Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Money Saving Tips for the Frugal Stitcher (6/7) - Freebies

Okay, this is the one we've all been waiting for. Where to get free stuff when you sew?

Here are a few good options you should never overlook when trying to get something for nothing in the sewing world.

Swaps: As showcased by the many excellent meetups and virtual events that take place, there's great opportunity to pocket a lot of free stuff at a pattern and fabric swap. Particularly if you're feeling greedy. Remember that whatever you want, someone probably already has and is looking to get rid of.

Giveaways: the sewing blogosphere wouldn't be complete without giveaways. Sponsored, anniversaries, frivolous, just because, competitions and random draws. Enter whatever takes your fancy and you might just get a bundle of free stuff!

Gifts: Of course, an easy one here. Use any sort of gift occasion to justify that fancy Nani Iro double gauze.

Swaps: Not so much a freebie but still sensible. Seen something you like? Work out a way to swap until you get it!

Network (friends, family, co-workers...): Here you guys will need to get a little sneaky, a little cheeky. Once people know you sew, you can inherit lots of scrap/spare fabric  from friends and family. Relatives and elderly acquaintances may pass their legacy stash on to you, kids may grow out of old clothes, people may lose an awful lot of weight, they may even have spares from their own projects. Ask and ye never know what ye might receive...

Salvage: Peter found it in bins, I liberate from event decorations, you may salvage from theatre, school or costume spares. The possibilities are endless.

Commercial Opportunities for vendors: This counts for bloggers as much as for non-bloggers. Think about sponsors (who can also offer discounts to your readers), think about becoming a pattern tester, think about reviewing books/courses and classes. Think about applying to one of the blogger networks.

Not only is this a good way of having access to new resources, but if you plan to turn your sewing into something more then this is a good stepping stone. 

Commercial opportunities for you: Smple. Work out how to make money from sewing. Melissa has mentioned several times how Adsense pays some of her sewing bills, and now she's going even further by releasing her own pattern line. You could just take commissions from friends and family, but it will definitely make things easier on your bank balance too!

Anything I've missed?

K x

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Plan B

B had a birthday recently. B-day, if you like. Like a good girlfriend, I had thoughtfully planned and chosen his gifts well in advance and was smug in thinking I'd have plenty of time to prepare them.

Red linen Jedediah shorts, perfectly fitted, as requested in April (oops), and a copy of Ted Gioia's book on Jazz Standards. 
On an impromptu trip to Foyles, B cheerily walks out with his new copy of The Jazz Standards. Hmph.

Red linen Jedediah shorts and a perfectly fitted copy of the pattern on lovely manilla card ready for him to use.
Getting pretty close to the deadline I realise that a perfectly fitted and hand adjusted pattern might take much longer than expected.

Adjusted and cut out

Sod it, just make two pairs of Jedediahs.
Wait until B is out of town to diligently trawl London fabric shops for the perfect shade of purple for a pair of trousers.
Apparently nowhere stocks a purple trouser-weight fabric. Seek comfort in cake instead of working on birthday present.

Snazzy pockets and belt loops

Make another pair of red Jedediahs! 
Discover the otherwise perfect red cotton drill is hideously wonky. Spend rest of your day crawling around the floor trying to correct it.

Construct first pair of Jeds as directed. Watch House of Cards.
Realise that the shorts are ending up dreadfully (and unexpectedly) skinny. Try shorts on self. Decide B needs an emergency (secret) fitting session.

Snazzy pocket topstitching

Hold emergency (secret) fitting session, discover everything is actually okay. Put the kettle on.

This bit actually went okay.

Expect to finish second pair Jeds in a series of weeknight late-night sewing sessions. Decide to add a tasteful soppy monogram to the inside of the waistband.
Attempt buttonhole on first pair of Jeds at 0030 in the morning. Finally succeed on attempt 5.

Slowly getting there

With 2 nights to go shun all cleaning, cooking and correspondence responsibilities until second pair of Jeds is done.

Explain to housemates why you're making a second pair of red trousers. Assume "Because he knows about those ones, but not about these ones" is a rational explanation.

Attempt to flat-fell both the inseam and the sideseam of trouser legs. Realise this is a near-impossible, time-sink task. Beautiful level of detail on both pairs of trousers has put you badly,  but not impossibly behind schedule.

1am, the night before. Go to bed. Admit that you're not finished, but the only remaining things are a hem, a buttonhole and the two buttons for the front of the trousers. That's about an hour's work in the morning.
Fine. Sod the monogram.

Snazzy Pair 1

Snazzy Pair 2

8.30am, B-day. Hem? Done. Buttonhole? Done. Buttons? Buttons?

*WHAM* Button not gone in.
*WHAM* f***, cut bigger hole for rivet.

F***, f***, f***. Panic. Now late for work. Trousers need a button and I've just cut a massive hole in the front of one of them. I can't do this myself, and I definitely can't fix it. Oooooh dear.


Arrive at dry cleaner 2 mins before the Same Day Service deadline. Tip trousers, buttons, rivets, hammer, wallet, phone, keys and bags all over the countertop. 

"Pleeeease fix this and add some jeans buttons"
"You know that requires a special machine, right?"
"Yes. Pleeeeease fix it!"

4.30pm, B-day. You beautiful, fabulous, glorious dry cleaner. Thank you.
Realise you might need to wait until spring before B wears the linen shorts.

Snazzy finished Pair 1

Snazzy finished Pair 2

I think B's pretty happy with them...

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Money Saving Tips for the Frugal Stitcher (5/7) - Discounts and Savvy Shopping

Hi everyone!

Okay, so we've learnt by now that we're going to be spending money as sewists. I really don't think that learning to make stuff saves you from consumer culture. It introduces you to a new culture where you need the best/most brand name or limited edition fabrics. Don't forget the fact that we're all basically enablers egging each other on with novelty and beauty (did you see how quickly this fabric sold out after Tilly mentioned it?)

So I'm here to say that buying fabric is fun. There's something exhilarating about the unlimited possibility and inspiration lined up on hundreds of bolts before you. It's just that the $3/yard jersey suddenly doesn't seem such good value if you need to pay $80 to get it shipped to Europe.

So here are a few resources to buy cheap or discounted fabric*
I) Buy online, in independent stores or on Gumtree
The basic idea here is to know you can probably get like-for-like fabrics cheaper in Walthamstow or Goldhawk Road than you can in John Lewis or Liberty. If you're a crafter, you can do some research on name/series to find the lowest cost for a print collection. If you're opportunistic, you can find huge lots available very cheaply on Gumtree (craft and garment). If you're thrifty, you can find the most suitable shops for your needs (les petits riens is incredible for refashioning).

Going to a physical shop is hugely important in the UK, possibly all over Europe. Without Ditto and Brighton Lanes, etc we'd probably have serious problems getting cheap fabric!

A selection from Goldhawk

II) Buy from IKEA
This is especially true for muslin/calico. The prices have gone up but I still walked away recently with 17m calico, at £2/m it's ideal.

III) Be sure of the total cost of your purchase and choose carefully where you buy online
This goes for shipping and taxes but also supplementary discounts and independent vendor maths (rounding up/down). In some cases you might need to look specifically at the cost of research or actually getting to the shop. 

A good example would be one very popular UK online retailer. I really dislike the way they photograph their fabrics and dislike browsing the site for inspiration. However they sell lots of Liberty fabric, almost never listed under the brand and always at a very good price. It's only after sewing bloggers started documenting their finished products from the fabric store that I started taking notice.

If you want to be a proper economist about this, then think about the value and the utility of the fabric and count that as a cost/benefit. Yes you can find a lot of hidden gems, but If you're going to tear your hair out with some shifty chiffon that you'll never wear, it's probably not worth the extra financial cost.

IV) Know where and when to find a discount
Fabric.com, fabricmart, craftsy will always have another sale. Emma One Sock is always running out of fabric, Silhouette Patterns always has a pattern of the month. Girl Charlee has a newsletter and a referral bonus (watch those expiry dates though). It pays to check Spoonflower. Joann's has non-stop coupons.

In Europe, it's a bit less clear-cut but there's still opportunity and discount out there. You've got your Hobby Crafts, your Fabric Lands, your Ranges, you have Fenwicks. Then there's Tia Knight, Stone Fabrics, Abkahan, Shaukat, Fabric Rehab, Backstitch...

V) If all else fails, there's always Etsy and eBay
I don't use Etsy much, but their marketplace search function is really well-suited to this process. If you dig a bit you can definitely find some gems. Dibs mentioned a good designer vendor and I'd like to give a speedy shoutout to my ex-local Zebedee Fabrics too.

VI) Bulk might be better
There are a few shops around (The Lining Company) who offer a lower unit price if you buy in bulk. I'm not telling you to buy 15m fabric in the hope you'll use it (let's face it, you probably won't). But buying in bulk and splitting costs/yardage with other sewists could be a very cost-effective way of getting basics at a good price. If you're a regular social birdie, try it out and you might get a good response!

Mmm, wool

What about you? Any good tips on finding sales, discounts or cheap fabrics?

I think we're done here...

*By no means a comprehensive list, but it should be a good starting point for you to make your own resources.

Thursday, 13 November 2014


La motivation, l’apprentissage et l’oublie

Aujourd’hui j’écris en Français. Je sais que vous attendez les photos et les projets mais voilà c’est #babel14

Enfin, je ne sais pas trop quoi écrire. Je n’ai rien recherché, je n’ai rien prévu, je n’ai rien cousu, je n’ai rien noté en avance. Pourtant vendredi dernier je n’arrivais pas à dormir. Je restais 2 heures dans le noir. J’aurais du me lever et écrire parce que j’avais une idée pour aujourd’hui : l’oublie.

J’apprends le Français depuis l’âge de 3 ans. Je l’apprends depuis que j’apprends l’Anglais. 

Mais sans la motivation de la famille, des profs et de la fac ; et dans mon monde professionnel strictement monolingue je trouve peu d’occasion pour parler et étudier. Enfin, à quoi ça sert ?

C’est une langue très près de mon cœur, et je dois chercher mes propres motivations. Pour le moment c’est pour la curiosité, c’est pour poser un défi, pour trouver un peu de solitude et silence dans cette métropole énorme. Peu importe les fautes. Il y a une fois je maîtrisais le passé simple, la littérature Vernienne et un vocabulaire incroyable. Et je perdais mon accent ! 

Il faut toujours une motivation pour apprendre quelque chose de nouveau. Il faut aussi une motivation pour ne rien oublier, afin de ne rien trouver difficile. Mais je l’oublie. 

Et ce n’est pas grave. On perd les compétences linguistiques, mais on ne perd jamais l’amour de l’apprentissage et des langues.

Il faut juste attendre pour le bon moment prochain


Saturday, 8 November 2014

It's not all curves and odd shapes

I guess it's only fair to post some photos of the giant rectangles I've been sewing recently

We have massive windows so we need massive curtains. All fabric from IKEA. Nuff said.
Upon housemate's request
Upon B's Counsel


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Shape Shape again

Procrastination is an ugly thing.

I sat on this project for a year, then cut it out and sat on it for another year, by which time I'd forgotten everything about the pattern. In some mad and fleeting moment, I got it sewn up in a spare afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

It's the Sleeveless Scarf Blouse from Natsuno Hiraiwa's Shape Shape book, cut in a grey/blue chambray from La Petite Emelienne in Strasbourg (now closed down! :( ) the topstitching was just a random colour I had in my thread stash at the time, I think it's a midnight blue.

Having finished it, I can say the pattern is a little boxy and runs to the top of my hips. This was planned to fall into the category of "quirky but socially acceptable officewear", but it's a bit shorter and a bit boxier than I'd have liked.

The scarf neck is two pleated pieces of fabric attached at the shoulder, which should be artfully draped around your neck. I made my scarf from jersey and didn't hem it so it rolls in on itself a little.

I also switched out the buttons for some snaps because it seemed like they would suit the simplicity/minimalist aspect of the rest of the shirt. Big buttonholes seemed like they'd be a bit too heavy.

Incidentally, I'm experimenting more with sewing these on by machine. Generally I choose handsewing but machine stitching might be faster and more secure. Thoughts?


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A project for every occasion...

There was a time in the past when it seemed sensible to have a new project (usually a pretty dress) for every single occasion. That worked fine when it was a couple of times a term at university. Now? Well now occasions are pretty much twice a week so I'm going to have to admit it's just not going to work. My newest project is a project to cover two weddings, the Edinburgh Fringe, August's London Tap Jam, a glorious return to stitchery after The Dry Months and a 4-year sewiversary.

Meet my Nani Iro Herringbone blazer. It's my second attempt at Burda's Hip Length blazer. I stand by Burda producing some really interesting jacket patterns but am sad to see they're so rarely made by users. Perhaps it's a photography thing. Who really needs a pastel boxy trouser suit?

ANYWAY, I first made this pattern about a year ago in Nani Iro double gauze and was bloody convinced it was a great idea. I made some mistakes, cut without seam allowance because there wasn't enough fabric and made a hash of the back. Serious hash. You remember, right?

Still, I like it. It's relaxed a bit and seemed to suit that odd sea of kimonos and mad jersey jackets in London.

But let's get back to the project I finished 3 months ago, not the one I finished 12 months ago...

For this version I really wanted to make good use of the stripes so used them on the cuffs and pocket welts. The fabric was so narrow that the stripes showed up on some of the taller pieces unintentionally. I like how the (unavoidable) stripe on the inside matches the height of the stripe on the cuffs though. It's a nice touch.

I also added a breast pocket to hold my Ironic Sunglasses (and theatre tickets)

Just to prove something to you: the sleeve vents were functional at one point. No longer. I don't think they would ever get opened, so I just sewed it shut when adding the lining. There's also some snazzy topstitching and buttonholes in bright blue.

There were plans for a front closure but I decided I was too lazy and discovered that the black pen used to mark the button/buttonhole wouldn't wash out I liked the sketchy fabric print and the markings were a fun design element for a sketchy jacket. Otherwise, I've added a tag and tried to add some pretty topstitching on the inside.

I didn't expect the jacket to be this big, it's quite huge. It also doesn't quite go with anything. So naturally I wear it with everything.


(Thank you to George and B for letting me steal their photos)