Review of 2017

As this year approaches its end I (like many other sewists and bloggers) thought it would be fun to look back and see what I achieved sewing-wise.

The main part of my planning for this year had been my #2017MakeNine but I only managed to make 4 of the 9 patterns I had planned to make.

To slightly defend myself (against who?!) I did make 3 of the 4 patterns twice. (For all the makes below, click on the photo to be taken to the full blog post).

I made 2 Marianne Dresses and I love them both – both are from quite light weight jersey so they’re not the best for the cold weather we’ve been having in the UK recently.

I also make 2 Moneta dresses, though I don’t really wear the first one because I stretched out the neckline while making it.

I also make 2 Inari Tees, and I have a dress version cut out ready for next Summer – I didn’t get around to making it last Summer as it didn’t seem to last long enough!

The other make I managed from my Make Nine was my Roberts Collection dungaree dress. I did want to make the dungaree version as well but I didn’t get around to it.

I bought denim to make both pairs of jeans back in April but I didn’t quite get around to making them. I also have 2 fabrics to make the Carolyn Pyjamas from so I think I’ll bump them onto next year’s list too.

I also had joined the #SewMyStyle project and although I knew at the outset that I wasn’t going to make all 12 garments throughout the year, I only managed one – the Toaster Sweater, which I think was the pattern from January (though I’m pretty sure I made it late).

Although I didn’t make loads of the things I had planned at the beginning of the year, I did make quite a few things in the last 12 months.

I made a few presents and non-clothes, including 2 pyjama cases (a monkey and a penguin), a sack for work, a tailor’s ham and sausage (stuffed with fabric scraps), and a moomin embroidery (which helped me realise I actually quite enjoy embroidery).

I managed to refashion 3 garments: a simple tee refashion, my Christmas Party Dress and – the one I’m probably most proud of – I refashioned one of my dad’s suits into a suit for me.

In terms of sewing from scratch, this year I made:

  • 8 dresses
  • 1 pair of trousers and one pair of culottes
  • 2 skirts
  • 8 tops
  • 1 pair of shoes

The shoes were definitely a highlight! And after listening to Jasika’s episode of the Love to Sew Podcast, I feel inspired to make more shoes!

I am also proud of having made trousers for the first time! Shame I didn’t parley this into making more pairs of trousers as they are the thing that is really lacking in my wardrobe now.

These trousers are probably my most worn make of the year, but also getting honorable mentions are my stripey jersey dress which I’ve worn loads considering it was a late-in-the-year make.

I’ve also worn my grey-blue melilot shirt loads this year, so I definitely have more planned.

I feel like I can’t do a round up of the year without mentioning my Dressmakers’ Ball dress – ooh, I’ve just realised I made an extra pair of trousers than I listed above because my dress had trousers underneath! It was definitely one of my favourite makes from the year and it was fun to do some – very basic – drafting to alter the Emery dress to make the copy of the Emma Watson outfit I liked so much.

There were some other things that I mentioned I wanted to do in 2017, like make a quilt, re-upholster a chair and make a wall hanging. I did none of these things. I did, however, complete the Wardrobe Architect project and I do think this helped me to focus my sewing and fabric buying.

Obviously on a personal level, 2017 wasn’t the best – and 2016 sucked too – so here’s hoping 2018 isn’t quite so crap and I have no family sadnesses.

Did you meet your goals in 2017? Are you rolling some of them into 2018 if not? I will – I think some of my #2018MakeNine will be the ones I didn’t make in 2017!

Uses for Fabric Scraps 1: Tailor’s Ham and Sausage

Recently I’ve been thinking about the waste I create through my sewing – I think I’ve mentioned it on here before. One way I’ve decided I can reduce the environmental impact of my sewing is to use up all the scraps I collect. I keep all scraps of fabric from basically everything I’ve made. I took some of the larger pieces of fabric I knew I wasn’t going to use to the fabric and pattern swap at the Great British Sewing Bee Live but I still had a small bin bag (swing bin liner I think it’s called) full of all kinds of scraps. I’m hopefully going to share some ways on here that I am endeavouring to use up said scraps – though I suspect I’ll produce more at a greater rate than I’ll use them up.

My first scrap buster is a tailor’s ham and sausage. I’ve been meaning to make these for ages, and it definitely good timing that I finally got around to it since I’m planning to refashion a suit this month!

The patterns I used are free from Victory patterns – you can download the ham here and the sausage here. There is also a great tutorial on Tilly’s blog, if mine isn’t clear enough to follow!

I used some left over cotton twill from an Elisalex dress I made a couple of years ago (which I also made a 1960s coat from) for the top and calico for the bottom. I also did a layer of calico underneath the green stripes. I think to be a proper ham and sausage one side should be wool and the other side cotton.

You can see on the above couple of photos and the below one that there are darts in each corner of each piece.

So the first step is to sew all the darts, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other.

You can just about see the stitching here.

Here are the ham pieces with the darts all sewn.

This is what they look like from the right side, with the darts all pressed.

So then you put the 2 halves of the ham (and repeat for the sausage) with right sides together, with one half inside the other half, as below.

Pin most of the way around, making sure to leave a gap to stuff it/them.

This is what it looks like once it’s sewn most of the way around – with the gap for the stuffing to go in.

The main way this is a way to use up fabric scraps is that I used scraps as stuffing. I used mostly woven scraps, which were mostly cotton – I figured it shouldn’t be really synthetic fabrics in the stuffing as I thought they might melt if the iron was on a really hot setting. I cut all the scraps into smaller pieces – they ended up as mostly triangles. It took A LOT of fabric to stuff the ham and sausage as they have to be pretty hard once they’re done.

This is what they look like all full and round.

You then need to stitch up the gap, by hand. I made sure to double the thread to make sure it was strong enough to hold all the filling in, without bursting when it’s pressed with an iron.

Ta da! Here they are, all finished and fat and ready for my suit refashion – and for a coat or two when I finally get around to it!

Do you think you’ll use some of your scraps to make a tailor’s ham and sausage? Do you have other ways of using up fabric scraps, which are an inevitable part of sewing clothes?

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Make It: Penguin Pyjama Case

After the success of the monkey pyjama case I made for my niece, I made a penguin shaped one for my nephew and it was not as simple as the monkey!

I made the penguin out of some black and some white twill I had in my stash (well it’s earmarked for a specific thing but I figured I could spare a bit for the penguin!).

First I cut out 2 bowling pin shapes for the fronts (you need 2 so you can sandwich the wadding in between the 2 layers), and a sort of white splodge for the tummy.

I pinned and sewed it onto just one of the front layers, sewing with a zig-zag stitch to prevent the tummy piece fraying.

Close-up of the zig-zag stitching!

I also cut out 4 wing pieces – 2 for each side, and 2 out of wadding. Layer these with the wadding on the top and the 2 wing pieces on the top, right sides together (if your fabric has a right side and a wrong side). Sew all the way around – I used a 1cm seam allowance.

Trim the wadding from the seam allowance, to reduce the bulk and turn the wings the right side around. Leave these to one side.

I had a little bit of yellow fabric left over from one of the first things I made (a yellow skirt that I wore about twice!), so I used that for the feet and the beak. The principle is the same for the feet as it is for the wings – cut 2 feet for each foot and pile them on top of the wadding, right sides together (again, if your fabric has a right side). Sew all the way around (again I used a 1cm seam allowance), trim the wadding from the seam allowance and turn the right way around. Leave to one side.

Now, the thing that was really hard about this make was the beak. I thought about how to do it for literally weeks. I asked people at the dressmaker’s ball for their advice, and I still couldn’t really figure it out. I had a sort of an idea so I thought the best thing would be to just try it.

So I cut out 2 triangles. I pretty much just guessed on the size – and as you’ll see at the bottom of this post, I probably guessed a bit big, but it was meant to look a bit cartoony so it was totally on purpose! I then sewed one side of a zip onto 2 sides of one triangle. Then I sewed the other side of the zip to another, matching, triangle of fabric, making sure that they sat one on top of the other when the zip is closed. These triangles are the inside of the mouth, if that helps to visualise it?!

Next I cut 4 more triangles of a similar size, but a little thinner than the ones above (2 for each beak). Sew 2 together along one of the long sides – the other long side will be joined to the zip, making little pyramids.

You can see below that where I’m holding is the seam of the 2 smaller triangles, and the other edges (one from each triangle) are pinned – and then sewn – to the other size of the zip. The teeth of the zip should be on the inside as the pyramid will be turned the right way round once sewn, to hide all the stitching inside the beaks, where they will be stuffed. Sorry of this isn’t making much sense, by the way, my brain was definitely hurting by the time I’d figured any of this out!

Once you’ve done the above couple of steps for both beaks, you should end up with something that looks a bit like below – quite creepy! I used a zip that was way too long so I would definitely have one long enough. I shortened it by zig-zag stitching over the teeth first, then trimming off the excess. I’m not going to pretend that this beak works perfectly, unfortunately. The zip is quite tricky to use as it keeps getting caught in the inside of the mouth – I guess if I’d have done some actual triangle calculations, I could have made the inside of the beak a bit more taut so it wouldn’t get caught as much. Oops!

This is the side view, with half the zip undone. I stuffed the beak at this point, too.

The next thing I did was to sew on the eyes. I waited until the beak was finished to do this so I could work out the best placement for them. Again I used a small zig-zag stitch to make sure they don’t fray.

The next step is to assemble the penguin front and back, but sandwiching the 2 fronts (one of which has the tummy sewn on it) with the wadding in the middle. You need to put the fabric with right sides out – this isn’t a seam, the layers are topstitched together.

For the back of the penguin, I decided I wanted him to have a little tail because cute! So I traced half of the penguin front pattern piece, having drawn a line down the middle. I then added a triangle shape onto the centre line and added a 1cm seam allowance, as below. You have to cut 4 of these because there are 2 halves of the back. Sandwich each pair of back pieces with wadding in the middle and topstitch around the edge as for the front.

You’ll then want to sew the seam to attach the 2 back pieces together. I then overlocked the seam to neaten and finish it.

You’ll also want to sew a small seam along the bottom of the tail, as below. Otherwise he’ll have a hole in his bottom and we don’t want that! You just want to sew until roughly in line with the seam to attach both pieces together.

The next thing is to attach the beak. This bit was a bit scary because you just have to cut a hole in the penguin front. I sewed the whole beak on by hand – I sewed around the edge of one half, then cut the hole and stitched the beak to the opening, then stitched around the edge of the other half. Hope that makes sense!

This is the view from the inside – the beak ended up being slightly off centre, but there wasn’t much I could do about it by that point!

And this is what he looks like from the front, with his beak open. The opening is quite narrow for getting the pyjamas in and out of, so if you make this it might be worth putting another zip or some velcro into the side seam.

Apparently I stopped taking photos at this point. The last step is to sew the front to the back, with right sides (the eyes/beak and the tail) together. I found it easiest to open the beak and push it half to the inside, to be able to get the penguin under my machine. You, of course, need to put the wings and the feet in to the seam before you stitch it. You’ll need to place them with the unsewn edges facing out towards the edge of the front/back, sandwiching them between the 2 layers. I overlocked the seam to neaten it. Then all you need to do is to turn it the right way around.

Here’s how he eats the pyjamas 🙂

I’m sort of pleased with how this turned out, but I feel like it could have been better. I just don’t know how, though! Usually I enjoy thinking up how to make things without a pattern, but this time it just wasn’t quite right unfortunately.

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Make It: Monkey Pyjama Case

So it turns out pyjama cases might not be a thing most people have heard of, but in my family they were (and are) a thing! My brother had one in the shape of Mr Chatterbox from the Mr Men. For my niece’s second birthday I made her one in the shape of a monkey, her favourite animal. I was going to make this as a downloadable thing but it didn’t work well enough!

Here is the finished case (with thanks to my sister for taking the photo!):

I did a search on pinterest for pictures of monkeys for inspiration and I came across this one! The first thing I did was to try to draw this photo in a way that I would be able to recreate in fabric, and I came up with this:

I then drew it a bit bigger on tracing paper (i.e. greaseproof paper), then traced all the smaller bits of the face onto other pieces so I could cut them all out, I also traced the face shape with the mouth cut out. I added a 1cm seam allowance to all the pieces except the eyes and nose (which don’t have seams).

I bought half a metre of brown cotton fabric from my local shop, which was more than enough for the size I made. I also used some cream jersey (which I used to underline my Sallie Maxi Dress) and some black jersey which I already had in my stash. I was going to use felt but I didn’t have enough cream/white felt for the mouth pieces.

Cut 2 each of the back of the head, and the front of the head (face) with the mouth hole cut out in brown cotton.
Cut 4 ears in brown cotton.
Cut 2 of each of the top lip and bottom lip from the cream jersey (or felt).
Cut 2 outer eyes from cream jersey (or felt).
Cut 2 ear inners from cream jersey (or felt).
Cut 2 pupils from black jersey (or felt).
Cut 2 nostrils from black jersey (or felt).
You will also need a zip for the mouth and some stuffing.
Cut wadding for the back of the head, the front of the head (face), and the ears. I cut 2 pieces for each part that needed stiffening as my wadding was quite thin.

The first thing I made was the mouth. The advantage of using jersey is that it is forgiving if it’s not quite perfect. Also it stretched to accommodate the stuffing.

I was using an invisible zip, but I sewed it with a normal zip foot so I think this would work with a normal zip too. I sewed a top lip piece and a bottom lip piece to the zip, with right sides together so the seams (and stitching) are hidden.

I then lined up the other 2 lip pieces, mostly so I would remember which one was the top lip and which one was the bottom lip.

I then repeated the first step with the other 2 lip pieces, with them right sides together with the other side of the zip. It will mean the zip is sandwiched between the 2 top lips and the 2 bottom lips, with the zipper tape hidden between the 2 layers.

This is what it looks like with just the top lip pieces sewn on both sides. It’s like it would look if you sew a lining to a zip on the inside of a dress, but you’re doing it with a machine.

This is what it looks like with both lips sewn on both sides, though you can obvs only see one side!

And yet another picture with the zip zipped up. I could have moved the top lip slightly to the left in the below photo – the monkey’s jaw is a little wonky!

I then sewed (with a zig zag stitch if you’re using jersey) the 2 top lips together, and the 2 bottom lips together, leaving a gap at one edge for stuffing. You can sew these wrong sides together, because the stitching will later be hidden when you sew the mouth into the mouth hole. The stuff both sides, and stitch up the gaps. And you’ll have something that looks like this:

Now you’ll want to attach the inner ear parts to 2 ears pieces, like below. You will also want to sew on the eyes at this point – I left it to a later step and had to fiddle to get them on without going through both face layers. You’ll want to sew the eyes onto only one face piece so you don’t see the stitching on the inside.

Next was to assemble the ears. You put the 2 brown pieces right sides together,

The the 2 pieces of wadding on the top (it doesn’t matter which brown piece you have on the top, it just matters that the wadding is on the outside of the brown pieces and not in between them). Stitch around the long curved edge, leaving a gap on the inside of the ear so you can turn it the right way around – and this part will be hidden when they’re attached to the head. You’ll need to trim the wadding of the seam allowance to reduce bulk.

Now you need to sandwich the 2 head backs with the wadding, and the 2 faces with the wadding. For these you can sandwich them – brown cotton, wadding, brown cotton – and just stitch around the edge because these edges will be sewing into the seams attaching the back of the head and the face. You’ll not want to stitch around the mouth hole, because the inner piece will be used like a facing to hide the stitching attaching the mouth to the face.

The next couple of steps were quite hard to photograph! Pin the top lip, with right sides together, to the top of the mouth hole. I found it quite hard to stitch all the way to the edges of the zip, so you may find you have to sew it in smaller sections. This is where jersey is your friend by the way! You may need to turn the face inside out, via the mouth hole, to be able to get access to the right bits. You will be able to turn it the right way around using the zip opening, so you can completely seal the mouth into the hole. I found this out the hard way, with some unnecessary unpicking!

This is what it should look like on the right side with the top lip sewn. (You can see I hadn’t sewn the pupils into the eyes – I thought I could do it without having to change the thread loads of times, but I should have just sucked it up!

This is kind of what it looked like with the bottom lip pinned. I’m not going to lie, it was fiddley and took a few goes to get it right!

Once you’ve wrestled the mouth into the mouth hole, it’s time to assemble the thing! First I handstitched the nose into place – I don’t think you’ll be able to sew it on before everything is assembled on the face.

Then pin the ears on top of the face, with the inner parts face down. You may also want to baste them in place, which I didn’t do, then I turned it the right way around and one of the ears fell off because it wasn’t attached properly. 😦

If you’re putting hair on your monkey (which I made with pieces of wool which I undid, to make smaller strands) you’ll want to place it a this stage too. The part of the hair that will show is the part on the monkey’s forehead, not the part sticking out the top. I basted these in place. Then you lay the back of the head on top of the face and stitch all the way around. You can, again, turn it the right way around via the zip. Hopefully the ears and hair will all be in place and not falling off! I was going to do french seams, but that felt too fiddley in the end, so I overlocked the seam allowance on the inside to try to neaten it a bit. The last thing to do (which I did really late the night before I was travelling to deliver it so failed to take any photos!) is to hand sew the inside face layer around the edge of the mouth, folding back the seam allowance, just like a facing around a waist seam. I hope this makes sense!

And here is the finished monkey!

I made the mouth with the zip so that it could eat the pyjamas!

And here are the pyjamas inside the monkey’s….head…..

Have you every made a pyjama case? Have you every heard of a pyjama case!? I’m going to make another one for my nephew, who was just 4 (so I’m a terrible aunt and it will be late!), in the shape of a penguin. If anyone has any ideas how I can make it similar in having the pyjamas get in via the beak, do let me know. I’m struggling to think of how to get it to work!

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Make It: Quilted Cushion

Earlier this year I heard about the Secret Valentine’s Exchange organised by Sanae Ishida and Ute and decided to join in because it sounded fun to make a present for a stranger. Of course once I received my name (Sarah of Northfield Primitives) I was terrified that I would make something that she didn’t like. Everyone who signed up had to fill in a questionnaire of tastes, favourite colours and things, and social media handles and online presence to do a bit of good old-fashioned online stalking! One of the ideas is to use things mostly from your stash too, so I dug through my stash to find fabrics I thought she would like.

Sara listed her favourite colours as blue, mustard yellow, earthy browns and reds, and said she likes old and vintage fabrics, bits of old patchwork and lace. Luckily her colour palette is similar to the colours I like. Since she said she liked patchwork, I thought I’d make a patchwork/quilted cushion cover. I sketched some ideas, working on 6×6 squares, halved into triangles.

I settled on the version on the left and coloured it in to work out which fabrics would go where.

Half the fabrics needed 4 triangles and half needed 8, to make it symmetrical. I then made a key of which fabric matched with which colour on my picture. The corner of the paper is missing because this was my pattern piece for the triangles. I drew a 6cm x 6cm square, then drew a diagonal line down the middle. I then added 1cm to each edge for seam allowance. The total size (36cm x 36cm) was based on a cushion pad I already had in my stash.

I then sewed the triangles into squares. Because it’s symmetrical in all 4 corners, there weren’t that many different combinations in the squares.

I then sewed the squared into strips, making sure each square was facing the right way according to my plan. This hurt my brain a little at various points! Having all the strips made meant I could lay it out to look what it was going to look like. At this point I wasn’t sure it was going to work as I felt some of the fabrics didn’t look great together.

As with so many of my non-clothes makes, I used calico for the back of the cushion and also as the backing for the patchwork/quilting bit. I bought some wadding from my local shop (which was the only thing I bought for this make) and sandwiched 2 layers between the calico (which I had cut down to 38cm x 38cm (with 1cm seam allowance) and the patchwork. I kind of made up the stitching lines and used white thread as I couldn’t decide what other colour would go with so many different colours of fabric. In the end the stitching was pretty much all in the seam lines so it wasn’t too obvious on the front.

Here is the quilting pattern I used (from the back of the front of the cushion):

And here’s the finished cushion!

I didn’t use a zip or anything, I just left a gap to get the pad in and hand stitched it closed. I wonder if I could have added another one or 2 layers of wadding to make the cushion more puffy, but it looks okay. I sent a little package of some fat quarters and other bits and pieces which I thought Sarah would like. I was definitely relieved when she said she liked it!

Did you join in with the Secret Valentine’s Exchange? Or another secret gift exchange? Did you find it nerve-wracking to make something for someone you don’t know?!

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