Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pushing the limits

 When I first started this blog I spoke about a few challenges I had set myself - all part of encouraging myself away from the TV and into life a little more.  My first challenge has passed so I thought it an apt time to reflect and blog!

 The Great South Run was on Sunday and me and my sister ran it.  We were horrendously badly prepared - both of us started this great plan with wonderful intentions and expected to be fully fit and merrily jogging round the route with ease and enthusiasm by the time race day arrived.  Reality bites hey!  We had both been on a  few runs ( her a few more than me and a fair bit further than me ) but neither of us managed the regular commitment which builds fitness.  But we ventured out into the beginnings of the approaching storm anyway.  With a moto of slow and steady and a determination that we would not stop running (however slowly) we made it round 10 miles in 1hr47mins crossing the finishing line together.  A pretty good time in my opinion.  I have no idea how I made it through the last 2 miles.  It's a beautiful course and the finish is along the seafront but on this particular day we had strong winds against us and we were both regretting our lack of training.

 Finishing made me think though - so many times before and during that run I thought I wouldn't be able to do it.  I don't think I have ever pushed my body so hard in my life and yet somehow I made it through.  So often we put ourselves in boxes - pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones rarely and taking as tiny steps as possible.  But actually our bodies and minds are stronger than we realize - my body and my mind went further than I ever thought they would - and that was without the preparation that would be recommended.

  Now I'm aware that this is simply a 10 mile race and thousands of people do this and much more regularly - but for me it was a pretty big deal.  Applying that confidence to other areas of my life could really be a good thing.  When we are at school we are constantly encourage to try new things - a new class, a new sport, a new social group or a new school.  As we grow up things change around us and we are constantly being pushed to experience as much as possible.  Somehow as we get older this seems to reverse.  We get a job and settle into it, life becomes a bit of a routine and we stop putting ourselves out there.  We stop experimenting and enjoy the safety of the things we know.  This can be a great place to be but for me I started to think that it was actually a bit of a lazy place to be.

 So not only am I slightly inspired to continue running (at least in the summer anyway)  it has also got me considering if there are other areas of my life where I need to push the boundaries - explore the un-explored and simply push the walls of my box out a little bit.  After all it is in the new and sometimes challenging situations that we learn and grow the most! 
 I'll keep you posted - my next challenge is to successfully pull off a craft fair stall!  

Friday, 25 October 2013

Pillow case to skirt

My love of making clothes/bags/gifts or anything really out of other abandoned things came more from a love of beautiful and unusual fabric than anything else.  My passion grew into a desire to see less waste and a choice to try to dress in more ethically sourced clothes.  On a tight budget and working for a small agency having just returned to the UK from a few years away I began to find treasures tucked in charity shops.  I realized what great outfits could be conjured up from a scrap of fabric, an old bed sheet or a discarded dress being sold off extra cheap because of the gaping hole in the shoulder.  And so my love of colours, sewing, fabric and clothes grew – and I spent many a weekend  nestled away cutting, pinning, gathering and sewing to make all sorts of creations.

So today I’m setting you a challenge.  Delve into the depths of your linen cupboard, head to your nans to rummage through hers or go on a charity shop/jumble/car boot sale rummage in search of the funkiest pillow case you can find.  I usually find you can pick one up for about 50p sometimes a bit more for a pair.   Today I found a matching pair for 60p – bargain!

And out of this you’re going to make a cute, gathered skirt!

What you need . . .
  • A pillowcase (2 for sizes more than UK14) in a pattern you love
  • A plain pillowcase or piece of fabric of similar size for the waistband (because I am using a pair I used the other side of the pillowcase)
  • A ribbon or strip of fabric that is about 15cm wide and 30cm longer than your hip measurement
  • Dressmakers pins
  • A sewing machine or a needle
  • Thread
  • An un-picker (not essential but helpful in any task involving salvaging fabric)

Measure around your hips (or waist if you prefer to wear your skirts there)
Take that number and make a note of it.  We will call that number X.  Now follow the formula below.
X ÷2 = Y
Y + X = T or the total length of fabric you will need
T ÷ 2 = F or the length your two pieces from step 2 need to be.

So let's go . . .

1. U npick the stitches that are holding the pillowcase together and pull
out all loose threads. Trim the edges that are unusable from
 previous stitching but try to only cut off what you have to.

4. Now set your machine (if you’re using one) so it is set to sew the longest stitch.  Using this setting sew along the top of the fabric two parallel lines ensuring they do not touch and are around 1 cm apart.  Ensure you leave threads at the start and end of your line of stitching that you will be able to get hold of. 

6. Now you have your gathering you need to take the measurement you took earlier-figure X - and ease out the fabric to equal that measurement.  Leave 4cm extra as this is where you will sew your seam.  Use your fingers to spread the gathering out so that it is even and the correct size for you.

9.  Now choose your fastening – I have done mine with a tie at the top to finish and a zip but you can add a button, zip or hook and eye – whichever suits you.  If you choose a tie just extend the waistband to a length that means you can tie a cute bow.
Take the open seam and put right sides together – do a straight stitch right up to where your fastening is.  If you have put in a zip this is where you would add it.  I will add a tutorial on how to insert a zip next week.

So there you have it a skirt sewn from a pair of pillow cases for only 60p!  Plus a happy day spent sewing!

Next week I'll do a tutorial on how to add in a zip so that if anyone chose this to be their fastening there won't be any confusion!

Happy sewing :)

Monday, 21 October 2013

Growing things

When I first started blogging I was chatting about my mission to spend more time in the garden and grow more things.  Looking outside now I can see a mountain of weeds swallowing up some of my early attempts at vegetables.  I really am a fair weather gardener I'm afraid.
But having said that I have had a reasonable amount of success - especially considering my bizarre timing in starting to work on the garden ( the end of the summer ).
 I planted rocket which I did enjoy in a few small salads and on a fair few cheese sandwiches.  I felt hugely proud of that rocket but clearly had some learning to do because I hadn't covered it and the lovely butterflies that arrived in my garden enjoyed finishing off every last scrap.
 I also planted swede which I separated out once they had grown a bit and re-planted.  I think I chose the morning of the hottest day of the year to do this and think that any hope of swede this winter is long gone.  The poor things were dry as can be by the end of the day.
 I tried a few other things far to late and am left with my one surviving plant which I am super proud of - my runner beans.  They are growing so well and even though it is late I have collected a number of crops in the last week from them with more to come by the looks of things.
Here is my first harvest

They were absolutely delicious - made even more so by the happiness I felt at having grown them in my own garden - yay!
The first harvest went into a lovely dinner of spicy chicken and rice.

Followed swiftly by a chocolatey tray bake that I had been inspired to make by a work colleagues contribution to staff meeting.

So even though my dreams of self sufficiency and a fully functional garden that feeds us are still a long way off this little bit of achievement made me very happy.

For the rest of this week I'm going to be training super hard to prepare for the great south run on Sunday- this might mean I need to lay of the chocolate tray bakes a bit! Any sewing I do will need to be of the relaxed - not too adventurous - variety so I will share what that ended up looking like towards the end of the week.
 Hope your Mondays have passed quickly and the rest of your week is filled with smiles.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Putting yourself out there

So this week I have taken the opportunity to finish some patchwork products that I have been working on.  I love the finished effect of patchwork but it is time consuming and my machine has fought against the quilting it at every turn.  But I have battled on and here are some of the pieces I have made.

The stocking is fully lined so it can be used for filling with fabulous surprises for someone this Christmas and the other two pieces are purely decorations.  
  It has been fun to try something different and continue with new techniques and approaches to try to create things that are always changing and evolving -reflecting mood, seasons, weather or a theme.  For this week that technique was patchwork.  
 I have seen many inspirational patchwork pieces by people who have clearly spent hours and hours perfecting this skill.  They use a perfect maze of fabrics and shapes and bring them together to create something that is just mind-boggling.  I know a few people who are experimenting successfully with making hexagon quilts and it looks fabulous.  But for me - for now - I stuck with squares - also very effective - but not quite a tricky as some of the other shapes that people opt for.  Overall I'm really happy with how they have all turned out and particularly love the stocking!
  These three pieces will be the first that I have put out there for public scrutiny.  I've signed up for a facebook showcase called A winter Wonderland where crafters show 3 products that they are selling. 
 I didn't really start sewing to sell things and I didn't start blogging to get loads of followers.  I love sewing and I love writing - the two seem to have fitted together nicely to be honest and I really enjoy sharing the things that I have made.  I've signed up to a charity craft fair and this showcase because it seemed the natural next step to continue sharing my love of creating (and talking ).  But putting yourself out there is scary - it's inviting criticism and judgement.  Inviting people to choose not to like the things that you have spent time creating.  Of course it also invites recognition and praise and all the things that make putting yourself out there worth it.  So I have shared my pictures on the showcase with a mixture of excitement and nervousness - not really sure if this is the right step but at the same time not having lost anything by trying.  I'll continue crafting and blogging whatever happens because I love it and that is what I have to remember!
 I'll keep you posted on how it goes and please do leave me your feedback!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Pleats tutorial

Hi all
What a rainy weekend it has turned out to be!  I have spent much of my time at work so am hoping it will rain itself out as I head towards some much needed time off!  Though I would take some time this morning to blog my tutorial on pleats.

I love pleats - they are cute and look gorgeous when done right.  I love the shape they add to clothes and as you saw in my last post I've started to use them in bags as well.  They can be adapted to any style you like and any shape or size so for me it is a must in your stash of sewing skills.

So what will you need - your fabric of choice, dress pins, a tape measure, tailors chalk, iron and a needle/sewing machine and thread.

1.  You need to measure the length of your fabric and decide how big your pleats will be.  I chose 2cm pleats to be every 4cms.  This means that in total I will need 10cm per pleat because the fold uses 3x2cm of fabric.  To work this out for your pleats take the size you chose for your pleat, times it by 3 and then add this figure to the gap you want between pleats.  I marked this out along the top of the fabric using pen so you can see it but you will want to use tailors chalk that won't mark or run ink over your fabric.
So I have marked 0cm then 4cm then 8cm then 10cm.  Then I repeat this again until I reach the end of the fabric.

2. You now want to start folding the fabric to create the pleats.  You want to take the 8cm marking and bring it over the the 4cm marking
This should mean that the 10 cm marking sits just on the fold leaving you with a neat 2cm pleat.  Pin this with the pin pointing up towards the edge of your fabric.  Then you repeat the step taking the 8cm back to the 4cm and pinning until you reach the end of your fabric. You should be left with something a little like this.
As you can see it creates a nice curve to the fabric which is why pleating is often used for skirts - it perfectly sets up the waist band.

3. Now you want to press this out.  This is a really important step if you want your pleats to sit nicely.  The fabric should naturally show you how long the pleats fall - if you want a full pleat all the way to the bottom of your fabric you need to ensure you measure the pleats all the way down otherwise they will loose some of their shape.

4. Finally you run a straight stitch along the top of the fabric and remove your pins.  While you are sewing check that the pleats aren't folding up under your machine foot (if your using a machine) and adjust as you got to ensure they are going through the machine perfectly flat.

Now you add this to your skirt or bag or whatever it is that you are using it for.  This is a skirt that I made a year of so ago out of round table cloth.  I used pleats to bring it in to fit me at the waist and it gives the skirt such  a full feel - perfect for twirling I have to say :)

If you decide you want to do box pleats you follow the same idea except you turn the folds round.  SO the first fold you would bring the 8cm to the 4cm mark.  Then you would swap and bring the 4cm to the 8cm and continue alternating to create a boxed look on your product.

Have fun experimenting and as always give me a post of anything you produce!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

This week it's all about the bags

Well I've been back at the machine again - I think it was cross about being neglected for all those days last week as today it played up like crazy.  Broken needles, broken threads, light bulbs going but I took a break for lunch and all seemed to return to normal.  I have come to the conclusion that machinery objects to me being hungry and I must remember to squirrel snacks up into the attic with me when I start a sewing session.
 I've been making bags this week and have been experimenting with creating different shapes.  I've got a bit bored of making rectangle tote bags so thought I'd try a few new things.  Or new to me anyway.
 The first one was pretty simple but I just love the blue of the fabric and the flowers and felt it fitted a rectangular shape so I went with it.

The second one is probably my favourite - I made it from fabric that my sister found for me a few years ago.  I really love it which is probably why I haven't had the heart to cut it up till now.  I'm happy I did though - believe it or not this is from a duvet cover!  Upcycling at its best! A few pleats really made the difference with this one making it look much more complicated than it actually was to make.

The final bag so far is from a fabric that you would have seen plenty of already.  That fabulous vintage floral fabric I got from Sue Ryder a month or so ago.  I have nearly used it all up so this is likely to be the last you see of it!  I've done really well with it making mini stockings, a skirt, an apron and this bag as well as a few little purses and hanging hearts.  

I really like using pleats in bags as they add so much extra shape to it as well as the extra space.  Pleating is really simple to do you just need to be prepared to take a bit of time to measure each fold.  I will do a tutorial on how to pleat over the weekend so watch this space.

And for the last photo here is a sneak preview of a piece I'm preparing for a winter wonderland showcase that I'm involved in on Facebook in November.  I've been digging out all my blue, grey and silver fabrics for the winter theme and what better way to use all those odds and ends than a bit of patchwork!  Any ideas what it will be in the end?

I hope you are all having a fabulous week - don't forget to share your pics of the things you've been making - you never know you might get a share in the blog.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Searching for inspiration

I have been quiet on the stitching front this week - somehow lacking inspiration and the ability to get going with new projects.  I don't know about the rest of you crafters out there but every now and again I feel that I just have no idea what to do next - or if I do I lack the motivation somehow.  Usually this is fixed by being around other creative people and spotting some fabulous fabric.  So today - before I disengage with society for another round of night shifts - I headed out to Southsea to wander with a friend.
 Vintage dress on and I was ready to go.  This dress is always a particular favorite of mine as it started off as a size 20 and a bit of snipping later - teamed with my chunky belt - and there you have it a light and easy to wear vintage style dress.
 The Love Southsea market was on in Palmerston Road and as always it was filled with wonderful people making wonderful things.
  One stall in particular stood out and it was run by Busy Bees who work at The Beneficial Foundation.  They are creating fantastically professional and creative products and working really hard to create jobs through social enterprise.  The stall was friendly and bright and I honestly could have bought a whole load of things but haven't really organised myself to think of Christmas presents just yet.  So I bought a hand printed card that will be a thank you to someone.  A bargain of a price and I love it.

So if you see the Busy Bees anywhere else do make the time to check out their stall as it was definitely the one that stood out for me today.

On from the market and we did the wander of the charity shops where I picked up some gorgeous floral fabric.  Hopefully soon to be made into something gorgeous.

All that wandering has truly worn me out today but what a lovely wander it was.  Hopefully I will get my stitch on in the week and have plenty of little projects to share with you all.  Enjoy your weekends everyone!
x x x