The Sewing Show, Birmingham NEC

On Friday I met up with a couple of sewing mad friends at the NEC in Birmingham for some much needed retail therapy and stash rebuilding! I’ve used so much stash without buying much at all that I’m really down to small pieces, or pieces that aren’t “me”. Time to fix that!

Apart from lots of fabric suppliers there was a lovely exhibition of kimonos. The details and embroidery were exquisite. It was really hard to obey the “do not touch” posted on the walls everywhere!

I was pretty good with my purchases, not just buying metres and metres. I couldn’t, prices have gone up!! From Rosenberg and Son, I bought a black and white linen and cotton blend to make some summer trousers, grey Swiss dot cotton for a Japanese inspired top, and two floral print cotton and viscose blends, also fitted tops. I love the large print of the navy and white, its quite dramatic for me!

Fabrics Galore was where I got these beauties, black and white stripe viscose jersey for a tee (either a Lark or Birgitte) grey and black stripe ponte for a cardigan or sweater, grey and pale blue cotton for a top, black and white gingham for a top and that beautiful turquoise washed linen for cropped trousers. I love that colour!

The embroidery on this wedding kimono was something else!

Navy and ecru stripe modal jersey for a tee or two from Montreux Fabrics and sand washed linen from Bombay Fabric for more trousers!

I got some practical stuff too, stocking up on overlocker thread in white and black.

I also visited my favourite lady, Gill Arnold to stock up on her fabulous interfacing and more shoulder pads for all those coats and jackets I’m supposed to be making!

Last, but not least, of the fabric buying. Two gorgeous handprinted Indian cottons from Maven Patterns. The grey and white will be a top and the mustard and cream will line my navy Tosti! I must get that pattern traced now, the Merchant and Mills oilskin had been waiting in the stash since September last year.

So now that all needs to be washed and suitable patterns sourced. I think my summer wardrobe has made itself known!

Fabric Shopping on Holiday

And a pledge…

Three weeks in South Africa, all over now until the next time.  I just hope it’s not another 5 years!  Now fabric shopping on holiday sounds like a fabulous thing to do, buy up all those pretty things you can’t get at home and grab those things that are cheaper elsewhere because of a decent exchange rate.  I really wanted to go with a fairly empty suitcase, to take full advantage of my situation, but I’d made so many lovely things for my Sew Seasonal Wardrobe that were begging to be allowed into the suitcase that I ended up with just 3 kg to spare!  Oops.

No matter, some stuff taken was to be distributed, so I thought I’d do my bit to help the local economy.  Now I must add that Mr Not-Compulsive tried very hard not to let me within 5km of a fabric store, but in the end he relented.  I was directed to a store/factory shop in Roodeport called Chamdor.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large fabric store!  It was a warehouse!  Thankfully half was soft-furnishing fabric and half the dressmaking fabric was stuff I wasn’t interested in. There was a lot of fleece (going into winter), lycra and poly-blends.

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Trims of all descriptions and so many zips!
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The central aisle has end to end cutting tables, lined with anything you could want for your sewing project. Fabric stores with shopping trolleys – yes please!!

I saw a girl who was guarding a couple of rolls of border printed viscose & after asking nicely where she’d found them, proceeded to empty the shelves!  There were so many lovely colours and patterns, it was going to be a struggle to decide which couldn’t be left behind.  The price was R56/m, which I worked out to being about £2.25/m.  Man – how could I leave anything behind at that price!?!?

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The viscose I couldn’t leave benhid, I bought 3m of each, just to make sure I had enough!

Then I found the button stands and the trim and the zips and the threads and sewing machine accessories….  £55 later I emerged triumphant, two bags in my hands and a husband who kept saying, “I don’t know where you’re going to put all this.”

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The Three cats logo of Da Gama Textiles Shweshwe

And then I was good, oh so good.  I avoided all other fabric temptations until we got to the Eastern Cape.  Da Gama Textiles is based in that province and they are the sole manufacturer of authentic Shweshwe fabric.  I was going to have some to bring home, come hell or high water.  The factory shop is located outside of East London and boy was there a lot to choose from!  Original indigo sat side by side with teal and turquoise, greens, reds, pinks, oranges and browns.  This was going to be harder than I thought!

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In the end I bought a deep turquoise piece for a dress for Daughter No2, an orange circle print for Del and a striking red design that reminds me of Mid-Century Modern prints for a friend in Chicago.

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Shweshwe fabric from Da Gama Textiles
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This gorgeous blue will be a dress of some sort for daughter no 2

Now some of you know exactly what I have here, and others wondering what on earth Shweshwe is.  I could go into a huge explanation, but there are many sites you can find the information on, Meerkat Shweshwe sell many different ranges online and have a history of the origins of the cloth, Da Gama obviously have their background in the industry, and African Fabric have good information, as well as a huge range of coloured and original indigo Shweshwe for sale online.

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The 3 cats on the reverse of all authentic shweshwe. Beware of copies!

While we were at Da Gama Textiles, we did a bit of bin diving.  Da Gama print more than just Shweshwe.  There are big fabric bins in the factory shop full of test prints, seconds etc that you buy by the kilogram.  We had a little hunt for different pieces of mostly soft furnishing fabrics, and came out with a good selection of bits and pieces that I’ll use to make cushion covers, table runners and other goodies for the summer table outside.  And that was it!  Once we’d distributed all the gifts we’d taken to all our friends and family, there was plenty of room for the fabric purchases.  And 40 vintage patterns….

And now we come to the crunch.  I really don’t need to buy any more fabric this year.  No, seriously, I don’t.  So I made a pledge, and told Mr Not-Compulsive, so I have to stick with it.

Fabric pledge
No more fabric shopping this year!!

Now I have a fabric diet to stick to and things to make…

No Sewing, Plenty of Shopping!

Well, not no sewing at all, but I haven’t got much to report right now as I have no photos! I have a blue viscose tee and blue and white herringbone Burda trousers and a new pair of gorgeous Birkin Flares.  But nowhere to be seen.  What I can show you though, is fabric shopping….

My favourite annual fabric shopping opportunity happened this week, Sewing for Pleasure at the NEC.  I always go on the Thursday, the first day.  You get the best picks first thing on day one!  I went prepared, a wad of cash in my wallet that was all I was allowed to spend and two large carrier bags in which to stuff my purchases.   I was meeting with an ex-student whom I hadn’t seen in about 2 years, so it was going to be a good day!  We had a fabulous time catching up and buying pretty things.

I started at Rosenberg & Son – the only place to start.  As usual there was a crowd 3 people deep all trying to get access to the front to feel and grab precious bolts of fabrics.  Some people have sharp elbows…  Anyway, once I finally reached my destination I bought 2.5m of floral printed twill for a friend (who’s making a dress), 1.2m of blue and white geometric print John Kaldor viscose jersey and and 2.5m of the prettiest green and blue parasol print poplin.  My plans for the jersey is to turn it into a tee of some sort – no idea which pattern just yet.  The parasol print will be the trousers from the pantsuit in the plus size section of the April issue of Burdastyle magazine.  It’s going to look good on the beach next month!!

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First purchases from Rosenberg, Viscose jersey, print twill & print poplin

From there I found Doughty’s.  All 2-3 stalls.  Why so many? Anyways, one of their stalls had a majority of quilting cottons, the others had a mixture of good fabrics, including a decent selection of ex-designer fabrics like Paul Smith.  I bought a metre of pretty navy and white seaside print cotton to make baby things for a friend’s soon to be born little girl.  February’s issue of Burdastyle has some really cute patterns for baby clothes.

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Seaside print cotton from Doughty’s Fabrics

They always have lots of lovely fabrics, this time I managed to buy from two of the stalls.  On 2 different trips I bought 2 metres of washed linen in grey and white (looks like a cotton & linen blend) and 1.2m of black and white stripe viscose jersey.  I have a pretty good idea the linen will become a pair of floppy trousers, although a friend suggested an unlined jacket, and the jersey is destined to be a tee.  Again, pattern undecided.

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Linen & viscose jersey from Doughty’s

 

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Montreux Fabrics

I found a new fabric store at the show this time, Montreux Fabrics.  They haven’t got their website up and running just yet but they did have plenty of gorgeous fabrics! I particularly enjoyed rummaging through the “remnant” baskets.  Their selection of jersey fabrics was really good.  I ended up only buying 2 pieces, 1.8m of plain blue viscose jersey, again it’ll be a tee of some sort, and 1.4m of white viscose jersey that’s destined for Del.

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Beautiful blue jersey from Montreux fabrics

Just when I thought I’d done all my buying, daughter No2 turned up!  My friend wanted to go back to Rosenberg’s so we tagged along.  Bad decision!  Or maybe not.  Two more pieces of fabric were added to my bags!  Daughter no 2 liked a piece of Liberty lawn for a vintage blouse and then fell for a large floral print stretch cotton for another blouse.  I will wait for her to come home for the Easter hols to pick the exact patterns she wants.

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Cotton prints from Rosenberg & Son

I killed a little time at the Bernina stand, I still wouldn’t swap either of my old machines for one of them.  The overlockers look even more involved than mine!  I looked at the coverstitch though, it has three needles and costs a mere £599.  To sew hems….  Twin needles are much cheaper!

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Overlockers at the Bernina stand

I browsed the patterns stands, picked up one Burda trouser patterns but on the whole I left the commercial patterns alone.

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Looking out bargains at Doughty’s, Interesting print choice & lots of commercial patterns

So all in all it was a pretty fabulous day.  My wallet was empty, feet only a little sore and fabric bags full!  It was all so worth it and I have plenty to sew in the next 4 weeks!

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Unselfish Sewing

and a little fabric shopping

I got tempted by the new Sewaholic Vancouver range of patterns on their release earlier this year and bought two patterns in the 2 for 1 launch special.  I liked the Fraser sweatshirt to make for myself and the girls, and I got the Cypress running cape, definitely only for making for the girls!

On a recent trip to Birmingham and The Fancy Silk Store, I bought a fabulous fleece lined jersey in charcoal.  As Daughter No2 was with me at the time I got enough for both of us to have a Fraser sweatshirt.  She didn’t want any of the fancy stitchlines, just a plain one please, with looong sleeves.  She has rather long arms and battles to find bought tops that stay anywhere near her wrist.  Everything ends up looking like it should be 3/4.

The fabric doesn’t have much stretch, it’s pretty sturdy, so I hope it fits….  I made an adjustment to the shoulder width (1.5 cm wider) and lengthened the sleeve by 4cm.  She won’t mind if it’s a little long but will be very disappointed if it’s short.  I used View B for the front and back and added length according to the sleeve for View A, but used B…  Make sense?  I started with the size 4 on the top part and graded to a 2 at the waist and hip.  Funnily enough, in Burda (and almost everything else) patterns she’s one or two sizes bigger in the hip than the waist, but with Sewholic we need to go down by 1 size.

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Sewaholic Fraser sweatshirt, View B with long sleeves

The pattern itself is pretty easy, especially if you’re doing View B!  Basically, think Renfrew in a sturdier fabric.  The construction is the same.  The only thing I would change about the order of work would be attaching the cuffs to the sleeves.  Because I sent down to size 2 on the sleeve (skinny arms) it was nigh on impossible to get the cuff on after the side seams had been sewn.  Next time I’ll attach the sleeve cuffs and then sew the sleeve and side seams, turning up the cuff and just attaching with the sewing machine.  Although I still won’t be able to get the ends over the free arm.  But overlocking it was damn tricky!

I hope that when she comes home after her hockey tour in the Easter hols that she’s happy with it.  She’s seen some photos but it still needs to be tried on.

So, riding high on a quick easy make, I decided I’d make another.  But not my version.  I’d had a little splurge this weekend buying fabric online (I know, I’m supposed to be clearing the table of stashed fabrics) from Ditto Fabrics, Fabworks and Croft Mill Fabrics.  Bad.  I’m hopeless.  Anyway, I wanted to be sure the fabrics all got used up as soon as they arrived, so on Tuesday the Fabworks delivery arrived (as well as the Ditto stuff, but that’s for later).  I’d ordered linen, of course, and two pieces of jersey.

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Sewaholic Fraser sweatshirt View A – details

The one I wanted for the sweatshirt is blue with circles and flowers, sort of reminds me of delft tiles, and I wanted to use it to make something for my Mum.  I decided to go with View A, although I wasn’t going to use a contrast fabric.  This time I didn’t need any pattern alterations, my Mum’s measurements put her firmly in the size 12.

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Two new sweatshirts, one new favourite pattern.

Again, construction was simple and straightforward, the only part you need to watch is the triangle point insertion.  It was done in an afternoon and I’m pretty happy with it, although on close inspection I know I missed centering the top front exactly, but I don’t think anyone looking casualy will notice, and no, I’m not unpicking it!!

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So to round up the pattern stuff – Sewaholic have delivered a quick make with clear, concise instructions alongside plain talking illustrations.  I can see a whole stack of these being made, and as you have such a plain canvas, whose to say there won’t be many hacks on the horizon for those so inclined?  Already the Renfrew had been hacked into so many different things by enterprising sewists.

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Fraser View A, pointy details.

Now, Fabworks.  I’d spotted them on Instagram, someone I follow had bought something yummy, so I took a look.  They have a good selection of fabrics, and lovely, interesting jersey fabrics.  The prices are pretty good too.  The ordering only lets you pick whole metres, which means for a tee shirt you’re either going to be short, or have too much.  So I emailed them asking if I could have a custom order and they were very helpful.  So if you like what you see there but don’t want 1 or 2 metres (or more, who’s counting) email them for a custom order.  Postage is a flat £5, but it comes the next day!!  So for impulsive shoppers, that’s not bad.  So far I’m happy with the pieces I’ve ordered, I will see how the fabric behaves in the long term before I can judge the quality of their offerings, but on customer service they’re sitting pretty on my list of online shops.

I have only one purchase from Fabworks left, I made the linen up yesterday, so I need to get the last piece of jersey cut up and sewn today!  I also need to allocate patterns to the jerseys I got from Croft Mill and Ditto.  I promised myself that if I bought all of it, I’d use it up within 2 weeks – nothing to stash.  This might just be a promise I can keep…

If you’re sewing this weekend, have fun!

Slow Sewing

This year is going to be a different one for sewing. If you haven’t already noticed, things are going much slower. By this time last year I’d completed 22 projects, this year I’ve done 13 and am working on my 14th. It’s not as if I have less to make, or less fabric to play with. Just less time.
I have stuff I need to photograph, neither Camas Blouse have made it to the pages of the blog yet, despite them being completed late January, early February!  Here’s a glimpse.

Marking the seamlines on the reverse of the sequined shoulder yokes.
Marking the seamlines on the reverse of the sequined shoulder yokes.

 

The completed sequined shoulder.
The completed sequined shoulder.
A sneaky selfie in the back of the florists, the first outing for my Camas Blouse
A sneaky selfie in the back of the florists, the first outing for my Camas Blouse

I decided this year to get my act into gear regarding trousers too, the styles in the Burda magazines aren’t floating my boat and there really is a limit as to how many times you can remake a pattern, no matter how you think they look so different in different fabrics.  So I’ve managed to get a new pair of self drafted trousers up and running too.  I stole a couple of different styling ideas from different patterns I like, like pocket shapes and cuffs.  I’m pretty happy with the first pair, I think the proof will be in the wearing though, so I’m holding off rushing to make a new pair before I’ve worn these a couple of times to identify areas of improvement.

Sketch of the intended pattern and a pile of taped together bits of paper forming the pattern pieces!
Sketch of the intended pattern and a pile of taped together bits of paper forming the pattern pieces!
Adjusting the style lines after the first toile.
Adjusting the style lines after the first toile.
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Almost there, fly zip, topstitched square shaped pockets.

My current project is a simple v-neck tee from a self drafted block.  I’d needed to adjust the original block heavily, apparently Winnie Aldrich doesn’t really mean 0 ease when she says it for a tee block!!  I think it’s sorted enough, so I’ve marked the fashion cut and created the style pattern I’m after. I need to toile it today, so fingers crossed.

Simple shaped tee, 3/4 sleeves and a wide v-neck band embellished with beads
Simple shaped tee, 3/4 sleeves and a wide v-neck band embellished with beads

The one thing about making garments with jersey is that each and every jersey behaves differently. I’ve even had different results from the same bamboo jersey in different colours!! Does the dying process have an effect?? Who knows.  This time I’m using a pale grey viscose jersey I bought from Croft Mill Fabrics last year, it’s not one of those flowing jerseys, so hopefully it works well with the simple shape.  I decided to lift it from being a boring grey tee I’d dig out a tube of silvery beads and embellish a bit.  We’ll see if my hands behave enough for me to hold a beading needle long enough to get any beads attached!

Speaking of hands, I’ve been rushing to crochet enough granny squares to make a throw for daughter no2 before I have to stop.  Holding a crochet hook is not easy at the moment, but I’ve managed fairly well so far.  I crochet like mad when my hands behave and then have to leave if for days other times.  I hope I get it all finished and put together before she heads off to University in September.  I have a long way to go yet!

This was the last photo I took of the growing pile.  I have another 18 to add to this.
This was the last photo I took of the growing pile. I have another 18 to add to this.

Of course, just because I am not sewing much doesn’t mean I’m leaving the growing of the stash alone.  I persuaded Daughter No1 to attend the Sewing for Pleasure at the NEC last week with me, on the promise that I’d buy the ticket, lunch and any fabric she required.  Sucker.  We got a good haul, she left with silk and wool tops for embellishing, wool felt and silk woven pieces to add texture to her latest project.  Me?  Well, I left with these, amongst other things…

Cotton poplin for a dress and 40s stye shorts for daughter no1
Cotton poplin for a dress and 40s stye shorts for daughter no1
just one of the pieces of Linton tweed, this is a cotton weave, destined for an edgy, modern jacket for daughter no1
Just one of the pieces of Linton tweed, this is a cotton weave, destined for an edgy, modern jacket for daughter no1
Silk print onto cotton, the most amazing colours!  I got 2 lots of 2 metres, neither for me!!
Silk print onto cotton, the most amazing colours! I got 2 lots of 2 metres, neither for me!!
You can never have too many books to assist with fitting issues.  Everyone has a different opinion!
You can never have too many books to assist with fitting issues. Everyone has a different opinion!

So that’s me for now.  I have lots to sew and lots to crochet and lots to photograph!  Daughter no1 will be home for the Easter Hols soon and I have lots of things I want to make for her before she goes back to University, so I’m going to have to hurry up just a little.

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So by now you’ve probably seen a few posts about the meet-up in Birmingham this Saturday.  It was the first one I’ve attended, so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was fairly excited to finally meet some of the people with whom I’ve been conversing via tinternet since starting this blogging adventure.  I was planning to drag Daughter No1 out with me, mum-daughter quality time.

Daughter No1 & I arrived late at New Street, thanks to London Midland not having proper staff or facilities at their Selly Oak station.  But we were determined not to be down about it and headed to Fancy Silk Stores hoping to catch up with “a large group of ladies clutching armfuls of fabric”.  We didn’t see them at Fancy Silks, that’s because they started at Barry’s!  Not deterred, we found stuff we wanted.

Black wool crepe for a Gabriola, grey polyester for a draped blouse & black silk jacquard for a vintage dress
Black wool crepe for a Gabriola, grey polyester for a draped blouse & black silk jacquard for a vintage dress

We found the most devine black wool crepe which will be a Gabriola for the winter for Daughter No2 – a specific request.  The grey polyester has the most amazing drape, it feels like washed silk – now that’s what I want to buy!  I’ll make an All Saints type draped blouse for Daughter No1 with it.  The black silk jacquard is for a vintage dress for Daughter No1.

On the way out we were met with the ladies coming in from Barry’s, but we needed tea – and lunch.  Our go-to place for lunch is The Handmade Burger Company.  We met the group again at 1pm to get the bus to Moseley & Guthrie Ghani.  We left our bulging bags upstairs with the tea & cakes & headed into the shop to see what treasures were inside.  There was a decent amount of fabric, lots of quilting cotton stuff.  We ended up with a remnant piece of jersey – another Maria Denmark Day to Night top & two pieces of cotton.  The shop also had the largest range of independent patterns I’ve seen in one place. Fabric from Guthrie & Ghani, grey & white striped jersey and two weights of cotton.

Fabric from Guthrie & Ghani, grey & white striped jersey and two weights of cotton.

It was great to see so many sewists all together, but there was one problem, I didn’t have a clue who anyone was!  I managed to discover Claire from Sew, Incidentally who I follow on Twitter and met some new people too, Amanda, Ann & Toria.  I have to add here that Daughter No1 was far better at starting to chat to people than I!  The fabric & pattern swap was interesting, more of a free-for-all than I had expected!  Nontheless, I managed to get rid of all the patterns I took (& I took a fair few) and come home with a couple of new-to-me ones.  I only got rid of 1 piece of fabric, but brought 3 home!

Burgundy jersey with fabulous drape & pale green polyester satin backed something-or-other!  :)
Burgundy jersey with fabulous drape swapped from Claire (see above) & pale green polyester satin backed something-or-other! 🙂

I’ll dye the green satin backed stuff, the metres of burgundy jersey will be dresses & tees for Daughters No 1&2 & I also got a piece of black jersey, not photographed.  That’ll be a Renfrew for daughter No1.  So I have my work cut out for me with all these new goodies added to my already overflowing stash boxes!

I will probably get the black jersey from the swap & the grey & white stripe jersey made up first as they’ll be the quickest.  The toile for the 60’s dress is under way so it’ll be a tousle between making that dress or the black crepe Gabriola next!  I thoroughly enjoyed the meet, my feet hurt, I was desperately short of tea & my arms were a good 5cm longer by the time I finally made it home, but it was so worth it!  Thanks Charlotte from English Girl at Home for organizing it all & to Lauren for letting a hoard of fabric-aholics into your shop!

Packing for the Jungle

Happy New Year!!  What do you mean, that was last week…

Already I am behind on catching up on blog posts to read, patterns to make & fabrics to drool over!  If 2014 has the speed of 2013, I’m done for!  Needless to say, I really don’t want to be late for the Jungle.  Yup, if you’ve been more out of the loop than I, Jungle January is back on, hosted as ever by the indomitable AnneB from Pretty Grievances.  See her first round-up post here.

This time I’m making something for me!  I did a bit of research back in December & found two rather cool pieces from Fabric Godmother.  This chiffon is really pretty, as is the viscose leopard print.  However, I opted for the slightly less expensive option.  Ditto Fabrics have a leopard print viscose with a more monochrome colourway at £7.99/m, it will suit me better than the options with brown in them.  Naturally I didn’t just get the viscose.  I also bought the very last bit of a caramel linen blend for a new pair of summer trousers.

Caramel linen blend & leopard print viscose from Ditto Fabrics
Caramel linen blend & leopard print viscose from Ditto Fabrics

Now all I need is a pattern.  I really want to pattern cut something, I haven’t done any since about June last year, distracted as I have been with vintage sewing patterns!  Once I’d ordered the fabric I started thinking of something drapey, possibly Pattern Magic inspired.  But I kept coming back to the oversized shirt I’d made for daughter No2 last year, the shirt I made her for Christmas and the waist details common on 40s & 50s blouses.  The realisation that I really wanted a “normal” blouse with a vintage hint was a relief!

Until last night however, I couldn’t decide on a normal collar or a bow-tie of some sort.  I’m going to compromise.  I will make the blouse with a proper collar & stand and will also make a sort of neck-tie.  Here’s a rough sketch of what I’m thinking so far.

Blouse sketch with vintage influences
Blouse sketch with vintage influences

Now all I have to do is make the time to draft the pattern.  I’ve been wanting to do a top with a sleeve & yoke in one for a while.  The adaptations in Natalie Bray’s “More Dress Pattern Designing” are what I’ll be using.  Fingers crossed it all goes without a hitch.  If you’re joining us in the jungle, how are you getting on?