazine, I turned to the back page of issue 8, and gasped to see the next issue was not out till 28 July 2009.

I did know there would only be 10 issues in a year, but nonetheless was pretty sad to think next month, there will be no Sew Hip to read and enjoy.

In compensation I bought the first issue of Sew magazine today.

Actually, to buy this magazine, I had to break my own rule: Never buy magazines encased in a plastic bag. Reason 1. the environmental impact. Reason 2. there might be nothing you want to make and it will turn out to be a waste of money.

I didn't try and identify all 172 ideas (according to the cover) but I counted 15 to-sew projects, of which two were reprints from previously published books. Good range of patterns, and no throws or quilts, which seems to be a bit of an obsession of Sew Hip's! However, both kids' clothes patterns were for girls. Which is not untypical, but is still annoying.

Also, I didn't spot any difficulty ratings on any of the patterns, which I think is an omission, along with step-by-step photos / illustrations. The photos are all of the finished item. This makes Sew magazine rather less accessible to beginners, I think.

On the plus side, I liked the symbols at the top of each pattern, that indicated which sewing techniques were used. I also liked the quirky references to other, non-sewing stuff. For example, next to the tea- and egg-cosy pattern was a column with shopping suggestions for teapots and egg-cups.

The photography was very arty, but sometimes this meant the pictures were not very helpful. E.g in the recycled jeans skirt, all photos focused close-up on the embellishments - no picture of the complete finished item. It would therefore prove rather difficult to make that skirt. And why on earth suggest buying new jeans to make that project - surely the point of adaptation projects is to re-use and recycle?

Finally, I was really quite irritated to note that magazine professionals in an established publishing house have trouble differentiating between "it's" and "its".

Out of the 15 projects, I only added one to my to-sew list. This was the picnic set, which I did think very pretty, and it would make a good present:

I'm on the lookout for some suitably retro fabrics now.

On the whole, I thought the patterns were aimed at a younger audience. I will show the magazine to my 14 y.o, as I think the clothes and accessories might appeal more to her.

I will look at Sew magazine again, as I was not impressed with Sew Hip's first issue either, but next time, I shall get it out of the plastic bag and take a look inside before buying (there were several copies in WHSmith with open bags today, so obviously other people do this).

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Clothkits revival

I sewed this Clothkits doorstop on Saturday afternoon. Good timing, as it was warm enough to want the French doors propped open this weekend.

I'm old enough to remember the original Clothkits from the 1970s. Not sure if I ever wore any of their designs myself, but I do remember "helping" my mum to cut out a Clothkits sundress in 1978 - it was cream, with a printed pattern of pale green leaves. Quite lovely.

The doorstop kit was a free gift as part of my Sew Hip subscription earlier this year. This was serendipity, as I subscribed before the new subscriber gift was launched, and was then charmed to discover, after I'd done the subscription, that a Clothkits doorstop to sew would be winging its way to me.

I do admire the Clothkits designs in general; I am sorely tempted by various of the skirt kits, but am trying to resist adding any more sewing projects to my to-sew list at present.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Grow your own

It's very exciting to watch a bean pop and sprout when you are six years old. These are due to be planted out this weekend.

Our vegetable patch is also coming along nicely. Dh lifted the first potatoes yesterday and we ate them, and one of the lettuces, out in the garden yesterday evening. We've already managed more meals outside this year than we did in the whole of last so-called summer!

The runner beans still have a way to go, though. We've planted them in a wigwam type arrangement, but they haven't climbed all the way up yet, even though some already have a few flowers.

Teenagers have limited interest in gardening, I've found, but dd has a strawberry plant in a pink pot. She'll have to net these soon, before they turn red, as last year we had some trouble with thieving squirrels.

Sunday, 7 June 2009


I've been finding it rather difficult to write in my blog lately, and I'm sorry about that, because when I started it, my aim was to post at least once a week.

Since my last blog entry, multiple distractions from crafting included sickness (mine), orthodontic treatments (my daughter's), plus the demands of earning a living.

Anyway, finally I got around to sewing this weekend - but I can't show what I did - it's a secret! "Secret" is not a term used much in our house, and I've taught our children to use "surprise" as an alternative term - because secrecy has faintly nasty connotations, whereas surprise is about fun! But in this case, there is nothing sinister behind it, I'm just working on more potential designs for submission.

When I've finished with that, I have sewing plans involving this tablecloth, which I bought off ebay a few weeks ago:

I'm hoping the weather improves, or I will lack motivation for that project.