First fabric (mini) haul

I’ve said before I’m all gear, no idea. I’ve been building up books, tools, odds and sods over the years because I’ve always thought of myself as a sewer. But one of the things I don’t have is a fabric stash. To be honest with all the books etc. there’s not much room. To  rectify this, and so that I could play with my new toys, I went off to Abakhan fabric to get myself some supplies.

SAM_0111Abakhan is slightly unusual in that you can buy off bolts and you can buy ready cut pieces that they weigh at the till. I bought a piece of grey knitted fabric with a white shell pattern (I’ve never sewn knits so this could be interesting), some raspberry coloured linen, a piece of blue patterned cotton (or poly cotton, not sure) and some blue denim chambray from a bolt. The linen appears quite bright in the photo but it is actually a much darker, juicier shade in real life. I also picked up matching thread, some interfacing, some long dressmaking pins because I hate the stubby ones I am using, some tailor’s chalk and a £5 voucher off my next shop.

New machine

I mentioned in the previous entry that I had bought a new sewing machine, a Janome 525S, I think also referred to as the Sewist, as featured on the Great British Sewing Bee and recommended left, right and centre. It also has a simple buttonhole option, which is one of the reasons I wanted a new, new machine, if I am perfectly honest. I do hope it works. For my first project I am just going to make a very simple tunic (more about this in a later blog) to ease me back into the process and to learn how to use this new machine. [ps. My first uploaded photo! I haven’t worked out how to write captions yet, so still a WIP.]

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First impressions: It’s quieter than my previous machine, although the bar is fairly low in that respect. The last machine I sewed on was a secondhand Elna with alphabet embroidery function. It was so noisy and vibrated so much it was like a scene from Black Hawk Down. I’m definitely considering investing in a vibration mat from my local DIY store after that experience. It’s my first experience on a ‘plastic machine’ and it does feel odd to touch. The steps for threading the machine are marked out on the casing, as is the direction to insert the spool. I find this particularly handy because I can never remember which way round it goes.

It handled most things pretty smoothly. I thought the tension was a little ‘tight’. I did make some adjustments but it didn’t seem to make much difference. I thought I had taken a picture but I obviously hadn’t. I have also temporarily misplaced the instruction book and the one I downloaded from the internet turned out to be the wrong one (they all look very similar as line drawings). I am used to having the lever to drop the presser foot at the back of the machine, so I keep overshooting and have to feel my way back as the lever on the Janome is more to the side. One that did confuse me was there was no little wire hook just above the needle for the thread to pass through and it just sort of slipped under the plastic casing above, which I thought was odd. I have since realised it does have one of these hooks and I just couldn’t see it and this has helped with the tightness of the tension. All in all it sewed pretty well, it managed to sew through 4 layers of fabric and 4 layers of interfacing (sewing neck facing to body where side seams meet) with ease. The only time I had a problem was when I tried to topstitch the pockets. I inherited some boxes of half-used Silko threads from my mum. Too pretty to throw away but not really enough for a project. I thought I might use some for top stitching. I wanted a pale blue but couldn’t find a thickish one, so I opted for a bright orange, which looked pretty good on the magenta coloured fabric. The test sample was a breeze but every time I sewed the pocket it puckered really badly. It was only two thicknesses of fabric, I suspect it was because of the thickness of the thread and the fact that I was still missing out the last loop above the needle when I tried it. Below is a picture to illustrate what I am talking about.

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Bit fuzzy, sorry (I have bought a tripod and put a lamp on the desk to help with lighting issues). You can see the dinky wooden bobbin and how thick the thread is. It’s quite a solid thread, probably more so than modern buttonhole thread. The top left shows the tester using the longest stitch possible and it’s beautiful, the right shows the absolute mess every time I used the pocket piece. Still, you live and learn. I shall save the thread because it will make a beautiful hand finished buttonhole, possible on a navy coat. I haven’t tried out the buttonhole function yet. I’m saving that for a shirt project I am working on. More of that later. All in all I am pretty happy with the machine.

Health warning

I’ve no idea about blogging, basically I am blagging the blogging until I know what I am doing, whether I like it and whether I can be bothered to keep doing (in other words, will I remember, and the answer to that is probably no).

I’m taking photos on my phone or a cheap Samsung digital camera, I’ve no tripod and it takes me ages to upload photos to the computer. I can see why some people become bloggers as a profession, it can take me most of the day to scan a document properly. Don’t think of my snaps as fuzzy, think of them as ‘arty’. I may invest in better equipment in a couple of months. Let’s see if I am still around – well hopefully I’ll still be around but the blog may not.

Vlogging – Oh you’re having a larf! I’ve a high squeaky voice, horrible fingernails (for demonstrations), I look like I have not slept since 1982 and I am so unphotogenic viewers would probably have a whip round for plastic surgery. Let’s leave the vlogging for the moment shall we.

Why me? Why now?

Well to cut a long story short(ish) – because I can. I always wanted to know how to cut patterns, my grandfather was a tailor and although he died long before I was born, I grew up thumbing through his sample books wondering if Barbie would look good in a grey wool pinstripe bikini (they were very small samples). I tried to get into fashion school when I was 18 but I wanted to concentrate on the construction side and they were all “What can you knit from a bin bag, some gardening wire and a yoghurt tub?”. I’ve always been a bit more practical than that – more Jil Sanders than Alexander McQueen. I blame my Grandma, an awful woman but a first class tailoress. Hands like baseball mitts but the most perfect herringbone stitch hemming I have ever seen. Whenever someone bought a new item of clothing she would feel the quality of the fabric with her fingers and turn it inside out to check the seams and stitching. I do it subconsciously as well, hence the reason I never buy clothes, nothing quite passes muster. But the odd thing is I seem to have passed it on to my son as well, he does the self same thing.

Stopping sewing was a semi-gradual process; I moved abroad and didn’t have access to cheap cottons like I did here, then I had a baby and my attempts at sewing resulted in him falling off the table twice (he climbed up there himself to investigate the sewing machine, I did not put an unsupervised baby on a table, no need to call social services. He has grown up into a fine young man, thank you). Then when I came back to this country the fabric shops were gone or going. So in all, I haven’t sewn in about 16/17 years, apart from a skirt ten or so years ago. And there’s also the oh sew common dilemma of “I’m not spending time/money/etc. sewing that until I lose some weight”.

I never intended to stop sewing and have been full of good intentions, I even bought a new machine about 18 months ago after the Great British Sewing Bee making it cool to sew again – and my old mechanical one had rusted – but it has been languishing untouched, still in its box until yesterday. I have in the meantime accrued several books on sewing and pattern cutting, again they have lingered on the shelves, dusty and unloved. I have to confess I am a bit of an “all the gear, no idea” type of person who buys all the equipment, never uses it, and still thinks of themselves as an expert on the topic.

And indeed I did consider myself an expert sewer or sewist as they seem to be called nowadays. I sewed nearly every day in my late teens. But here’s the Why now? Not to dwell, but my mother fell ill and I have spent the last 3 years at home looking after her. Luckily, I work from home. Recently her condition worsened and unable to concentrate on work or reading, I began to watch YouTube videos on sewing (blaming you Lisa Comfort and especially you Helen at Sew My Style) and reading blogs (Male Pattern Baldness and an Australian vintage lady whose name escapes me). They made me remember how much I loved sewing. They also made me realise that my ‘expert’ credentials only applied to following a commercial patter, as well as reminding me of the million things I seem to have forgotten in the intervening years. With my mother’s passing I realised I was going to have to fill the huge hole she had left behind and perhaps now was the time to look again at pattern cutting and construction. I’m never going to afford a BA degree in fashion construction (where were you 20-odd years ago) so it’s going to have to be self-taught with the help of some lovely YouTubers, and possible put together a portfolio so that I can be accepted on a short pattern cutting course.

Sew that’s me!

(Seriously how many so/sew puns can one use before they become cringeworthy. I may be pushing my luck)

Health warning

I’ve no idea about blogging, basically I am blagging the blogging until I know what I am doing, whether I like it and whether I can be bothered to keep doing it (in other words, will I remember, and the answer to that is probably not).

I’m taking photos on my phone, a cheap Samsung digital camera or my iPod, I’ve no tripod and it takes me ages to upload photos to the computer. You can tell my skill level from the fuzziness of my Avatar, if that is the right word. I can see why some people become bloggers as a profession, it can take me most of the day to scan a document properly. Don’t think of my snaps as fuzzy, think of them as ‘arty’. I may invest in better equipment in a couple of months. Let’s see if I am still around – well hopefully I’ll still be around but the blog may not.

As for vlogging – Oh you’re having a larf! I’ve a high squeaky voice, horrible fingernails (for demonstrations), I look like I have not slept since 1982 and I am so unphotogenic viewers would probably have a whip round for plastic surgery. Let’s leave the vlogging for the moment shall we.