"" the girl who makes things: December 2013

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Hits and Misses 2013

Happy Boxing Day everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas, I certainly did, and I'm about to go over to my sister's for more Christmas Day feasting at her house. One thing I've noticed about growing up is how Christmas has become this elaborate action plan to try and fit in lots of different Christmases into a small space of time - my boyfriend's family, my family, my extended family... I remember a time when I just stayed at home for Christmas and watched TV. Not that it isn't lovely seeing everyone, but man is it tiring.

Time for a little quiet reflection. I've loved reading about other blogger's hits and misses for 2013, it's so interesting to see what people would consider a success or a failure. (Although I don't understand how Morgan from Crab & Bee could think anything she makes is a failure, I covet all of her clothes)

I don't feel like I have too much to say about my makes as I only started this blog back in June. I've got lots of plans for 2014 though, which I'll write up in another post! For the time being here are my highs and lows:

Polly Top from By Hand London

I'm probably not alone in saying that BHL is my favourite pattern label. Everything about their company is awesome - their gorgeous patterns, their excellent tutorials, their proactive social networking and the fact that their all incredibly lovely people. This pattern was free online - when I saw it I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it: heart shape the front panel. This led to a bit of BHL attention and a pattern hack tutorial on how to do something similar. Thanks ladies!

Megan's Bridesmaids dress

It started with a conversation on the train to work. Megan was a bridesmaid for her friend's wedding, she was allocated a colour of the rainbow: purple. There were no purple dresses in the shops and she was beginning to panic. I said I'd make her one, we started a Pinterest board, went shopping for fabric and a couple of weeks later the dress was born. This was a technical under taking. I'd never worked with lace before and had to hand stitch a lot of the dress, which was surprisingly therapeutic. I felt like everything came together and Megan was so pleased with it, she's worn it on a number of occasions since.

The colour block coat

This is my most worn item, obviously, as since it's winter and I need to wear coats. Again it was a technical challenge, but surprisingly not too difficult. If you haven't made a coat yet, I'd suggest you do so!


I love, love, love this pattern. It's was so easy to sew, and the outcome is so versatile and easy to wear. I hope to make this again, maybe the jumpsuit version?

The summer dress

Readers, I committed a cardinal sin here. I didn't wash the fabric before I made this dress. Sometimes I cut corners in sewing, but I think I learnt my hardest lesson with this make. I did like the dress when I first made it, and I wore it quite a bit, but as soon I gave it a wash, the whole thing shrunk, making the braid oversized on the hemline and sleeves, and the dress too tight for my body. Kids, wash your fabrics.

Plaid Anna

Bastard dress. The more time passes the less I like it. Lets start with the construction: the plaids were difficult to match and I had to re-cut most of the skirt. The fabric: it sheds tiny bits of fluff which makes my flat dusty and the colours completely wash me out. When I wear it I feel frumpy. Enough said.

So, that's it for 2013 folks! Roll on 2014 and all the delightful sewing it may bring.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Last minute handmade gift - a Kindle cover

It's been a while since I posted anything, sorry about this! I've been so immensely busy this December that I've hardly had any time to write, let alone make anything. It's not so much the season to be merry, more like the season to be stressing my nut out. I thought work would start to wind down around this time of year, but as I'm leaving in January, I've got a lot to tidy up. I've also done a lot of catching up with old friends this month, which has been so lovely and rewarding, but definitely time consuming. Last weekend I went down to London, and you know how it is, if you're not a Londoner and you pay a visit, you literally have to see every friend you have there, scattered across the city. I probably spent more time hanging out on the Central line than actually seeing people. But it was all worth it in the end. I now have a warm, fuzzy halo of love around me. Aaaahhhh

So like I said, not much time for making things, which is a shame as I really wanted to do some handmade gifts this year. I was inspired by Karen Ball's Christmas PJs and had this idea that I could make everyone a pair of pajama bottoms. Ha, that never even got started.

What I've come to realise is that planning is the essence of handmade giving. If I'd started making gifts, say, back in October, instead of three days before Christmas, I'd probably be doing alright. But no, I've left it to the last minute and then spent about three hours fighting the Christmas shopping crowds and throwing money at basically anything so that I have something to give on Christmas morning. Do I sound like the Grinch?

Well, my whole plan was not entirely lost, I have made at least one thing! It's a Kindle cover for my sister (she's getting a Kindle from the parents) and the great thing about it is that it's made totally from recycled materials.

The inside is an old hardback book cover and the fabric comes from a 70s bed sheet. It was ridiculously easy to make - it only took me about an hour. I got the idea from the blog Come Together Kids which has a step by step guide to making the cover. The tutorial is pretty good and well worth a read, but I thought I'd post about my progress too as I adapted the design slightly.

I started with an an old book, just an inch or so bigger than the Kindle.

I tore out the pages, leaving just the hardback cover.

The book was on English Law so, no, I won't be missing it.

I then took my fabric and, using the book cover as a template, cut a rectangle large enough to encase the whole cover, with a 1.5cm seam allowance.

I measured out another rectangle for an inside pocket.

I pressed the pocket in half and pressed the cover sides inwards. The book cover will be inserted through the centre opening which I'll hand stitch up at the end.

I stitched the pocket up first, leaving one side seam edge open to turn the whole thing inside out. Once I'd completed this, I top stitched the pocket to the inside of the cover flap.

Then I stitched the top and the bottom of the cover, with just the centre seam open. I snipped the corners to give a neat point, turned it inside out and pressed.

The tricky bit was getting the book cover into the encasing. A lot of fiddling and wriggling it in was involved.

Once the cover was encased, I just hand stitched up the centre seam to enclose the opening. I attached a loop of purple ribbon to the back and button on the front so that the cover could be fastened.

And that's pretty much it folks! A lovely cheap, recycled, easy to make Kindle cover in time for Christmas. So how about you? Managed to make any gifts for the festive season?

I hope she likes the retro print!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Changing paths

This isn't a sewing related post for once, although I feel like I need to write something about it in case you wonder why things get different around here in the new year.

Basically, I'm changing direction! I've handed in my notice at my job, signed up to do a CELTA course (that's teaching English as a foreign language qualification) and I'll be heading out of the UK around late February/beginning of March 2014 to teach English abroad. Don't know where I'll be going yet, I need to qualify first, but the plan is to stay in Europe. I'll be qualifying and leaving with my boyfriend, so I won't be all on my own.

It's all very scary, but I know it's absolutely what I want to do. I knew it had to be now or never, before I started thinking about things like careers, mortgages, children, settling down etc. This year's given me a bit of time to reflect on things. When I left University I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about doing lots of different things - art gallery curating, marketing, HR, teaching... Nothing really appealed, I felt like it would be easier if someone told me what job to get and I could just get it and not have to make a choice. So I took a bit of time out. I went travelling and did some work experience and internship placements. By the time it that was all over, my main objective was quite simple: to get a full time job and move out of my parent's house. I achieved that and then it was like 'now what?'

I've had some good experiences in my current job. I've made some lifelong friends and learnt some valuable lessons about the world of work. But some how, staying put just seemed wrong. When making life decisions (corny as it sounds) I like to imagine myself as an old lady on her death bed looking back on her life. I try to imagine what I'd be proud of and what I'd regret. I'd be proud of living in another country and learning a second language. It's a romantic dream, but why does it have to be a dream? That's when I knew what I needed to do.

There was only one thing that concerned me about travelling - would I still be able to sew? Seriously, this worried me for weeks. I thought of all sorts of solutions, from shipping out my sewing machine to going cold turkey for a year. In the end I bought my tiny little red sewing machine - small, light and cheap enough for me to pop in my suitcase. Which means that I can still carry on blogging! In fact, this could add a whole new dimension to my blog - the trials and tribulations of travel sewing.

Which leads me to my next question: should I keep this blog or start a new one? Well, there's still some time to mull it over. For the time being I'm trying to concentrate on tying ends up at work, seeing as many friends and family as possible and learning some god damn English grammar (why did I not learn it at school?!).

So that's it folks. I won't mention it again until the time comes for me to depart. A new and exciting journey lies ahead!