New to me: Papercut Patterns Coppélia wrap top

Sometimes when you sew, everything just goes right. Your invisible zip goes in first time. You put a sleeve in without getting any tucks in the fabric. You finish a seam just before your bobbin thread runs out. This is not one of those times. And just so we’re clear from the off, it’s all my own fault, and not that of the pattern. I made a fundamental stupid mistake which threw everything out, and meant that my first Papercut Coppélia top was a disaster.

Oops

Can you spot one of my mistakes? 

Before we get into that, let’s wind the clock back a little bit. The Coppélia has been on my sewing list since October but I didn’t manage it in 2017. This year I want to try more “new to me” pattern companies and this resolution seemed like the kick up the rear I needed to get this top made. I’m not a huge one for novelty prints (although I have been known to dabble), but I spotted this cute silver polar bear print knit in my local JoAnn and thought it’d be a good match for the pattern. I had visions of it being a Christmas jumper with a longer shelf-life.

Anyway, I decided Version B (the faux wrap top) would be the perfect pattern to kick off my sewing for 2018. I had to make my usual adjustments based on my measurements – blending out a couple of sizes to accommodate my hips. This was where I made my mistake. In hindsight, there were plenty of clues that would tell me which way up the front wrap pattern piece should go – notches, grainline, the cutting line for Version A – but I missed them all because all I saw was the pattern title, which ran perpendicular to everything else. Of course, I just assumed that that was the right way up, so I went on my merry way and began cutting everything out. Of course, I only realised that I’d altered the wrong side after I cut everything out and had run out of usable fabric. Arrgh.

So my mistake meant that my polar bears were running vertically rather than horizontally on the front two panels, and those panels weren’t quite wide enough to meet the back panel at the side seams. It meant that my snuggly polar bear jumper was not meant to be, but I did decide to treat it as a muslin and managed to stretch the jersey to fit at the side seams. Then I decided to put the cuffs on the sleeves. I had a complete brain fart with them and ended up sewing them every way but the right way, unpicking them at least three times and putting a hole in them in the process, not to mention when I got one caught in the feed dogs. Still, I persevered and I managed to get the muslin done. It was fine to check the fit, but not really wearable outside.

Take two

Front

Take two was more successful, though I’ve realised I’ve basically done a copycat version of Sew Sarah Smith’s Coppélia. Check her’s out here – it’s gorgeous on her!

Despite all that, I was determined to get something to show for my efforts, so I went back to JoAnn to pick up some more jersey. They didn’t have much of a selection – the shop is badly organised and the majority of the knits I could find felt synthetic or were just plain horrible. I eventually settled on this grey, medium-weight jersey, which I felt would fit in my wardrobe quite nicely.

Side

Today was perfect for blog photos – first time I’ve been up on the roof in ages! You can just make out Mount Rainier in the background. 

Taking all my mistakes into account, I was super-careful with my second attempt, and even then it only took me about three hours to complete it, including cutting out and a quick lunch break. It is a super-quick pattern with easy-to-follow instructions. I machined all the seams that would be concealed – i.e. the cuffs, and the neck and waist binding – and overlocked the rest. Once you close up the side and underarm seams it starts looking like a proper top and before you know it, it’s all done. From that point of view, I’d recommend giving it a go.

Back

You can see how the neckline doesn’t sit quite right here.

I did have to slip stitch the neckline closed, though, because when I pulled it down you could see a little bit too much of my bra – not a problem with the muslin. I think this has had a knock-on effect on the neckline at the shoulders, which doesn’t sit flush. I’m not sure how to fix it, but I’ll take it in to my next Make It Happen session at Drygoods Design to get some professional help (!). That little detail doesn’t bother me too much, so I’ll still wear this version; it’s just something to put right for next time.

Anyway, after I got over those earlier setbacks, I actually quite enjoyed sewing the Coppélia. It’s so quick and simple, that it feels quite satisfying. This jersey is quite thick, so I think I’d like to try it in something a bit more lightweight to see how it turns out, but till then I’m happy this one had a happy ending.

Doggo

I got photobombed by a friendly dog!

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Charlie says “always tell your mummy before you go off somewhere”

OK, I am aware that today’s post is something of a blip – a hot weather garment when it’s currently hovering around freezing outside. We’ve just been on holiday, though, so it does make sense, really. Chris and I spent a week on Maui over Christmas and it was awesome. Chris hasn’t had any proper time off since we moved to the US so a week of relaxation in the sun was in order. We did some active stuff (ziplining, snuba diving, helicopter ride) but mostly there was a lot of pool and beach time. Someone brought you cocktails as whales breached off the coast. It was lovely.

I’m not usually one for sitting about for a week, so I don’t have a lot of beachwear. I hadn’t been all that bothered by the Charlie Caftan from Closet Case Patterns when it first came out, but it grew on me exponentially the closer we got to the departure date. If you want a measure of how useful it was, I’d say it was a third cotton, a third sunscreen and a third saltwater by the time we got home. I wore it practically every day.

Front

That hat was a good buy too. Practically clamped to my head all week. 

And what better fabric for a beach cover up than this tropical cotton lawn? I originally bought three metres from the Village Haberdashery (looks like they still have some in) with the intention of making the Colette Penny dress, but never got round to it, what with all the other shirts and shirtdresses I was making this summer. It was fate, obviously. I fancied the idea of a maxi, but didn’t have quite enough fabric, so I went for View B (the short one with the gathered front) and added in the waist ties for good measure. I did grade out from a 10 at the waist to a 16 at the hips, but there’s so much space in there that I probably could get away with going for a straight 10 next time.

Back

Now, this pattern looks simple, and for the most part that’s true, but it did have a tricky bit in the shape of the front panel. It’s an interesting construction – you complete the front bodice first by sewing up to the neckline, which creates a letterbox through which you have to sew the front panel. That’s a bit of a faff, but then you’ve got to face it/encase it on the other side with an inner panel. You can do it on your machine, but I – wonder of wonders – OPTED TO HANDSEW IT IN. It creates a neat finish, and it didn’t take me nearly as long as it usually does. I did struggle a bit with this part of the instructions (spatial awareness is not my strong point), but there is a tutorial on the Closet Case Patterns blog which explains it really clearly.

Front panel

The rest of it is pretty simple, though I would suggest that you finish the side seam and pocket allowances before you sew them together. I followed the instructions to the letter which has you finish them after sewing, which meant that I would have had a few sharp corners to negotiate with my overlocker. I ended up zigzagging them instead (not my preferred finishing method) so I’ll bear that in mind for next time.

Accidental shibori

Like every good sewist, I threw my finished caftan in the wash straight off the machine, along with a bunch of other things I needed to wash before going away. Unfortunately, there was a pair of brand new jeans in there too, and I discovered that they were not colour-fast. Oops. I normally don’t have a problem with this, but this time some of the colour transferred to my new caftan and there are a few blobs of shibori-type dying. Lucky for me it kinda works with the colour scheme and it isn’t all that noticeable. Anyway, let this be a cautionary tale for you all to buy colour catchers, or at least wash your new jeans separately!

Shibori

Oops. That’s not the only bit, either. 

So as I’ve said, I wore this to death while I was away. I’m not sure when we’ll next be hitting the beach but I’m looking forward to warmer months when it may make an appearance on the roof of our building, which is a massive sun trap. Recommended for your next hot weather holiday!

And because it’s now stuck in my head, here’s some classic Prodigy from the early 90s.

On the cutting table: January

Happy New Year! I hope you’re all rested and recovered from the festive season and ready to get stuck into 2018. We came back from Hawaii in time for New Year’s Eve, but were too knackered to go out. We took the red-eye home so got back to the flat around 8am on the 31st, went straight to bed and then spent most of the day in our pjs eating pizza and building stuff out of Lego. That’s probably my ideal state, so I’m pretty happy with that as evenings go.

AT-ST Lego

This AT-ST from Star Wars can be built in the time it takes to watch Rogue One. I’m not really a fan of Star Wars but I did enjoy building this. 

It seems like everyone is making sewing plans for 2018 on social media right now, though I’m personally feeling a bit ambivalent about it all. I have a few things I want to achieve in 2018 (see my last post for more) but I’m not entirely sure how my year is going to pan out just yet. I’m starting a new job next week and while I’ve been told that the dress code is “business casual” I don’t know how that will translate over the course of the year, how that’s going to inform my sewing plans and even how much time I’ll have now that I’m a fully contributing member of society. I may make some more long-term plans once I’m settled in at work, but until then I’m going to stick to planning month by month.

Without further waffle, here are my plans for January!

  • I’m going to take the bull by the horns and get on with my Ginger jeans this month. It’ll be my Make It Happen project at Drygoods Design and I’m thinking I’ll do it all in class time. It definitely won’t be a finished project by the end of January, but I’ll share my progress!
  • I started an Alex shirt back in November that has been sitting, unloved, waiting for me to finish it. I left it because I got to the bit where you have to hand stitch the collar down and I couldn’t be bothered, but the blush pink rayon I’m using is gorgeous and I need to finish it as a priority!
  • I AM GOING TO MAKE THE COPPELIA WRAP TOP! I have been saying this for three or four months now, and it hasn’t happened yet, but this month I really mean it, honest!
CoppeliaLongFront_1200x

I swear the model is taunting me. “You’re gonna make this top? I’ll believe it when I see it.” Image source.

  • I’m probably the last person to have a go at this, but I’m going to have a go at the Grainline Morris Blazer. I reckon it’ll be good for work and in the blue ponte I’ve ordered from Girl Charlee it should go with most of my clothes.
  • Another of my friends is due to have a baby by the end of the month, and again I don’t know what it’s going to be. I have some leftover batting from my mega quilt, so maybe I could do a baby quilt?? Or if I’m pushed for time, I might just stick with a crocheted blanket instead – much easier to do in the evenings or on the bus.

This looks like a big list but I’m quietly optimistic, since one’s already half-done and another is a long-term project. Watch this space for updates! What have you got planned for January?

My five goals for 2018

My final top five post for the year! It’s been really fun looking back on what’s been quite a productive year, sewing-wise, but now it’s time to look forward. Here are my five sewing goals for 2018, with some bonus life goals thrown in for good measure.

Make jeans.

I think I did pretty well to expand my sewing skills this year. I get a kick out of learning new things, and I’m going to carry on the theme by making myself a pair of jeans. It’s pretty timely, too – I had to buy myself a new pair the other day when my old ones got beyond repair. It’s a good time to replace my other RTW jeans, so that’s going to be my first project of 2018 at Make It Happen at Drygoods Design.

Ginger jeans

Make more stuff in knits.

If 2017 was the year I got over my fear of knits, 2018 is the year I want to really love them. I’m going to branch out from t shirts and make other things in knit fabric. Maybe a couple of dresses, maybe a couple of jumpers… Either way, I think it’s the start of a beautiful friendship.

Try new pattern companies.

2017 was also the year of the TNT for me. I made so many patterns multiple times that it got a bit silly. And if I’m making the same pattern over and over again, that means that I’m sewing from the same company all the time. I am a Sew Over It fangirl and proud, but it’s time to branch out a bit and see what’s out there. I’m going to start an occasional series on the blog called New To Me – watch out for that in the New Year.

CoppeliaLongFront_1200x.jpg

First up is this bad boy – the Coppélia cardigan by Papercut Patterns (image from their website, here). I’ve been promising myself I’ll make this for ages, but now it’s going to happen!

Be more sensible about my sewing list.

So I might have grand plans for sewing all these things, but I need to remind myself that I can’t sew everything, and that I probably don’t need ten shirts. I’m going to take a good look at the clothes in the wardrobe, identify the gaps and work on a colour palette. I like the idea of a capsule wardrobe and focusing on making a couple of garments really well, but at the same time I like quick fix sewing and the odd frivolous project in a crazy print, so we’ll see how I get on with this one.

Improve the blog.

I’ve really enjoyed blogging this year and I’m pleased with the little rebrand I did in the summer. I’m now debating whether I should move off the free WordPress plan and move to a paid one for a bit more creative freedom. There’s a few restrictions on the free plan that bug me, but I wonder whether it’s worth the cost to put them right? WP users – if you’ve moved to a paid plan, how do you find it?

In terms of content, I’m going to see how my blog posting pans out now that I’ll be a working woman again, but I am going to do some work on improving my photos. The summer ones are fine cos they’re taken outside, but when I’m stuck inside in the winter the quality drops off quite a bit. Time to get to know my camera better!

Bonus life goals

Call them New Year’s resolutions, but I have two things that I want to achieve next year in my life. First off, I’m going to run a 10k. I started running again in the spring, and then inexplicably stopped around September. Why do I do this to myself? It’s only going to be harder when I start again! Anyway, 10k seems to be my happy distance. Enough to get a nice workout, but not so long that I get bored. I’m going to find a race and build up to it.

Secondly, I’m going to learn how to drive again. I haven’t driven since I moved to London over ten years ago and my UK license has expired. I was never a confident driver and now everything’s on the wrong side of the road I figure I’ll need some lessons. Moving to the US has made me realise just how good public/mass transport is in the UK  – probably a combination of long-term investment and the fact that the country is that bit smaller. Anyway, it’d be easier to get around if we had a car, and I need to get on with learning again.

So that’s it! What a fun little exercise this has been! Thanks to Gillian for the prompts, and I hope you all enjoy the rest of the festive season and look forward to a happy and prosperous New Year.

Top five highlights of 2017

Well, 2017 has been a hell of a year. There’s been lots of upheaval and some huge changes, but some happy memories made at the same time. It’s been hard picking out my 2017 highlights, but I’ve tried to go for a mix of life events and sewing-related stuff.

I moved to another country.

The biggest thing that has happened to Chris and I this year has been moving to the US. We basically packed up our lives in the UK and flew to Seattle with two suitcases each. Since then we’ve settled in pretty nicely over here. Moving to a new place is hard, no matter whether it’s a new town or a whole new continent, but I’m pleased that we’ve done it and I’m proud of us both for making a go of it. And – NEWS JUST IN – I have a job! I’ll be starting 2018 as internal communications manager at a tech company in Seattle and, as much as I’ll miss my lie-ins and the extra sewing time, I’m excited to get started.

I’ve seen some new places.

Now that we’re here in the States we want to see as much of the place as we can. There’s so much to see here and with five trips back to the UK between us this year we’ve barely even tickled the surface, let alone scratched it. But we’ve had some fun times going to New York and San Francisco, and it’s been great getting to know Seattle and its many dining establishments. We’ve been camping in the Cascades too, which has been awesome as the countryside here is stunning. I want to see more, and I know that in 2018 we’ll continue to do more.

Mum Mt Rainier

At Mount Rainier with my mum this summer. That’s an actual volcano, you know. 

I joined the Girl Scouts.

When we moved here I knew that I would have a lot of downtime while I was waiting for my work permit to come through. I was a Guide leader in the UK so I thought I’d carry things on by finding a Girl Scout troop. And I think I really landed on my feet. My Scouts are juniors in high school (so 16-17) and they’re a great bunch. They’re really outdoorsy and always up for trying new things. I’ve done a whole load of stuff this autumn that I never thought I’d do, and there’s plans for a canoe trip in Minnesota/Wisconsin next summer. They’re certainly keeping me busy.

I’ve met some lovely new people.

When you move somewhere new, it’s important to make new friends! Through Girl Scouts I’ve made some good friends, particularly the troop leader, Hope, who has made me feel so welcome. I even spent an enjoyable Thanksgiving with her and her extended family when Chris was away, which was really kind. I’ve also made some friends in the Seattle sewing community through the Make It Happen sessions at Drygoods Design and general blog chat. Claire, of the lovely Belle Citadel blog, took me under her wing when I was having a tough time and now we’re having sewing and baking sessions galore! Without wishing to gush too much, I am so lucky to have found these people – it makes the mental upheaval of moving continents so much easier.

I taught my first sewing class.

I’m not likely to make a career out of it any time soon, but in November I taught some of my Girl Scouts how to make their own Grainline Scout tees. I had a great time doing it – even the prep! – and the results were pretty good, if I do say so myself. It was also fun to revisit an old favourite pattern and I’ve since made another with the leftovers from a length of fabric I had. More on that next week!

Blog post resized

 

I’m enjoying reading everyone’s top fives – it’s cool to see what everyone else has been up to this year. If you’d like more, there’s a nice post on Gillian’s blog where everyone is sharing links to their posts. Check it out!

My top (or should that be bottom?) five misses of 2017

If you have hits, it follows that there must be misses. Not everything can work out the way you want it to, and I’ve had a couple of misses this year. My loss is the thrift shop’s gain.

Red Helen’s Closet Winslows

This isn’t so much a miss, as a garment I really miss. I loved these culottes. When I wore them with my Breton-striped Scout tee I felt like I was on a 1930s cruise and I was off to play shuffleboard or something. When I ripped the fabric on a protruding nail on a pub table I was devastated. I miss my red culottes so there will be more in my future.

Front

Blue SOI Ultimate shirt

I have no idea what went wrong here because I’ve made a couple of Ultimate Shirts now and I’ve used the same pattern for all of them without alteration, but this one feels too small. It’s tight in the arms and sometimes the button at the bust pops out. Maybe it shrank in the wash? Who knows. It’s a shame cos it’s quite a nice shirt to look at. It just doesn’t fit me.

Blue ultimate shirt

I have no decent photos of it, so here’s one in a theatre during Me Made May.

Blue SOI Alex shirt

I’m not having much luck with blue shirts, am I? I still wear this one but I have bad memories of it. I had a nightmare sewing this one up – I couldn’t get fabric and needle to agree and this make was a mess of skipped stitches. In the end I had to hand stitch the hem because I couldn’t hack sewing it on the machine anymore. It was a frustrating project and it’s tainted the whole thing for me.

Front

Simple Sew Shannon trousers

This is perhaps a bit unfair, because the ones I made were a first attempt and I need to do some fitting. Because of this I’ve never worn them, but I’ve been doing some work on trouser fitting at my Make It Happen sessions, so I may revisit them in the future.

Front

Chris’ PJs

Again, this might be unfair as they were a first attempt, but these pjs are too big. As much as I love him, builder’s bum ain’t attractive. It was the first time I’d made something from a Big Four pattern (New Look 6859) and I should have heeded advice about them running rather large. He still wears them, though, so I suppose it’s a win in that respect.

New Look 6859 front

Next time: top five reflections!

My top five hits of 2017

Hi everyone! We’re two weeks away from a new year, so I’m emerging from my mince pie coma to review the old one, following Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow’s Top Five series. I might not have finished my sewing for this year just yet (I am panic sewing shorts for my trip to Hawaii next week. Did I mention I’m going to Hawaii? I can’t wait), but this year has been particularly busy for me, sewing-wise. I’ve made a grand total of 32 garments for myself, plus a giant quilt, and I’ve taken on projects that pushed my skills a little.

Looking back, this has definitely been the year of the tried n’ true (TNT) pattern for me. I fell in love with just about every pattern I tried and made multiple versions of them all. So let’s take a look at the five patterns I just couldn’t quit in 2017.

Deer and Doe Plantain top

This year I think I finally got over my fear of knits. Rather than faffing about with zigzag stitches on my sewing machine, I tried out sewing on my overlocker instead. And do you know what? It was pretty simple. I only made the Plantain for the first time a month or so ago, but it’s fast become a favourite, and I’ve made two more since (yet to be blogged). It’s a straightforward sew and I like the relaxed fit through the waist which makes it great with jeans – basically the basic t-shirt of my dreams.

Front

Helen’s Closet Winslow culottes

Oh my Winslow culottes, how do I love thee? Seattle gets a reliable hot summer (more than hot enough for me, anyway), and I wanted something that would help me stay cool AND combat the dreaded chub rub. The Winslows in rayon were the perfect solution. Soft, flowy and a reasonably quick make. When you’re doing your best to stay out of the heat, minimal time at the iron is key. I wore my Winslows throughout the summer, and when I accidentally ruined my first pair, I made another straight away.

Front

Closet Case Patterns Carolyn PJs

The Carolyns were another response to the heat. I only brought flannel pjs with me when we moved, so I needed something a bit lighter to sleep in. One day it occurred to me that my duvet cover would make a perfect classic pjs, so I hit Ikea up and got cracking on the summer version (with shorts and short-sleeved top). And they’re awesome. So light and comfortable! Turns out that a queen-sized duvet is a bountiful source of fabric, so I made the long pants for autumn/winter and some PJs for Chris with the excess. I also had a go at inserting piping for the first time and now I want to put it on everything.

Front

Sew Over It Penny dress

When Sew Over It released the Penny dress back in June it was love at first sight. I was having a major shirt/shirtdress phase, and the Penny scratched an itch for a smart summer dress with buttons and a collar. I made a couple of versions in rayon and despite a tantrum over a wonky hem, I love them to death. Whenever I wear my Pennys, I spend most of my time twirling about in them.

Side

Sew Over It Alex shirt/shirt dress

When I say I had a shirtdress moment this year, maybe I should expand it to include anything with a  button. I made so many shirts and shirtdresses in 2017 it’s ridiculous, but I think the Alex shirt was my first make of the year. I made it in a bit of a panic in time for my hen do (which happened after I got married, but that’s another story), and this version in black rayon has been my go-to casual going out top ever since. It’s so cute! It’s got enough space in it that I can easily get it on over my head without buttons, and I love the relaxed look – it looks good tucked or untucked. I’ve since made the shirt dress version in a chambray, another shirt in blue silk and I have another on my sewing table right now.

alex-front

We got a better camera in May, so my photos suddenly got marginally better. 

 

 

Another baby gift… dungarees!

Now that I’ve hit my mid-30s, more and more of my friends are either getting married or having kids. I think we’re pretty much through most of the weddings now, but that means we’re onto kids. I quite like sewing baby clothes – they’re teeny tiny, so they’re a quick sew, and they don’t take up much fabric. I’ve been known to make them with the scraps of previous makes, which pleases me no end as it’s less to landfill.

Front

Anyway, It’s been a bit of a fluke, but so far most of my pregnant friends have had girls. Gift-giving for them is really easy – they pretty much always get the Little Geranium Dress from Made by Rae and the Swing Set Cardigan from Little Crochet by Linda Perman (check out my versions of both here). But I’ve been stuck for a go-to pattern for boys. So when my friend Joanna had a little boy last month I had to have a go at something new. I found Puperita Patterns on Etsy and thought that their Little Birds dungarees looked like a winner.

I didn’t know whether Joanna was having a girl or a boy, and when little Alfie arrived I hadn’t yet made a start on the gift. It can take a couple of weeks for parcels to cross the Atlantic, so I cut out the 3-month size, reasoning that he might be that big by the time it got there, or he could grow into it. I had this mint green needlecord in my stash for the main body and used some matching zig zag quilting cotton for the lining.

Lining

The pattern and instructions were pretty easy to follow, and come nicely illustrated with a bunch of helpful photos. My only gripe would be the pattern markings, which aren’t quite standard. There’s a legend to tell you what’s what, but I was a little confused here and there. (Side moan: I don’t like it when pattern designers use straight lines instead of triangles for their notches. They’re so easy to miss.)

One of the features I really like is the lined patch pockets on the chest and rear (cos every baby needs somewhere to put their wallet). Needlecord needs to be finished as it frays really annoyingly, and I’m not the best at overlocking round tight curves, so doing a lined version and turning it through is a nice compromise. I also like that you get the pop of the lining – it’s a nice detail that you wouldn’t normally see from a casual glance, so it’s a little secret for the maker.

Back

My only issue in making these dungarees was the buttonholes. The ones on the shoulder straps went in without any bother, but the ones at the side stuffed up (probably a bit too much bulk), meaning that I had to unpick. What a ball ache! Rather than struggle on with trying to get the buttonhole to work, I decided just to go with a couple of poppers instead. Far easier for me, and probably easier for Alfie’s mum and dad to get on and off.

I do think these dungarees are really quite cute, but with hindsight I am not sure about their practicality. If you want to change your baby you’re going to have to take the whole thing off and then get them dressed again. Having some poppers in the crotch area is going to be far more practical for nappy operations. Perhaps with my new-found love of knits, I can attempt a babygro next time?

Turn ups

 

 

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?!