Design and Print Your Own Fabric

I am sure that most sewing bloggers will have heard of By Hand London who designed the Charlotte skirt amongst other lovely patterns.  Their latest venture is to start printing fabric on demand.  The idea is that you can design your own fabric, send it to them and they will print it out, initially on cotton poplin but if they idea takes off then silks and jerseys and other fabrics may be possible.  As the fabric is printed on a digital printer you can have as little or as much printed as you want. This blog post explains the concept.

At present By Hand London need funding to get this started so they have set up a kick-starter page to attract backers.

This is such a great idea, I just now need to start thinking about what my design might look like!

The ⅔ m club

I’m thinking of starting a club.  The ⅔ m club is for people who have boxes of  of fabric left over because they bought the amount the pattern asked for.    Recently I cut out a dress – ⅔ m left over – and a skirt – ⅔ m left over.

Does anyone else have this problem – what do you do with the bits?

Or are you one of those sensible people who lays out all the pattern pieces and works out exactly how much you are going to need in advance?

Sew Little Time

I seem to have so little time these days for anything.  I leave for work, on my bike, at 7 in the morning and am rarely home before 8.  We’ve been busy doing fund things at  weekends and also are in the midst of building works.  I’m loving every minute of it so I’m not complaining, but all this activity has left very little time for sewing and even less for catching up on reading blogs or writing my own blog.

Today I had a spare couple of hours.  It wasn’t enough time to make anything but it was enough to allow me to do some cutting out.  My theory is that cutting is one of those jobs that has to be seen through to completion, whereas once I have the cloth cut I can probably sew it up in lots of short burst. Well that’s the theory anyway, we’ll have to see if it works out in practice.

So what did I cut out?  Well, first of all I decided to make some more Tessuti Suzy Pants. I love the style of the ones I made a few weeks ago and they are some of the most comfortable trousers I own (is it giving up to love elasticated waists? personally I think it’s ok providing you don’t make a habit of wearing them all the time).

This time (I’m so proud of this) I used fabric from my stash!  When I first started sewing and knew absolutely nothing I found a pattern for a dress that said it could be made out of silk velvet. Loving silk velvet I rushed out to Goldhawk Road (my first trip there) and bought 3m of a lovely dark purple fabric.  Once I got home and started to read up how to make the dress I realised that a silk velvet bias cut dress was hardly a beginners project.  I also went off the pattern completely, in retrospect it really was a pretty boring sort of dress and not one I would have ever worn, even if I had been able to make it.

IMG_0606So, cut forward several years (3? 4?), and I still have the silk velvet.  A few months after I bought it, I read somewhere that you should not fold and stack velvet but should hang it.  I checked the velvet and, although it had been sitting under a pile of other fabric, still looked perfect,  but just to be on the safe side I refolded it carefully and hung it in the wardrobe on a skirt hanger.  Well, when I came to unfold it I found that this was possibly not the best thing to have done and I had all sorts of funny creases in odd places and odd marks where the hanger pressed against it.  I’m not sure whether this would have happened if I had left it in my pile – it could just be because it was so old.

Anyway, by cutting the fabric in one layer with the fabric right side up so as to avoid the bad bits, I managed to get the trousers cut out.  Silk velvet is quite slippery so I probably would have cut it out in one layer anyway.  The pattern is very simple, there were only 10 pieces to cut out, so it didn’t take long.

Next up, I decided to cut out another Vogue 1247.  My last one was made out of some very cheap and not very nice cotton moleskin.  Actually, it’s not as bad as all that, it’s just got a bit scruffy over the last year, the black moleskin seems to be a fluff and dust trap and no matter how many times I wash and brush it, it never seems very clean.  On a roll I consulted my stash again and came up with some cherry red needle cord from Truro Fabrics.  It is the most fabulous colour (the picture below doesn’t do it justice) but the fabric itself is a little light weight.  I probably bought it in June or July so it’s not really been in the stash that long.

IMG_0608I usually wash my fabric when I buy it so it’s already when I feel the mood to use it, but for some reason I’d forgotten to do it this time so it was still sitting in the plastic bag Truro supplied it in.  As I got it out of the bag a reel of thread fell out.  Truro give you a free lucky dip reel with all purchases and in the past it’s always matched my fabric.  This time, as you can see, they seem to have gone with a contrast colour – very odd but it will do for basting.

Anyway that’s my news for today.  Have you been sewing anything exciting recently?

Completing the Outfit

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am inordinately pleased with my new jacket but I really needed something to go with it to complete the outfit. And now I have it! It’s a very simple blue linen dress which I can wear under the jacket for work.

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People talk a lot about “work appropriate” clothing on blogs but I’m never completely sure what they mean as different work places have different requirements. I work in the City which means suits and smart dresses, colours tend to be sober, hemlines not too short and cleavages safely tucked away. Having said that there is nothing wrong with a hint of sexiness; high heels and pencil skirts or a jacket cut to show off a slim waist. Comfort is also important, I  hate being bothered by ill-fitting clothes or being too cold. Sleeves are a must, they make wearing a jacket more comfortable, keep you warm and ensure any wobbly bits are safely hidden away. Work wear tends to get worn a lot so I like good quality fabrics that are easy to clean and don’t need expensive dry cleaning every time I wear them. In short I need to look smart, elegant, comfortable and conformist.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a recent trip to Brighton I found some lovely French Navy linen in Ditto fabrics. Have you ever been to Ditto? It’s the most fabulous little shop selling all sorts of lovely fabrics including some quite unusual pieces. Expect to see more of their wares in future posts! The linen is quite a heavy fabric and has been a joy to sew, absolutely stable and does everything you ask of it. It also goes beautifully with the duck egg linen silk that I used for the jacket.

As I mentioned in my last post I wanted to have a play with my blocks. I started by joining the bodice and skirt together, moving the skirts darts so they sat under the bodice’s and putting in bust darts to take up the excess.

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The toile I made was ok but a bit boring. So I then decided to move the bust dart up to the armscye and turn it into a princess seam. It’s not actually a full princess seam because I wanted a plain skirt front. So the dress has long curling darts running from the sleeve seam down the front and stopping at about hip level. The neckline and facings were copied from a simplicity pattern. The skirt was pegged and I used my sleeve block to add three quarter length sleeves with elbow darts.

If I’m being completely honest it is a rather boring dress but it fits me like a dream and I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I did it all myself!

Ponte knits

A few posts ago I admitted that I didn’t know what a ponte knit was and that I’d never seen one for sale in the UK. A few of you came out of the woodwork and also admitted you didn’t now what a ponte knit was.

Well today I took the bus over to Rolls and Rems in Lewisham and look what I found!

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Ponte Roma Jersey

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Pontiroma spot

And then I found

I can report both fabrics were some sort of double knit.

Spring Skirts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast summer I helped Saskia, my boyfriend’s 10 year old daughter make a dress. This year, remembering the Batman fabric the local quilting shop stocks, she and her sister Freya (14) asked for skirts. To join the party, and as Spring appears to have finally arrived, I decided to make myself a skirt as well.

We started by deciding on the design of the skirt and spent a bit of time searching through magazines, the contents of our wardrobes, discussing the difference between knit and woven fabrics and deciding what we would use our skirts for. In the end Saskia chose a short full skirt, Freya also chose a short skirt but opted for a much straighter design and I wanted a pencil skirt.

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To make Saskia’s skirt we made a loop of 5cm wide black elastic (from McCulloch and Wallis) to go around her waist which was 62cm. We then cut two rectangles of fabric 65 cm wide (62 cm plus 2×1.5cm seam allowance) and a bit longer than we wanted the skirt to be. These were sewn into a tube and then we did a bit of fitting by putting the elastic around Saskia’s waist and pushing the fabric up under it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis showed that the skirt was going to be too full so we cut 8cm off each of the rectangles (final size 57cm each) and resewed them. We then  marked 8 evenly spaced points on both the waistband and tube and pinned the two together. We sewed the two together by stretching the elastic to the same length as the waistband and stitching with a straight stitch. To strengthen the seam we did the same again but using a zig zag stitch. The skirt was then hemmed and announced as being perfect.

This was the easiest skirt to sew and great for a beginner as it came together so quickly. The black elastic looks much more stylish than the usual elastic with casing around it and I understand feels very comfortable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFreya, at 14, has a lovely, tall, willowy figure and is much more fashion conscious than her sister, for her skirt I chose a Burda pattern (8155). This is a very simple pattern which produces and lovely well fitted skirt, ideal for customising as you want. Unfortunately I didn’t have any invisible zips to hand so I had to use a standard zip. I the past these have bought me out in a cold sweat but this time I tried putting two strips of interfacing down either side of the slot and these really helped me get it in first time with none of the gaping I have got in the past. I know how much you all like photographs but unfortunately I don’t have one of Freya wearing her skirt.  It’s also in need of a final fit and hemming, I know it will be declared not short enough but as she has such long legs I don’t want to cut it any shorter until I am sure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy skirt is the most complex of the three and has a lining, a petersham waistband and an exposed zip. I used my block to make the pattern so I had no problems with fit.  I love the finished garment, my only quibble being that the quilting cotton (I should have known better) is very prone to creasing.

There were instructions in a recent issue of Threads on how to install exposed zips but they sewed the zip on the outside of the garment and I wanted it sewn on the inside with the sides of the zip to be covered by my fashion fabric.  The method I used is similar to that described in the Threads article as follows:

  • I placed a 3cm strip of interfacing and little longer than the zip down each side of place I wanted to insert the zip.  Having interfaced the zip opening on Freya’s skirt I don’t think I will every try a zip without doing this  first.
  • I then sewed a line of stay stitches down each side 2.3 cm from the edge of the fabric and horizontally across at the bottom.  The zip was 2.5cm wide and I had a 1.5cm seam allowance so this meant about 4mm of the zip tape on either side would be covered (2.5/2+1.5-2.3=0.45)
  • The seam was finished starting 1 cm above the horizontal lines of stay stitching I had just sewn.
  • I cut diagonal lines down into the corners of the stay stitching and folded the fabric back along the stitches giving me a casing into which I tacked the zip.
  • Lastly I top stitched the zip in place, unfortunately at that point my machine and I had a difference of opinion and as a result my top stitching isn’t as neat as it could be!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lining was then made up, excepting the back seam which I sewed to the two zipper tapes.  At this stage I was in a bit of a rush, if I were to do it again I would hand sew the lining as it hasn’t given me the neatest finish.

The lower part of the seam was then finished and the top of the skirt and the lining were basted together.

The waistband was made using a technique I picked up from reading the instructions for a skirt in the last edition of Burda magazine. I started by heming one end of the petersham ribbon and then basted it from one zipper opening all along the inside edge of the skirt until I reached the far end. At that end I left about 4cm (for the overlap) and folded it back on itself, this time sandwiching the skirt and lining between the two pieces of ribbon and sewing it along the front of the skirt. I then folded a hem to match the first and top stitched up the side and across the top. This is a very simple way to make a contrasting waistband, it’s also very comfortable.

Overall I’m very pleased with all three skirts, they were fun to design and quick to make. They were also cheap; I managed to get them out of 3m of fabric and some bits of haberdashery I had lying around in my sewing box.

Evalotta

I have written before about our potentially fabulous but currently rather gloomy flat.  To while away (another) snowy and miserable day I decided to cheer up our entrance hall by making a new curtain to cover the glass panels in our front door.   The curtain we inherited with the flat was made out of some dubiously thin fabric of some antiquity which was too long so had a knot tied in the middle of it to ensure it didn’t get in the way when you opened the door.  The dust in the fabric made it impossible to tell what the original colour had been but it looked as if it would disintegrate if tried anything as radical as washing it.

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Hmmm….as I said the hall gets next to no natural light so is difficult to take photos in.

As the hall gets almost no natural light (and like the rest of the flat is painted grey) I wanted a cheerful fabric  brighten it up.  Evalotta from Ikea (where else) provided the perfect solution.  I used 2.5m of fabric, hemmed each of the sides to hide the selvedge, created a tube in the top to hold the curtain bar and put a hem on the bottom.  A very quick, cheap and satisfying project.

Like the rest of the flat, the hall will only look properly loved once it is painted but in the mean time my curtain does make it look a lot more cheerful.

 

Joel & Sons

Today I went to Joel & Sons, a fabric shop just off the Edgeware Road. A couple of people have told me about this shop and said even if I didn’t want to buy anything it was worth visiting just to see what they had available.

Well, it is an amazing shop packed to the rafters with the most beautiful fabrics you can imagine. In the window they had a dark burgundy dress with a skirt made out of a feathered trim and inside it got a whole lot better. I found out where you can buy silk digital prints in London, wool crepes, double crepes, twills and stretch wools in every colour under the sun and a huge selection of wool jerseys, trims, buttons and lace. It made me feel quite dizzy!

I decided to buy some wool tweed to make a pair of trousers with. at first I chose a very pretty mauve-grey herringbone but wasn’t sure about the shade which was a bit pale. I asked one of the assistants who couldn’t have been more helpful. He pulled out numerous bolts of fabric at around the price mark I wanted to pay (this place isn’t cheap I did spot some gorgeous cashmere at £300 a metre) and ended up with some cinnamon plaid with a blue-green and mustard stripe running through it. He then helped me chose some matching mustard lining. When I went to pay the manager told me that Vivienne Westwood is doing plaid trousers with velvet turn ups this year and after searching through his box of scraps he dug out a piece of blue cotton velvet which he said I could have.

Definitely worth another visit!

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Frustrations

I love my Tova dress, it’s extremely comfortable and I have had several compliments when wearing it. I’ve worn it with leggings and on colder days over a t-shirt with jeans and a scarf.

I decided a second dress was definitely needed. For this one I chose some beautiful mauve linen from Cloth House in Berwick Street.  Cloth House always has good linens; I bought the grey, herringbone fabric I used for my first Beignet skirt there.  This fabric has a slightly coarse texture and a loose weave, it’s a very blue colour on one side and a pinker colour on the other giving a subtly mottled texture.

The first problem came when I tried to cut the pattern out. This fabric will just not sit still! I think I managed to cut all the pieces on the grain but I am not sure. The front in particular looks like it’s “on the hu” as we say in Suffolk but, strangely, when I try ironing it it straightens itself out.  This maybe why my front insert isn’t sitting quite straight at the moment (or it may be because of my non-existent top stitching skills).

The second problem is in the fit. I made a toile for the first dress and spent some time getting the fit right. I have noticed that I sometimes get a small crease across my back when wearing it but as it doesn’t feel tight I didn’t think I needed to alter the pattern. This second dress has been cut using exactly the same pieces but feels distinctly tight across my back. The only difference is the type of fabric; the cotton I used for the first dress obviously has more natural give than the linen I am now using. I will try letting out the seam allowances around the arms but the pattern only allowed for 1cm so there isn’t a huge amount to play with.

Another Beignet

While I think about how to fit my Jasmine blouse (read “it’s been put into the too difficult box for now”) I have decided to make another Beignet skirt. This one will be made out of the red fabric above which came from Ikea  – I know it’s furnishing fabric but I think it will lend itself to the pattern.  It will be lined with a pretty, cotton poplin floral print bought from Raystitch in Islington.  I spent a long time looking at buttons and eventually decided to give self-covered buttons a go – they always look neat and have the advantage of being cheap; 12 buttons is a lot when you have expensive tastes.

The pattern calls for twill tape, I’m not sure what this is (and neither was the assistant in Raystitch) but I bought the tape above which I hope will fulfil the same purpose.

Before I start making the skirt I want to trace all the pieces I altered last time and create a new set of pieces which have been altered to my fit.  This should make it easier to make the pattern again (I fancy a denim one for winter).