Thursday, 2 August 2018

The Road to Sidmouth (part 2): The Camping Challenge

I'll admit that I haven't been camping in a long time. B is similarly (in)experienced.

So we've got a lot to do before spending a week at the Sidmouth campsite. If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that we will be a lot better off by planning and preparing, and we will suffer if we just try to wing it on the day.

We're transporting almost everything on the train with us so we can't just overpack for every eventuality either. So, I've been looking at the ultralight movement for ideas so we don't get weighed down by our own supplies.

One thing working to our advantage is that we can afford to throw a bit of money and a bit of makery at the problem. So this is what we've done to get ready

Buy a tent

Trading off weight against ease of setting up, we picked one of the Decathlon Arpenaz 3-person tents. The concept of a blackout tent is new to me but we chose this one for a few reasons:
  • B doesn't like being woken up by the sun
  • If there's a remote chance of anyone suffering migranes, this is a ready-made dark space
  • We need it to stay cool as it's blisteringly hot at the moment and we need some actual sleep.
  • We need it to stay cool because we've got nowhere else to store our food or stuff.

Buy something to sit on

A week of sitting on the ground is likely to be unpleasant. I got a posh chair, B got a cheap one and each of us thinks that our own is better. Let's see who wins.

Buy a camping stove

Actually, we got a Jetboil.

Ah the Jetboil, the Macbook of camping stoves. With its neoprene sleeve and colour changing logo. It boils water. It boils water damn well and it boils waer damn fast. Just don't ask it to do anything else.

This thing cost twice as much as the tent. It cost more than anything else coming on the trip (with the exception of B's fancy new headphones). But we are a couple of compulsive tea drinkers and we couldn't avoid getting something optimised for boiling water. Cue the constant (almot instant) mobile supply of tea.

This has made it quite fun planning meals. We have no ability to keep chilled food and need to keep things light and compact. Our only cooking facility is boiling water. Dehydrated food party it is!

I'll go into more detail about food planning and other  makery in another post, but for now you need to know that we're going to play to the Jetboil's strengths, and our love of laziness by embracing dehydrated backpacking meals.



Buying supplies

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Road to Sidmouth (part 1): Deny all knowledge of the molly

Sidmouth Folk Week? Oh yeah, I've heard of it. We used to go and visit during the summer holidays. Had a big craft market on the hill, right? I wonder whatever happened to that festival...

What? It's still going on? Over 50 years old? Except everything that moved to the other end of the seafront?

Well I never. How charming! I guess we might pop by for a visit if we happen to be in the area in August.

Maybe I'll be wearing a few of my new clothes - it is a festival after all, one must try to blend in with the revellers. I'm sure you understand.

A New Hat

To keep the sun out of my eyes. Fabric: sold to me over FB by a caberet performer who was getting rid of old costumes and said this would be good for a refashion (fabric originally from Berwick Street). Pattern: MadebyYaya's tutorial on YouTube

A Scrappy Waistcoat

Just in case I need to dress up. This uses my beloved fabric slashing technique. I love how the front turned out,  but am not so happy with the back. Still, that's what you get with a scrapbusting project. It's drafted from one of the slopers from Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear. It's also reversible!

Some Activewear T-shirts

Because it's going to be hot and sweaty (if this weather continues) and I want something airy and fast-drying. The fabric is Southwest Colours Swirls, Rock Art 16-Scarlet Magenta-YD, and Desert Sunset from Spoonflower and the pattern is another sloper from Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear. I've tried some small variations in hem finishes and neckline.

A Square Skirt

I haven't had one of these since I was a teenager! Ooooh, pixie fashion will fit right in at a folk event! I hope no one else is wearing the same thing! Pattern: self-drafted, fabric: Girl Charlee

Safety Pants

For decency's sake. What do you wear under your skirts? Fabric: Z&Q Supplex, Pattern: MadeIt Play Pants (graded up 2 sizes as it's a teen pattern. There are rumours of an adult-size pattern coming soon...).

***Okay, I don't seem to  have a photo of this...let's just say I'm  being decent***

Mesh Garters

Making the mud on my shins a little prettier. A wacky idea, but I like the result - they could even go over wellie boots for a fun contrast. Fabric: eBay, football socks RTW from eBay, Pattern: self-drafted

Rainbow Infinity Scarf

You've just got to have a bit of neck coverage - to stop the sunburn. Plus, rainbow colours means I can embrace my inner hippie and keep my neck hidden. Fabric: B's stash, Pattern: I followed an Instructables tutorial for measurements, but tweaked it a bit as I wanted exposed overlocker seams.

Maybe I'll see you there?

K x

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Sports bra mania

I know I swore I'd never make bras. And I know that these aren't strictly (technically) bras. But, since I don't carry much on my chest, a compression-style croptop sports bra works pretty well for me. So I guess I make sports bras now. I'm loathe to spend money on a pre-made one when there are pretty scraps and elastics sat in my stash.

First, late last year I made this:

Then tweaked the pattern to create my London Spitfire bra:

After that I decided to raid my scraps stash and make a "cut up" copy of the pattern to fit small and oddly-shaped pieces. I've tried to position the seams strategically to avoid lumps and chafing but I'm sure some purists would be horrified at  my approach.

A lot of the styling and colour choices came from what was in my stash at the time and what would coordinate nicely. I'm  beginning to run low on plush elastic, but I need to wait to stock up since I prefer to buy in person. Not all elastics are created equal.

So, out of this process came the (slightly scrappy) all-black bra:

The black and blue bra:

(with variegated thread in the topstitching!)

And the bumblebee bra:

This one is my only 2-layer bra, the large panels are lined in a knit on the front, but the centre and back panels are not. I think where I am using supplex, two layers will be needed in future. For the black bras, the main fabric had a lot more resistance and only stretched in one drection. So it seems fine.

That's it for now,

K x

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Kaisla number two

I've finally cleared a WiP/UFO! This one has been cut out sitting around since September 2015. I have shamefully hidden it in a bag and just hoped that it would work itself out. I think the fabric was hanging around 6 months prior to that as well, so this has been maybe 3 years waiting to get done.

Welcome to my newest Kaisla jacket


I've forgotten my original rationale, so let's just say that I really like jackets. I started actually sewing this in Jan 2018 because I was sick of having this sat unfinished for so long. I've used up almost all of the scraps from my original cutting out by now. I just couldn't understand why that meant the original garment still hadn't been made.

The Pattern

This is my second version of Named Patterns' Kaisla Blazer. I really like the slim nature of the jacket and the fact that there are lapels without too much bulk around the neck and shoulders. It is a really good office-appropriate pattern.

As far as blazers's not too difficult either. Sure, it's not as simple as the BHL Victoria but it is quite simple in its design lines. Also, because of its slimline nature, you only really need shoulder pads and fusible interfacing for the structure. Yay for speed tailoring! No optional horse canvas or sleeve heads!

In terms of modifications, 2015-Katrina decided that she wanted functional sleeve vents and created a pattern. She even cut out all the pattern pieces for this option. 2018 Katrina was not up for that. I think they'll show up on a different project instead.

I again used extra pieces on the sleeve lining so that rolled up sleeves will match the body lining. I again used my modified lining pieces rather than the originals in the pattern.

A spot of pocket detail.

The Fabric

This may be one of my most expensive fabrics ever. The wool was £33/m from MacCulloch & Wallis. I got it in 2014, after much debate, and have long forgotten the composition. I think it's wool, a bit of viscose and a hint of elastane. I don't remember if I bought it felted or if that was an effect of washing. The right side and the wrong side are very subtly different, which was a bit a nightmare for construction. Still, the main point is that it's very warm.

I also included a litle japanese iron-on patch in the facing.

The dotty lining is a silk twill from Mood Fabrics. The interfacing and shoulder pads are also from MacCulloch & Wallis.

The Construction

Lesson learned: I should never leave something so long again without actually sewing it up. I just wanted the darn thing done. With that in mind, I thought I could cut some corners and take account of the fabric loft by sewing a smaller seam allowance. Surprise, surprise that didn't come out great and I spent just as long trimming and restitching it. The original shoulder pads were pretty weedy and couldn't handle the (unexpectedly) oversized jacket.

I didn't bother to mark the pocket placement and that now feels like a mistake.

The fabrics press well and do hold their shape but the lapels don't lie flat on my chest and that's not stopping things bouncing out of position or being pressed into a new one. I keep accidentally pressing one lapel flat because of the way I sit when this is hanging on the back of my chair.

In all, I think this was a bad pairing of outer fabric and pattern. I am so in love with my first Kaisla but this one gave me many many problems The original plan of how I'd wear it doesn't match the reality. We were in mid-winter when I finished it and this jacket doesn't really lend itself well to the concept of "bundling up". This looked almost like the Honetone Coat...but it wasn't quite right.

I tried to live with this jacket and it sat in my wardrobe for a few weeks (nominally finished) before I pulled it out again for fixing. One of the big issues seemed to be a fitting or balance problem. This is really weird and wasn't an issue in my first version. I wonder if I had the pattern pieces mixed up. Anyway, I was really unhappy with this issue:

The issues: Shoulders collapsing a bit, sitting far past my shoulder point, vent not lying flat and loads of excess fabric at the back, dipping at the sides. I'm not pushing anything backwards here, it's all just sitting funny. See:

At first I thought this might be an exaggerated case of sloping shoulders, but I tried the jacket on the mannequin (whose shoulders are a bit more square) and added another set of 1" shoulder pads on me. Neither solved the issue.

Here I am wearing 2x sets of shoulder pads to see if it'll make a difference
2x sets of shoulder pads on the mannequin
So I cut it open and did some more modifications to try to get it to work. Firstly, I sewed the vent shut. This is a shame because I like the feature, and it was pretty straight when the jacket wasn't collapsing. That being said, the loft of the fabric made it a bit bulky so it didn't feel very smooth. I wanted to eliminate the possibility that the lining was pulling the outer in strange directions - removing the vent made things simpler.

Secondly, I took a small amount of width out of the CB seam to try to bring the shoulders more upright (actually on my shoulders instead of overhanging). Thirdly, I unpicked the side seams and underarms and tilted the side back panel - changing the direction of the grain and trying to re-balance the back. Lastly, I rehemmed it so that it would be more even all the way around.

(Apologies for the quality of these photos...just don't ask)

Thr shoulder is still collapsing, but at least the back looks a little better

It's not perfect but I'll take it.


Friday, 22 June 2018

The Overlock League (part 2): Projects with dodgy character links

The overlocker and I have been getting to know each other. I've also been hooked on addictive video game footage, so forgive me as I make dubious links between my sewing projects and Overwatch's character roster. I'm sure this will be out of my system soon, but just bear with me on this.

As a side point, anyone keen on the development of sociolects will probably enjoy watching this game and the people playing it.

Zenyata Shorts

Adaptation of Burda 11/2010 #135 Jersey Trousers for a baggier, crossover front. One pair in grey, one pair in navy. Very comfy.

Watch as I experience transquility atop my fabric scraps.

That was supposed to be a proper leviattion pic, but I forgot to take the one with no supports. Whoops.

Lucio Leggings

More dance leggings using my regular pattern. As far as I know Lucio os the only dancer in the whole roster, so this one is named for him.

Winston Jumper

I have no jokes about Primal Rage but B suggests that, much like this jumper, Winston also has long arms. The pattern is Burda 09/2012 #130B Side Gather Top, which is a great little pattern.

Moira Skirt

Yeesh. I first had the idea for this blog post when Moira was in PTR. We can all see that Moira is clearly a velvet kinda person.

The pattern is Burda 12/2011#124 Leather Skirt. I added pockets (naturally). The photos don't do this fabric justice. I got it in from Tygverket in Stockholm in 2014, and it's black velvet with flecks of white, orange, red, purple and pink.

Roadhog Joggers

Burda 11/2010 #135 Jersey Trousers as drafted (almost), for days when I look like this:

But feel like this.

I have one in black and one pair in red. They were scrap-busting projects so they don't conform to the pattern completely. But they are seeing a lot of use.

And, lastly:

The London Spitfire sports bra 

You gotta support the local team, y'know?

I'm so done with this now.

K x

Monday, 23 April 2018

The Overlock League (Part 1) - Time Trials

One of my main reasons for getting the overlocker was to speed up some aspects of my sewing. So I thought I'd test this theory out.

Take my standard capri leggings pattern, in identical fabrics (but different colourways), elastic and blue ribbons, one Janome 7025 (or Janome 525s if you don't shop at John Lewis) and one Janome 9300dx.

Sewing Machine Workflow

  1. Fold hem up once, zig zag and trim
  2. Sew inseams using a zig zag
  3. Trim inseams, change foot (to overedge foot) and set machine to stitch G (an overcasting stitch), stretch setting. Finish inseam edges.
  4. Change foot (to normal foot), return to zig zag stitch and sew the crotch seam (replace the bobbin as it has just run out)
  5. Trim crotch seam, change foot (to overedge foot), use stretch overedge stitch G to finish crotch seam
  6. Change foot (to normal foot), fold down the waist once to create a casing and zigzag into place. Leave a gap to feed elastic, trim edges.
  7. Feed elastic through casing using an elaborate system of safety pins.
  8. Join elastic edges using a zig zag stitch
  9. Close casing using zig zag stitch. Trim.

Done. 32 minutes.

Overlocker Workflow

  1. Unthread right needle
  2. Fold hem up once and sew a "ladders up" flatlock hem. Tug into position.
  3. Rethread right needle
  4. Sew inseam
  5. Sew crotch seam
  6. Join elastic ends
  7. Attach elastic to inside of top edge
  8. Unthread right needle. Fold waistband down again and sew a "loops up" flatlock from the right side. 
  9. Tuck in thread chains using a chenille needle. 

Done. 37 minutes.

Initial Thoughts


That wasn't the plan. I had such high hopes.


So I guess I've disproved myself?

This was surprisingly fast for my sewing machine workflow. I think I've optimised the process so much that everything is autopilot, even if it is very fiddly in places. I switch back and forth between stitches several times and trim seams by hand before finishing the edges. In the past I've cut open the fabric by accident, and forgotten to reset my stitching which has caused the need to to smash into the foot or the plate below. It's also very thread-heavy so I've included the time it took to change the bobbin. On other projects I'll often be changing the bobbin, rewinding it and maybe even replacing the spool thread. On this race I also made sure that the casing was wide enough for the elastic - generally I eyeball it - and sometimes get it wrong - and feeding it through can get very tedious if the casing is slightly too small.

The overlocker result being slower was a big upset. Plus, the quality is lower than the sewing machine standard. You've got the XL photos at the top of this post so you can see the dodgy stitching. So I'm keen to reflect on what has happened here.

Firstly, I think I got arrogant and impatient. Just before starting the race I realised that I didn't remember how to sew a flatlock. While I did look it up outside of the timekeeping, I didn't practice it. My steps are not quite in the right order. I think sewing the hems in the round works better here compared to hemming when flat. I unthreaded and rethreaded a needle twice and I included the time to fix it when I had threaded it incorrectly.

At 22:44.7 (Lap 1 time) I'd finished a "ladders-up" flatlock on the waistband and technically the leggings were done. A lot like The Omelette Challenge, this could have counted if we're only talking about racing. Except, I spent the next 14 mins and 31 seconds unpicking and resewing! I mean, they at least have to be wearable. And they barely achieve that standard now.

The same pattern, the same notions, the same size, same finishing. Different machines, different workflows. Optimising for speed only, the overlocker wins on a lower-quality result. The sewing machine is slower but gave me a better result. Or: the sewing machine is faster to achieve a particular quality standard.

If we consider a "fair" contest as what I can do on autopilot, then I have a lot of practice ahead of me on the overlocker. If we consider that I've made dozens of knit garments on the sewing machine, and still only a handful on the overlocker maybe it's not fair to blame the equipment entirely. Revising flatlocks and practicing before the time trial would have worked in favour of the overlocker. But I don't really need to practice in the same way for the sewing machine. Would it have been more fair? It would (almost certainly) have changed the result, and given me the result I wanted to see.


Human error. More practice needed. Maybe I'll do another of these for a different item in a few months. Any requests?