The Distracted Seamstress

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I’ve been dusting off a long lost and unused “skill” – knitting.  As touched on in the last post, I persuaded a friend to help me to knit again and she taught me how to make a “simple” cable knit fingerless mitten pattern.

I won’t go into massive detail, but I made three pairs of that pattern, and now I’m trying my hand at a cable knit beanie/hat.  That’s going slower, much slower.  Because I got distracted again!  I dug out my crochet stuff to make (wait for it)…. dishcloths!  WTF?? I hear you ask.  Have I lost my mind? Well – no…

This year I’ve been thinking more and more of the environmental impact we all have.  This world has limited resources and I want to try to do my bit to be more sustainable.  This means not buying single-use plastic, recycling more than I did in the past and being more careful with what I throw away.  We have become such a throwaway society, because it’s become cheap, easy and convenient for us to do so.  We are encouraged to do it by the retailers.

So far this year I have ditched supermarket milk in plastic bottles for glass bottles I bought myself and take to the local farmer/dairy twice a week for refilling, ditched cling film & bought beeswax wraps (going to make my own soon!) and swapped supermarket plastic wrapped veg for the local grocers and farm shops.  The veg is cheaper and I only need to buy what I need for that week, saving pennies and food waste.  My old shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles have been swapped for bars from Lush, and shower gel swapped for good old fashioned soap in cardboard  boxes.

I’d love to make my own soap and bath salts, that’ll be on the to-do list along with the beeswax wraps.  When my toothbrush needs to be replaced, it’ll be with a bamboo one, and I now carry a stainless steel straw in my handbag.  Other things I can do easily are to be found in my stash.  I made two granny square afgan sampler throws for the girls when they went off to university, and while I managed to sell some of the cotton left over from those projects, I still had a bag of about a dozen balls of Rowan Cotton Glace lying around.

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I saw somewhere that someone had made some facecloths with crochet using cotton yarn.  So I thought – why not?? I started with just making up a couple of patterns on some actual dishcloth cotton from Deramores.  I’m sure you can get it elsewhere too.  I was impressed with how these tests worked out, I found the ridges in the crochet worked really well to scrub off those bits that you’d usually need a scourer for.  Any stubborn bits get the baking soda treatment, and voila, clean pots and pans!  And when they get dirty they can go in the washing machine!

I bought this book on Amazon, and am slowly working my way through all the designs.  Some are really quick, others you need to remember to count.  I prefer a lighter, lacier design for washing dishes, to be honest, and not too big a cloth either.  It’s not easy to get a large, firmly crocheted cloth into a glass.  But for drying they’re good, and of course, they don’t have to be used for dishes!  Think of the pretty facecloths you can have in the bathroom!  I’ll be using up my stash of left over coloured cotton nice and quick now, and have something useful and pretty in exchange.

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Next in my sights was to update my shopping bags.  I haven’t used plastic bags from the shops in ages, and the “long-life” hessian bags from Tesco have definitely seen far better days!  Some have lost their plastic lining (not a bad thing), some are decidedly holey.  So I’ll be using scraps of left-over denim from my jeans making to patch the holes, visible mending style.  The bags with dodgy lining will have those replaced with linings from fabric in the scrap boxes.  I am happy to patch stuff together, so look out for my attempts at patchwork!

Speaking of which – I also wanted to make new totes for popping into our local town for bits and bobs.  It’s not far and I walk in regularly.  I have been collecting the shirts that Mr Not Compulsive has been earmarking for the fabric recycling bin at the recycling centre.  I actually can’t see why we need to send these things all the way to India for them to shred and turn into dog blankets.  I can see a very good use right here!

I’d seen a pretty, simple patchwork pattern on Wisecraft.  I thought this would be perfect for left over fabric scraps and these shirts!  I cut the shirts up along the seam lines, removing the collars, cuffs and yokes. Then I cut 25cm squares, including button stands, sleeve plackets and some seam details.  I figured it would be fun to actually show what the fabric had been before it was a bag!  I sewed 9 squares together, cut that in half horizontally and vertically, rearranged the resulting squares and sewed them back together.  I did this kinda randomly, kinda looking at the colours, but totally not following the rules of the patchwork!

But I thought it looked too small to cut up for one bag, so I sewed up the rest and put them all together to cut up.  Of course, once I’d done that, I didn’t want to cut it up!  Cue new project!  I thought I’d turn this patchwork square into a throw for using in the garden in the summer, it just needed a back!  The local charity shops supplied me with a single duvet in apricot which was the perfect width, just needed to be shortened.

Details, another "D"! #fmsphotoaday #fms_d #twoisbetterthanone #fms_disfor

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By this time I’m thinking I like the kanthas I brought back from South Africa (see picture above), I can do something similar with the throw…  So now I’m using up the remains of my embroidery thread making rows of running stitch down this rather large throw!  Thankfully it’s keeping me warm in this cold weather while I work!

There was one 9 square square left over after all that, so it got quartered and I decided to make a couple of smaller grocery bags with them.  I’d bought a piece of pale blue denim in someone elses’ destash that was just perfect to bulk out the cotton shirting fabrics.  I cut 4 squares of the denim, 35×35 cm, the same size as the shirt squares and pinned them together.  Then I cut 6 pieces 15x35cm to make the bottom and sides of the two bags. After attaching them all together, I measured the circumference of the top edge and cut a strip 94cm long and 8cm wide.  This would be the top edge, folded in half lengthways.

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I love seeing the shirt evidence!

Then I cut the handles.  There were two pieces the perfect length for holding a bag in your hands (not so long that the bag would touch the floor) or for putting on your shoulder, so I cut them 8cm wide.  Then I cut two more pieces 8cm wide, but longer.  from the selvage strips that had been cut off the top edge, I zigzagged two 12cm lengths together and sewed one of the with one end under a handle.  I wanted a loop that I could attach my house keys to.  They usually end up in the bottom of the bag, under the shopping.  That’s not terribly helpful when you get back home and need to dig under the spuds before you can get in out of the cold!

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The handy loop for my house keys. I like the raw-ness of the inside of the bags.

I sewed a pair of snaps onto the strip so now it’s easy to keep track of my keys.  I didn’t line these bags, the denim looks good and to neaten the inside I just used a nice bright orange thread and zigzagged everything.  then I used it for the topstitching too, just to tie everything together.  I’m really chuffed with my new shopping bags, can’t wait to use them!

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And one last trick – I’d made some bags from coffee bean sacks a few years ago, and one had developed a nice big hole in the bottom seam.  No problem, using another strip of that pale blue denim, I simply sewed it onto the bottom of the coffee bag, using nice big zigzags.  Sorted!

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One fixed coffee sack tote.

Now to get back to hand stitching the rest of the running stitches on the throw – I’ve a feeling you’re going to want to see that too, before the summer.   Hopefully I’ve provided a little inspiration for using up your scrappy bits, and doing your bit for the planet we live on too.

 

 

Small Things

Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post, I really do love that top – and the colour!  It has made me re-think the colours I wear.  Oh dear!  I’m not giving up my nice, safe, easily matchable neutrals just yet, but I don’t see why a spot of red here and there would do any harm.

So, on to the latest stuff!  I saw over last weekend, lots of Acacia Knickers being made and shown off on Instagram.  It’s the latest pattern by Megan Nielsen and, if you sign up to her newsletter, it’s free!  In my current eco-warrior, save the planet with reusing & recycling mode, I signed up and downloaded.  I had to wait a few days for hubby to print it out for me.  In the mean time I dug out all those small pieces of jersey from the boxes (and bags) in the stash cupboard.  You’re always left with bits, the real scrap goes in the scrap bin for recycling, but what to do with the rest?

I had in mind to make more patch tee shirts like this one, but I’ve just not got there.  So I decided I’d make knickers instead!  Unfortunately, most of the leftover bits weren’t suitable for knickers.  Too stretchy, too thin, not enough recovery, not suitable fibre content.  But there was enough for me to cut out 10 pairs!  I traced the XS, S and M seperately so I could place as many as possible in one go.

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Hardly anything left from this fabric!

I also managed to find a fair bit of picot elastic in my lingerie goodies box, as well as several metres of fold over elastic – which I didn’t even know I had!!  However, there wasn’t enough in the stash for all the pants I cut out…  Knickers might not use much in the way of fabric, but they’re elastic gobblers!  So I’ve got some finished, some halfway.  I’ve not been partucularly fussy about the mixing and matching of the elastic either.  If this is a stashbusting exercise, I’m doing a proper job!

The pattern only takes 6 A4 pages, so it’s a doddle to print and stick together.  If you want to save the planet by not printing out the instructions you’ll manage just fine with them on your phone, tablet or laptop.  As I said, I traced the sizes I wanted seperately using scraps of pattern paper from other projects.  There are only 3 pieces, the gusset you cut twice.  I had fun squeezing as many out of the fabric I had, and am considering using mis-matched fabric for those bits that there wasn’t enough for whole pants.

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Sewing wise, they’re easy, but surprisingly time consuming.  I didn’t use the overlocker, just set my machine to a slight zig zag stitch (it doesn’t have a stretch stitch setting – way to old for that!!)  The gusset is sewn, then the side seams, then you attach the elastic.  Quartering the waist for the pants and elastic works well, and simply, but for the legs I took it further.  The first one I quartered, but found with the curved shapes that I didn’t have enough control.  So I marked the leg opening and the corresponding elastic with eighths.  It takes longer to do, but it’s worth it for me!

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Marking eighths for the leg elastic

I will have to buy more knicker elastic to finish off what I’ve cut, and I am seriously considering making many, many more.  There must be tee shirts in the cupboards that I can cut up, right?  Something with a little hole in it, or a stain that won’t go away.  Or tees that no longer fit…  I was also thinking of doing the rounds of the local charity shops for tees that they can’t sell (holes and stains), making more knickers and donating them.  I know women’s shelters are always looking for all sorts of clothing.  Then again, refugee centres and those collecting clothing to send to war zones and refugee camps could also do with donations of knickers!

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Liberty print Cotton jersey from the deepest part of the stash, with mix and match elastic!

What better way to use a free pattern than donating what you make??

Looking back at 2017

I kept much better records of my sewing adventures this year, so I thought I’d take a good look through them to see what truths lay beneath!  There are a few projects that were never blogged for many reasons, some that got scrapped and never even got to the WIP stage, and some I’ve sort of counted twice..  Those are the self drafted ones, the pattern and toile counted as one project, the actual garment (if it got made) was seperate.

I also thought it would be interesting to see just how much stash I got through, it certainly felt like I’d used quite a bit, until I look in the cupboard.  I also made a fair few fabric purchases, but after going through everything, I only have 6 pieces left that I bought and haven’t yet turned into fully functioning garments.  And that’s purely due to time!  So I’m calling success on the the “not growing the stash” goal this year!

So how did I really do?  Well, there were a total of 82 projects.  Two were scrapped, one because the fabric and pattern turned out to be incompatible & the other because the recipient told me too late that she didn’t like what I was making, fabric or pattern.  Hmpf.  Oh well, onwards and upwards!  A large majority of the projects were for yours truly, the other lucky recipients are my girls and my mum, with 10 projects going to “others”!

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Half of my sewing was for me!

Pattern usage has been heavily biased to the Burdastyle magazine patterns, not really a huge surprise!  The next most used brand is Named, purely because of the Talvikki Sweater.  The Toaster Sweater from Sew House 7 was also much used and I can see that continuing.

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Patterns Brands used, & how many I made!

Obviously the Burda patterns featured heavily, so they are amongst my most used, the cropped trousers from May are one, as are the culottes from the February issue.  Those Talvikki and Toaster Sweaters were very popular with the girls.

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Most used patterns

As you know, I love my trousers, don’t wear dresses and this year for the first time in ages, made myself a skirt!  So to see just how many of what I was making, I made a new graph!

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Tops, trousers and tees are my most commonly sewn items!

The dresses that show up didn’t even stay in-house, all four projects were for friends!  The PJ coloumn took off after I’d made all those pjs for Christmas, and Christmas had a hand in growing that sweater coloumn too.  All in all, I think it’s been a rather successful and productive year for me, sewing wise.  And look at what I did with my stash…

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Stashbusting!!!

Even though I bought a decent amount of fabric this year, nearly all of it has been sewn up!  I only have 6 pieces of fabric bought this year that I’ve not had time to use up, coating for Mr W’s winter coat, 3m of grey cashmere for a coat for myself, ponte for a sweater for daughter no2 and one for me, 3m of oilskin to make a Tosti for myself and 2m of wool for another pair of trousers – also for me!  I’m really chuffed that none of it has ended up in the stash proper.  It hasn’t gone anywhere near the cupboard!

So, plans for next year.  THIS YEAR!!  Well, I really want to get Mr W’s coat done, and one for me too.  I have a piece of camel cashmere in the stash that I thought would make a good Bamboo coat.  Shouldn’t take too long and will give me time to decide on what pattern to use for my grey cashmere.  Those projects I’d like to get on with pretty quickly, and also get those trousers and sweater made so there’s almost nothing left from last year’s purchases to put in the stash.

Here’s to another year of creating and sharing, and may my the stash be smaller at the end of it all!  Happy New Year, may 2018 be good to you!

Coat Month

So, I decided at the end of August that I needed to get making some coats before the weather turned.  Before it was cold enough to need one and it still wasn’t in a corporeal form…  This is in addition to still having numerous items yet unmade from Daughter No2’s summer list and thinking I might give the Refashioners 2017 challenge a go.  While I’m listing reasons why September is not a good month in which to try to make 3 or 4 coats, I should add that we had a week away in the beginning and still had Daughter No2 home until the middle of the month before she was back to uni.

But I had decided…  So what coats am I making?  I have the Eagle Jacket/Coat from Vanessa Pouzet for Daughter No2, the Goldstream Peacoat for Mr Not Compulsive and I wanted a new coat for myself, exactly which one was only decided after I saw @_ym.sews_ Waffle Patterns Tosti in the most amazing yellow dry oilskin.  I sort of wanted an Eagle jacket for myself too, but after toiling it realised it wasn’t the shape for me.

So, I took patterns with me on holiday and traced them out on the dining table in the holiday apartment in the evenings, helped by a glass or two of wine.  I toiled the Eagle jackets upon our return and Daughter No2 likes hers, the only alteration is to lengthen the sleeve by 2cm.  Mine, as already said will be recut as a different toile!  Now that I have the go-ahead for the Eagle, I hit a stumbling block.  She doesn’t like the fabric from the stash that I picked out.  Press pause on that project then.

After toiling the Goldstream Peacoat for the other half, that project was nixed.  He didn’t like the shape, it was too bulky, didn’t like the large collar or wide lapels either, then decided he didn’t actually fancy a double breasted coat….  So nothing about the Goldstream Peacoat then.  Back to square one, I decided to draft a coat block and put all the “right” ingredients together to form the “perfect” coat.

So in the meantime, it’s now the end of October and still no coats to be seen, but there are a few toiles.  None for me, I haven’t got that far!  But daughter No1 has chosen an pattern and fabric from the stash that I’ve toiled, fitted and adjusted, so that can get going.  Daughter No2 has also chosen a pattern and other fabric from the stash for two new coats, still to be traced, toiled and fitted.  The other half has a block that is undergoing a very slow transformation.  It seams the perfect coat will take a while to be realised.

Say tuned for more of what I’ve been doing while the coat projects hit their respective brick walls.

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.

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No more fabric shopping this year!!

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

Welcome 2016, any chance you saw what happened to 2015?

Well, there it is then, a new year.  A fresh twelve months in which to attempt to clear the stash, sort the piles of wobbly fabrics begging to be made and rifle through pages of Burda patterns, PDFs and pattern cutting books.

2015 passed in a bit of a blur for me, it’s wasn’t my most sucessful year!  So here’s to a new beginning, although I am certainly not going to write any resolutions or that sort of stuff.  I find if I make those things too definite, they never get done! (weird I know)

I’d like to start by welcoming followers, new and old to my little world of sewing and fabric buying.  There will be posts (intermittent) and purchases (frequent), and in my head I would have written a dozen blog posts a month – definitely not per week.  So if you can possibly stand the non-regularity with which I run my life, it’ll be good to see you all on the other side.

I am at present looking at a whole stack of things I have made in the last few months, but apart from a little peak on Instagram, haven’t shown anyone.  Not sure whether to correct this by running up a pile of posts or cramming the makes into just a few round-up posts.  I might let you guys decide.

In the meantime, enjoy munching the last few slices of Christmas cake, putting away the remains of the decorations and thinking of gym memberships.  I will start working on actually showing you all what I’ve been making, what I thought of it and whether it’s worth making again!

Happy New Year everyone!

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Wearing handmade to a winter wedding

Planning my Autumn/Winter Sewing

I’ve had fabric on my cutting table since May.  There have been pieces used and pieces added, pieces put back in the cupboard and other pieces brought out or bought in moments of weakness on spotting something gorgeous on Instagram.  Now I have 5 piles, about 25-30cm tall.  There comes a time when just having the piles on the table – out so I can see them and be reminded that I really want (need) to make them up just isn’t doing a good enough job.  I had also gone through a couple of boxes of Burda magazines and tried to be realistic about what patterns I really wanted to make, tried to only look at those that I would like to be wearing this autumn/winter.  Piles of fabric and lists of patterns to trace – that’s only step one!

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One of the sketches with notes and a little pile of fabric swatches.

I was still too far away from getting a solid idea of what I was going to make this season, so I decided to add something new to my arsenal.  Taking small samples of each piece of fabric I really wanted to make up for the winter and my pile of Burdas, I started sketching.  Once that was done I put sketches with fabric pieces and laid them all out.  21 projects covered my bed.  Most are tops or blouses, there are a couple of pairs of trousers – naturally – and a coat & jacket.

21projects - my autumn/winter wardrobe is all here, waiting to be made!
21 projects – my autumn/winter wardrobe is all here, waiting to be made!

How do you plan your sewing? Do you plan at all? I have to say that until this little exercise, I hadn’t really planned anything, just sort of hoped that what was out would eventually get sewn up!  I’ll show you next time how I’m getting on with this new “organised” way of working! 🙂