Tag Archives: sewing

hand-made floral shorts

Short Shorts, of the Floral Variety

You may or may not know that England is currently Quite Warm. So warm that I am running out of things to wear. Normally my melded autumn/winter/spring wardrobe can make it through summer with the addition of a pair of flip-flops and a single sundress for the one day it doesn’t rain. But now, after three or four days over 20C, the whole ‘being able to feel my toes all day long’ thing is going to my head and I’m finding myself thinking about developing A Summer Wardrobe.

Hardly surprising with this a short trot from the door.

sky and sea

Last week I gained the sudden urge to make a pair of shorts. I considered buying some, but the thought of trawling through every shop in town to find an appropriate pair (in the sort of temperatures that are making me want the shorts) left me cold. Or hot. Well, grumpy. So, I thought, I should make some, because toiling over a hot sewing machine is so much more sensible.

I did initially resolve to finish my current sewing WIP, the sparkletaupe wrap dress, but no sooner had I dragged the sewing machine out from its dusty corner than I realised I was going to run out of thread. I literally only managed to sew two more seams, but it did take it from ‘oddly-shaped scarf’ to ‘actually sort of dress-shaped’ so I shouldn’t complain too much.

wrap dress - a sewing wip
wrap dress – now actually wrapping

So on Friday evening, on a bit of a whim, I searched out a pattern. Burda 105, Retro Shorts. I downloaded the pdf and sweet-talked the printer into behaving, then arranged the pattern during a highly entertaining thunderstorm.

laying out a pattern
laying out a pattern in a thunderstorm. smart?

This is the first full-size pattern I’ve made from a downloaded pattern; I’ve always been very much a big-four-tissue-paper-pattern-with-diagrams girl. I did make a cute little handbag from a downloaded pattern, but I was nervous of going full-size.

I considered doing what the pattern suggested and tracing it out onto tracing paper. But I was feeling hot and lazy so I just cut out the printed pieces, traced around them in tailor’s chalk, then drew in the seam allowances the same way. Probably not the most precise measure, but I am nothing if not slapdash when it comes to sewing.

pattern pieces for floral shorts
pattern pieces for floral shorts

The fabric is left over from a floral dress I made a while back. I never posted about it because it wasn’t very good, haha. The fabric is cotton (probably) in an interestingly garish batik-style design, a Fancy Silk Store special. I had about 80cm left of it, which was just scraping the minimum pattern requirements. I confess that I did do some flipping of pattern pieces just to make sure I could get all the pieces cut.

wip - floral shorts, Burda 105
floral shorts. only the cuffs left to do.

It was a good weekend project, though I did come very close to burning out on the last stretch. I was tired, I wanted a drink, and the pattern instructions were so very condensed and confusing that I nearly gave up. But the Internet persuaded me to continue (Instagram ‘loves’ are a great motivator).

hand-made floral shorts
floral shorts, finiiiiished.

They are tiny. They are very low-slung, so there’s no buttcheek or pocket bottoms on display (I really, really despise that look), and I am also saved the horror of high-waisted shorts which is all that was available last time I bought shorts (in 1998?). But they are still very short. However: I live at the seaside, and if there is any place that I should be able to wear very short shorts, it is at the god-damned seaside. Right?

I would take a picture of them on to show the fit, but I’ve recently had a run-in with a creeper on Flickr so I’m not going to. Perhaps you’ll see them in passing if I do ever dare to wear them outside the house. 😀

Burda 105 Retro Shorts
Fabric: cotton floral batik print

My finest sewing moment of 2013: a 1920’s dress in a week.

From themed invitation to finished dress: story of a sewing project I totally should have blogged at the time but totally didn’t.

The theme for my work’s 2013 Christmas party was 1920’s/Speakeasy/Great Gatsby. Do I need an excuse for Making A Thing? Hell no. But a themed party is an even better way to exercise my Making Things Skillz. The invitations went out quite early, but somehow (somehow, I can’t imagine how) I wound up a week before the event with no dress, and not even a backup. I had to start thinking, and quickly.

Now, of course, the 1920’s silhouette is slim, straight, and somewhat severe. I am none of these things (barring my librarianface), so any dress would have to be balanced very carefully so as to fit the theme, but also make me look good. I spent a long time trawling image searches and pattern sites to try to get inspiration. What really sparked things off was a Great Gatsby-themed dress by Cation Designs. I thought the layered approach was very pretty, authentic, and would give me a good opportunity to say ‘hey, I do have a figure under here’.

I wandered the fabric shops in search of a suitably frou-frou fabric, but the answer was under my nose (and in my stash) all the time.

Blue chiffon

I’d bought this crinkle chiffon online as a reward for getting a job interview (possibly the job interview for this job? That would be a nice coincidence), intending to make a top, but the pattern turned out far larger than I’d expected. Oh, internet fabric shops, how often you betray me. But for a dress, for a themed party? Distinctive, frou-frou, perfect.

For the lulz, this is my original sketch of the dress.

Suddenly, it was there. In my head. The whole thing. I knew exactly what I wanted from it. I would draft it from an easy-fitting bodice block, and extend it down to hip level. I’d also give it some very gentle bust and waist shaping. For the skirt section, I’d make a very gentle arc to give some movement around the knees and break up the tube effect. Underneath would be a white slip, perfectly cut to conceal my underpinnings, and with a more tailored fit to maintain the whole ‘I do have a waist, I promise’ effect.

The sewing process took about a week of after-work sessions. I don’t really know how to describe it, other than a manic episode. I was a woman possessed. It just slammed into my head and my hands did the work and then it existed, on my tailor’s dummy, exactly as I’d imagined it.

1920s dress

I was sort of terrified. I’d never worked with fabric this delicate, so I did a lot of basting and tailor’s tacks. To deal with fraying ends and a delicate, sheer fabric I learned how to do French seams, which turned out to be about my favourite sewing technique ever.

for someone who pinks her edges and pretends not to notice the frayed threads floating behind her, this is witchcraft.

Every time I settled down to cut a piece of fabric or perform some arduous task like finishing my neck and arms with bias tape, I announced to nobody in particular ‘well, if I do this wrong, the whole thing’s screwed’. I needn’t have worried.

*assumes heroic pose indicating success*

I’m glad I didn’t do self-facing. For a start, I would have had to buy a bias tape maker gadget thing. And I wouldn’t have had enough fabric. As it was, I barely squeaked a sash out of the remnants. There is literally nothing usable left of the 2 metres of fabric I bought. I think that is pretty cool, in and of itself.

I teamed the dress with the obligatory string of pearls, some silver feather hair grips, and a ton of hairspray. Oh, and these, in a rather spiffy return to my internet roots.

back to my internet roots.

I was so, so, super-stoked by all of this. I was probably the most obnoxious person in the room as I tottered around all HI HI I AM MINGLING ISN’T THIS FUN DID I TELL YOU I MADE MY DRESS LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT. HEY LOOK FREE BAR. There was a roulette wheel. I lost my chips in three spins and laughed. Someone said I looked like a movie star. At one point a colleague came in from the smoking area outside (aka, outside), shaking the rain from his fedora, shrugging the trench coat from his shoulders, and augh it was like a TNG private detective holodeck episode.

I’ll leave you now, as my boasting is possibly going too far. But I’ll just say one more thing: this back view, the cutesy bow-tied opening that goes down far enough to allow a risqué glimpse of slip, is exactly, exactly, as I saw it in my head. This is probably my proudest sewing moment ever. I hope I have a lot more of these moments. 🙂

This is genuinely, literally, exactly as I imagined it.

New project.

Notice how I totally didn’t post yesterday? Yeah. Didn’t wanna. I liked my Sunday post so much I wanted to leave it up a bit.

Back in the game.

I started a new project last weekend, at precisely the wrong time. Mid-afternoon on Sunday, while working through the washing, and with an achey hip from an earlier run. Just in time for the evening, for the week of work, and then DG being away for the nwxt weekend which is my cue to crack open a box of wine and eat potato 24/7. Too greasy for sewing.

Anyway. Back in the mists of ancient time, the USD:GBP exchange rate was great, so I bought a number of patterns direct from the US. I’ve used most of them, but this one has been sat in my pattern file forever.

I decided that this set was a great deal as it could provide an entire wardrobe. If, that is, I wanted an entire wardrobe made out of cotton jersey. One never knows.

I’m making the dress, but with the short sleeves. I have a grotty old wrap dress in a very similar style that I wear around the house on weekends, so it’ll be nice to have something similar that I can actually wear outside. 😀

My only concern was that I’ve not worked with knit fabric before. I spent about ten minutes researching before I began, and came across this guide to conquering knits. After reading that, I threw caution to the wind and began.

Being good and transferring my markings. #sewing

I’m going to have to knuckle down and get this done pretty sharpish. I have another Super Awesome Potential Project to be thinking about, so this can’t be hanging around, harshing my creative mellow.

Drops baby alpaca silk


I’ve had an envelope of yarn sitting on the dining table for about a fortnight. I hadn’t even added it to Ravelry. Quelle horreur! Baby alpaca silk blend and I’d barely spent any time rubbing it on my face. (You have to do that to make sure they really used the babies).

As I was photographing it (and discovering that my phone camera is now better than my actual camera), I remembered that I had also augmented my fabric stash over the summer. Give me a wage, and put me near the internet? Stash happens.

Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery

Of course, I can’t remember what I was planning to do with any of these. I’ve got a pattern for a wraparound dress that I think I was going to try (maybe in the brown shimmer fabric?), but I’m looking at the other patterns thinking I just don’t want to make them. My tastes have obviously changed over the last five years.

I might make a skirt out of the skull and crossbones fabric. I don’t know why, I don’t know if I would ever wear it, but I think it might be fun.

I’m also feeling a bit disillusioned with buying fabric online. I like the convenience, but I’m a bit tired of ordering two fabrics described in the same way (brown shimmer jersey, bright blue floral jersey) and receiving two completely different fabrics (cotton jersey, swimsuit material). I’m going back to bricks and mortar. That’s not a problem, Brighton has lots of places you can go to and touch and play with your fabric, if they do frown on you rubbing it on your face.

Maybe I just need to buy from more reputable companies, to do some research into named brands or manufacturers. Perhaps when I find the Rowan of woven fabrics, I’ll be able to order blind and not end up quite so disappointed.

Got any tips for fabric enstashination, online or otherwise?

WIP Wednesday: 24/04/13

Hello, friends, and welcome to another edition of What’s On The Needles (or sewing machine, or floor if I’m being really untidy)

Spring Shawl:

First up, an item that is no longer on the needles. Heh. I cast off on the shawl yesterday evening, and now just need to wait for an optimal time to get it washed and pinned out for blocking. I’m considering waiting until I can buy some blocking wires because I really want some and this would be the perfect use for them. But, I need to wait until I get paid.

Hey look, it's a knitted object without any needles attached to it. #knitting

unnecessarily twee spring shawl on Ravelry

Did I mention that I got a job? If not… I GOT A JOB. Trying not to spend my entire pay check in advance but it’s going to be tough. BUY ALL THE YARN AND KNITTING ACCESSORIES OMG *cough* anyway, moving on…


Yeah, this is the same picture as last week. And it doesn’t look any different, although since that picture was taken I’ve completed the fastening and added the lining. I went for snap fasteners and the crappy polyester; while I’d like to be a bit more sophisticated, it’s all just a bit too slapdash for me to go full-on couture. Next time. When I actually measure things properly.

Skirt is coming along nicely. #sewing

fancified pencil skirt on MSC

No more progress on anything else, but I’m just settling into the new work routine and finding it quite hard to get anything done at home, let alone the knitting. I mean – I’ve started to go on 6am runs because I don’t have the time in the evening. Well. Probably the time, but definitely not the inclination.

NB: if you find out who abducted me and replaced me with someone who goes for runs at 6 in the morning, please punch them in the head. It’s not natural. But at least I get to see lots of dogs being taken for walks. And you’ve got to admit – this is one hell of a running partner.

Can't get over how awesome it is to run with a view like this. :D

FTFY Friday: frills-be-gone edition

FTFY = Fixed That For You, as in the popular sacrilegious meme:

Except in this case I take something broken and make it less broken. I think.

So we all have that one item of clothing that makes us irrationally angry. Well, you are probably normal, and thus have that one item of clothing that is not entirely to your tastes so you are mostly ambivalent towards it. I’m just passionate about Good Clothes. Or highly strung. Whatever.

Anyway. This t-shirt makes me angry. It’s made me angry since I bought it. I love the colour, and I love the cool crochet-lace-thing on the front. I don’t particularly like that the fabric has been cut really badly so it twists around and looks like crap if I don’t constantly readjust it. But what I really hate is the stupid frou-frou sleeves.

I have had it with this stupid frou-frou 'sleeve'.

The sleeves are in a slightly different fabric to the rest of the top. It’s sheer and flimsy, and yet it has the power to stick straight up like a winged helmet for my shoulders. SO stupid. And that pic right there? Taken after an entire day of being crushed by jumpers and/or cardigans. OUTTA CONTROL, MAN. OFF THE CHARTS.

Yesterday night, it all got too much.

But like Sully 'The Pickle' McLeary, I've got the right tools for the job.

There are several ways to fix a crappy sleeve. One would have been to unpick, trim, and reset the sleeve to make it lie a bit more flat. But the fabric has been cut in such a tight curve that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fashion a new sleeve without a lot of thought and maths.

Option two, then. Gathering. Initially, I thought I might just do it with a row of small running stitches along the edge of the sleeve. But with arms and cardigans and all the other things I throw at my clothes on a daily basis, the risks of the thread snapping and SuperSleeve being up and waving like a deranged Airdancer were just too high.

So I grabbed some shirring elastic. After a quick search to remind myself how to shirr (this tutorial here was particularly helpful), I wound a quick bobbin of elastic, and hoped that the tiny wee spool of thread (which is probably as old as I am, if not older. If my mother reads this post, she should recognise it as I probably pinched it from her :D) had enough left on it.

Imagine that I've really carefully pinned and marked out my gathering lines.

If I weren’t such a lazy crafter, I would probably have pinned (possibly even tacked) the two layers together, and carefully marked out my shirring line. However, I am, so I just ironed it kinda flat and called it done. I decided to put my elastic just inside the finished edge of the top layer; that would keep the two layers together, and hopefully give it enough body to make the sleeve sit down and shut up.

Voilà; not much less frou, I suppose, but certainly less 'wut r u doin, sleeve, staahp'

And this is how it turned out. It’s still a little frou, but the elastic does seem to be having the desired effect. Since it has some give, I’m less likely to destroy it when I derp into my clothes in the morning. And even if it does loosen over time, the weight of the elastic will be enough to bring it mostly under control.

Now I can turn the full weight of my rage on the poorly-cut fabric. SEAM Y U AT FRONT. SEAM STAAAHP etc.

WIP Wednesday: 17/04/13

Definitely need a better naming scheme for WIP Wednesday.

Anyway, welcome to this nth edition of WIP Wednesday.

Still mainly three projects keeping me going through these delicious Spring days.

Spring Shawl:

This is getting there. At last. I’m on to the outer edging now so whargarbl excitement. Probably five more rows, then cast-off and blocking. Might finally invest in some blocking wires as I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

Shawl is on final 6 rows! #knitting

unnecessarily twee spring shawl on Ravelry

Orange cardigan:

Getting there as well. Probably needs a couple more inches on the sleeves, then I can do the rib detail. Then I can see how much yarn I have left, finish the lower edge rib, then pick up the button band. You might think this is unnecessarily complicated; well, it probably is. This is what happens when you buy yarn in totally random quantities and don’t do any calculations before you decide on a design. 😀

And the cardigan is looking pretty good too. :D #knitting

oxide cardigan on Ravelry


And even this is going quite well. It’s all in one piece, I’ve added waist facing (I did the best understitching of my life on that waistband, I’m super-proud), and now I need to do the fastening, hem the bottom, and probably add a lining because it sticks to tights like you wouldn’t believe. Not sure whether to use the icky polyester lining I originally bought for it or to splash out on something a bit fancier. My heart is drawn to silk but I’m not sure. Decision for another day.

Skirt is coming along nicely. #sewing

fancified pencil skirt on MSC

And there we go. A goodly amount of progress over the last couple of weeks. Now imagine what I could do if I hadn’t lost entire days to rubbernecking internet drama. 😉

WIP Wednesday: BST roundup

Moving house meant I had to face a few uncomfortable truths about the number of WIPs I had squirrelled away all over the place. I pose to you a philosophical question; is a WIP still a WIP if it’s hibernating? Does it get included in the WIP count? How long does a WIP lie neglected until it goes into hibernation, or must hibernation be a deliberate decision?

We all must make these decisions for ourselves.

Unnecessarily Twee Spring ShawlRavelry link

This had a sudden burst of activity when I finally made myself sit down and figure out how to do the edging, i.e. I pinched an edging from another pattern. Said pattern is Lilah, from Knitty, and required only a little bit of tweaking to make it fit to my stitch count and the flower/foliage theme. I’m probably 2/3 of the way through the edging, so the end is in sight.

Burst of activity on my springy shawl thing. #knitting

Oxide CardiganRavelry link

This only just registers as out of hibernation – I’ve knitted about five rounds on the sleeves. The cotton content makes it harder to knit with cold hands, plus I keep destroying my fingers with oven burns, IKEA-furniture-assembling wounds and most painfully, shampoo bottle injuries. Those sleeves are about half-way done, after which I’ll need to finish the lower edge and pick up the button band.

Also, two-at-a-time sleeves: great in concept, but pretty difficult to check the length. XD #knitting

Hey look, yet another pencil skirt:MSC link [1].

I can’t help myself, I just love them. This one is a self-drafted number, with gathered detail at the front, faced waistband, and some sort of fastening that doesn’t involve a zip because I wanted a challenge (and didn’t buy a zip, apparently). This one’s quite high on the ‘likely to end up stuffed in a WIP bag for months because thinking is hard’ scale so I need to keep close tabs on it.

Attempting a skirt with gathered detail on front. Terrified of taking it to the machine.

In hibernation:

Still in WIP prison are the socks, dressing gown, and actually-finished-jumper-that-just-hasn’t-been-photographed. But one long-lingering project has actually achieved completion, and I’ll be sharing that soon. EXCITING. Perhaps.

1. My Sewing Circle. If there is another hip sewing site (one that focuses on WIPs rather than FOs, tutorials or shops), let me know. MSC seems pretty good so far but I’m willing to experiment.^

Keyboards and cushions

The sun is shining (a bit), the birds are singing (well, shrieking, we’re talking seagulls), and after the usual winter lull I am launching into the crafts like a woman possessed.

First task: a dust cover for my partner’s electric keyboard. One wasn’t enough, either of keyboards or covers, so I was tasked with making a new one. The room it’s going to be in is very white (yay rental properties), and we’ve also ended up with a lot of white and dull-coloured furniture (yay IKEA). So we decided the place needed brightening up a bit.

Subtle. @davegurnell , your keyboard cover is done!

That should do it.

It’s very simple in construction; I threw the fabric over the keyboard, wrapped the edges around the sides and a little way around the back. There’s enough leeway for the piano stool to fit underneath and for the cables to stick out behind. I was exceedingly lazy and used the selvedges along the bottom and at the back to avoid hemming. I regret nothing.

In fact, here’s a schematic, in case you ever have need of such an item. Or, more to the point, in case I have to make another one, because I spent altogether too long trying to work out how to put it together.

Keyboard cover schematic

For a 6-octave keyboard (sorry; ~music workstation~), I used about 2.5m of 140cm wide fabric. It’s a light-ish printed cotton, which is enough to protect against dust, but probably not so hot for bumps or scrapes. I may have to add some cushioning to protect the touchscreen and some of the more delicate knobs, but as I’m not quite sure how to do that, I’m going to ignore the problem for now and hope my subconscious works something out.

With the conveniently almost-square-shaped offcuts, I decided to accessorise the living room with a new cushion cover.

And because over-accessorising is for winners...

Ta-daa! Cheap and cheerful. Definitely not subtle. I’m not going to be able to use this room when I’m migraining, but the rest of the time it will be great. 😀

FO: Floral shirt of exaggerated terror.

Me Made May: Day 29

There we go. One Butterick B4799, view C. My only adjustment was to add about 2.5″/7cm onto the bottom edge. I don’t have a particularly long torso, but the pattern picture looked a bit boxy, and I prefer a more elegant line.

It was pretty easy to sew – the most difficulty I had was in wrangling the bias tape, and fighting my sewing machine. There is a dirty grey mark right on the front neckline where the machine went OM NOM NOM FABRIC TASTES LIKE COOKIES and sucked about an inch of said fabric into its inner workings. Any part where I had to sew from the reverse side, the bobbin thread messed up and left an ugly loop on the good side. I need to start listening to my machine more carefully so I can catch it before it’s irreparable.

Notes about the pattern: At no point for this view does it give the instruction to actually stitch the neckline. I mean, obviously you’ve got to, but it doesn’t say it.

Notes about the fit: It’s pretty good (I think I made the largest size in the smaller of the two envelopes) but the top bags enormously if I bend over or slouch. Looks great when standing still, though.

Side note: I would like to offer thanks to all sewing machine manufacturers who include a one-step buttonhole setting and attachment to their machines. This would almost definitely still be on the dummy if I had to do them by hand.

Blessings be to Singer for the one-step buttonhole.

Honestly, it’s like some kind of magic.

I still feel a bit like a cushion cover while wearing it, but it does indeed improve with the right accessories/accompanying garments. So thank you, internet friends, for providing me with the strength to go on. This will not be immediately repurposed into a cushion cover. Probably. 😉