The Nun Skirt

Sunday morning…

So my mission this weekend is to finish both the ‘Nun’ (yoke) skirt and the circle one (for my step-niece). I spent yesterday focusing on the nun skirt and now all that remains to do is to hem it. 

However… I wanted the skirt to be higher-waisted than it is meant to be but didn’t realise how much length that means I’ve lost from the hem. It now sits just about the knee in its un-hemmed state but I’d rather it be on the knee when hemmed. 

Pre Hem

So, my plan today is to create a constrasting colour hem for it, which shouldn’t be too tricky. Either I can do it in white so it matches the piping or go a little more daring with a print or bright fabric. Decisions, decisions.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way with this project but it’s been very educational and taught me a lot. In particular, I’ve learnt about the sequence in which a skirt can be assembled; my usual thing would be to sew all the seams and hem everything before looking at putting in zips or decoration, which I now realise isn’t the best way. Now I’ve made the skirt in an inexpensive cotton fabric, I’d like to make it again in a pretty floral pattern.   

Trying my hand at tiny invisable hand stitched on the yoke lining

Later on Sunday…

It became apparent the additional hem was not going to be as quick to do as I’d hoped… It’s taken me most of today to finish and I’m not happy with how it’s hanging but it is finished! First item of clothing I’ve ever made and finished. It can only get better!! 

  

   
    
 
As you can see, there are tons of errors and it creases incredibly quicky (this has been ironed, believe it or not) but I can now put it to bed having learnt a lot, and move on to my heap of other projects. 

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Sewing Class #2

I had to steel myself for last night’s class after the disappointment of the previous week. I begrudgingly dragged myself there, thinking of all the things I could use the time for instead, and started laying out my equipment and fabrics on the table. I was one of the first to arrive so I took the opportunity to put Plan Dressmaking Class Not Basic Sewing Class into action. I unpackaged the skirt I’m working on for my step-niece and the Nun skirt. My plan was to work on my own projects in between set things in class so that a) I’d be less bored and b) the tutor would see that I was capable of more than cutting out heart shapes from A4 paper. 
I’d sewn the zip into the Nun skirt wrong and I’d been thinking about it on my drive home from work (those traffic-packed 13 miles do have their uses) and knew what I needed to do to push forward. However, inevitably, it started with my trusty unpicking tool… Whilst she was explaining what seam allowance she wanted on the pin cushions, I merrily unpicked the zip then placed it to one side, whizzed the pin cushion up on the machine, and then went back to the zip. I’d unpicked it all by the time she came back to check out the pin cushions. Once she’d inspected those, she asked what I was working on. I explained it was the first time I’d used a pattern to make anything and my first go at piping. I also said I’d seen the zip in wrong because I’d not allowed for the extra fabric to conceal the zip – I’d sewn it too close to the edges of the seam. 

I put an invisible zip in a cushion cover before Christmas using a Debbie Shore video online but I couldn’t think where to start. Cue the opportunity to show the tutor I’m eager to learn and am teaching myself techniques at home. She showed me some like tricks and hey presto! One zip in, one student pleased and one tutor asking her to ‘bring it in next week and we’ll continue working on it.’ And I got to show off my (successful) French seams! 😉

I also did a bit of beading on the other skirt and got to have a nerdy gossip with the other girls about gorgeous fabrics and which shops locally to try out. 

We learnt about different necklines and the measurements for them, then we cut out patterns for them to keep for reference. I had one horrible moment when I saw she’d written ‘AB=3’ on the board whereby I thought ‘Is this finally the moment when I have to use the understanding I learnt at 10 years old of algebra?!’. 😬 But no. It was just her way of writing down measurements. 

So, feeling more positive about this class now and want to ensure the Nun skirt has progressed a fair bit by next Monday. 

Sunday Hours

Up bright and early at 7.30am, cup of tea in hand and washing machine whirling away contently downstairs, I sat down to tackle the yoke skirt.

Straight off I knew I wanted to do French seams wherever possible because I’m a little in love with them right now. The pattern doesn’t call for them but I prefer the finish over a flatlocked seam (or, at least, over my flatlocked seams!).

I sewed the two front pieces together first, and then the back two pieces. Next, I made my own version of piping by folding a strip of white cotton in half and sewing a seam about 1-2cm from the folded edge. I then flatlocked the raw edge. Using thick yarn from my crochet blanket (it was all I had to hand), I threaded it through the tube of fabric using a darning needle. Ironed it all smooth and set to work attaching it using tacking stitches.

The humble zipper foot is a wonderful invention. I am quite in love with it. Makes piping so much easier!

  
Right when I was whistling away happily to myself thinking ‘I bet I could finish this today’ (a girl’s gotta dream, right?), I realised I’d sewn the yoke on all wrong and needed to un-pick it. Cue the boyfriend popping his head around the door to suggest a trip to the shops and me abandoning the sinking ship, so to speak.

A trip to Lidil later, I went back to it and faced the reality of needing to unpick a lot. I learnt a valuable lesson – French seams don’t work in all situations! 

Here’s the front section pre-ironing:

   
   
Karl said it looks ‘churchy’ by which I think he means ‘convent’ because I looked at it and thought ‘Hmmm, nun colours’ so it’s now the Nun Skirt! 😂 I’ll try to prettify it before I wear it! 

  

I started on the zip. It’s meant to be an invisible one in the pattern but I didn’t have any grey ones so I thought ‘I’ll make it a statement zip’… We’ll see how it turns out. 

Finished there for the day and baked brownies! I also made more gingerbread cake as Karl adores it. 

   

Finally I did my totally pointless homework for sewing class because even though it’s pointless I like to be a good student! 

Back to the slog of the working week now…  

Saturday Job

In my book, Saturday equals crafting day now and I’m excited to have the whole day available to do as I wish with. However, I do have some other jobs around the house I have to do on weekends so I can’t get down to sewing right away. I like to treat Karl to a nice breakfast on Saturday or Sunday and so I made Scotch pancakes this week using Mary Berry’s (who else?!) recipe. I just did plain ones rather than orange  but I was super impressed with how easy they were to make! I didn’t take any photos as they are an ‘eat-straight-away’ bake but they looked pretty close to what you’d buy in the shop. Lots of golden syrup and lemon juice later and we were really for the day!

Or, the housework at least. I seemed to decide it was the perfect time to clean the oven. Not sure why but there you go. Man, that’s one messy job.

Right, on to the good stuff. I focused on the skirt for my step-niece as I know to her it will seem like it’s taken several years already to make (or else she’s forgotten completely that I’m making it and will have an ill-timed growth-spurt before I can finish it). I contemplated learning how to ‘face’ (not sure I’m using the term correctly) a hem because it would look neater overall and would be another skill to tick off the list but, having decided time was of the essence, I just went for a bog-standard hem which does mean there are a couple of rolls in it. I put in a zip in the back (and made a slight boo-boo but nothing a carefully placed ribbon bow won’t hide) and then hand-stitched on the ribbon around the waistband.

The skirt is, essentially, complete in terms of structure so now it’s just a matter of tidying it up (some inner seams need attention) and putting the beading on. I also need to attach a fastening to the petticoat, which is separate from the skirt so it can be worn with or without. I finished the petticoat off with a little reminder of where it came from. 😉

 

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Having done quite a bit of work on this skirt, I turned my attention to another project. I really should finish my box pleat skirt before I start making another but I really, really wanted to have a go at following a pattern so I started on the yoke skirt from Great British Sewing Bee’s book ‘Sew Your Own Wardrobe’.

 

This book is £25 brand new but a steal at only £5.95 on eBay (in ‘like new’ condition). It comes with five folded pattern sheets which hold the patterns for all the garments shown in the book. Some of them look fairly hard for a novice so I started with the yoke skirt because it only had 8 pieces. And I would get to practice my piping. You can get the pattern for free here if you’re happy to print it yourself and tape it together.

I decided upon plain grey fabric with white piping so that I didn’t get bogged down in pattern matching, like I have with the box pleat skirt. Plus, if I finish it then it’ll be smart enough for office wear.

I’m really bad at cutting straight lines – worse probably than many pre-school kids. So, pattern cutting for me is a little bit hit and miss, it would appear. I don’t have a lot of patience for ‘cutting out’; I want to sew! I did press the fabric before cutting, which was a bound ahead for me, but I became rather bored with the cutting process so it was a bit rushed. Using my living room floor is the only option for cutting out but beware of tiny house rabbit teeth that want to eat pattern paper!

Cutting out the pieces was as far as I got before I realised it was after 7pm and I needed to make tea (home-made lasagne followed by those gooey chocolate puddings I blogged about) so I awoke today anxious to get back to the sewing machine!

 

Cwtch Up

I’ve neglected to talk much about crochet so far on the blog, other than to tell you what projects I am working on and what I aspire to make (pastel coloured unicorns!) Crochet has taken a bit of a back seat this month as I’ve been consumed with my sewing machine and buying fabric. And then my sudden interest in clay got in the way. Anyway, I’ll show you in this post the long-term crochet project I’m working on:

  • The 50 x 50 inch purple tweed stitch blanket

When I first decided to learn to crochet in September 2015, it was with the intention of creating chunky, snuggly projects predominantly. I’m not really interested in making granny square blankets and tea cosies. So I knew my first project (once I’d practiced a little) would be the cowl scarf in grey and, concurrently, the lap blanket which I adapted to be larger and in purple. The book these are taken from is the DK ‘Complete Guide to Crochet’ which has been my teacher-slash-bible.

I did these two projects at the same time because they use the same stitch; the tweed stitch. This is a delightfully dense stitch and when coupled with thick yarn and a 10mm hook, it creates an exceptionally warm blanket. Possibly a little too warm for the mild winters of the UK… In Norway it would fit right in!

The tweed stitch is a basic chain stitch and double crochet stitch into the stitch space in a pattern. For the cowl scarf this was made up in the round so it was one long, continuous row. For the blanket, however, it’s normal rows and at the end of each you have to add three chain stitches to ensure the edges are even. I started this blanket in October so I was learning ‘on the job’. As such, I mistakenly missed out some of the chain stitches on the end of the rows and, consequently, have a blanket which is slightly wider at the bottom than further up. In other words, my 50 x 50 blanket isn’t square but it’s not too noticeable.

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The above photo was about 5 inches in (in terms of height) and it hit me how many balls of yarn (at £6 a pop) I would need to complete this project – yep, ten. Right then and there my pace slowed because I knew I would have to stretch this project out across several months in order to afford to finish it! In all likelihood, I’ll need another two balls of yarn in a contrasting colour (possibly cream) to trim it.

This project makes up really fast, because the yarn is so chunky and the hook so big. It was a bit of a shock to go back to a 4mm hook for another project!

This is the beautiful ‘waffle-like’ texture the tweed stitch gives the blanket:

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Crochet is usually full of ‘holes’ (intentionally) but this type of crochet is a lot heavier than traditional lace or trim making, etc. It does still have gaps in it but they are much less noticeable unless the piece is stretched. Whilst I always used to find tension really hard to maintain when knitting, I find this easy with crochet and so this has become a project I can work on without needing to look at it all the time; I can watch TV, have a chat with someone, daydream or read a book whilst doing this.

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I take this project into work a lot so I can do it during my lunch break. It attracts a lot of comments and compliments from my colleagues! However, it’s becoming too bulky and big for this bag now so I reckon I’ll soon need one of those Big Blue Bags from IKEA to lug it around!

I’m just over half way through this project now – as of today the height measures at 26 inches. Only 24 more to go and then it’ll be on to the trim and tidying up the loose threads. I’m not sure when it will be finished but hopefully in time for next winter! 😉

You can see the blanket in it’s standard size and original colours here at a blog by a fellow crochet enthusiast who also learnt using the DK book.

(NB: It’s hard to get the colour of my blanket to photograph accurately on my iPhone so when it’s finished I’ll take some snaps on my Nixon in daylight so you can see it properly.)

Sewing Class #1

As you’ll no doubt know, I was super excited to sign up for a community education class in dressmaking this month. I eagerly awaited the opening of the online enrollment and kept refreshing the page until 09:00 on the dot hit and the website allowed you to sign-up online.

Yesterday was the first class and I’d spent the weekend ensuring I had the required materials for the course and getting stressed out about the idea of being the worst seamstress there. Because I suffer from anxiety, I felt physically sick right before I set out as I was going to a new environment with people I’d never met and to be observed practising a skill I am new to. However, I steeled myself with the fact that I’d already paid for the course and I couldn’t let £50 (almost) be wasted.

I thought I knew where the school was but it turned out to be another school and not the one I was after. Panicking a little about being late, I made a few wrong turns before I found the right place. Secondary schools seem to be massive! I accidentally went into a guitar lesson and bumped into someone on their way to a Spanish class before I found a fellow sewing enthusiast who showed me the way.

After all that pent up excitement and fear, I was brought crashing back to earth when the teacher made herself known. It was fairly clear from the outset that she is not an artsy type of teacher who encourages experimenting and creative flare. It was clear it was her way or it was the wrong way. Hmmm.

There are 10 of us in the class – 3 of us are newbies and the rest were there last term (or the past five terms as was the case for one lady). We were asked to introduce ourselves and explain our skill level and I was asked to go first.

“Hi, I’m Felicity. I’ve been sewing by hand since I was little – doll’s clothes and cushion covers mainly – but I got my first sewing machine at Christmas. I’m new to dressmaking.”

I wish I hadn’t gone first. I didn’t realise how detailed a history of their sewing experience people were going to give and it soon became clear I’d sold myself short. In the teacher’s mind, I was a beginner at sewing full stop, not simply dressmaking. Cue two hours of mind-numbing boredom as she demonstrated how to thread a sewing machine and hand sew a hem. We then practised sewing in a straight line on a piece of card. And then -the true challenge (note the sarcasm) – cutting a heart template out of paper. 

Seriously.

These are templates for pin cushions we’re going to have to make. Forgive me, but I don’t think you can wear a pin cushion so where exactly is the dressmaking aspect of this?! A pin cushion is what a kid in school makes.

When the tutor asked me to unpack my bag to show her the heart template I’d cut out I couldn’t help but stare for a moment. Did she honestly think I was incapable of such a simple task?! I just said ‘mine’s like hers’, pointing to a classmate, and followed it hurriedly with ‘See you next week.’

I was very alarmed to hear that the students who had attended last term were hoping to learn to put in a zip this term. Surely that’s the 101 of sewing?! I cannot fathom how you can make it through an entire 10 weeks of sewing classes and not learn how to do something as basic as inserting zips!

So, I am worried I have wasted £50 and 16 hours (by the end of the course) of my life. I’m not insinuating I know how to do everything. I know I need to take lessons and read more and practice loads, hence why I signed up for the class. But I honestly thought a course on dressmaking would allow me to learn to create a variety of garments. Instead, the schedule for the 8 weeks appears to cover little more than fitting sleeves and inserting darts in terms of skills I need to learn. I dearly hope I am wrong.

The projects the other people in the class were working on seemed very basic; t-shirts and shift dresses. They’ve not learnt to insert pockets or sew with lace yet. One student spent the entire two hours laying her pattern (which she’d already cut out) on the fabric and cutting it out. This was a simple three panel tunic without sleeves: it should not have taken that long. The general air amongst the second-term students was one of almost fear – a fear of sewing. They seemed to have little confidence and very little desire to try new things and learn through making mistakes. It’s the opposite of how I view sewing. I hope this isn’t what happens when you take this class!

Anyway… As I said, I really, really hope the class is going to be far better than this initial session was. At the very least, the two other newbies seem lovely and one of them makes beautiful children’s skirts with elasticated waistbands that look stunning. The other is also a beginner in crochet so we were exchanging ideas and tips about that craft as well.

Until then, I feel the need to sew some basic skirts and bits and bobs just to prove to myself I still can! 😉

Gooey Goodness

I have the Timehop app and it’s been telling me I need to up my game and cook for the boyfriend more often –

Well, not quite but it reminded me that a year ago I cooked a steak dinner with red wine for him and followed it up with delicious homemade dark chocolate puddings that are to die for. 

Before I received Mary Berry’s book, I scanned the internet for recipes and had a Good Housekeeping ‘Everyday Vegetarian’ recipe book. This book has been mostly neglected but I used their recipe for gooey chocolate puddings for Christmas Dinner 2014. I wanted something that looked and tasted amazing but didn’t require any decorating as, despite loving things like embroidery and crocheting, I can’t ice cakes for toffee. Or serve them neatly. (I always go for cakes that can have a rustic finish, like a Victoria sponge.) I serve these puddings in the ramekins rather then turn them out like they have in the book.

 

Because you use 70% dark chocolate for these, they are very rich. I doubled the amounts to make 6 puddings (I think my ramekins are bigger than the ones they recommend) for Christmas and when it was just the boyfriend and I used their amounts, which made three – one each and one to argue over! 😉

 
Serve with cream and strawberries for the ultimate treat. 

  

Warning: Loose fitting clothes recommended during consumption. 😜