Tuesday, 11 August 2015

English paper pieced hexagons

Today I thought I'd share my longest running sewing project; a English paper pieced queen sized bed quilt. This is the most I could get in one picture at a time. This quilt is big.
English paper piecing involves tacking fabric around cardboard shapes, then whip stitching them together. Usually people make flower rosettes. My quilt is completely random.

I began this years ago, sometime between the ages of nine and eleven. (I am 21 now). It began off innocently enough. One afternoon at my grandmother's she taught me how to make these hexagons. I sewed one rosette (which is now the centre of the quilt). I then decided I should turn it into a quilt, all fabrics being different to one another. I was always an ambitious and obsessive child.

The centre rosette. 
The quilt grew, and I decided I would get it finished for when I got married. At that point I assumed I would get married at around 30. When I was 19, and realised I wolud be getting married very soon, I decided to be sensible. I don't know If i will get it finished before I turn 30. I have the general size marked out. Each centre line is marked, and goes to the edge, which means the whole quilt is a wird cross shape at the moment, with large gaps at the corners which need filling

 The fabric is from all over the place; old projects, scrap boxes, and I hae even bought scrap bags on the internet. About a year ago I gave up on the no matching fabrics rule. My obsessiveness is waning slightly! I now just try to keep the matching ones relatively far apart.
There is no pattern to how pieces are placed, but i try and keep the colours mixed up as much as possible. Even randomness needs some plan behind it (especailly when a disproportionate amount of hexagons are blue florals. This combination to the right demonstrates how odd the quilt can get. A baby riding a dolphin sits under my mum's bridesmaid dress fabric.
 The quilt also acts as an I-spy quilt. There are numerous little characters, and animals on it, mainly from country style patchwork fabric. Here we have a novelty chicken. There are also cows, ducks, people, two geisha girls, snails, and rag dolls.
This gives you a bit more of an idea of what it look like overall. A number of years ago i counted 400 hexagons in this quilt. I now think the number is well over a thousand.
 One scrap bag I bought on Etsy had a lot of little Liberty scraps. I love scattering these through the quilt. This group also has a teddy bear, and some Christmas fabric.

There is fabric from all my old sewing projects in here as well. The blue and red floral is from this dress.

My plan is to eventually add a narrow cream border, and then hand quilt it. It's a real labour of love, an sewing tese hexagons together is incredibly addictive. The little papers end up scattered all through our apartment, and I'm constantly having to recollect them together, and assign them to their correct tins. (One for assembled hexagons, one for fabric and papers, one for paper clips).

Have any of you ever done any patchwork? I'm not sure how much overlap there is between patchwork and dressmaking blogs. I don't do much patchwork at the moment, but I am thinking over the next few months I will share all my past quilts on here. I have quite the collection.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Checkered Pencil Skirt

 I finally finished my first pencil skirt. I am really happy with it, and am already planning on making a lot more.

First, the fabric. The shell is a lovely soft wool. The checks are black and royal blue. I bought it very cheaply from one of those garage sale pages on Facebook. I only had just enough for the skirt, which did necessitate some creative hemming. The lining is made from a black petticoat my grandma gave me to use. It feels really nice, but the fabric also frays a lot.

The pattern is Vogue 1989, one of those wardrobe pattern collections. It has a double darted pencil skirt, with a slit that I redrafted into a vent, using this really helpful tutorial. I also used this to line the skirt. I was quite concerned on getting this right, so spent a lot of time researching different tutorials on the web. I ended up settling with this one as it seemed the most clear and straightforward. Luckily I got it in first go.

I cut a size 16, no alterations. It took a lot of muslins to work out the correct size. 14 was too tight and 18 much too loose. Three muslins later I found the right size. This was mostly to do with wanting the skirt to feel comfortable. I love the shape of pencil skirts, but I didn't want one too tight, especially as I always tuck in my shirts. It's a good fit, and it's an incredibly comfortable skirt to wear. I think I certainly have a TNT pattern here. I already have another cut in a beautiful purple wool, and am sure there will be a number more.

Onto construction details; first the zipper. I am not entirely happy with it, but am leaving it as is, as all is sturdy, and looks good from the outside. I handpicked the zipper, but sewed donwn the waistband first. In hindsight I should have sewn zip, thn folded the waistband over. It would have given a much neater finish, and I would have been able to use the lining to enclose the entire zipper. Oh well, live and learn.

I got the checks to match incredibly well, but forgot to get a photo. It even impressed my grandmother. She was a professional seamstress, and is very pedantic about things matching. So it was a very high compliment.

Even though my lining went in properly the first time, there is a bit of puckering. This is a cutting fault, not a sewing on, the fabric slipped a little as I was cutting, and I did not have anymore to cut a replacement. It doesn't bother me though.

When it came to hemming I was originally planning to urn up the wool, and hem it to the lining with bias binding covering the raw hem. I couldn't afford to lose any length though, as I like my skirts to fall at the knee. I finished the hem instead with very wide bias tape. Again, not entirely ideal, but next time I will ensure I can get the length right so I can finish it off neatly.

Besides these small flaws, I am incredibly happy with this skirt. I intended it to be a learning curve, and it certainly was. Whilst a pencil skirt itself is not hard to sew, it was trying all these new techniques and details that really made this a good project. I am. now imagining a whole wardrobe of lined pencil skirts, both summer and winter.

Quick note about my red shoes. These heels go with absolutely everything, and are so comfortable I can wear them all day. I was also wearing this outfit with my red coat, but had taken it off for photos.

Has anyone else had any good projects lately that taught you a lot about sewing?

Monday, 3 August 2015

A new hair do, and an outfit of pastels for winter.

 Sydney is back to a cold patch of winter, after some unseasonably warm weather the other week. I decided for today's outfit I wanted to move away from my usual winter palate of black, red and plaid, and make use of some new hair ideas.
I used this tutorial of Tasha's. I'd tried it one before with uncurled hair, and it did not work, but this morning it went together without a fault. I cannot get my hair to behave usually so this was a win. I used a new hair scarf I had made the other week using some lovely hydrangea fabric. I need to make some more now, especially in plain colours. I can see myself wearing my hair like this a lot.

My outfit didn't come up too well in these pictures. I am wearing a heavy wool pleated mid-purple skirt, a cream blouse, and my very long blue coat. Earrings and necklace are both pearls. I took these photos in a hidden courtyard at university, isn't it perfect?