Overlocker

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Straight out of the box

My new overlocker arrived on Christmas Eve and it’s been sitting in its box calling to me over the holiday.  Today I had a couple of spare hours so I took it out  and set it up for the first time.

The instruction manual said the easiest way to thread it was to tie the new thread to the old and pull through all the loops.  Sounds good, but unfortunately this machine wasn’t threaded when it arrived so I had to do it the hard way.  Actually that’s no bad thing as it helped me get to know what was under the cover and where all the pieces were.  The first couple of threads (loopers) were very fiddly to set up but the upper threads were relatively simple.  I used different colours so I could see the effect each thread had on the final seam – this is an idea I got from Sam’s “serger series”.

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All threaded up

Attempt one

Attempt one!

Attempt one was not successful and re-reading the manual I realised I had missed one step in setting up the first looper thread.  Unfortunately they only way I could see to fix it was to remove all the threads and start again.

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Attempt two

Attempt two was much better and produced a lovely neat line of stitches.  I had a bit of a play withe the knife and the different stitches before the green thread (looper thread one again) ran out.  So I rethreaded the whole machine again, this time using large spools of white thread that were in the box with the machine.  I am quite pleased with the final result and can’t wait to try it out on an actual garment rather than just an old scrap.

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Vogue 1247

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Life has been quite stressful and busy these last few weeks; at work I’ve been finishing up a contract and whilst at home we’ve been coping with burst heating pipes, floor boards up in every room, builders and all manner of other expenses. On Thursday I had a rare day of peace and solitude and decided I really needed to do some sewing; nothing too complicated just something quick and fulfilling.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving had no particular plan in place I dug out some black moleskin left over from making my ginger skirt earlier in the year. For some reason Colette patterns always ask for about twice the amount of fabric required and so I had enough left to make another skirt. I bought the fabric on the Internet; it’s quite thick and stiff despite being very stretchy.  Also being moleskin and black it’s next to impossible to photograph it in any way that shows the details – I promise the two photos are different (front and back!) and that there are pockets on the front!

Vogue 1247

The pattern I chose was Vogue 1247, a Rachel Comey design, which seems to have been very popular this year.   Carolyn has made several lovely versions of this skirt as have Karen and Lizzy. As you can see the model and I are doppelgängers so I expected it to look perfect! My original plan was to make it out of denim but I’ve never found the right piece of fabric, denims in the shop are usually too light weight and too “new” looking for my taste. I’d be interested to hear if you’ve found a good source and whether you do anything to age it or not.

Unfortunately finding some fabric to make the bias binding would have meant leaving the house so I decided not to finish the seams in the way the pattern suggested, although I do love a good finish so next time I’ll be better prepared. The pattern is for a very short skirt (38cm) so I lengthened it by 10cm which comes to a few centimetres above my knees. This looks about right on me, not too short but also not long enough that it spoils the overall view of the skirt. I’ve seen a couple of knee length and longer versions but these look a little unbalanced to my eye.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe skirt was satisfyingly quick to make and fitted with no alterations. I’ve always enjoyed wearing shortish, denim or cord skirts as a casual alternative to jeans so I know I’ll get a lot of wear out of it and probably make the pattern up several more times in the future.  I’m also planning to make the blouse that comes with the skirt – I just need to find the right bit of fabric.

Incidentally I also made the cardigan I am wearing in the photograph at the top.  It’s a design from the German knitting magazine “Rebecca” and knitted out of Rowan felted tweed in a silver grey colour which is unfortunately no longer available.

Valentino

We are very lucky in London to have access to some wonderful exhibitions and galleries.  On Saturday my friend and I went to see Valentino: Master of Couture at Somerset House before going to the Lucia service in the Swedish Church in Marylebone.  This has become of a bit of a Christmas ritual for us; she is Swedish so I go with her family to Lucia and we combine the day with Somerset House which almost always has a fashion exhibition at this time of year.

The best way of getting to the exhibition is through the main courtyard, passing by the winter ice rink.  Once in the main building you can choose to either take the lift or walk down the stairs – choose the stairs they are beautiful in their own right and have been decorated with a simple length of red silk which hangs down the entire well and forms a puddle at the bottom.

The main part of the exhibition is in the long hall above the embankment entrance which has been transformed into a cat walk with the visitors walking down the red carpet and the exhibits on either side.  There must be over a hundred dresses on show and, surprisingly, very few of them are red.

I was astonished by how much intricate detail went into creating each of the dresses; hundreds of hours of embellishing with embroidery, beading, draping and pleating.  My favourite dress was a heavily beaded and rather stiff ivory lace sheath with a draped and pleated floaty train in various shades of blue that went over one shoulder and under the dress reappearing at the other side.

The last part of the exhibition was about the Valentino Atelier.  In this room they showed some of the details on the dresses and, best of all, had films showing the seamstresses making them up.  I’m always aching to see the inside of fashion exhibits and to find out construction details so this was a wonderful treat.

A couple of dresses looked like they were made out of silken cords with beads on the end, these were sewn together to give the dress shape at the top but hung freely lower down giving a swingy movement to the skirt.  The film showed each cord being sewn out of a length of silk which was then turned, stuffed with wool and then had their beads sewn on.  The final cords are only millimetres in diameter; I know how much swearing turning the shortest of tubes takes so some how I can’t imagine having the patience to make a whole dress out of them!

Another film showed roses being made out of red organza and then being covered with another layer of twisted organza to give a veiled appearance to the dress.  I was amazed by how many pins the seamstresses used to hold everything in place.

We finished the day at the Lucia celebration which is a beautiful carol service lead, as all Swede’s will know, by a girl wearing candles in her hair and followed with mulled wine and saffron buns.  All in all a perfect day!

Lucia

Birdies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last few weeks have been rather busy but I have been trying to ensure I spend a few minutes every day doing some sewing or knitting.  As a result I have moved several projects on even though I haven’t had the time to complete any of them.

Last Sunday for the first time in a while I had a full day to myself and decided to spend it making a party dress for Christmas.  I have been planning this dress since I bought some Marc Jacob’s silk crepe de chine on eBay in July but I’ve been putting off making it as all the horror stories about how difficult silk is to work with made me rather nervous.  It would have been more sensible to finish off an existing project than start a new one but Christmas is nearly here and so a new party dress seemed appropriate.

The pattern I used is the Easy Kimono Dress from Pattern Runway. I’ve made this dress up twice before and both times it’s been very successful.  It’s also very simple, without much in the way of complicated shapes to cut out and only takes a few hours to put together.

Cutting it out proved remarkably easy, certainly much simpler than cutting out the polyester georgette I used for my work dress. I have a very sharp pair of shears and used some Merchant & Mills entomology pins.  Have you tried these pins?  They are absolutely beautiful, spindly and long with black shafts and little gold round heads.  Perfect for use with fine fabrics and looking different enough not to get confused with my ordinary pins (my pin cushion holds a  mixture of silver ordinary and silk pins and I am never sure which is which).  I also put a brand new very fine needle in my sewing machine – which proved next to impossible to thread!.

Although the pattern doesn’t call for it I decided to line the dress and used some black silk I bought on Goldhawk Road.  I must admit I hadn’t realised quite how much static a silk shell and a silk lining give off and I will probably stick to man-made fabrics  for linings in future.  Rather than fiddle around with attaching the facing pieces to the lining as I did last time, I didn’t bother with the facing and just cut the lining to match the outer shell pieces.

Bodice seams were pinked before I sewed the waist seam, as this joined the inner and outer layers the seams are completed hidden.  Normally the skirt would have two pieces with seams at the side, but as I didn’t want to disrupt the large pattern I decided to cut it as one and put a French seam down the back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I realised my normal method of hand stitching a hem would pucker the fabric so  I spent several hours on the internet investigating ways of hemming crepe de chine.  It turns out there are as many ways of hemming silk it as there are people on the internet.  I watched a you tube video showing one lady using a machined zig-zag and then burning off the whispy ends in a candle, this clearly worked for her but I’d be terrified of burning my almost completed dress.  In the end I found a simple tutorial for hand sewing a rolled hem and used that; I think it’s turned out rather well.

I can’t imagine that I will use this pattern again but I really like the three dresses I have made out of it and in particular the fact that they look so different and have such different uses that no one is likely to think they are the same dress.  Just to remind you here are pictures of all three; my summer dress made out of easy poplin, my work dress made out of polyester georgette (never again) and my party dress made out of crepe de chine.

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Overlocking

A friend of a friend has an overlocker which is no longer used and has offered to give it to me! Whilst this is undoubtedly exciting news, after the first rush of enthusiasm, I was a bit worried that I might not make best use of it and won’t really know what to do with it.

I’ve seen on the internet lots of garments with beautifully neat overlocked seam finishes and I’ve heard they are perfect for use with knit fabrics, but is that all they do or is there more to them than that? How will I cope with sewing seams that look like they can’t be taken apart? As self-confessed Queen of the Unpicker how do I get confident enough go be able to know that when I sew a seam I won’t be pulling it apart ten minutes later because I’m not happy with the way it looks or because there’s a problem with the fit?

I had a look on Amazon and can see there are numerous “complete” guides to overlocking or serging but the problem with these books is knowing how useful they will be. I really don’t need a tutorial in making napkins as one book promised!

Do you have any advice that could help me? Have you found any books particularly useful? What do you use your overlocker for?