Category Archives: Dressmaking

Exploration or Avoidance?

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I started the week all fired up to make short instructional videos, kicking off with showing how to make an elasticated bowl cover. I was just filming this on my own using my phone, using the Apple Watch as a remote control. I realised that things need to be recorded in several takes, possibly having done an entire project as a practice. I did not use any of the footage but put it down as a good dummy run. 

Logistically, if I don’t manage to teach online I wondered about a Plan B and made a list of things that I could potentially sell in an Etsy shop, trying to make use of my screen printing. I liked the idea of making a baker’s set, including a crossover apron, bread bag and bowl cover. I had a large piece of dyed linen curtain fabric but it was not wide enough so I had to cut and rejoin it. My conclusion is that I don’t think aprons are cost effective in terms of time and materials, especially when perfectly nice and ready-made ones can be ordered online. 

I finished off a macrame bag using pink, cotton cord, whereas the one in the book had used jute twine. I tried to follow the author’s instructions but as usual, some of it was just gobbledygook. I hid one or two minor errors and changed the way the bag got joined at the bottom but it looks pretty good all the same. I always wonder what to do with all of the bits of string that are left over so I decided to make a couple of rope bowls. 

It was a week of messing about experimenting with small projects. I decided to make some fresh ginger cordial by boiling up root ginger and a sugar syrup. Unfortunately, I forgot about it for 4 hours and when I returned I had made tar, not even treacle toffee. However, I did have success at making Bombay Mix noodles. It would seem that there is a secret ingredient that makes them go crispy – chickpea flour / gram PLUS rice or tapioca flour. I used the Sev maker that I bought from a street vendor in Jaipur and deep-fried them in hot oil over a camping gas stove. To get them extra crispy, I finished them off in the dehydrator. I know I can buy Bombay Mix cheaply but it was fun to make my own. 

One other domestic chore that I did was to restore some copper measuring cups that I bought on Ebay. They were tarnished so I cleaned them up with brown sauce, barkeeper’s friend and finally Brasso! They are probably not very practical but they look nice now.

 

There is no doubt that coming up with all of these distractions was because I am trying to process the news that Nella’s anorexia seems to be on the rise again. She went for her first physical checks since before lockdown and the results were disappointing. I have the challenge of getting her to eat more, especially protein, with her threatening to go on hunger strike if I try to change or increase her very restricted diet. Somehow I need to work out how to deal with that yet maintain a sense of balance, allowing myself some time to explore projects that might keep me sane in a topsy-turvy world.

Some Productivity

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Another week has gone by and I wonder what I did to faff my way through it! There was one big, colourful customer quilt. I tried to quilt rainbows onto it but the pattern kept crashing the system so I used a substitute pattern called “Dizzy Izzy”.

Nessie tried out her new, fleece rain suit. She was not altogether pleased at putting it on and taking it off but once it was on she did not mind at all and it kept her clean on a muddy walk.

Freya and I both made new sourdough starters for bread making.  I was excited when my KitchenAid pasta press finally arrived after months of back order and I made some vegan macaroni, substituting egg for a paste of ground flaxseed. This dried successfully in the dehydrator which is more than I can say for my semi-dried tomatoes and blueberries which obviously should have been vacuum packed since both went horribly mouldy in their soft state. 

I made 2 wearable pyjama tops using the simple and voluminous Athina pattern. My overlocker decided that it did not want to sew properly so I spent most of a day servicing it, panicking that it might have to be sent away for weeks

or be replaced. I tipped it upside down to clear out fluff, changed needles and the blade, before finally realising that

a tiny spring had jumped out of place. That was enormously satisfying. My next challenge was remembering how to thread the cover-lock machine to finish the hems. It is not actually complicated, just fiddly and would not have taken so long if I had consulted the instruction manual sooner rather than later.

After months of procrastinating, I got Freya to film an off-the-cuff workshop/studio tour that I have uploaded to YouTube. It was really just to check that I could make a half decent video and see if it would spur me on to having a go at some instructional videos. I had forgotten how much I enjoy making informal, short clips so despite the dark clouds of Covid and Nella’s illness, I hope to go ahead and make some more. It is quite surprising what people watch on YouTube – this week (for research) we have watched videos on garden tours, grinding flour at home, macrame bags, spice jar organisation and even stationery shopping. 

There has been a nip of autumn in the air so I guess summer is “officially” over. I need to do what I have not done in months and make some To-Do lists. Apart from getting brave enough to make more videos I need a proper project of some sort as I have not quilted in earnest for ages.

There are Bigger Things in Life

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I have to keep telling myself that there are bigger things in Life than worrying that I may not have a useful “plan” of what I should be doing each day. The horrific explosion in Beirut and the ongoing Pandemic are sharp reminders that it does not matter one jot to humanity if I decide to spend hours knotting string or make a quilt just because I feel like it. I should stop feeling guilty about how I fill my days. I do not mean that to sound like I am belittling world events – it is just that in the grand scheme of things, my minor stresses are simply irrelevant. 

This week I had coffee at home with friends whom I had not seen in weeks, walked the dog, kept up with Nella’sroutine, worked obsessively through Duolingo German quizzes and simply kept going with daily life.

I am still not an expert at using a narrow Hemmer foot, have not made any Youtube tutorials, have not shaved my legs and, have not picked every single cherry from the trees in the garden.

However, I did print out a free pattern from Tessuti to make the Athina top which was easy. I used a piece of African cotton which is a bit stiff, even after a hot wash but it is still a wearable garment. 

 

I tied many, many knots to make a short curtain for Nella’s cupboard. I am very good at some of the basic knots and just made it up as I went along.

My Postcards from Sweden kit arrived and I have made the first row. It is an easy quilt except you do have to keep track of the colours, some of which are very similar to each other. 

 

I keep saying I will take a few days holiday but that is easier said than done. Therefore, I must allow myself time to slow down. Perhaps I should carry on with a few low key projects for now and hope to have a re-boot in the autumn.

Added Extras

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Throwing caution to the wind, I “allowed” myself time to complete the Virtual log cabin quilt at the start of the week. I decided to do it all using the quilt computer so started with some tight spirals then quilted a large Warli pattern over the top of that with bold, yellow cotton thread. I bound it and put it straight onto our scruffy, family sofa, upon which pets are welcome to perch. I have not liked a quilt quite so much for ages. Firstly, it is getting seen every day and I love all of the random fabrics surrounding the cheerful yellow centres. I really like how a truly scrappy quilt which uses many different pieces is a surprise and how an “anything goes” approach makes it so much more interesting. 

I did actually do a couple of customer quilts and apart from expecting one or two to arrive by post, have caught up again for now.

This left me time to mess about with other projects. I actually made a lightweight tunic-dress using the Wiksten pattern. I applied my measurements to the size chart and made a very generous version. I am not sure whether it is actually too big – the danger of down-sizing would have been that it may have been too fitted. At any rate – it was easy! I added some top-stitching, learned what “under-stitching” means and went on to make a matching hair-band and face mask. Maybe I do look like a fancy surgeon;)

 

Because I don’t have any particular projects or deadlines I treated myself to a summer holiday book on macrame. It is jam packed with over ambitious items. I started with a covered jam jar, could not follow the secret code on how to end it so made it up until it looked finished. I really want to make the fabulous indoor tent but dread to think how much the frame and over 6000 feet of rope might cost.

 

The other dead-end alley that I took myself up was trying to use special narrow hem feet to make a tiny napkin hem. Nella questioned why I was actually bothering because how many napkins and bandanas do I realistically need to make? However, it became a matter of principle. The long and the short of it is that there are many different variations of hem feet and several YouTube videos but I have still not sussed it. I already had one foot which must be for chiffon and I bought another one that seems to be for zigzagging but I think I want one in between, just in case I decide to srcreenprint and sell napkins at a Farmer’s Market… and who is to say that I might not?!

Dressmaking is Like Pregnancy!

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I had one of those weeks that felt really busy and quite stressful but I can hardly remember what I actually did. There were 3 customer quilts and I ran up a few more face-masks. It rained a lot, I practised my German and I did not catch up with any paperwork. I spent far more time than was necessary researching microphones for teaching over Zoom – apparently people can put up with a dodgy camera but not poor quality sound. 

On Saturday I tackled sewing up the Collins Top. I swear that every time I attempt dressmaking I vow never to do it again. Like being pregnant, the mind forgets the agonies and persuades you that this time round everything will be easy. There really was nothing wrong with the pattern. On the whole I understood it except when it explained how to attach the sleeves. The problems were entirely of my own making. I was not sure if I had lengthened the pattern pieces correctly and soon discovered that some bits needed to be chopped off. I cut a notch right in the middle of the front panel so had to make a kantha stitched repair patch. I used the overlocker to construct the whole thing, deciding that if it went wrong I would just chuck it and I attached the neck binding as if it was a quilt. Nella reminded me that I always get totally stressed out by dressmaking and I really should not waste my time but by then I was already looking at kimono style jacket patterns and admiring the French seams inside a tunic top that a street tailor made for me in India. 

Much to my surprise, it is actually a wearable garment. The 16 pieces went together well, although none of my pattern notches matched or they got sliced off by the overlocker. I might make it again under supervision or I could simply give the pattern to a friend so I don’t feel so guilty!