An ensemble from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing

I swear, you wait weeks for a project and then two come at once – my first two projects of the year are the blouse and pencil skirt from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing.

gertie skirt and top

Suffering from some wonky tripod syndrome…

In all, these two were a breeze to sew up – which is just as well considering how low my sewing productivity has been of late. As many reviewers have pointed out before me, Gertie’s book is a dream and full of classic and easily customisable patterns.

I put far more effort into the skirt than I did the blouse, which is refashioned out of a floor-length lace skirt I bought second-hand months ago. In the end, I decided to bother with neither a lining nor facings, instead finishing the raw edges with bias tape. The whole thing was stitched together using my overlocker, getting trustier by the minute now I’ve got the hang of it. A few adjustments were made to account for the scant fabric I actually had, as the original skirt was constructed out of four rectangles rather than the two.

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I had to fudge the sleeves a bit in the end because, lacking a muslin, the bust darts somehow ended up closer to my waist. Oops! To remedy the sagginess, I just did two tucks which I sewed on the outside of the fabric – you can barely notice really. I also widened the darts on the back of the neck, again due to some unnecessary sagging. The top’s too short to wear with anything other than a pencil skirt, but I love it.

Speaking of pencil skirts – this bad boy took a lot more effort. It was all about the muslin-making, meaning the whole thing took twice as long as it would have normally. Definitely worth it with such a form-fitting garment.

The only adjustments I really needed to make were to take in the skirt at the sides and to shorten it. I’m a petite one at 5″3, so this is a standard procedure for me by now. While I was reticent about the double darts at the front of the skirt, I actually really like them now.

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As suggested by Gertie in the book, the high waistband is boned. But instead of using Rigilene or steel boning, I opted for plastic cable ties. I know, I know, I promised I wouldn’t cut corners – but they really have worked a treat. I’ll let you know how they hold up after multiple washes, but I’ve heard good things. To give it extra strength, I ended up using the muslin’s waistband instead of iron-on interfacing.

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Then there’s the buttonhole. Er, the less said about this, the better. We all know I hate buttonholes. For some bizarre reason I thought things would turn out better if I did it by hand. It looks like it’s been sewn by a child. Perhaps these things get better with time…

I opted for a more expensive lining than usual – I forget what kind of fabric it is, but it’s so smooth and keeps static away a treat. The main body of the fabric is a floral cotton poplin, the kind which sticks to your tights if you don’t line it!

Excuse the crinkles!

Excuse the crinkles!

While it’s by no means the tidiest, for the first time, I’m not ashamed to show you how this garment looks on the inside. My new favourite toy has to be my pinking shears – you wouldn’t think it to look at them, but these bad boys are unbelievable at keeping unravelling fabric at bay. All that was left to do by the end was to cover the raw edge on the hemline with a matching pink ribbon.

As I said before, my aim was to make a perfectly fitting pencil skirt and I think I’ve achieved that. The only change I would make would be to taper the lower half of the skirt in just a touch.

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Next up on the sewing block are two sewing challenges – the first being Sew For Victory (which began yesterday, but I shall post my plans later this week!) and the second the Mad Men challenge. Woo!

Me Made May ’12 – Second-hand as good as new

If I’ve learnt anything while doing the Seamless pledge, it’s that second-hand clothing is just as good as new, if not better.

charity shop oxfam boutique

Most people who’ve been around the sewing blogosphere long enough for the likes of Wardrobe Refashion, New Dress a Day and Sew I Thought will know charity and second-hand shops are a godsend for anyone keeping an eye on their clothing consumption. It’s starting to become more and more mainstream as belts continue to tighten, with the likes of Marks and Spencer’s “shwopping campaign”, as Zoe wrote about on her blog recently, becoming de rigueur.

I do most of my second-hand shopping at charity shops, being lucky enough to live around the corner from Albany Road in Cardiff, where some real treasures can be found on the numerous charity shops along the street. But charity shops are obviously a two-way thing and they rely on our old and unwanted clothing to keep going and keep raising money.

Last year, 64 per cent of you told me you donate your old clothes to charity, but I also found charity shops are struggling somewhat when it comes to donations. Hard times mean less shopping and fewer wardrobe clearouts.

This month, cancer charity Tenovus is running a campaign in my area to try and get people donating. Liz Rawlins, the charity’s PR and Communications Manager (and fellow blogger!) explained the difference one bag of clothing could make to a charity shop:

“Every single item donated to any one of our shops raises vital funds that enable us to support cancer patients and their families across Wales.

“One bag of clothing makes on average £20, and that £20 means we can continue to provide services such as treating people closer to home on our Mobile
Cancer Support Unit, bereavement counseling and keeping our freephone cancer support line open 7 days a week”.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much, much rather be helping to make this extra £20 for a charity than contributing some extra pennies to a multi-national company.

For the “Worn by You, Loved by Us” campaign, Tenovus set up a great little fashion shoot in Cardiff using clothing from their shops, modelled by staff from Tenovus. All the photos were taken by Amy Davies of Cardiff Arcades fame, so they’re pretty schnazzy to say the least, showing off second-hand clothing AND one of Cardiff’s amazing arcades.

As it happens, Me Made May Day 24 happened to be all about the charity shops, as I donned my refashioned vintage skirt and skinny men’s belt for a day of exam mocks and revision. In fact, aside from the cardigan, my whole outfit had passed through other hands before they arrived in my wardrobe.

The scarf is yet another vintage one from Lush, the necklace and my cream lace top were both birthday presents and my Mum bought me the shoes this time last year when she noticed how full of holes my favourite pair of pumps were.

But here’s the fun bit – I was heading back from the Students’ Union when someone working for More! magazine stopped me to ask if they could take a photo of my outfit. For those of you who aren’t familiar with More!, it’s a fashion/celeb women’s magazine which is pretty popular over here.

I won’t lie, it felt like a small victory to attract the attention of someone employed by a magazine with a direct interest in promoting fashion and the high street.  Score one for second-hand fashion!

So I’ve divulged my favourite charity shop haunt, what about yours? Where do you, without fail, manage to find something fab to refashion. I promise I won’t tell…

Pledge Progress Report – The beginning!

As more people sign up to the Seamless pledge (big thanks to Zoe for the shoutout!), I wanted to give you guys a few details on documenting your own pledge progress and to post the first of my progress reports!

Here’s the little video I made for the Seamless Pledge in case you missed it!

New pledgers!

Those of you starting out on the pledge – hello! Nice to see you and lovely to have you on board! A fair few new blogs have been added to my RSS feed today and I’m really looking forward to seeing how you all get along!

A lot of you will be documenting the pledge through your blogs, but it’d be great if you could join me in documenting it via Flickr and Facebook as well!

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Hopefully you’re members of the Flickr group and like the Facebook page – the reason I set these up was so we could have places to bring our content together and encourage each other during the pledge.

The Flickr group was one of the aspects I really enjoyed about Zoe’s Self Stitched and Me Made Challenges, so I’ve followed in her suit. I discovered so many new blogs through those groups during the challenges so it’d be lovely if the same happened during the Seamless pledge!

While I may be a bit lonely on the Flickr group pool at the moment, I hope you’ll be joining me on there soon enough! At present, there’s no Seamless Twitter, but I am using the #seamlesspledge hashtag quite a bit.

Pledge Progress Report – The first refashion!

Officially, I began the Seamless pledge about three weeks ago.

Do I miss buying new clothes? Well, a day in the life of a trainee journalist doesn’t leave much time for shopping.  In between shorthand, a visit to court and wandering around my news patch, new clothes have been the last thing on my mind.  I predict it’ll really start to kick in at Christmas, when you’re expected to buy a new party dress for your Christmas ‘do.

When I wasn’t furiously shorthanding away or editing audio interviews last week, I managed to set aside some time for some refashioning!

vintage floral pleated skirt from oxfam boutique

Meet this pleated number courtesy of Cardiff’s Oxfam Boutique. The Oxfam Boutique isn’t my usual haunt for refashioning possibilities mostly because the price range is a little bit higher than regular Oxfam shops. If I’m just going to chop something up, I’m not going to spend more than £10 on it.

At £6.99, this floral wonder in the vintage section of the shop was right up my street. Though the label says it’s a size 14 from St Michael, as vintage sizes run smaller than their modern equivalents, there was no need to resize the waist. Excellent!

refashion pleated skirt after

Some snips, ironing and a baby hem later and tah-dah! One happy Elena! I know longer skirts are a la mode right now and some ladies pull them off fabulously, but alas, I am just too short.

For those new to refashioning and sewing, I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to hem a pleated skirt in a couple of days – but I wondered if any of the more experienced refashioners out there have any tips for pleated hems? Comment away, and I’ll add them to the post!