A Review of 2016

As it’s New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d have a look back at the sewing I’ve managed to complete this year. Some of it hasn’t made it to the blog yet, but this year I have made:

(non-clothes)
2 Quiet Books
1 Appliqued Cushion
1 Internet Meme Cushion (which was my favourite non-garment I’ve made this year)

Internet Meme cushion

(clothes)
3 Shirts (2 Archers [1,2] and a Melilot)
6 Tops (3 Cocos [1,2,3], a Plantain, an Astoria and a Hemlock)
2 Jackets (both made with dresses, for a Christening and a Wedding)
1 Skirt
2 Pairs of Pyjamas
6 Dresses (1 from a Vintage Pattern, a Rushcutter, a Drapey Knit Dress, a Lace Emery/Elisalex mash-up, an Alix Dress and a not-yet-blogged Jersey Dress)
I’ve also made 3 skirts for my sister and am making a 4th and possibly 5th in the next week or so, so I make that 23 garments in total! That’s definitely the most things I’ve made in any year since I started sewing clothes in 2013! To compare I made 14 things in 2013, 13 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. It definitely helped to take a couple of months off work this year!

I’m going to round-up my favourite and most-worn makes of the year in a bit more detail.

My Rushcutter by In The Folds was one of my most worn garments this year – and definitely my most-worn dress. I love the loose fit, but it feels flattering at the same time. And I’ve discovered it’s perfect for layering with a long-sleeved top underneath when it’s cold. I think I need to make this pattern again in the new year!

Navy Spotty Rushcutter DressMy other most-worn dress was my #SewDots Drapey Knit Dress (from the 3rd GBSB book). This could have beaten out my Rushcutter if I’d made it earlier in the year! Again, I think I need one or two more of these in my wardrobe – but probably made from a more stretchy jersey as the sleeves on this one are a bit snug. It’s another good one for layering, too.

#SewDots GBSB Drapey Knit DressMy 2 Cocos (1,2) with funnel necks were pretty successful makes from this year, though I haven’t worn them since the weather has really got cold. They are probably the things I get the most compliments on too, which is nice!

Turquoise Coco Top with Funnel neckI’ve definitely got quite a lot of wear out of the 3 shirts I’ve made this year. For some reason I feel like my blue spotty Archer isn’t smart enough for work, so I tend to wear that more at weekends, but the other Archer and my Melilot are perfect for work, so I think it would be good to make some more shirts in 2017.

Blue Spotty Archer Button UpMy 2 probably favourite makes are the 2 party dresses I made, though of course, I haven’t worn them very much – but we all need a couple of occasion dresses, don’t we? The lace frankenpattern dress I made for a wedding in May was my most liked make on Instagram and I do love it so! I need more parties to go to so I can wear this again……

Wedding-Outfit-11And my most recently blogged make, my By Hand London Alix Dress, is my other favourite. It’s a bit of a different style for me – more 70s than 60s as I’m normally drawn to – but I do love it! Again, it’s not really the kind of thing I can wear down to Tescos…….

Bright Pink Viscose Alix Maxi Dress - By Hand LondonAnd now onto my couple of unsuccessful makes…..(quite proud there are only a couple!)

By the time I’d finished my 2 sets of Lakeside pyjamas, and we’d moved into a very cold flat, the weather was definitely NOT warm enough to wear these. Boo! Hopefully we’ll have a warm Summer in 2017 so I can break these babies out!

Teal Lakeside PajamasMustard Lakeside Pajamas

The other thing(s) I made which have only got one wear is my Vintage Pledge outfit I made for a Christening in April. I didn’t really feel comfortable in it on the day beacuse the fit of the dress is pretty off. I made it with no fitting changes, knowing the pattern was probably a size too big for me. Also I made it in a probably too stiff fabric, so it looks even worse fitting – if it had been a more drapey fabric, perhaps it would have been more forgiving?

Vintage Pledge Christening Outfit - 1960s Vintage Dress and Coat

I thought I might have got some wear out of the coat in the spring, but it didn’t happen. Maybe Spring 2017? Now I work in a fairly smart office, maybe I wouldn’t look so overdressed in a long jacket?

Vintage Pledge Christening Outfit - 1960s Vintage Dress and CoatOn a side-note, I failed in my Vintage Pledge to make 3 garments/outfits from my vintage patterns. I made these 2 and then I think I lost heart because they didn’t fit well. Next year I will have another go, but I’ll treat them like any other pattern, I’ll trace it and make a toile and make sure I end up with something wearable.

On a personal note 2016 has been ………interesting.

It was definitely a year of change:

  • The Boyfriend and I quit our jobs in London in January and packed up our flat to move across the country to Cirencester to live with his parents – thank god they let us stay with them! I have no idea how people move to different areas of the country if they don’t have someone they can stay with.
  • I spent a couple of months (from March to June) not working, which was nice in one way – I got lots of sewing done – but the stress of not being able to find work slightly ruined this period. Also I pretty much spent all the money I’d saved to move with.
  • I got a permanent job and started on August 1st – I’d forgotten what it’s like to be the new person at work and it took a couple of months to settle in. It’s also weird when you don’t have other friends as work friends seem more important and then when you don’t know them yet it feels a bit crap!
  • The Boyfriend and I got our own little flat (though it’s bigger than our one in London was!) and we moved in a week after I started my job! It’s definitely feeling like home, though I have a couple of things I’d like to sort out. I might post some photos on here one day, once I like everything……so probably never!

This year is the first year I’ve made some IRL sewing friends! Yay! I went to the #SewBrizzle meet up back in the Summer and there were a couple of us from more my neck of the woods, so we have met up for dinner twice so far. It’s sooooo nice to talk to people about sewing who know what you’re talking about! It’s lovely to get compliments on things I’ve made from non-sewers, but there aren’t many people with whom I can have an in-depth conversation, or even say the name of the pattern and have them know what I’m talking about!

I feel like the elephant in the room of my run-down of my 2016 is what has happened to my sister. For those of you that didn’t read my post about it, in August my sister got a DVT in her leg, which was very very swolen and purple. She went to the local hospital, who sent her away with blood thinners. 3 days later when she went back for her check up, they rushed her by ambulance to Addenbrookes hospital because it was clear the circulation had been cut off in her leg. The doctors spent 2 days trying to get the circulation going again – it turns out they were really trying to save her knee as when circulation has been cut off for more than about 4 hours, they’re fighting a losing battle. So on 25th August she had her left leg amputated above her knee. They spent the next couple of weeks while she was in hospital trying to work out why she had all these clots and it turned out it was lung cancer, which is the most common kind of cancer. It had spread to 3 of her lymph nodes which means it can’t be removed surgically, but she is having chemotherapy – via tablets! Who knew what was a thing!? She had a scan check-up thingy in November and the tumour had shrunk, which is brilliant news obviously.

She now has a prosthetic leg, which is the swishiest one you get if you’re not a paralympian (that’s the only kind better than the one she has) and she’s already (after only just over a month) walking with only one crutch. And she was practicing walking with no crutches over Christmas so she should be able to walk and get about so no-one can tell that she has only one leg. This is her the day she got it:

phoebes-leg
And this is her favourite Christmas jumper:

phoebes-jumper

A morbid sense of humour is definitely a must when faced with this kind of crap!

And to add crapness to crapness, my sister is not the only member of my family currently with lung cancer 😦 A couple of years ago my Dad had one of his kidneys removed (4 days before Christmas!) because he had a tumour in it. For 2 years he went for his scans and got the all clear. But he had another scan – and got his results on the same day as my sister got her good news – and it turns out the cancer he had in his kidney has reappeared, but this time in his lung. He has been living with a rare degenerative brain disease called Corticobasal Degeneration (or CBD) for a number of years (I’ve lost track of exactly when he was diagnosed as he had clearly been suffering with it for a long time before they worked out what it was) and is now in a home as my mum is no longer able to look after him at home as his mobility is so reduced now. (If you want to read about CBD and the related condition Progressive Supranuclear Palsy or PSP, you can visit the PSP Association.) It might sound harsh, but I think it’s almost kinder that he might die quicker of cancer instead of the slow death from his brain disease, which will cause him to eventually be unable to swallow or communicate. He probably only had 2-5 years left anyway, so the cancer diagnosis may not make too much of a difference. He’s not strong enough for agressive treatment, so it remains to be seen what treatment he does have.

So, yeah, that’s my 2016. The first half of the year was okay, then everything seemed to go a little wrong, starting with Brexit. I won’t go into politics on here, but it feels like the world is shifting and we need to pay attention to the people who feel left behind or forgotten or ignored. My answer is to do what I enjoy doing and be nice to people. I think that’s all we can do in our little lives, really. Try to spread love and joy and happiness and hope that if enough of us do this, 2017 will be a better year.

Thank you to everyone who reads my blog and comments on it, I hope you get a bit of joy from my makes and posts. I hope to get more into a regular schedule of posting next year as I really like connecting with like-minded people online, and IRL.

 

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A Hemlock and a Life Update

Well that was a bit of a break from blogging! Oops! My last post was over a month ago – and there have been some changes (mostly positive ones!) in my life since then. But I do also have a make to share with you – a mostly successful Grainline Hemlock Tee. I find myself wanting to apologise for the quality of my photos…..again! These were soooo bright. I’ve darkened them as much as I could on Photoshop but they’ve ended up looking a bit weird!

Black-Hemlock-1

So the major life news is I now have a permanent job, after moving from London to Cirencester 5 months ago, hurrah! I was temping for a couple of months before that, which was handy as I was quickly getting through the money I managed to save before we moved. I started yesterday and so far it’s going well – I’m just doing admin and looking after the post for a small local company, but so far everyone seems nice and the job seems doable. This is the first job where I have to dress smartly – though thankfully not quite as smart as I feared, women don’t have to wear suits.

I really like the Hemlock and feel like it could become a good smart wardrobe staple, paired with smart trousers or a pencil skirt. The neckband definitely needs work, though, for that! As I’m sure you can see, there is a fair amount of puckering around the neckline – I think this is mostly because of the incompetent way I sewed it in! Also for some reason I ended up with a super wide band, so I folded it in half on the inside and top-stitched it again. There isn’t a pattern piece for the neckband, and I think because this jersey is quite slippery and drapey and moved around A LOT when I was cutting it out, I suspect my measuring wasn’t super accurate! Though I think IRL it almost looks deliberate and it’s not going to stop me wearing it!

Black-Hemlock-3

Now having a job means that we also now have a flat lined up to hopefully move into this weekend – assuming all the references and checks and things happen on time (and we don’t get rejected!). Since we’re staying with The Boyfriend’s parents, though, it means we can be flexible with moving dates. I can’t help myself from planning what furniture is going to go where – and we need to buy it all new (or second hand) so I’m planning rooms of my dreams, though I’ll have to be patient as it won’t all look perfect immediately, especially if we’re going to buy some furniture by auction/ second hand. Also we have a little back garden (which is part of a larger shared courtyard) so hopefully I can take some outside photos and it won’t be so difficult to get good lighting. Maybe I’ll get over my fear of looking stupid and find some lovely parts of Cirencester to take pictures in front of – it really is a pretty place, you should google it if you’ve never heard of it! For now, though, you’ve still got indoor pictures……

Black-Hemlock-2

We had had another house lined up, which we were going to move into with The Boyfriend’s brother, but 2 weeks before we were supposed to move in, the landlady decided to sell it instead so we lost it. This was a fairly big house, with 3 bedrooms and an aga in the kitchen. But I was going to get my own sewing room – the 3rd bedroom was too small for a bedroom really but perfect for a little sewing space of one’s own (to paraphrase Virginia Woolf!). I’m a little sad that the flat we’ve got now doesn’t have enough space for a dedicated room, but there is a bedroom, living room and large dining room space which all the other rooms lead off, so I’m commandeering a corner of that room, and I’ll have some proper storage for my stash of fabric and patterns, so that’s at least something. It is a shame that I’ll be working on the dining table, so I’ll have to pack away every day, but I’m coming up with plans of how to make this as painless as possible. And I think it will mean I have to keep my stash under control, which can’t be a bad thing. I’m starting to think about consuming fabric more mindfully and not buying long remnants just because they’re cheap, but buying fabric of a better quality and for specific projects. I also think I’m okay for patterns for a while – I’m sure this will be famous last words, but I have skirts, dresses, trousers, jeans, tops and pajamas and I can’t think of anything that I’m missing.

Black-Hemlock-4

This Hemlock, however, was not born of this new mindset, this black drapey jersey was from Rolls and Rems – seriously, it’s been 5 months since I left London and I’m still sewing up fabric I bought there! I don’t know it’s composition, but I like the way it hangs. And I like the way the Hemlock fits on me – definitely an improvement on my less-than-perfect Coco in my search for the perfect t shirt. I think so far it’s a tie between the Hemlock and the Plantain. I think the length is more flattering on me – the Coco is a bit long (which obviously is easily remedied by taking it up a bit!), and I like the more boxy fit. I do want to make another one up with a better neckband – I’ve heard good things about a tutorial from Megan Nielsen on how to sew in a neckband, have you used it? Or do you have any tips on sewing the band on the Hemlock specifically? What’s going on in your life? Do you find when you’re in a time of flux that blogging or sewing or both take a back seat?

I’ll leave you with this unedited photo from my Hemlock photoshoot – I look like a ghost!

Black-Hemlock-5
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Yellow and Navy Flowery Deer and Doe Plantain Tee thumbnail Cream Patterned Coco Top Breton Striped Plantain Tee thumbnail

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Another Coco top, but this time I’m not in love

This is my fourth coco (I think, at last count! 1, 2 & 3 here) and I have to be honest, I don’t love it 😦 After my last post where I wondered if it was bad that I liked most of what I make, now I get to something I’m not so pleased with. Sod’s law!

Cream-Patterned-Coco 1

I love this fabric – it’s one of my remnants left over from Rolls and Rems. There was just enough fabric to make this top, which was great obviously. The flowers have light blue, a limey green and a corally pink, plus the black blobs, so there is plenty that I can wear with it, including a skirt my friend gave me in her big wardrobe clear out.

I think the fabric is too drapey for this pattern unfortunately. I think it works better with more stable knits – I feel the same really about the dress version I made, I don’t like how it hangs on me.

Cream-Patterned-Coco-3

Definitely some pooling at the back. I think it’s because of the shape of the top as well as the fabric – the non-boxy, slightly shaped in at the waist and out again at the hips is oddly not my favourite. I find I’m more drawn to boxy tops. Especially because this is loose on my waist and then kind of tight on my hips.

Cream-Patterned-Coco-4

The neckline is a particular issue for me – it seems a bit too wide. And it doesn’t sit quite right. I used my twin needle for all the hems. I think this might have been better with some kind of neckband, which of course isn’t part of this pattern – but it is a part of many other tee shirt patterns, so I might steel one of those if I make a coco top again.

Cream-Patterned-Coco-5

This top is part of my exploration of the perfect t-shirt. I’ve already made the Plantain twice (1 & 2) and I’ve made a Hemlock, which I’ll blog soon hopefully. I also have the Maya top and the top which is part of the Roberts Collection. I also have my trusty Scout Tee pattern still. Hopefully I’ll realise which of these are good on me and which aren’t – and hopefully I’ll end up with a go-to tee pattern for woven and jersey fabric. Do you have a favourite basic top pattern? It feels like there are so many it’s sometimes overwhelming!

Cream-Patterned-Coco-2

 

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Royal Blue Coco Top Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress (Made Up Initiative) thumbnail Turquoise Coco Top with Funnel neck thumbnail

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5 Things I Learned from Me Made May 2016

mmmay16Did you take part in Me Made May this year? How did you find it? I think this was the year I enjoyed least – the first 2 years I took part I was so excited to have enough me made clothes to be able to take part that I really enjoyed making an effort to wear my me mades and find ways to make them work in my wardrobe. I wonder if it was because for the first 3/4 of May I wasn’t working so it felt odd to get slightly dressed up – I feel like most of my me mades are smart/casual. But then conversely when I did get some temping work I found it hard to dress for a smarter office than I’ve worked in before.

My pledge was “I, Amelia of www.sewingmachinations.wordpress.com, pledge to wear at least one me-made garment 5 days per week. I will also try to finish off 3 garments I have cut out and make a completely me-made outfit for a wedding I’m going to at the end of May.”

I definitely completed the days of the week part – there were only 4 days when I didn’t make something me-made (sometimes I wore the same outfit 2 days in a row, in case you think there aren’t enough photos below :)). I did finish the outfit for the wedding – you can see the full post on it here. And I did technically finish 3 garments I already had cut out, though only 2 of them made it to the blog and only those 2 got worn, so I would call that a partial success.

Here are 5 things I realised while taking part in #mmmay16.

1  I freakin’ suck at taking selfies/ photos of myself in my clothes – like really really suck. In my defense I don’t currently have a full-length mirror and I felt bad asking The Boyfriend to take a picture every day. Also I kept forgetting until I’d got ready for bed!

Day 1 insta Day 2 insta Day 3 insta
Day-4-insta-square Day-5-&-6-insta-square Day 8 insta

(clockwise from top left: royal blue coco top, navy blue rushcutter, flowery plantain +
mustard yellow victoria blazer + taken in trousers, blue spotty archer,
breton plantain + refashioned victoria blazer, francoise dress)

2  It was much harder to dress for office work. I’ve been doing some temping since moving and it’s the first time I’ve had to wear office-type clothes – I’ve always been in quite casual jobs where I could wear jeans and trainers.

Day 9 insta Day 10 insta Day 11 insta
Day 12 insta Day 13 insta Day 14 insta

(clockwise from top left: flowery banksia, refashioned parrot shirt,
refashioned shirt dress, pink stripey banksia + black simplicity 2451 skirt,
refashioners refashioned shirt, turquoise coco top)

3  Conversely I don’t have much casual me-made things – for weekends and the weeks before I started temping.

Day 16 Day 17 insta Day 18 insta
Day 19 insta Day 20 insta Day 22 insta

(clockwise from top left: navy blue rushcutter, aztec print linden,
gingham violet blouse,
flowery plantain + mustard yellow victoria blazer +
taken in trousers, 
blue spotty archer, blue stripey laurel

4  I don’t have much warm me-made clothing and this year was unseasonably bloody cold through most of the month.

Day-21-square Day-21-b-square Day 24 insta
Day 25 insta Day 27 insta Day 28 & 29 insta
Day 30 insta Day 31 insta

(clockwise from top left – ending in the middle: lace dress for wedding,
mustard yellow victoria blazer, coco dress, green tartan gbsb
boyfriend shirt
, orla kiely-esque laurel + black victoria blazer,
breton plantain, black victoria blazer + refashioned freemantle
coat
, blue flowery scout tee)

5 I need to make some bottoms, especially trousers. All my photos are of tops or dresses – and mostly where there aren’t bottoms shown, it was a pair of rtw jeans from Primark about 10 years ago or a part of rtw skinny trousers from New Look about 8 years ago!

melilot-shirt-patternSo my plans are to sew some more smarter things for office working, including the Deer and Doe Melilot shirt which I just ordered – I have some perfect floaty fabric already in my stash. I also am going to order the Guise Pants pattern I think and maybe (once I’ve finally made some Ginger Jeans) use the Ginger pattern to make some smarter looking skinny trousers, by not doing the top stitching or adding the hardware – I think this will work, watch this space! I also bought some stuff in the sale Colette had recently – the Aster, Astoria and Zinnia which I think will all work well for office wear.

Roberts Collection 2

I think the 3 Colette patterns could, depending on fabric choice, also fill the other gap I have – relaxing weekend clothes. Apart from jeans I don’t have many items that I would wear just for slobbing around the house – and certainly not any I’ve made. And sometimes I don’t want to wear jeans, especially if I’m feeling bloated and am sitting down a lot – say at my sewing machine – I usually end up undoing the buttons just to feel comfortable. I have Marilla Walker’s Roberts Collection and I think this could really help me out with this hole. If you have any suggestions of patterns to sew (I’m too slow at knitting to knit any) warm clothes, I would be thrilled to take them off your hands. Also what fabrics are warm? I feel like I usually don’t take that into account and then end up too cold or too hot a lot of the time – usually too cold as a) I like in Britain and b) I’m cold-blooded I think.

I’m wondering if I should make a pledge for what I will have achieved by next Me Made May, to keep myself accountable!? Nah. I don’t want a whole year’s worth of sewing mapped out for me – what about all the pretty new patterns yet to come out!

 
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Royal Blue Coco Top

After the success of my first coco top with the funnel collar, I thought I’d make another!

Royal-Blue-Coco-1

The fabric was a massive ‘remnant’ from Rolls and Rems – there must be at least 3 metres of it, so I think I’ve got enough left for a dress – maybe a Marianne? It might be a bit thick for that though. Maybe I’ll make a matching coco dress!

Royal-Blue-Coco-3

I was fairly lazy with this make to be honest! After mentioning the fact that my last one sat oddly across my upper chest, I was having a day (or two) or cutting out ALL THE THINGS and totally forgot that I needed to make any fitting changes. It’s not enough to super bother me, so maybe I’ll change it next time!

Royal-Blue-Coco-4

This time I remembered to do the side splits! Little tip (which I learned from trial and error, trust me!) – don’t use a twin needle to stitch the split. I used my twin needle for the hems and neckline, but it stretched out the little splits. Definitely a normal ballpoint needle is fine, with a straight stitch – it doesn’t need to stretch so you don’t need a zig-zag.

Royal-Blue-Coco-5

I added the cuffs this time. I wonder, though, if the finished length of the sleeves is a little off? Should be either longer or shorter maybe?!

Royal-Blue-Coco-6

I don’t really have much else to say except I love this top almost as much as the other one – I’ve realised I really love wearing bright turquoise, it makes me feel happy and like I look nice. I like all shades of blue, but maybe turquoise is particularly good on me 🙂

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Goofy face!

Royal-Blue-Coco-2

I can definitely see coco becoming a wardrobe staple for me – I have a t shirt version cut out ready to be sewn together too, along with a hemlock (and I’ve already made the plantain tee twice – 1, 2) so hopefully I’ll have a lovely wardrobe of tops I love.

Then onto trousers and jeans…….

 
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