Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Tame Your Fabric Stash!

(image source: Cora)

For anyone who is interested in taming their fabric stash, help has arrived! I've been a bit out of the loop recently due to moving house and Dolores deciding she no longer needs to nap, so I have no idea how widely reported the new fabric stash app, Cora, has been amongst the sewing community to date. So I'm going to pretend that you haven't heard about it yet. Its developer, Hélène Martin, contacted a number of sewers including myself earlier this year about her new fabric stash app project. She was asking if we had any ideas about what we'd like from such a thing, and also if we'd like to trial her beta version. Well, trialling, feedback and a couple of rounds of updating have now taken place, and now it is on sale for use on iPhones, iPods and iPads for $6.99.

I'll be honest, if I hadn't been offered the opportunity to play about with it for free, I probably wouldn't have bothered. Although I love the idea of getting my stash into some semblance of order so I can get some serious stash busting done, I'm not the most technically minded and pretty time-poor these days, so I might have assumed that it wasn't worth investing the time to working it out. If that scenario had played out then it totally would have been my loss. First up, Cora is SUPER easy to use, barely any investment in time was required to get it up and running even though I'm in no way an avid app collector or user. And secondly, I have genuinely found it to be awesome in a number of ways.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, I should explain a bit more about what Cora actually is. This app allows you to catalogue your lengths of fabric by taking a photo and inputting information about them like width, length, if it's pre-washed, fibre content, main colour and lots more. All the info you add, as well as being potentially useful references, can also be used as filters to help you search through it all. You can add a lot of info (including super detailed stuff like where you bought it and on what date) or barely anything if the visual is the most important thing for you, and I really like that you can add 'Notes' on each piece which I have been using to add a reminder to myself about what I intended to use each piece for. Aside from knowing how much I have of the damn thing, remembering what I had planned for it is my biggest stumbling block when trying to use my stash.

(A tiny chunk of my fabric stash. Don't judge.)

I'm not going to lie, the initial inputting of your fabric is a bit time consuming. But once it's in there you can update it easily, for example, if some of it gets used or you have a new idea for what to do with it. Whilst I was packing up my fabric stash for my recent move I added about one bin bag's-worth of fabric into the app, which took quite a while and only amounted to 24 pieces (see image above), about one tenth of my total stash of fabric, scraps and refashionable garments! However, I'm some happy to have those catalogued, and I regularly go into the app to look at them and mull over what they should become. Even with that small chunk catalogued (along with recently having to pack and unpack it all!), I feel much more in touch with what fabric I own.

I can imagine that many people might find the app useful when shopping for sewing patterns to see if they already have something suitable to make it in. Me? I'm finding that it's making me feel more accountable for the vast amount of fabric I own, even though I've only catalogued a small section of it so far. If I'm serious about busting my stash and deploying the lovely pieces I own to make useful garments for myself and my children, then I have to actually start using the damn stuff. And I really think that this tool will help me actually do that. Currently, the app doesn't have a function for telling you how much you've used up in a given period of time, but just knowing that I have 24 pieces of fabric catalogued is making me think that I need to use at least two pieces of stash fabric per month if I'm ever going to make the smallest dent.

As you may have noticed, I feel pretty strongly about everyone, myself firmly included, using existing materials where possible over buying new stuff every time in every aspect of life. I just don't think our planet can support the level of consumption of goods and materials that most Western people (once again, sadly, myself firmly included) are currently engaged in. And fibre growth then fabric production, processing, dying and transportation is a real damaging industry. Aside from being heaps of fun, I really hope that this app will help many of us who like to sew to increasingly turn to what we already own more often than we currently do.

What about you? Have you tried Cora? Do you have any other successful method for tracking your fabric stash? If so, are you diligent at updating it? How has tracking and/or cataloguing your fabric stash altered your relationship to it?

Friday, 15 July 2016

Refashion Friday: The Refashioners 2016!!!

(The Refashioners 2016! image source: Makery)

Ohmygoodness! SUCH exciting times. The Refashioners challenge, brain child of the wonderfully creative Portia, is back this year with a new theme: JEANS. A quick explanation: a selection of amazing sewing bloggers (and me) have been asked to refashion/rework/remake/reinvent some jeans, and their creations will be revealed on Portia's Makery blog throughout August. There is also a community challenge where anyone can submit a jeans refashion, and may well snag an ENORMOUS bounty of sewing-related prizes.

My part in this challenge is pretty much done: I've refashioned my heart out and submitted my blog post and images to Portia. My post will appear with the rest at some point in August, but I'll blog about it and link to it over here once it's gone live in case you'd like to take a look. Obviously, those of us taking part in the blogger challenge are pretty much sworn to secrecy until our posts publish, but I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that the above three pairs of jeans don't look like that anymore! It's going to be beyond exciting to see what the other bloggers AND THEN the whole damn sewing community come up with. There's going to be some seriously interesting, creative and inspirational projects being shared, of that I have no doubt. The unwanted denim of this world is no longer safe!

What about you? Are you going to be taking part in one form or another this year? Have you refashioned jeans before? What did you make and was it a success? Have you seen any other fabulous jeans refashions IRL or on the interwebs that've inspired you? 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Five Genuinely Useful New Baby Makes #5: Knit Hat

Here’s the final (sniff) instalment of this legendary series of blog posts. I may well have saved the best for last as well. This project is insanely cute but it can be whipped up in the last half an hour before you need to leave for the baby shower! As with all these projects (check out the previous ones #1, #2, #3 and #4), it’s a chance for you to pick some fabric that reflects the style preferences of the parents (or just yourself!), rather than having to opt for the ubiquitous pastel pink or blue that’s found in most baby sections of a department store. I'd just like to thank The Village Haberdashery for allowing me to repost this blog post, as well as the others, over here. On with the tutorial…

Step 1: Cut a rectangle of knit fabric (we used the Andover jersey knits in Peony) 42cm wide X 38cm high.

Step 2: Fold the rectangle in half so that the shorter sides match up, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. Pin round the three raw edges (there’s no need to pin the folded edge) whilst leaving a gap of approx. 6cm along one of the shorter edges (see the chalk marks in the image above).

Step 3: Stitch round the three edges where you just pinned with a 1cm seam allowance. Pivot at the corners so you get nice sharp right angles (see image above). Don’t forget to leave that gap!

Step 4: Trim away the two corners where you pivoted to within 2mm of the stitching.

Step 5: Turn the rectangle through the gap so that the right side of the fabric is now facing outwards. Use pin or something pointy to tease or poke the four corners out so they are nice and neat. By hand, slip stitch the gap closed.

Step 6: Push one of the short edges up inside to meet the other.

Step 7: Turn up the bottom edge to make a brim of approx. 4cm deep. Optional: make a couple of stitches at either side at the top of the brim to keep it in place.

Step 8: Pinch each corner to make ‘ears’. Push the needle through each ‘ear’ (see image above) then wrap the thread tightly round it a few times before knotting the thread.

Ta daaaaaa! Now, quick, get to the baby shower or you’ll be late and there’ll be no cake left. 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Refashion Friday: Vintage Beach Towel to Swimming Poncho

They see her rolling, they hatin'. So this refashion was probably one of the quickest I've ever undertaken, but also possibly the one I love the most! I did it whilst cooking dinner a couple of months ago before our holiday to Spain, and lemmetellyou my dinners do NOT take long to cook. 

My glamourous assistant is pictured above holding the 'raw material': a thrifted vintage printed beach towel featuring Alicante, which is the part of Spain that we went to in fact. This embarrassingly simple refashion started with me folding the towel in half, cutting a hole in it for Dolores's head, and binding the raw edge of the hole with some wide, soft fold over elastic from my stash. 

I then managed to convince her to stay still for 0.5 seconds so I could roughly gauge where her arms would go, and stitched rows of stitching from the sides towards her armpits to create armholes. In hindsight I made them a bit too high and deep so it's a bit tricky to get on, but I'll unpick and redo them at some point. 

The final task was to cut away the ratty old tasseled hem and apply some pompom trim that I bought especially for the job. Aside from making it look holiday-tastic, the trim aids in weighing down the whole thing. 


Sadly, it never got warm enough during our Spanish break to go swimming and bust out this poncho. However, it got its debut when we spent a lovely sunny day last month at the outdoor water fountains in Bexhill, the next town along the coast from where we live. That was nice because Bexhill was where I charity-shopped the towel from originally. As I say, the armholes need a touch of adjustment, but aside from that this epic refashion is a total WIN, IMO. 


Towel: 50p
Elastic: £0 (from stash bought longggg ago)
Pompom trim: approx. £2.80
Total: £3.30 

Much cheaper and so much more fun than the ubiquitous Peppa Pig towelling ponchos most little girls seem to own.  

Monday, 20 June 2016

Jazzy Dolores Tunic

The few glimpses of hot weather that we've had here so far this year made me realise that my current warm-weather maternity game is weak. I have no short-sleeved tops for this middle stage of pregnancy. What to do?


HOW GOOD is this fabric?! So good. I have Girl Charlee to thank for sending me 1.2m of this silky soft jersey for free after I requested it with an eye to sampling some a new leggings pattern (which I'll post about soon). When it arrived, I quickly realised that it was unsuitable for leggings. It was too thin and slinky so I popped it in my stash and they generously sent me something else instead. But the print was just too awesome to languish in the stash for long...


So I had this fine, slinky jersey burning a hole in my stash. If only I could think of a sewing pattern that requires just that type of jersey..... Stop the search! My very own Dolores batwing pattern fit the bill perfectly: ideal for drapey knit, short-sleeve option for warmer weather, tunic-length that's long enough to cover my bump. Yay! 

To make it suitable for mid-maternity, I used my regular size (12) for the top part, then from just under the bust area I blended the side seams out to a size 16 until the hem. It's a little loose round the belly at the moment, but I wanted it to last for a couple of months. Post-natal, I plan to take the side seams back in so that I can get maximum wear from it going forwards.    


I don't think that this jazzy print is my usual style, but the great thing about maternity wear is that it gives you a chance to try out new things that appeal to you on a temporary basis. I love this print, and it'll be interesting to see if it starts to feel more 'me' after a few wears. Also, in less than two weeks we'll be moving to a new town where I hope to sign up to a pregnancy yoga class there. I think this top worn with maternity leggings will look awesome for that!


Fabric: £0 (thanks very much to Girl Charlee for my free fabric. 1.2m of this lovely jersey would cost £10.75 from here)
Pattern: £0 (it's my own pattern, which is available here for £7.00, which includes six style variations, BTW)
Total: £0 

Friday, 17 June 2016

Refashion Friday: Topshop Dress to Geranium Dress

When Annie from The Village Haberdashery asked me if I'd be up for teaching the Geranium dress pattern by Made By Rae as a class again (on Saturday 25th June, there's still a couple of places left BTW!), it reminded me just how awesome this sewing pattern is. Seeing as Dolores has recently developed a very specific girly dress sense, I thought I'd make her another Geranium to try and create something she would be happy to wear, whilst boning up on the construction method before I teach the class. 


This sewing pattern is seriously good value because of all the different style options it includes. With three different necklines, three different shoulder/sleeve versions, two skirt styles, two length variations AND optional pockets, you could make this heaps of times using different combinations and you'd feel like you'd made a selection of unique garments. For this version, I opted for the plain neckline, flutter sleeves, gathered skirt, dress length WITH pockets. Phew. 

Size-wise, I went for the size 2 (Dolores is currently 2 years 8 months) but added 4cm to the length of the hem. I felt pretty confident that it would work out ok, because she can still just about fit into her previous two versions (#1 and #2), both of which were made using the 18-24 month size. She's a fairly slender child, and as you can see from these pics, she can comfortably wear a T-shirt underneath the size 2 at the moment, so I'm hoping this dress will last for next summer too. 


Do a google image search for Geranium dress and you'll find a real variety of overall looks, spanning from traditional to contemporary, which seems largely dependent on the fabric choice. As you know, I was firmly aiming for GIRLY with this version so had a rummage in Le Stash to see what I had to hand. I've had this Topshop dress in there for about five years, with the intention of turning it into a summer top for myself. I got it from my former employment, the textile recycling charity TRAID, to whom it had been donated with a lot of other Topshop seconds because its zip was busted. My job was to work on a clothing range made from donated textiles that couldn't be sold in their current form, and when we came across something that we liked that we wouldn't be using for the range, we'd make a donation to the charity and take it home. This dress was made from a beautifully fine cotton with a vintage-y floral print that always felt quite 30's/40's tea dress-esque to me. 

I knew I wanted to include both the flutter sleeves as well as the pockets, and I really wanted to play around with the linear print, so cutting out the pattern pieces was a little challenging. I cut the front bodice in two pieces on the bias and seamed it to get a chevron effect. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough fabric for me to also cut the back pieces on the bias, so I opted for vertical stripes to contrast with the horizontal stripes of the skirt. I also cut the patch pockets with the stripes running vertically in the hope that that they wouldn't get too lost in the busy print.     


She likes it!!! I kept taking it off her at various points today (during meal times and at her messy play sensory class) in an attempt to prevent it getting wrecked, and each time she reminded me that she wanted it back on. I doubt she'll hold it with the same regard that she holds the ratty synthetic sparkly princess dress with peeling off sequins, but at least it's an outfit option that hopefully we won't fight over! 

As for me, I'm super happy with it. I'm so pleased to have finally used the fabric from this dress as I've loved it for years but never quite felt it was 'me'. I also took my time with the construction, using french seams for the skirt for example. And although there are a couple of small flaws with this dress that aren't worth pointing out here, I'm very happy with the finish and I think she looks so sweet in it.


Pattern: £0 (I got to use it for free as prep for the class, but it can be bought for $10 as a PDF from here and £13 as a paper pattern from here)
Outer fabric: approx. £2 donation for the dress
Bodice lining fabric: £0 from stash that I got for free 
Buttons: £0 sent to me with some fabric from
Total: £2

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Scrap-busting Bucket Hats

Today I want to share with you another sewing project that I've found to be ideal for using up small pieces or scraps of nice fabric. What is particularly awesome with this one is that the pattern is a freebie, so if you're using up fabric rather than buying some new stuff, it's effectively free! 


A couple of months ago we went on a week-long holiday to Spain. Dolores only had one sun hat from last year that still fitted her, and knowing how her hats seem to always disappeared when you're in a rush to get out of the door, I thought that making another would be sewing-time well spent. I can't remember where I first saw the Oliver + S free children's multi-sized bucket hat pattern (let's be honest, it was probably Pinterest) but I downloaded it, printed it out and then had heaps of fun raiding my scraps box to find the perfect combination of fabrics for the project. This pattern has been graded into four sizes that should span the ages of six months to eight years. And the best thing? It's reversible!!! That means you can choose two different contrasting fabrics so one hat will match twice as many of your kid's outfits. 

So how did I find this pattern? Confession time: as if I'd never encountered a PDF pattern before, I somehow cods up the printing part and despite even measuring the test square like you're meant to, I didn't figure out that I'd printed the pattern out too small UNTIL I FINISHED SEWING THE HAT. I had attempted to make the Medium (approx. aged 3-5) but it came out much smaller and only just fitted her (she was two and a half at the time). Embarrassing!!! Can I blame that brain-fart on being pregnant please?! 

Aside from that, everything else was fantastic! As with every other Oliver + S pattern I've used, the instructions are great and very user-friendly. The second time I used the pattern (for the larger of the two hats pictured in this post) I altered the order of construction a bit to complete the processes quicker, and added 2cm to the outer edge of the brim for extra coverage from the sun. The only other change I made was to use fusible interfacing for the brims on to both my versions rather than sew-in interfacing as recommended by the pattern because that is what I already had in my stash, and it worked fine. 


Picking combinations of fabrics for these hats was very enjoyable. I wanted both pairings to be different enough that each side would work well with different outfits, but complementary so that the hats looked appealing as a unit. For Dolores's hat (the first one that came out too small), I chose an awesome piece of quilting-weight cotton with writing on a yellow background that was given to me yonks ago by the lovely Handmade Jane, and some scraps of navy double gauze with little white anchors on (I made this hat before Dolores developed her obsession with pink stuff). The double gauze was probably too thin for this project, but the quilting cotton literally has its back on this one! I really love how these two prints and colour schemes go together, and I'm glad that the outcome is very unisex now that I know I'm expecting a boy! 

The second hat was made for Dolores's slightly older friend Hazel. Hazel's mum runs a toddler sensory class that I take Dolores along to, but instead of paying to attend we have a bartering arrangement by where I sporadically make Hazel garments in exchange for the classes. Hazel is a girly little girl, so I picked this pastel-y piece of Liberty print cotton that was kindly given to me by (left over from this Geranium dress) for one side, and some floral quilting cotton scraps that were left over from a dress I made for The Village Haberdashery's spring window display. Unsurprisingly, Hazel always wears her hat pink-side-out. 


This was such a fun project, and a really nice way to showcase some small pieces of lovely fabric that just couldn't be chucked into the textile recycling. I doubt I'll ever buy my children a sun hat from a shop. The optional topstitching round the brim gives the hats some substance, however I think thicker weight quilting cottons or similar would work better for this project than a thinner fabric. As a relatively quick and relatively cheap make, these would be fantastic gifts to make for other people's kids. 


Pattern: £0 (available from Oliver + S here)
Fabric: £0 (all pieces were either originally given to me, left over from a commission or I found them in a scraps bin)
Total: £0

Kerching!!! Got to love that total. Have you tried this pattern or something similar? If so, what fabrics did you find worked the best? Have you used any other free children's (or adults for that matter) hat patterns?
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