Sew My Stash September – who’s with me?!

Guys, I’ve been inspired. I’m declaring next month to be Sew My Stash September on Stuff Jo Has Made. For the month of September 2017, I will only sew with fabric from my stash, using patterns that are already in my collection. 

I was listening to episode three of the Love to Sew podcast on stashes the other day and it got me thinking. Presenters Helen and Caroline were talking about the size of their stashes and how you could think of them as collections, rather than something to sew with. Now compared to some, I have a fairly modest stash with just 19 pieces. But with a sewing space as small and compact as mine I can’t afford to think of my stash in that way. I brought maybe seven or eight pieces of fabric with me from the UK, and I’ve not done too badly at using them since arriving in the US (see here and here). However, my stash levels have been creeping up a bit and if I buy any more I risk being swamped by fabric. It’s time to do something about it.

Boxed stash

This is my stash box. It fits in an Ikea Kallax shelf and there’s not much space left in it.

So for September I’m going to make a real effort to put a significant dent in my stash. For me, that means I won’t be buying any new fabric or patterns just to suit my whim. We’ll soon be in autumn which will suit many of my fabrics, and I’ve got plenty of choice between my paper patterns and my pdfs. I don’t need new fabric right now (even though I may want it). What I need is the impetus to shift some of that stash.

While I reckon a brief stash diet is completely doable, I’ve gotta give myself a loophole. I’m allowed to buy notions and linings, and free pdf patterns don’t count. Mainly because I’ve got vague plans to make some baby tights for some friends with the leftover jersey from my Agnes top and I’ve got no idea how to go about it.

Want to join in?

If you need some motivation to get through your stash, let’s do it together! If you’re like me, you bought that fabric because you love it and it deserves to be seen rather than sitting in a box in your sewing space. Use September as a good excuse to get it done. I’ll be posting my progress on here and on Instagram (@stuffjohasmade), so if you’d like to join in use the hashtag #sewmystashseptember or tag your blog post with Sew My Stash September. Hope to see you there!

Advertisements

The plain white tee

Hey hey! How’s your Sunday going? We’ve had a bit of a whirlwind week entertaining both sets of parents. They all arrived last Friday and in that time we’ve been whale watching, walked the meadows of Mount Rainier, seen the eclipse and been on a float plane flight around the city. It’s been lovely to catch up, but man, was it tiring!? The other bit of news is that I am now legally able to work in the US! My work permit came through this week, so the job hunt starts tomorrow. Wish me luck, and if you know anyone in Seattle who’d love an internal comms bod in their business, send ’em my way.

Mum Mt Rainier

In the meadows on Mount Rainier with my mum. Felt like we were in Heidi or something.

Anyway, sewing! This week I’ve taken a break from making girly dresses in fabulous prints in favour of making something a bit more basic. And you can’t get more basic than a plain white t-shirt. One of the paper patterns I brought with me to the US was the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top. With its close-fitting cut, it struck me as a good potential layering piece, but also a nice way to show off some pretty fabric. I’ve never been entirely happy about sewing with knits (I blame my experience with my first Moneta), but I want to improve.

Front

The Agnes is a close fit, and it’s reminded me that I need a better, smoother bra. There’s a reason you’re not going to see a full shot of my back…

It’s a good job I was up for a challenge because the pattern calls for a lighter jersey than I’ve been used to sewing with. Thinking that I’d be able to see my mistakes more clearly I opted for a plain, off-white bamboo jersey from Harts Fabrics and I was pretty pleased with my choice. It’s silky and soft, and you can tell that the quality is there. I like it, but my sewing machine did not. I tested out my zigzag stitching on a scrap before committing to the pattern pieces – I think I got maybe six zigzags out of a six-inch line. I couldn’t be bothered to go out and get more needles, so I decided to have a go at sewing it on my overlocker – another first for me. It just needed to be topstitched with a twin needle.

And do you know what? It was pretty easy! There were a few fiddly bits to manage with the overlocker, but apart from that I didn’t have any issues. I hand basted the stabilising ribbon at the shoulder so I didn’t accidentally overlock my pins, and I did the same with the neckband. I spent ages pinning and basting the neckline before overlocking – the neck band is 10% smaller than the neckline and I wanted to make sure that it was even and wrinkle-free. It’s a tiny bit wrinkly at the back but not enough to be really noticeable.

Back neckline

Things to improve for next time: wonky twin-needle topstitching. But otherwise, I’m pretty pleased with that effort.

I graded from a size 4 at the bust and waist to a 6 at the hips. From my measurements I should be a size 7 hip in Tilly’s patterns, but I know from experience this is a little bit too roomy – I’m pretty pleased with the fit as is. If I’m being picky I could maybe stand a little bit more space around the arms but that’s what stretchy fabric is for, eh?

Now that I’ve had a go and didn’t mess it up, I want to make more! It’ll be a useful long-sleeved top for cooler weather and with plenty of pretty jersey around, who am I to refuse?!

Side

Another thing I may change for next time is the sleeve length – I quite like the elbow-length sleeve here, but a short sleeve would also be good.

Stuff Jo Has Made has a new look!

Over the last few weeks it seems like everyone in Blogland (or WordPress at least) has been making their sites look a lot prettier. Sarah and Amelia have both revamped their blogs, and you might have noticed that I’ve been working on mine too. So let’s have a chat about what’s new!

New blog header!

Brand

I’m not sure I like the word ‘brand’ to describe what I’ve done here, as I think it makes it sound like I’m selling something, and ‘visual identity’ conjures images of marketing meetings. Either way, I’ve tidied up the way things look. I liked the pink that came as standard with my template (Sela) and I picked a blue-y grey to go with it. I’ve used these colours, plus the scissors motif, to make a couple of images on Canva.com. If you haven’t seen Canva yet, go and check it out! It’s a free, easy to use, online graphic design tool that’s perfect if you don’t want to shell out for expensive software (I’m looking at you, Adobe). I made a new site header, some generic blog post images (like the one above, plus here and here), and even managed to get a little logo that sits on the browser tab!

Wordpress logo square

Here’s a close-up of that browser logo, in case it’s too small in your tabs.

Template

While I liked my template, the way I was using it wasn’t working for me anymore. The old green background made the site look dated and messy, and I wasn’t happy with the way I was using the pages and the sidebar. Sela has some nice features – I just had to make the best use of them.

I’ve started to use the template’s ‘featured image’ function which gives each post a header image, but is also the one that’s displayed in the WordPress reader. If you don’t select one, WordPress will pick one for you to display in the reader (typically the first you upload) and crop it for you. As the space is landscape, and I use mostly portrait photos, you risk the system picking a crotch close-up. That’s not really what I want to show the world, and I’m sure it’s not what makes WordPress users click on my posts.

Pages

I’ve updated a few of my pages, too. The Stuff I’ve Actually Made page was getting really untidy with all my makes since 2013 crammed in there. I’ve split them into different categories so it’s a bit more user-friendly and you’re not constantly scrolling to find a particular skirt or dress.

I’ve revamped the Recommended Reading pages too, including different books, and adding in a section on cookery. My tagline for Stuff Jo Has Made has always included cookery, but I think I’ve only posted about it once or twice since starting blogging here four years ago. While I’ll continue to focus on sewing, I’m going to start dropping in the occasional post about food, cos I do love to cook and I’ve been trying a lot of new recipes recently.

One of the nice things about the Sela template is that you can use grids on your parent pages. I’ve used Stuff I’ve Actually Made and Recommended Reading parent pages for navigation, in addition to the drop-downs from the navigation bar. You’ll now see a cute grid linking you to specific pages, with images and a little blurb about the content. Looks totally professional and I’m properly pleased with it.

Recommended reading

The Recommended Reading parent page – Stuff I’ve Actually Made has a similar layout. I took all new photos for these pages too!

WordPress limitations

While I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done here, I’m getting a bit frustrated with WordPress and what its free plan can do. I’d like to be able to be able to change font colours and make the site more mobile-responsive. To get the grid feature on pages, you need to set a featured image. I didn’t necessarily want to do that as most of the sub-pages are image-heavy anyway, but it was a price I had to pay to get the pretty navigation I wanted. It would have been awesome, too, if I’d been able to make the changes I wanted and then publish them all at once, but there’s no real opportunity for you to work in draft and preview properly.

I’d like to go to a paid plan (e.g. WordPress, SquareSpace etc) to take advantage of better options for customisation, but I know what I’m like. I’m blogging a lot at the moment because I have a lot of spare time on my hands, but I know that when I eventually get a job I may not be able to keep up with the pace. And then, is it really worth getting a paid plan with fancy features and my own domain name if I can’t get the value for money?

Anyway, here’s my new-look blog – please do take a look around!

 

Penny black

You know how I said we were expecting a heatwave here in Seattle? Well, when I started this dress it had well and truly arrived and I melted like the Wicked Witch of the West in a water fight. Air conditioning is really not a thing round here so I spent most of my time sitting next to a fan and trying to stay as cool as possible. Unfortunately I didn’t quite get my latest Sew Over It Penny quite finished before the warm weather disappeared.

Front

Different location for my photos this time – there’s a mini allotment on the roof. We don’t have a tub but those tomatoes look like they’ll be pretty good in a week or two. 

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I think rayon is the best fabric for summer. It is the only thing I wanted to wear because it’s so light, floaty and breathable. It’s perfect for wafting about the city on the hunt for the nearest ice lolly. That’s not to say it’s not without its pitfalls. While wearing my red Penny dress I went to the loo at our local cinema and got halfway down the street before I realised that my skirt was tucked into my knickers. I wouldn’t have clocked it had I not spotted my reflection in a window…

Despite that embarrassing experience I knew that my red Penny would not be my last, and that I’d crack out the rayon once more. I spotted this lovely bird/feather print on the Harts Fabric website (still in stock!) and, thinking that the birds all ran in the same direction, I bought 3.5 yards as suggested by the pattern notes. Turns out I needn’t have bothered. The birds face up and down, so with some clever placement I was able squeeze it out of about two yards – plenty left over for something else I think!

Side

Who needs to twirl when the wind will do the job for you? 

Having learned my lesson from last time, I added extra notches at the skirt waistline and got my head round the collar and button band construction much quicker (NB SOI have now updated the pattern with the missing button band notch). I did, however, struggle with threading the elastic through the waist channel. It was easy enough until I hit the side seam and the button band and then things ground to a halt. I ended up having to unpick the casing so I could give it a hand, which means the waist isn’t quite as neat as it could be. Do you have any tips to make it easier?

I also had a bit of a nightmare with the hem. After letting it hang for 48 hours, Chris very kindly helped me level it out again. It looked fine when I tried it on with the pins in, but when I hemmed it and tried it again, it looked wonky at the sides. Cue a tantrum and snapping at my husband who really didn’t deserve it and continued to very patiently help me. He really is my better half. Anyway, the team effort worked and the hem is now much more level.

I’m a big fan of this dress. It’s great for warmer temperatures, but I can also see it having a life beyond the summer. Paired with some tights and a cardi, it’ll work into spring and autumn. Till then, I’m going to pretend I live on the Riviera and swish about in it some more.

Back

My sewing space

Before I start showing you my sewing space, I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who responded to my last post. It was a tough couple of days and it was a huge boost for me that so many took the time to send kind words and virtual hugs. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating – sewing people really are the best. I’m feeling much more positive and I’m looking forward to our visitors arriving next week.

You're awesome Bill Murray

Anyway, this is where I sew! Back in London my sewing space was spread over several rooms. My stash was in the study, equipment and patterns on bookshelves on the landing and I did my sewing in the kitchen. I had a lot of stuff and to be honest, it was a ball ache having to lug it all around the flat. It was probably even more of a ball ache for Chris, who practically had to climb over the ironing board just to get a cup of tea.

When we moved to the States we travelled light, bringing just two suitcases each. The voltage is different over here so I knew I’d have to buy new machines, but I didn’t want to buy all new equipment. That meant downsizing my sewing kit considerably. I picked out a few paper patterns, chose a few fabrics from my stash and squeezed essential bits of kit into a wash bag.

Wash bag equipment

All this fit into the wash bag at the back. If you’re travelling anywhere and need your sewing kit, I’d recommend packing it in a wash bag – all the different compartments make it really convenient.

Our new flat is much smaller than in London and came unfurnished (apparently the norm in the US) so we had to think carefully about how we used the space. I was determined to have a sewing space, so I bagsied a corner of the living room where our dining table would go, and hotfooted it to Ikea.

I don’t want to accumulate a lot of stuff while we’re here so I went for the four-section Kallax shelves, telling myself that I wasn’t allowed to expand out of them. That’s one shelf each for my sewing machine, overlocker, patterns and stash. My rulers and cutting mat fit nicely down the back of the shelves, along with my muffling mat which I got for my overlocker, cos, y’know, neighbours. On top of the shelves I’ve got a lamp and a wire basket for my crochet stuff, both from Target. The grey wall (not my choice) means that the corner gets pretty dark so the lamp really does help in the evenings.

 

Corner shelf

One day I’ll make fancy covers for my machines. The black box is where my stash lives. 

My sewing/dining table is the Norden (looks like Ikea have discontinued it, unfortunately). Typically I use it fully opened out, and if I’m using it for cutting there’s enough floor space to push it out into the room so I can cut from all sides without moving the fabric. The table is right next to the shelves which means that I don’t have far to move my machines when I want them, or I need to put them away when we have dinner.

 

Sewing table

I tidied up for these shots. Can you tell? 

The best thing about the table, though, is the in-built storage! There are six little drawers between the leaves. I’m only using three at the moment, but they house my threads, tools and notions pretty neatly. I could have left everything in the wash bag – it’s certainly compact, but rooting around in there to find my plastic bag of buttons or my pins was getting to be annoying. I’ve now separated everything out into jam jars (I ate a LOT of jam. It was a tough time) so everything is within easy reach and isn’t messed in with other things. If I need it, I can just lift out the jar and it’s all kept neat and tidy.

Top drawer

My most used equipment is in the top drawer. 

Although it’s not a dedicated room, I’m really happy with my sewing space. It’s easy to keep clean and I’ve got plenty of space spread out if I need to. I like the minimalist approach – it’s made me think about what I actually need rather than what’s nice to have, and should mean that everything’s easy to transport back when we eventually move back to the UK.

What’s your sewing space like? Do you have your own room or do you take over the dining room table?

U ok hun?

Well, not really. Not today, anyway. Today I feel like bursting into tears for no good reason. I don’t know if I’m just hormonal, or whether it’s something deeper, but I am not having a good couple of days. Last night I wanted to post about my new SOI Penny dress but when it came to taking the pictures I spotted that the hem was wonky and that just set me off. I had a tantrum and since then, as ridiculous as it may sound, I just feel like a cloud has descended. Needless to say I have not finished the dress.

Moving to a new place and starting a new phase of life isn’t easy. It took me ages to adjust when I moved from Carlisle to London after graduation, and looking back I know I was depressed for several months. I went to work, I came home and I didn’t do much else. I resented good friends for the fun they were having, but I also found it hard to join in. Then one day something changed. I started exploring the city, I got involved with Guides and began doing a bit of exercise. I started to really love London – I felt like I belonged and a weight lifted off my mind.

In Seattle it’s a bit different. I knew that I would have a month or two before I’d be legally able to work (five months and counting now…) so I made the effort to do some volunteer work. I’m now involved with the Girl Scouts, which will start in earnest in September and I’ve been doing the odd bit of volunteer work here and there. I’ve just joined a couple of Meetup groups (one for running, one for sewing) and I’m looking forward to having visitors in the next few weeks.

But it doesn’t feel like enough. When you’re a kid you make friends really easily, but it feels so much harder when you’re an adult. I have plenty to keep my mind occupied, but as I’m not working at the moment I can go the whole day without speaking to anyone apart from Chris, and tbh it’s really fucking hard.

I do like Seattle. It’s a lovely place and there’s a lot to be positive about our life here. I can see us staying for a while but right now I feel lonely and I don’t really know what more I can do about it. I know this is a temporary dip, and it’s completely normal to feel this way, but I could really do with a hug right now.

On the cutting table: August

August is a funny month, isn’t it? We’re expecting a heatwave here this week and while I’m melting in 35-degree heat, I’m starting to think about sewing for the autumn. I haven’t quite got summer dresses out of my mind just yet (we’re going to Hawaii for Christmas, so it makes sense to plan now), so my plans for August are kind of half and half.

This month I’m also looking for some quick wins as we’ll be having visitors! Both sets of parents will be visiting towards the end of August, so I’ll be spending some quality time with them. I’m also expecting/hoping that I’ll have my work permit by the end of the month, so I will need to start my job hunt in earnest. Anyway, all that means that I won’t have a great deal of time for long and involved sewing projects. So, my picks this month include some quick and easy (fingers crossed) makes, and one that may take a while longer.

  • First up, I’ll be feeding my shirt dress obsession with the Colette Penny dress (version 2, the sleeveless one with the belt). As the bodice is a bit more fitted than I’m used to, I’m going to do a toile for once. I’ve got some gorgeous tropical cotton lawn coming soon in the post, and I’m hoping that it will be a good transitional piece that I can throw a cardi over when the weather eventually cools.
  • As a compare and contrast, I’ve got a Sew Over It Penny cut out in this floaty feather/bird print rayon from Harts Fabrics. I love my red one that I made in July, and now I want MORE! Hanging and hemming aside, I’m hoping to make this one up pretty quickly because the fabric is gorgeous and I want to wear it yesterday.

Birds of a feather rayon

  • As you may have noticed, I mostly sew with wovens. That’s fine, but I’d like to expand my skills a bit and sew with knits. I’m going to have a go at the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top, which is a pattern I brought over to the US with me and should be good for layering. It’s only four pattern pieces so how much trouble could I get into?!
  • Finally, with an eye on potential work wear, I’ll also be making the Simple Sew Shannon trousers, another pattern which made the trip across the pond. They’re wide-legged sailor-style pants and I’ve mined my stash for some grey suiting for office/interview friendly wear.

Patterns

I’m also working on some changes to the blog – some of which you may have already noticed. More on that later this month…