I made a quilt. And it’s huge.

I think I’ve said before much I enjoy cold and wet Sunday afternoons snuggled up watching episodes of Poirot. Back in London I’d make a little fort on the sofa with my favourite blanket, surrounding myself with drinks, snacks and the remote. I was cosy. It was ace. But we had to leave the blanket behind when we moved to America. We’ve made do with the duvet since then, but dragging it between the sofa and the bed is a ballache. We definitely needed a new one, so I thought I’d give quilting a bash. That was back in April. Fast forward six or seven months and I’ve only just finished it. So what took me so long?

On the bed landscape

Snuggly on the sofa, snuggly on the bed, too. 

Let’s go back to the beginning. I started work on it not long after we moved into our apartment. I found a simple yet striking large-scale gingham design on Pinterest which would scale up easily enough and could be made in solid colours. No faffing about with fussy shapes, tiny squares or print matching. It took me a couple of sessions to cut out and piece the squares together, and I miscalculated my fabric requirements a little and needed to jigsaw a couple of squares together. Though if I do say so myself, I’ve done a really good job with the piecing. I managed to get the corners pretty precise, so I’m feeling kinda smug.

Couch and cushions

I made those cushions from the scraps from the quilt. I’ve got some place mats to finish as well so my living/dining room will be completely matchy-matchy. 

Summer quilting hiatus

Once I’d finished the top and the backing things kind of ground to a halt. It was starting to get really warm in Seattle and I found I couldn’t face the idea of swathing myself in a quilt just for the sake of a finished project. So it sat in the cupboard for a couple of months, until I joined the Make It Happen group at Drygoods Design. MIH is like guided studio time – you work on what you want but there’s an expert, Julienne, on hand to help you with anything you need, whether it’s pants fitting or binding your first quilt. I’ll mainly use my time there for sewing clothes, but I wanted an excuse to get this quilt done.

Couch and cushions and backing

You can see the backing a bit better here. I bought all the fabric and the batting at JoAnn in Ballard. 

So that’s what I did! The first thing I did was to make the quilt sandwich, which was a task in itself. I had help to safety pin everything together, but I still ended up with a blister on my finger! Then I had a couple of sessions of wrestling it through a machine to quilt it. I didn’t want to do anything too fancy, so I just went for straight lines on either side of the seams. This meant I didn’t have to mark anything on the quilt itself as I could just use the seam and a walking foot as the guides, and concentrate on the bulk. I quilted the entire thing on a standard machine, so getting it through the gap was an ordeal. I rolled it up into a sausage and worked my way out from the middle, so it would get easier as I went along, but those first few lines were a killer.

Lesson learned

By the time I’d finished quilting, I was completely over making it. It had already taken three MIH sessions plus some solo studio time, and I just wanted it done. But I had a small problem – I hadn’t taken into account that the backing had to be a bit bigger than the top on all sides to allow for shifting when quilting. It wasn’t even, so I had to trim off a bit from the two long sides so the backing looked vaguely presentable – it still had the selvedges on it, which I didn’t want to show. It means that the front is a little weird, but I’m not too fussed – something to remember for next time, though.

On the bed close up

Anyway, the last part was binding. I made several miles-worth of bias binding, looked up this useful tutorial for getting nice, neat corners and wonderclipped it all up. Because of the size of the quilt and my impatience, I machined the whole thing by stitching in the ditch. In hindsight I probably should have done it all by hand because I ended up with a bunch of gaps that didn’t quite make it and I had to handstitch them anyway (and it’s a nicer effect). However, I was so desperate to wrap myself up in it that I’m ultimately not that bothered. I know – I could have wrapped myself up in it WHILE handstitching, but that’s beside the point.

It’s not perfect, and I’ve learned a lot on this project. But I am kinda proud of myself for seeing this one through to the end and I’m so pleased with the overall effect. I doubt I’ll ever make a quilt this big ever again, but I might have a go at a baby quilt sometime soon. As always, one of my friends is currently pregnant, so it might be a suitable gift… Anyway, now that it’s cooler here, this quilt is coming into its own. Chris and I have been enjoying it on the sofa, and if it gets really cold it looks really nice on the bed too. The only trouble is, it looks like Netflix have removed Poirot from their list. WHAT AM I TO DO?

On the bed

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Oooh! New toy!

Well, new to me, anyway. In my last post I mentioned that my Girl Scout co-leader, Hope, lent me her machine to teach some of our troop how to sew. It’s an older machine than mine and it operates a little differently, so I thought I’d give you a little tour!

Desk.jpg

I know what you’re thinking. Why am I showing you a writing desk? Well, that writing desk is hiding a surprise! It’s a Pfaff 1211. The table leaves open out and the machine pulls out from underneath. I don’t know how old it is, but at a guess I’d say it was manufactured in the 70s. It has a metal chassis, a front-loading bobbin, and the plate sits flush with the rest of the desk. Everything is incorporated in the desk itself, including the pedal which you operate with your knee instead of your foot.

Machine

It took a while to get used to using this pedal – I kept on going for a non-existent foot pedal – but threading the machine was a different kettle of fish altogether. I’m told a front-loading bobbin is better for tension purposes, but man, top-loading is so much easier! It’s a fiddle to get the bobbin to sit in the holder without it falling out, and when it’s in there sometimes the thread gets caught. I’m sure that’s user error, but I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong as I’m following the instruction booklet to the letter. Threading the needle is different to any machine I’ve used, too. The tension disc is on the side of the chassis, rather than the front, and it feels like there are more hooks and hoops to go through, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy.

Instruction booklet

This is the original instruction booklet. It’s pretty comprehensive and easy to follow – far simpler than the instructions for my Janome!

As it’s an older machine, the Pfaff doesn’t have some of the features of my Janome. For example, I never really registered that my machine has a needle up function, but the Pfaff definitely doesn’t! I kept trying to pull the fabric out from under the foot once I stopped sewing but then quickly realised that I couldn’t until I’d turned the flywheel. I’ve been spoiled, I tell you. Anyway, user error aside it’s a solid machine and after I gave it a little oil it runs very smoothly.

Pop up thread holder

But that’s just the machine. What about the rest of the desk? One of my favourite features is the pull-out thread reel holder that sits behind the four ordinary drawers. It’s so neat and compact, and I’m a sucker for a secret compartment. The other drawers are stuffed full of sewing and Girl Scout paraphernalia. Hope said we could use anything in them, so I had a great time looking through them to see what was what, though strangely I didn’t find any spare feet for the machine. I did find this nifty bobbin holder and a whole bunch of colourful patches from Scout events all over the Pacific Northwest, which is kinda cool. The bottom drawer is full of paper patterns from the 70s onwards, including some wedding dresses, costumes and kid’s clothes. Nothing that would fit me, but they’re interesting to look at.

Top drawer

I’m a big fan of that blue circular bobbin holder. They pop in and out really nicely. 

I’ve really enjoyed using this new-to-me machine – getting to know it has been a fun challenge and it’s made me appreciate my own machine in a whole new way. Have you used an older machine recently?

Patches

Hope’s been involved with Girl Scouts for about 25 years and she’s collected a lot of patches over the years, but doesn’t know what to do with them just yet. Here’s a small selection. 

Scouts in Scouts

Hey everybody! Out of sheer laziness I haven’t blogged for a week or two, and now I have a backlog! Consider my wrists slapped. I usually post my plans for the month ahead around about now, but beyond a pair of shorts for my trip to Hawaii over Christmas (I’m going to Hawaii and I can’t frickin’ wait) I’m not making any promises about what I’ll sew in December.

So anyway, let’s clear this backlog. I had a bit of an experience last month. I taught some of my Girl Scouts how to sew! When I started volunteering with the Scouts my co-leader asked what skills I could share and sewing seemed like a good bet. More than half of them signed up for sewing sessions so I split them up into small groups and held my first class in November. And do you know what? We had three finished garments by the end of the day!

Blog post resized

I am awful and didn’t get any more photos than this during the day, but look! Three Scouts in three successful Scouts! So. Proud. 

I gave the girls three beginner patterns to choose from, and rather appropriately, they chose the Grainline Scout tee. I sent them off to Jo-Ann to get their fabric (interesting side note: staff in the Ballard Jo-Ann don’t know what cotton lawn is! I was shocked!) and we completed the project in a day, from choosing sizes and understanding pattern markings, right through to the final hem.

Being the first time I’ve taught anyone to sew, let alone three people at once, I wanted to make life easy for myself so I over-prepared just a smidge. If you’re thinking about teaching, here’s my advice:

  • Pick a simple garment that gets quick results – for most beginners a ballgown is probably going to be a bit ambitious. A simple top with a couple of features is a good bet. The Scout tee was perfect for us – it’s a loose fit, so no darts, but the neckline and the set-in sleeves are a nice challenge. I’ve also made it so many times that it was easy to teach.
  • Do your pattern prep! Although I’m no stranger to the Scout tee (see my versions here, here and here), I still made a couple of versions out of cheap muslin to refamiliarise myself with the pattern and check for any potential sticking points. I made sizes 0 – 6, and deliberately didn’t finish the neckline or put in the second sleeve on the 4 or the 6 so I could have something to demonstrate on. This was especially useful as I wanted the girls to do as much as possible for themselves!
  • Be prepared (pardon the pun). I asked the girls to print out and assemble their own pdf, but one of them had printer issues and another hadn’t taped hers together. Luckily, I had spares after I’d traced the muslins, or we’d have spent the first hour or so printing and taping more pdfs.
  • Be realistic about the time you’ll spend on sewing. I estimated six hours to make the Scout tee with a little extra to have some lunch. It was about right – we needed an extra half hour but we didn’t start on time either.
  • Make sure you’re familiar with all the machines you’re using. It seems pretty obvious, but it’s essential when you’re teaching beginners on three different machines. While my Scouts had all used a machine before, they didn’t have much knowledge of threading or changing stitches, so I needed to know how. My co-leader, Hope, lent me her machine and I spent a day or two figuring it out. It’s an older machine than mine, with a front loading bobbin and a knee pedal instead of a foot pedal. It took some getting used to, but I made those muslins on it so I could understand how it worked.
  • Bring your patience and a sense of humour. I remember when I was a beginner – fitting an invisible zip was my nemesis and my first Zinnia skirt ended up thrown across the room in frustration. If Exasperated Jo had turned up that Saturday the session could have been a disaster. Two of them sewed tucks in their sleeves, but I tried to help them stay calm, told them that it’s something I do all the time (truth), and pointed out how amazing it is that a tiny-looking tuck sucks up way more fabric than you think.

I couldn’t have been more proud of the girls and their finished Scouts – they all did a great job. I think we all had fun (I certainly did) and they all said they’d like to do more, so I think we might have some sewists in the making?!

 

Getting my knit on

I think I’m finally getting to grips with knits, after years of being scared of them. So far this year I’ve made the Coco dress, the Agnes top and the Blackwood cardi and I haven’t lost my mind when sewing them, nor have any of them fallen apart (yet). To be fair, none of them are particularly difficult patterns but my last three fabric purchases have all been jerseys so I think I might have cracked it. To test out my theory, I snuck the Deer & Doe Plantain top into my November sewing plans.

Now, when I wrote my November plans post, this wasn’t even on my radar. However, one of my Girl Scouts said she was having problems making it – it sounds like it’s her first time making her own clothes – and while she’s put it to one side for now I couldn’t resist having a go at it myself. It is a free pattern after all, and I already had some suitable jersey in my stash, so it’s not as if I was going too far out of my way to make it up.

Front

I have just realised that I’ve accidentally done a copycat version of the Deer & Doe Plantain. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all. 

The Plantain is a simple t-shirt with a scoop neck, a range of sleeve lengths and optional elbow patches. I’m not a fan of elbow patches, personally. My dad was a teacher and he actually wore a tweed jacket with elbow patches to work when I was a kid. Cliché much?They’re not for me. Anyway, since it’s getting colder, I went for the long sleeve option and I blended from a 42 on top to a 46 at the hip. It’s a pretty roomy top as it is, but I don’t think I could get away with a 44 hip. I also lopped off an inch and a half from the sleeves – they were just about hitting my fingernails when I tried it on.

Back

I’m going to improve my indoor photo taking. I took these using a tripod and remote. Chris does a far better job than me. 

I bought this flowy bamboo jersey from Blackbird Fabrics (out of stock now, but they have other colours). It’s not dissimilar from the stuff I used for my Agnes top so I knew what to expect when sewing. It’s lovely and soft, but it’s also quite slippery. Since I wanted to overlock all the seams, I couldn’t pin the neckline in – I’d lose too many pins to the blade – so I pinned then basted instead. I also basted some ribbon to stabilise the shoulder seams (NOT using horrible clear elastic as the pattern suggests. Bleurgh.). I used a twin needle to topstitch the hems and neckline, too, but before I committed needle to fabric, I tested out the stitches on a scrap. I’ve had problems with tunnelling before so I went down the tension to see if it sorted it out – turns out taking the tension off completely worked a charm.

Side

I’m pretty pleased with my efforts here. The Plantain isn’t all that different from the Agnes, but since the cut is looser I think this is more of an outer piece rather than something to layer. It’s super comfy and I’m enjoying the extra space for a big dinner! However, I’m most pleased about how I’m building my confidence with knits. Expect more on the blog soon!

Have you conquered any fabrics recently? What are your favourite patterns for knits?

Challenge accepted?

Do you join in with sewing challenges? There’s so much choice around at the moment, I sometimes feel like that the sewing community is like one big Freshers’ Fair. There’s all these shiny, attractive groups vying for your attention that you end up joining 12 but never actually make it to any meetings. I had a similar experience with #sewphotohop on Instagram in September (it’s a photo-a-day theme challenge) thinking it sounded like a lark. I posted one photo, then went camping for the weekend and never posted again.

TBH I felt a bit guilty about it at first. I felt like I’d committed myself to something and couldn’t follow through. But then I reasoned that I was probably taking on too much. I was doing my own personal challenge, Sew My Stash September, and that was as much as I felt capable of at the time. Don’t get me wrong – all this choice means you can really find your sewing tribe, which is awesome – but my #sewphotohop fail got me thinking about how much I participate and what’s realistic.

I’ve taken part in a number of sewing challenges this year, and the ones that have been most successful have been because I’ve got something out of them. I’ve learned something about my sewing/clothing preferences (Me Made May), I’ve been challenged to sew something out of my comfort zone (Cosy Cardi Challenge), or the challenge has fit in with my current plans (The Monthly Stitch and Sew Together for Summer). They were a lot of fun, too! It’s great to see how other people interpret a challenge, and pick up tips and tricks for something you might also be making.

Front

The smile of someone who’s taken part in a challenge that absolutely fit in with her sewing plans.

I should ask myself whether I’m going to get anything back from a challenge, or if I’m just doing it for the sake of joining in. I was thinking of doing the Little Red Dress Project and the Big Christmas Jumper Sewalong in the run up to the festive season, but I realised I don’t actually need either of these. I don’t wear Christmas jumpers and I have no need for another dress at the moment. There’s no point in stressing myself out about a deadline if I’m not getting anything back from it.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule (cos I love a get-out clause). I’m currently doing #BPSewvember on Instagram (run by Bimble and Pimble), which is another photo-a-day challenge. I’m not getting anything material out of it – I’m not learning a new skill, or sewing a specific garment – but I am having a lot of fun thinking about things I can post that fit the daily theme. I’m haven’t posted every day, and that’s ok. I won’t lost sleep over it.

But in general, I’m going to be a bit more selective about the challenges I join in with from now on. It’s fun to join in, but it’s worth so much more if I’m getting something back.

How about you? Which ones do you like? Are there some you absolutely must take part in? Would you run your own?

Against the clock: part 2

Did you take part in the Cosy Cardi Challenge on Instagram? Amanda from I Sew A Lot and the Stitch Sisters encouraged us to sew a snuggly cardi before the end of October and I thought it sounded right up my street. I love a cardi but I’ve never made my own, so this seemed like a good opportunity.  But, as seems to be my way at the moment, I left it until the last minute to take part. And when I say last minute I mean I hadn’t even cut anything out on the morning of the deadline day. Usually, the UK is eight hours ahead of Seattle, but by happy coincidence the deadline fell the day after the clocks went back in the UK. Ours went back a week later so on deadline day we were nine hours behind – time was actually on my side for once (sort of)!

Front

There’s a bit of extra fabric in the sleeves, but that’s an actual design feature (it says so in the instructions!)  – means you have snuggly hands too!

Anyway, my finished cardi is something of a birthday present. I got a little bit of money plus a voucher for Harts Fabric for my birthday at the end of September, and I bought the Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan and some soft n’ snuggly knit to make it. All the knit fabric I’ve used so far has been reasonably well behaved, but this one was a little curly so I cut out the pattern pieces very carefully (a medium blended to extra-large at the hips). I also didn’t fancy putting it through my sewing machine for fear of stretching it out of shape, so I cracked out my overlocker instead.

It was a really fast, easy sew, too. The pattern is really simple and well thought out, and the instructions are so clear it’s hard to go wrong. They even offered some beginners’ tips, like stabilising your patch pockets with tear away tissue paper. My only beef with the comprehensive instructions are that they don’t give an example of what a short zig zag stitch actually is – I looked it up in a Tilly and the Buttons pattern instead, which recommends 1.5 width by 2.2 length for seams, then 2.5 by 2.5 for topstitching.

Back

That’s kind of academic here as I only used my machine for the final step, where you topstitch the front band seam to the cardigan body. If I was making it again, I probably would switch between my overlocker and standard machine a bit more. I did all the seams on the overlocker so where the instructions recommended pressing seams open, I pressed them to one side which has meant a little bulk in some places. Not enough to annoy me about the finished garment, but maybe something to consider next time.

In all, the Blackwood took me a couple of hours to put together. I’m pleased with how it’s turned out – I’m happy with the fit and the fabric feels suitably snuggly against my skin. But mostly, I’m really pleased that I managed to sew it in such a short space of time. I messed around a lot while I was sewing – snack breaks, just-checking-the-news breaks, oh-look-a-squirrel breaks – but I still managed to finish and get a quick pic taken before the deadline. Well done me!

I’m glad I took part – it was a great challenge to gently push me into sewing something new, I’ve got something that slots nicely into my wardrobe and it’s another step towards confidence with knits. Yay!

Side

It’s pretty cold and wet in Seattle this weekend, so indoor photos it is. It also means I have to tidy up the bedroom, which can’t hurt, I suppose…

On the cutting table: November

HOW DID IT GET TO BE NOVEMBER??? I feel like I’ve only just been sewing summer dresses and here we are almost at Christmas… It doesn’t help that today I’ve been making mincemeat ready for this year’s mince pies*, but come on, 2017, slow down!

October was a bit of a funny month – it felt like I was either gearing up to, or recovering from, my trip back to the UK, so even though I managed most of core sewing plans it feels like I didn’t really achieve anything. What a weird feeling! Anyway, my plans for the next month are:

  • Finish my quilt! I have been making good progress on it, and after wrestling with it through the quilting stage, I’m now ready to bind it. And not before time. I need to be snuggling under it on the sofa asap.
Quilt progress

Part of the reason I’ve been quite slow with finishing my quilt is because it currently lives at Drygoods Design, where I’m taking part in the Make It Happen club (so that’s their lovely Bernina machine, not mine). 

  • I also had the Coppélia wrap cardigan by Papercut Patterns on my list for last month but I didn’t get round to making it. I’ve got a lovely burgundy jersey to make it in – I just need to get it done now.
  • Harts Fabric have a great range of rayon and I’ve been keeping my eye out for them to restock this dusky pink stuff for a couple of months now. It came in last week so I snapped up two yards and now I don’t know what to make! I’m torn between the SOI Pussybow blouse or the Alex shirt. I’d like to try out a new-to-me pattern (the Pussybow) but at the same time I just can’t quit the Alex shirt!
  • Perhaps against my better judgement I’ve agreed to teach some of my Girl Scouts how to make their own clothes. I’ve given them the choice between the Colette Sorbetto, the By Hand London Polly and the Grainline Scout, so I’ll be making up some toiles for them to try on. I’m gently pushing them towards the Sorbetto as it has a nice range of skills to learn in a simple garment, but I’d rather they choose so they make something they’ll actually wear (at the time of writing the Scout is winning). This’ll be my first time teaching sewing, so fingers crossed it all works out!
Stripy scout front resize

My favourite Scout. Can’t believe I only made this 18 months ago – it feels like a lot longer. Cost per wear must be in the pence by now. 

Outside of actual sewing, I’m also taking part in #BPSewvember over on Instagram, run by Bimble and Pimble. I was going to take part in #Sewphotohop in September and completely failed, so let’s see how I get on with this one.

*I’m not going to get a sniff of a mince pie round here this year unless I make them myself. Every American I’ve spoken to about them has no idea what I’m on about so I’m not holding out hope of finding them in the supermarket. Mary Berry to the rescue!

 

Against the clock

Hi everybody! I’m back in the US after a bit of a whirlwind weekend in the UK. I’d been looking forward to this weekend for a long time – my oldest friend Chloe got married and asked me to do a reading at the wedding. I was delighted to be involved in the day – it was a lovely, laid-back do, with lots of joy and laughter. Chloe and James looked truly happy and it was the best start to married life they could have hoped for.

Register

The happiest of couples. 

Anyway, I wanted to make my outfit, but I knew I didn’t want to make a party dress. I’ve got a few of those and I never wear them, plus autumn in the UK is a tricky time to dress for. Separates were the answer. I’m still really enjoying the whole 1930s-extra-in-Poirot look, so I wanted something drapey and a bit sophis. The Winslows were a good bet – quick and easy to make and with the Sew Over It Anderson Blouse for the top, I thought it’d be a pretty good outfit.

Naomi warned me about the Anderson Blouse earlier this month as she’d seen some negative reviews around the internet, so I erred on the side of caution and made a muslin. The hem is super wide and is gathered in with a ribbon, but I left this out as I’d be tucking it in anyway, so I just cut a size 12 and had plenty of room for my hips. As it turned out, the only alteration I made was to shorten the sleeves by an inch. Looking at the photos I think I’ll take off more – the cuffs aren’t snug to the wrist so they look a bit long without any wrist puff action.

Front

These photos aren’t the best – snatched pre-dinner by my mum on her point and shoot camera. I should have taken mine but it was too much for my luggage. Instead, let’s admire that flamingo fabric! It’s rayon from Harts Fabric (still in stock I think). 

I did have a few issues with the instructions. The pictures aren’t all that clear and I fudged the neckline bias binding. It wasn’t clear which side you’re supposed to attach it to, so I guessed that it should face the inside. The pattern piece is about two inches wide, but I think it ended up about a quarter of an inch wide when stitched. I’m obviously doing something wrong there, and I can’t work out what it is. Not a major problem, as I’m happy with what I’ve managed, but I’d like to know how to do it right!

My other issues with my final version were of my own making. I sat down to make it on Wednesday. I was due to fly on Thursday. I’m not a speed-sewist and for good reason. In my haste to get things done I sewed the hem end to sleeve end, right sides together, and then overlocked it, resulting in a weird Mobius strip of a seam. I didn’t notice my mistake until I went to set the sleeve in and realized that it wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to finish it off that night, but with a Girl Scout meeting to get to and some serious unpicking to sort out, it was going to be a race to the finish instead.

Mistake

Yeah. Completely wrong. 

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I finished it on Thursday morning with just enough time to pack, shower and get to the airport. It was stressful. I sewed the cuff poppers the wrong way round on one side. Moral of the story: don’t leave things to the last minute.

The pants

I’m now four pairs of Winslow culottes in and I don’t really have much to say about them anymore, construction-wise. I will say, however, that these are not quite how I envisioned them. I had three metres of flowy black triple crepe in my stash that would have been perfect for these, but it’s a shame that it was IMPOSSIBLE to sew with. I tried just about every needle in my pot and not one could produce two stitches together. I gave up and hit my local JoAnn store in a panic, ending up with thicker crepe that was much better behaved.

I thought I would make a full length pair, but with the super-wide leg I looked like a cross between MC Hammer and Morticia Addams. I asked Chris for his opinion: “Well, they’re certainly a statement, aren’t they?” Thanks, sweetheart, that’s very diplomatic. I lopped seven or eight inches off the bottom to show off my shoes instead.

Back

SO VERY WIDE LEGS. I wouldn’t normally go this wide (my bum looks huge), but it was fun swanning about in them all day.

It was probably the right decision as I had a number of lovely compliments about my outfit from other wedding guests throughout the day. The venue, Kirklinton Hall, is basically a ruin with a roof (think Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, after Bertha burns it down), so a lot of it is open to the elements, but I was warm enough all day, AND I didn’t have to worry about sudden gusts of wind exposing my pants to all and sundry. Win.

So yeah, none of this outfit went according to plan, but in the end I’m pleased with what I achieved, and that I’ve got a couple of pieces with more mileage than a party dress.

Kirklinton Hall

Thornfield, I mean Kirklinton Hall.

 

 

I cleaned out my overlocker…

…and do you know what? It wasn’t that hard.

I probably don’t clean my sewing machine as often as I should (tbh I don’t think it needs it more than once every couple of months), but I’ve got into a good habit of giving my overlocker a dust down after every project. Last month, though, I decided to wait until I’d got through all my Sew My Stash September makes before giving it a proper clean and oil. Y’know, for shits n’ giggles. Here’s how I got on and some tips I picked up from this great little video from Craftsy on Youtube.

Before

Innards before

This is about a month’s worth of build-up of fluff and lint. I don’t think it’s that bad (I’ve seen worse, I swear) but when you can’t see the actual metal workings inside, it’s probably time to give it a once-over.

Top tips:

  • Use a vacuum to get rid of the big bits of dust. I’ve got a handheld Dyson which is perfect for our flat, and perfect for cleaning out your overlocker.
  • Use cotton buds to get into the nooks and crannies to sort out the rest. My overlocker came with a crappy little brush that is absolutely no help at all. Cotton buds seem to attract all the lint like a magnet and they’re bendy enough to get to those hard-to-reach places. I ended up using 16 to clean my overlocker this time.

Cotton bud

  • According to Craftsy, you need to oil your overlocker at two places – on this shaft and at the pivot point at its base. Turn the wheel a few times to spread it out.

Oil here

  • Don’t forget the tension discs – they can get mucky too! I sprayed window cleaner onto some kitchen roll and ran it through the discs. While it didn’t pick much up this time, I’m thinking it’s a good thing to do.

Tension discs

  • When you’re not using your overlocker, put the cover on! I know it stops dust getting in everywhere, but I have to admit I’m terrible at remembering to do it. I put it on when it’s sitting on the shelf, but when it’s out on my sewing table I never bother… *slaps own wrists*

After

Sparkly clean! This took maybe 15 minutes – it’s pretty easy to do, especially using things you’ve probably got lying around the house anyway. My overlocker’s running slightly less loudly now (let’s be real; it’s never gonna be silent) and it’s worth the effort if it keeps it in fine working order for a bit longer.

Sparkly clean

Can we take a second to marvel at the size of that oil bottle? I doubt I’ll ever need to buy machine oil ever again. 

Do you have any top tips for sewing machine maintenance?

How I got on with Sew My Stash September

Right! Let’s wrap up Sew My Stash September with a review! I thought about doing charts, but started messing around on Canva instead, so here’s an infographic of stats.

Round up infographic.jpg

In addition to shifting a shedload of fabric, I learned a few things about myself and my sewing habits:

  • Cutting out your projects for the month might be tedious, but it’s worth it. I even did all my interfacing at the same time! It was great to just be able to reach for fabric that was all cut and ready to go, and it kept me focused, too. Seeing the pile slowly disappear over the month was a good motivator – I might not have finished all my sewing in September itself, but I didn’t start anything new until I’d done it all. Maybe this is the way to keep myself on track?
  • Sewing generates a lot of waste. I have a Sainsbury’s bag (why I brought plastic bags with me to another country I’ll never know) full of fabric scraps ready to go to the nearest H&M for recycling. I already do my best to squeeze pattern pieces into the smallest possible space, but there will always be offcuts. I’ve never really thought about it before, but after that mammoth cutting out session, it was really brought home to me. From now on I’ll save my scraps and take them into H&M every couple of months.
  • I think I have a pretty sensible approach to buying fabric. Looking through my stash, it’s all stuff I would wear, in colours that fit into my wardrobe. Don’t get me wrong, I love a crazy print (and I’ve sewn a couple over the summer) but the majority of fabrics in my stash are block colours.
  • Since I had a lot to get through in September I decided to blog three times a week. It gets a bit much after a while, and I didn’t quite manage it by the end of the month. Twice a week seems much more manageable.

Sew My Stash September was a lot of work, and I set myself a tough challenge in planning to sew so much. However, I quite enjoyed it! It was good to have a clear goal and it’s certainly satisfying to get through so much fabric in a relatively short space of time. I might even make it an annual thing.

And finally…

I didn’t quite get my final two projects, a pair of Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dresses, made in September, but I did manage to start them before the 30th. I wanted to get a production line going one afternoon, but I had to stop in the evening because I hit a point where overlocking was unavoidable. Not wanting to annoy the neighbours, I stopped for the night and the next couple of days too… The main thing is, I got them done eventually.

Stripy front

Chris is in the UK this weekend so I worked out how to set up the remote for the camera. I’m not brave enough to do it outside on my own just yet. 

Anyway, the fabric! I bought the denim shortly after I made my first Cleo earlier this year from the fabric shop in Balham, along with the buckles for both. I’d always planned to make another Cleo with it, but didn’t quite get there what with the move and the summer etc. The stripy stuff is a canvas from Our Fabric Stash in Pike Place Market (probably the most recognisable part of Seattle after the Space Needle). Our Fabric Stash is a consignment shop, so everything started life in someone else’s stash and is sold as found. I think this stuff had been sitting in someone’s collection for a while as it had that distinctive musty smell that takes ages to shift in the wash.

Denim front

As you can see, I need more practice. 

I had a lovely time making these up – the Cleo is a very easy pattern and it was fun to revisit it. I wanted a little bit of a challenge, though, so I had a crack at topstitching the denim one with proper thread and everything. Since any mistake would be super noticeable, I took things really slowly. I discovered that my machine doesn’t like backtacking with topstitching thread, so I ended up not doing it and caught the loose ends in seams and overlocking. For the most part I just used the guides on my presser foot to keep things even, but for the curves on the back pockets I drew around a side plate with some tailors’ chalk. I’m so pleased with how it all turned out that I think the topstitching is my favourite feature on the denim version. I only wish I’d bought more than one 33-yard reel – it would have been great to add it on the straps and around the top facing but I had nowhere near enough for both.

Back pocket topstitching

So. Pleased. 

 

I’m also quite pleased with the patches which I picked up a few weeks ago in the Fremont Vintage Mall. I just popped in for a bit of a mooch and ended up rummaging through baskets of old patches (mostly from Scout and Girl Scout events) and happened upon these two. And they were iron on! No faffing about with hand sewing! I’m not sure how they’ll hold up in the wash, but I think they add a little extra to the front pocket.

Patches and topstitching

So that’s it for Sew My Stash September! If you joined in, how did you get on? Would you do it again?