#mmmay16 – Me Made May and the versatile wardrobe

Me Made May is an event created by Zoe from So Zo… ‘What do you know?’ to encourage people to wear the clothes they make, whether this is through knitting, crocheting, sewing, weaving, etc.  It’s designed to motivate crafters to celebrate their achievements and confront any perfectionistic thoughts which may be keeping some garments in the back of the wardrobe!

There’s no pressure to wear something everyday, or to charter your progress through social media.  The challenge is an individual one set by you.

I didn’t officially sign up this year (mainly because I didn’t read the post properly to see that you needed to add a comment to sign up) but went along with it anyway.  The challenge I found with #mmmay16 was that I have made a lot of summery dresses and May in the UK this year has been quite cold at times!  I did set an achievable goal – to wear something me made on a couple of days each week in May – but I found that the most versatile garment in my me made wardrobe is the knitted cardigan I made 3 years ago in double knit weight yarn!

cardigan

 

The second garment I wore the most was the top I made as part of #miymarch16 for the knit material day.  This top was great as I could layer it up depending on the weather!

Other items I wore was the dress I made during #miymarch16 and the wrap skirt, which was good for the warmer days of the month!

This challenge has made me reflect on the type of garments I make.  I can see that although it took a good couple of months to make my knitted cardigan, the pattern was a good one and I wear it a lot.  Also, I have tended to stick to simpler patterns with easy to use fabrics which are more suitable for hot summer days in my dressmaking experience.

As a result, it looks like I need to diversify my dressmaking challenges.  here are the ways I am going to do this:

  • Make more tops in knit materials
  • Make more tops in specially selected materials
  • Make more items for all year or in particular Autumn, Winter and Spring
  • Learn to make fitted trousers
  • Make more knitted cardigans!

It will be interesting to take part next year and see if there’s any progression!

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Free Motion Embroidery – drawing and writing with my sewing machine

Got your eye on an expensive yet impressive embroidery sewing machine?  Think again!

I’ve been admiring the lovely embroidery machines with their numerous stitch options and the possibility of embellishing handmade gifts with a name at the touch of a button (or a few).  I remember watching a demonstration of someone programming in a word and then watching in awe as the machine punched out the letters perfectly.  All I wanted to do was justify the cost of buying a sewing machine which did this!

Well, my bank budget (and boyfriend) will be relieved to know that I no longer have this impulse!  While embroidery machines are amazing – especially the ones where you can put your design into the computer and then transfer it to the machine to stitch it – I discovered free machine embroidery this year through a local course.

I signed up to this course without much thought about what it entailed.  I’ve always wanted to do a textile based course, but they’ve always been a long commute away or I hadn’t been able to justify the cost at the time.  This course was a reasonable price, within walking distance, and with my new working hours, I could make the time of the session.

Free machine embroidery (also known as free motion embroidery) is when you drop the dog teeth on your sewing machine, which normally propel your fabric in one direction (away from you).  You attach a new type of foot – a darning foot – and reduce the upper thread tension a little.  You can do it without a presser foot attached, but it’s a lot safer with one!  You use an embroidery hoop to keep your material firm and you’re ready to go!

It’s best to move the hoop really slowly and have a play at first.  It takes time to learn to keep your hands smooth and steady as you stitch.  Originally, I practised drawing lines with the machine, then made loop patterns and some basic shapes.

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My first attempt at free motion embroidery!

In the course, we learned shading, appliqué, writing and using water soluble fabric (which is a whole other aspect to discuss another time).

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Some shading added to this cat drawing

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Some abstract layering of different fabrics using appliqué and free motion embroidery

I really enjoyed all of it, but I am quite fond of writing with stitch.  I love looking at people’s handwriting, and I used to enjoy writing stories as a kid, which may explain my fondness of handwriting.  I have used writing in combination with other free motion embroidery techniques in producing the designs for some of my Etsy items– cards in particular.

Ultimately, the reason I’m addicted to free motion embroidery is that it is creates personality and individuality in makes.  Embroidery sewing machines are programmed to be perfect, but I am always going draw something with stitch a bit different every time I use it, which makes it more interesting.

It’s also a great stash buster!

Here are some useful resources and artists to look at if you fancy a go:

  • Craftsy has a useful ‘how to’ on creating embroidered works of art.  It’s very clearly laid out in simple steps
  • Poppy Treffrey does some lovely free machine embroidered items, focusing mainly on the seaside and animals
  • Lou Gardiner is another amazing free machine embroiderer and describes how she creates her work well on the introductory video on her site
  • Jane Hall focuses on nature in her work
  • Rosie James has a lovely book on drawing with stitch

The Poppy Playsuit

Once again, it’s been a while since I’ve had another go at dressmaking.  I remedied this by combining a recent pattern in Simply Sewing with a recent material purchase!

There’s a lovely charity shop nearby who sell craft supplies.  I was very lucky to go into the shop when they had a material sale on, which meant I got two fabrics for the price of one!  One of the fabrics I came across is this lovely one above.

I am not sure what type of material it is, but it drapes well and there was enough to try out the Poppy Playsuit by Sew Over It, which came with issue 16 of Simply Sewing.  The main criteria for the material for this pattern was one which drapes well so I had the perfect match!

This is the first pattern I have tried making a basic alteration with.  I found that the bust and waist measurements were close enough to one pattern size, but my hips definitely needed a smaller size.  The pattern pieces did not highlight where the hipline was, which was a shame, but I still made a basic alteration from the waist to one of the notches which I felt was close to the hip measurement area.

The fabric was a challenge to cut out as it moves easily – I found that pattern weights and then pinning it helped.  The pattern’s instructions suggested pinning the edge of the fabric too, which was a useful tip.

As I was concerned about the material moving too much, I pinned and tacked at every stage.  Tacking increases the time considerably, but it did mean that I didn’t have any major unpicking sessions!

The pattern directions are clear and and concise.  Key terms are defined, which saves a google search part way through your make!  The only section I had to re-read again was how to do the turn-ups, and they turned out to be really simple once I focused on the directions carefully.

The only bit of unpicking I had to do was related to the hook and eye.  I attached the hook so that it would meet the edge of the right hand side opening.  This caused a gape in the material when fastened.  I changed this by placing the hook on the very edge of the right hand side opening and put the bar further in on the left hand side.  Also, I didn’t read the pattern carefully when attaching the facing and did a 1.5cm seam allowance instead of 1cm!

I was surprised by how long it took me to make this item, but that’s mainly because (a) I’m rusty at dressmaking and (b) the material required more care than a standard cotton or linen.  However I think it’s well worth it and I look forward to some warmer weather soon so I can wear it!!  I would definitely complete this pattern again, and I expect I would find it even easier and faster second time round.

Although it took some time, this pattern is great for beginners because (a) there are only 4 main parts to the pattern, (b) no darts, (c) the shaping and fastening is the hook and eye and elastic casing at the waist, which means no zips or buttonholes.  The fabric really helps to define its shape, so as long as you get that right, you’ll end up with a lovely addition to your wardrobe!

My first sew with knit material – the simple top

Here is another make from my #miymarch16 activity!

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To ease my nerves, I read up for some basic tips on sewing with knit fabrics with the help of Tilly and the Buttons’ blog post and Smarmyclothes’ youtube video.

The pattern – McCall’s 9399

top pattern

I got this pattern in a charity shop for a bargain price – I’m not even sure I paid the £1.99 penned onto the front!  I chose design E as I quite like a high-ish neckline, although I was tempted by the asymmetrical option, and H, which has a slightly lower neckline.

I didn’t want a complicated first knit project, so I felt that this pattern would be simple enough to give it a go without using too much material and time immediately.

I needed only a yard of material for this project.  I used a stretchy material I bought from Fabricland a long time ago but hadn’t gotten around to using so I was very happy to finally bust this one out of the stash!!

The pattern suggested a double hem.  Baffled by this technique, I searched online and found this tutorial to be useful in defining what it is.  Knowing I had a twin needle, I thought “yeah!  I could do that!” and set to work to make it happen.  However, after hemming the neckline, I realised that the bobbin thread was way too tight and and broke when I stretched the material.  I searched online to find out how to resolve this new issue and came across Mariadenmark’s useful post.  This enabled me to realise that I needed to increase the upper thread tension to make it work (I didn’t use interfacing as I don’t own any for knit fabrics – yet).

Things I learned from this project:

  1. Prior research helped a lot! If I hadn’t learned the basic tips of how to prevent it stretching, the needle to use, and the stitch types which can be used, I would have been stuffed as I would have been easily mislead by the pattern’s instructions and guidance as it looks like they suggest a straight stitch…
  2. The double needle gives a nice neck edge – but it takes time to get the tension right for it to work!
  3. Use a knit machine needle!
  4. There are various stitches you can use for knit fabrics. I thought I would opt for the standard zigzag, but when it warped the shoulder seams a bit, I found that the three stitch zigzag worked much better for me and the material I was using.

 

Upcycling jeans – the sewing pinny!

One of the projects I made during #miymarch16 was the upcycled pinny from an old pair of jeans.

jeans before

A very creased pair of old jeans!

I got these jeans for my 21st.  I’m a bit of a hoarder, and while they had a tear in them where the fabric was so thin and worn out, I hadn’t had the heart to chuck them away.

When I met up with my mum and sister in March, they suggested cutting them up into something new.  Due to the location of the worn out section, a skirt was not suitable!  However, we came up with making a tool belt.

jeans initial cut

One of the best parts of making something from something you’re prepared to throw away is that it doesn’t cost you anything and you have a lot of freedom to just go for it!  I simply placed a ruler over the jeans roughly where I thought the length would be good and took a rotary cutter to it!

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As you can see, I curved the back to make it more apron like, but also so I could keep the back pockets.  Jeans lend themselves to being a belt because of all the pockets!!  I added some patches to the back pockets and then added a pom pom trim and ribbon border.

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I wanted to add more decoration, and following my recent addiction to free machine embroidery (which I will go into more detail at some point in the future), I drew out some sewing related appliqué onto bondaweb!

pinny complete

Et voila!  Here is the end result!  I added some random buttons to the front pockets and stitched additional detail on the appliqué.  Now I put my scissors on a bungee rope so they’re always with me but I do think I need to add a scissor holster to it to improve it.