What do you do when you hate your work-in-progress?

There are always going to be projects which don’t work out so well.

A poor choice in fabric, a cut which isn’t quite as flattering off the pattern envelope or even just the sheer effort of trying to force a project to go your way can turn a work-in-progress to an unfinished garment. These are the projects which make you want to run out to the shops and just buy a similar garment because it would be oh-so much simpler.

This is where I find myself with my Twitter dress. It started out so well! I found the fabric in Boyes while I visited York, even found some super-cool buttons and was planning to whip up a turquoise version of the sixties dress featured in the blog’s first giveaway.

So I cut out the pattern pieces and started basting them together to fit. Despite my best efforts, I don’t think this garment has ever not looked like a potato sack, that is, a potato sack with an uncanny resemblance to medical scrubs.

As it stands, this dress would probably be more at home in a doctor’s surgery than wherever I would be wearing it. I toyed with adding a collar, but it didn’t really work out too well.

I don’t know about you, but when I hit a brick wall with a project, my sewing motivation goes right downhill. Add to this a couple of failed job interviews and you haven’t exactly got a match made in stitching heaven.

I need to claw back my motivation. As I post this, I’ll be searching for another style in the hope I can salvage what I have left of the fabric before I forever associate it with the medical-scrubs gone wrong.

What’s on your sewing table at the moment? Have you ever had to turn around a failed project?

Finished Meringue – making the best out of a bad situation

After much in the way of seam-ripping, frustration and snipping of scallops, my Meringue skirt is done, but it looks a little different from how I’d originally intended.

Grainy image is grainy – I need Martha!

First of all, I’d like to say a HUGE thanks to everyone who offered their tips and sympathies in my last post.

I’ve shyed away from blogging about sewing mistakes before, because you lot are so bloody talented I don’t want to show myself up! All joking aside, I think it’s better to admit to mistakes, move on and make the best of such things.

In this case, it meant doing away with the scallops. Despite the Colette book explicitly saying I should choose a fabric which holds shape well, I was swayed by the lovely bottle-green colour and drape of this swishy crepe from a fabric shop down the road from my new place in Cardiff. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a bit of swish!

When it came to ironing the scallops, it became clear they wouldn’t set. They were all puffy and bulky in the wrong places. Then there was the fit of the skirt itself – it was so, so loose! It looks a bit too tight in the above photo because I’d just cooked an epic meal for some friends, so you’ll have to trust me on the fit being a lot better now!

Obviously I’m way, way behind on the Sew Colette challenge, but nevertheless I’m going to move on from this one and get on with the Parfait dress. This time, I’m definitely making a muslin!

Apologies for being really behind on catching up on blogs of late, I promise I’ll be back commenting soon!

Sew Colette : When life gets in the way

sew colette meringue sewalong

The Meringue skirts for the Sew Colette sewalong look absolutely amazing! Hats off to those of you who got them finished because the ones I’ve seen on the Flickr group are amazing. One of my favourites so far is Lucille’s two-tone beauty, which you can read about here.

Sadly, this is what mine looks like at the moment. (excuse the crappy phone-camera shot, my camera is broken) Hopefully I’ll get it done this week so I can get involved with the Pastille dress, but for now, I’m a little behind.

Life gets in the way of sewing sometimes. It’s a topic I’ve touched on before – the course I’m doing is pretty demanding and while 2012 has been much better in terms of sewing than the beginning of 2011 was, sometimes I get home and don’t much feel like sewing at all.

The logo for our in-house paper. 

Let’s take yesterday for example. Far from being entirely unproductive, yesterday our team put together our very first newspaper in the first of our 18 production days.

These are part of our assessment – basically, we all take different roles within the newsroom and work together to create the paper by our deadline of 4.30. So yesterday, instead of being a student, seamstress or a blogger I had to put on a Chief-Sub hat and hope for the best.

Basically, I was the one in charge of the layout of the paper, what went where and assigning stories to people who checked them over and made sure they fit into boxes on the page.

…it’s alright, we got the paper out, we survived!

I have a tendency to match up new experiences to various hobbies I have. My first production day as a whole was a lot like the very first time I had a full-contact fight in Karate – I certainly felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me after both days and I’ll let you guess which one had me sat with a bag of frozen peas on my head for the evening…

In some ways, when we saw the entire paper up on the board completely finished, it reminded me a bit of the first time I ever sewed a piece of clothing.

By my sewing standards now, it was utter crap – the seams weren’t finished, pretty sure the waistband didn’t match up and the invisible zipper was definitely on show. It’s also made from a quilting cotton which creases really easily (huh, sounds familiar…) and I’m pretty sure it’s falling to pieces.

We’ll probably look back on what we’ve done in our first paper and cringe at  the mistakes we made – but there’s still this sense of accomplishment (and relief!) at creating the product itself.

My first ever skirt is hidden somewhere at the bottom of my drawer… what about you? Any first sewing memories? I’ll try and dig out some pictures so I can show you, but I’d love to have a look at any of yours – the good, the bad and the ugly!

Sew Colette: Muslin or no muslin?

sew colette meringue sewalong

In the Sew Colette sewalong organised by Sarah and Erin, this week was designated Meringue muslin week.

As you know, my week has most certainly not been a sewing week! With an exam on public administration on Monday and an essay on phone hacking due on Thursday, it was all journo hands on deck, which, as I’ve mentioned before, doesn’t tend to leave a lot of time for sewing!

The Flickr group is already filling up with bloggers’ renditions of the a-line skirt, but I’ve decided to skip the muslin part of the project. Not exactly in-keeping with my less quantity more quality sewing ideal for 2012!

After all, winging it and skipping the muslin stage is probably one of my worst sewing habits! There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Laziness: One of those fast fashion habits I’m afraid! When I have made muslins, I’ve rushed through the process without really taking the time to check fit and wearability.
  • Cost: While muslins tend to be made from easily-afforded cheap fabrics, my fabric budget isn’t exactly significant while I’m still training as a journalist.
  • Waste: If I buy fabric, I want to use it and wear it. Where’s the sense in my taking a pledge against buying unnecessary garments from the high-street when I’m sewing garments which gather dust after I’m done adjusting the fit?

A popular tactic in the sewing blogosphere is to make a wearable muslin. The fabric may be cheaper than what you’ve bought for the garment proper, but it’s still a garment you would wear. Take Melizza for example, who has made a wearable muslin to see how the scallops would look in a lightweight cotton.

Photo by Martha Moreno

Before Christmas, I drafted up my own pencil skirt pattern. In this case, a muslin was a must because it’s such a closely fitted garment which had been drafted up based on my measurements in the summer – even a minute change in measurements is going to affect the fit on a garment as form fitting as this one.

The result is a pencil skirt I’m still going to wear (because I’m stubborn!) but with clear indications of fit issues. Take the wrinkles across the front and on the zipper – this means I need to add a bit more width to this garment.

Photo by Martha Moreno

I made this in a cheap-as-chips polycotton I had lying around in my stash – imagine if I’d made it with something a bit more expensive? Mind you, the fabric wrinkles very, very easily – does anyone know if the wrinkling would be less obvious in another fabric?

I’ve popped more photos of the skirt up on my Flickr page if you want to take a further look! 

The Meringue skirt is less formfitting than my pencil skirt, so I should be OK if I make sure to use a generous seam allowance in case any adjustment is required! I was gong to draft a waistband according to the Coletterie’s helpful tutorial, but I’m not sure if this would be sensible when I’m not making a muslin.

Any readers taking part in the sewalong? I can’t wait to see everyone’s finished garments! I have no internet at my new house which has made catching up with blog reading a bit more difficult!

Project Planning: Meringue Skirt

Sometimes, I’m a bit crap at sewing. No, this isn’t false modesty – this is actually true.

My sewing performance oscillates. Sometimes it’ll reach the dizzying heights of a perfectly executed invisible zipper, but the next week it could drop to the deepest depths of a poorly executed blouse courtesy of the old enemy… buttonholes.

A dress I managed to screw up, sad times.

Memories of failed projects still haunt me to this day – like the above dress I tried to make when I was still living in Germany. The fabric was amazing, but sadly, the dress wasn’t meant to be.

Hardly the sustainable sort of sewing we’re after, is it?

As you all know, 2012’s sewing mantra is quality, not quanitity. Bad habits from my fast fashion days run rampant when I sew.

It happens to the best of us – we start cutting corners because we’re so impatient for the final product. I’ve even distracted myself by thinking about whatever project I’ve got lined up next and before I know it, the one I’ve barely begun working on is old news.

If the pledge is about steering away from this mentality towards a more sustainable one, then this speedy, sloppy sewing just doesn’t contribute anything constructive at all. At the end of the day, you’ll end up with a poorly made garment you may as well have spent a fiver on, because it’ll fall apart in no time.

So let’s slow it down right from the beginning – take a step back and start planning. As a rule, I’ve never done this.

Mood-boards just haven’t been my thing – I tend to keep a lot of ideas in my head,  only to have them change when I spot some pretty quilting cotton. The Colette Sewing Handbook suggests you draw yourself a croquis.

I know what you’re thinking – sounds like something French and to do with potatoes, but it’s actually a sketch of clothing on a figure. It’s a good way to visualise what your garment will end up looking like.

Colette Patterns, Meringue

Alternatively, you can go for the moodboard-style idea as I’ve done above – I actually used Polyvore for this one, linking images of fabric I’d seen online. This is a pretty simple project, so I didn’t need to add much, but for something like the Macaron, which features two different fabrics, it could be useful to have all your planned fabric and notions in one place.

As for the project? I’m thinking a royal green colour – I’ve been a bit of a fan of jewel tones for a while. The handbook recommends a medium weight fabric like poplin and Raystitch has some great jewel tones on offer in plain cotton of a medium weight.

Need inspiration for your Meringue skirt? The Coletterie has plenty, but here are a couple of others I found (curiously, all black and white versions!):

  • I’ve already got a houndstooth skirt, but I was so tempted to make another after seeing this beauty from Lauren, who blogs at Lladybird. She’s used the Coletterie’s tutorial to add a waistband – I might just do the same.
  • Sharon’s added some piping to the hem of her Meringue, going for a monochrome look with some pinstripe fabric. Lovely. She’s even included a nice little walk-through of how she did it.
  • The newspaper fan in me could hardly ignore A View Into my World‘s print-style Meringue! It was actually a gift for a friend using the same fabric as she made for her equally excellent rendition of Sewaholic‘s Minoru jacket.

Any planning tips for this lazy seamstress? I’d love to hear them!

Chunky Knitted Snood Action

Finished Purple Knitted Snood

I did it! Say hello to my first ever knitted creation! After much unravelling, swearing at the knitting needles and wrestling the yarn from the cat (true story), it’s DONE.

It wouldn’t be a first-ever knitting project if it didn’t have its flaws mind you. The yarn I bought specifically said it was enough for a chunky snood, so I just kept knitting until I ran out of wool and sewed a seam at the back.

Cheeeeeeeeeeeeese

The only problem is, it’s a bit of an awkward length – not quite cosying up to my neck like Karen’s but also not nearly long enough to wrap around twice as hoped. Oops! Never mind though – at least this way I can layer it up with an extra snood or a scarf if it’s bitterly cold.

That’s my last project of 2011 right there! It’s hardly inspirational like the ones a few of you have been sending me, but I’m happy enough. New skills ahoy!

Tomorrow I’ll be posting up the inspirational makes I’ve been sent – there’s still a bit of time left for you to send a couple in, so get to it!

What’s on your sewing table?

The Seamless pledge has been running for about a month now, yet my sewing output hasn’t improved quite as much as I’d thought. Part of my aim was to reconnect with my handmade wardrobe, but while I’ve refashioned a little bit, my sewing output has been lacking.

This is partly because I just haven’t had the time to sit down and sew. It’s actually very rare to find me at home nowadays. While living in Germany, my sewing table served as my base, and even during my lacklustre (in the sewing department) final year in Swansea, my sewing machine was rarely out of sight. Here in JOMEC’s newsroom, a sewing machine wouldn’t exactly fit in with the Macbooks, maps and newspapers!

living the the cjs newsroomWatching the Leveson Inquiry in the newsroom instead of sewing, I am cool.

I always knew this course would be full on, but I hoped I’d at least put aside some time to sew. As it stands, I’ve spent the last three weeks on the same project! It’s difficult to come back and forth from a project sometimes as often I’ll have given up on the last session because I hit a wall, only to return and discover the wall still remains. A bit frustrating to say the least, particularly when other sewing bloggers are consistently making good quality items on a regular basis.

Back in April, Tilly began her Sewing Productivity Project. There are a lovely set of posts about how best to organise your time to sew and even some data visualisation (I’m normally used to talking about this in the context of journalism!) with hints and tips on how to improve sewing productivity. It’s safe to say I’m not the only sewer having trouble with productivity. Tilly’s set of posts on this are really interesting, with some guest bloggers contributing too!

As it stands, I’ve been oh-so-slowly getting along with my self-drafted pencil skirt, but it has been taking an absolute age. All the while, I’ve been resisting actually buying any new clothing, which is great, but I’m not doing so well with regards to actually getting back in touch with the sewing aspect of my life.

Over to you. What’s on your sewing table? Do you ever find anything getting in the way of your sewing?

On an unrelated note – I’m really loving how willing everyone is to comment, particularly on my past post about old clothes. I do read everyone’s comments, even if I don’t get a chance to reply to them all! Keep them coming, it’s great to get some more perspective.

The Graduation Skirt

A big part of the Seamless pledge is bringing focus back to the handmade and refashioned items in my wardrobe. Sewing progress is a lot slower nowadays, but I still have a few projects up my sleeves ready to share, and this is where this scallop waist circle skirt comes into the picture.

As some of you may have noticed, I’m a big fan of making things especially for big occasions; in the past I’ve made clothes for university balls, interviews and weddings. There’s something deliciously satisfying about wearing something you’ve made yourself, but even more so when you have a certain occasion in mind. When it came to graduating from Swansea University, I wanted to make sure I wore at least one handmade item.

scallop waist skirt blue
Elena Cresci BA, in case you wondered… (show off)

Using Vivat Veritas’s free pattern and tutorial from Grosgrain‘s month of free patterns, I made a royal blue circle skirt especially for the occasion. The bright blue gabardine didn’t exactly match the ridiculous graduation robes, which featured the most delightful shade of maroon, but I won’t tell if you don’t…

The pattern itself was so easy to sew up. Circle skirts are easy to draft yourself and there are plenty of tutorials online, including great ones from Gertie and . Chie of Vivat Veritas has done all the work for you on this pattern, meaning a lot less maths on your part! My inner maths-hating child was delighted.

There’s a nice little variation on the circle skirt theme with Chie’s pattern in the scalloped waistband. Scallops are becoming quite the trend from what I’ve seen on the online sewing community – as you can see from the newly released Colette Sewing Handbook which features the Meringue skirt with a scalloped hem. Lovely! Mine didn’t turn out quite as even as hoped, but I liked the effect anyway.

One problem I’ve found is the top of the waistband curves over so you can’t really see the shape. It’s not too big a problem, but does anyone have any suggestions on how to prevent this effect? Also, the back waistband doesn’t quite line up. Something to work on in future projects!

As for graduation – I may have spent most of it pretending I’d finally received my letter to Hogwarts. Standard practice really if you’re given robes and a silly hat. Is it any wonder I renamed it Wizard Day?

If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!

The Wannabe Hack Skirt

Photo by Martha Moreno

This academic year hasn’t been completely devoid of sewing activity. Sure, this skirt may have been progressing on and off for a couple of months, but I eventually managed to get it done in time for my interview for my postgraduate course in journalism, hence why this skirt will always be ‘the wannabe hack’ skirt to me – a nod to the Wannabe Hacks website, which publishes tips and advice for wannabe journos such as myself. I’ve even had an article featured on there before!

It was important to me to wear at least one garment I had made to the interview for several reasons. I’m sure any fellow seamstresses will agree, there’s a degree of confidence which comes hand in hand with wearing an item of clothing you’ve hand-crafted. Even if the outside world won’t necessarily notice, there’s something different about what you’re wearing, especially as you haven’t picked it out from a sea of different sized versions of the same shirt/skirt/dress/insert garment here. After such a long period of sewing abandonment, actually wearing something I’d made to such an important interview gave me a bit of a buzz.

Most importantly though, sewing has proven to be a large part of the reason I began blogging as extensively as I do now. Arguably, The Siren (a commentary blog about life at Swansea University) would never have happened had I not been blogging every seam sewn during my time in Germany. So I felt it would be more than appropriate to wear a self-sewn skirt to an interview I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for sewing.


Maybe it’s good luck to wear your self sewn items to interviews, because I got in! I can tell this skirt will get a lot of wear during the Winter months at the course, as it’s made from fairly thick woven fabric. A few months after my interview, I asked my friend Martha to help me out in taking some photos of the skirt. Our setting? Brangwyn Hall in Swansea, where I’ll be graduating in a matter of weeks! We took my ‘shoe-case’ (the suitcase I kept all of my shoes) for fun and popped out one late afternoon in May for some photo-fun!

Martha said all good modelling includes triangles... so I became a teapot

Using the Jenny pencil skirt pattern available on BurdaStyle, I created a black and white houndstooth skirt, fully lined with purple silky fabric I had in my stash. The skirt itself is comfortable to wear but a few problems have come up – namely, the fit. I’ve come to the conclusion I’m a weird size, with hips only marginally bigger than my waist, creating some bugbears in how the skirt sits. It rides up quite a lot when I’m walking, and the lining insists on peeking out.


I think I’ve also shortened the skirt just a tad too much; a crime I’m often committing. This won’t be as much of a problem when wearing the skirt in Winter, as a pair of tights make an almost-too-short skirt somewhat more appropriate. I’m planning to create another pencil skirt in the style of Gertie’s orange bow skirt, but this time I plan on drafting my own pattern in the hopes it will improve the fit of the garment. Here’s hoping!

Want to see more photos from the day? Check out the photo set over on my Flickr!