Tag Archives: sewing resolutions

SCRAPBUSTERS: A trio of Ballerinas and a duo of nameless panties

Here’s a random fact about me: I hate waste. I have a horror of landfill, and although I am nowhere near eco-warrior status, I am all too aware of the dangers of the “disposable” trend that seems to be the norm these days. I think that one of the great things about sewing is that we are more likely to make garments we love and will use, but what about all the leftover bits of fabric that end up languishing in a storage box, or the garments that hang in the wardrobe, unloved and unworn? If you read my post about my sewing resolutions for 2018, you might remember that I said I wanted to make use of things I already have rather than buying more. Well, when I made a recent version of Jenny Hellström’s Ballerina top, I remembered how narrow the pattern pieces are (because it’s such a slim fit top), making it perfect for using up remnants. My love for this pattern knows no bounds, so today I want to show you three scrapbusting modifications I made to it to use up my remnants, including one epic rescue mission.

Three, you say? But what about that “slow sewing” resolution from only a week ago? Fear not, the makes in this post were sewn bit by bit over the last two months, but all blogged together as they’re quite similar!

My standard “no good at building up suspense” opening pic

The first pieces of leftover fabric were this Girl Charlee floral, which I had left over from my GBSB Dune dress. Because the maxi dress pattern pieces are so much wider at the bottom than at the top, there are decent-sized chunks of fabric left over beside the bodice part after cutting out; they’re wide enough to cut sleeves from, and they’re also just big enough to accommodate the bodice pieces of a Ballerina top! I’d already used some of the remnants of this fabric to make a top for my daughter, so I was quite limited in what I had left. I had just enough for a front and back, but then not enough single pieces for the sleeves. So I decided to do a small modification to the pattern, and shorten the sleeves.

Sideways glance. I’d like to say I was contemplating my sleeves, but really I was just hoping to get the photos done before the rain came.

Since the sleeve is so close-fitting, I didn’t need to alter the line at all, just mark where I’d have to cut it off. I had just enough to make elbow-length sleeves: this isn’t a length I used to like, but since we offered it as an option on the Cassandra pattern, I’ve been getting more into it, so I decided to go for that rather than “short short” sleeves.

I usually find that designers choose specific features for a reason, and I think the ¾ length sleeves of the original pattern work best with the cut, but this is definitely a cute and very wearable t-shirt of the kind that will be in heavy rotation!

and now I’m looking downwards. There are only so many ways you can photograph a sleeve…

AND, bonus make: there were just enough scraps of offcuts left to try out the latest draft of the panties pattern we’re working on!

pretty panties!

I’m in love with the combination of this floral fabric and the pale coral lace. Plus from three metres of fabric I got a maxi dress, a peplum top for my daughter, a t-shirt, and a pair of knickers. That’s pretty hard-working fabric!

My next scraps were rescued from an early version of the Cassandra dress. When we were drafting we initially put too much swing in it, and it felt sack-like (we felt we’d crossed the line from “eat, drink, be merry, and your tummy still won’t show” to “is she eating for two?”, so went back to the drafting stage!) I’d made it in one of my favourite fabrics, so was gutted when I realised that we needed to make further adjustments. I put it in my wardrobe and thought I’d get some wear out of it anyway… but it just sat there, ignored and unloved. Time to reach for the scissors…

So much better as a Ballerina top!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I always find it hard to cut pattern pieces out of existing garments, because the ones you’re cutting from are often narrower in the wrong place than you need them to be. So I carefully cut all the seams to maximise fabric usage, and managed to get the bodice front and back from the skirt part of the dress. The sleeves could be cut down for the Ballerina sleeves, as the Cassandra ones are slightly wider, and then there was a bit left at the bodice top that wasn’t going to be big enough to save.

Can you spot the difference in this version? Look at the dress version of the Ballerina top on the pattern packet: it has cuffs. Cuffs that would just squeeze into my last little bit of fabric! So I decided to go for it, and make some cuffs for the top.

Behold! Cuffs on the dress version!

Now I do like a cuff. I won’t lie to you: a big part of this is dispensing with the need to hem sleeves. I don’t know why I dislike hemming sleeves, it’s not that it’s hard or anything, but it’s as if in my head it’s harder than it is in reality. So bring on the cuffs.

Cuff love

It’s a nice new twist on a TNT pattern, especially since the pattern itself doesn’t offer a variety of options. I wonder whether it might have been better in a more casual or even contrast fabric, but I do like how it adds some length to the sleeve. Because the fabric print is quite busy, the photos don’t show it brilliantly, but I promise they’re there!

AND there was just enough fabric left from the scraps of the original dress to make… another pair of our new knickers!

Ta-daaa! Scrapbusting like a boss. Plus more pretty lace.

We’re still undecided about a name for these, hence the “nameless panties” of the title. I have a name that I’m 90% certain about, but watch this space…

Anyway, on to the final make… This was less of a desire to use up scraps and more of a rescue mission. I had this idea in my head that it would be great to hack the Dune maxi into a skirt. But you know how I’ve ignored the voice of reason before? I did it again. I cut it off at the high waist instead of the low waist, but attached a waistband that fit my low waist. So it was either too long if I wore the waistband at the right place, or too baggy if I hoiked it up. Also, you know what I said earlier about designers making choices for a reason? Dune is a great dress, because of its skimming lines. You lose the whole skim factor if you make it into a waistbanded skirt. So yes, when I started out on this one my voice of reason might as well have been screaming at me from another room while I sang my heart out wearing headphones and doing the vacuuming, because I just didn’t hear it…

Sit tight, there’s a story behind this top…

Anyway, I was left with two large pieces of navy fabric in a skirt shape. By a wing and a prayer I managed to squeeze the bodice of the Cassandra top and an elbow-length sleeve out of each piece (I’m talking to within a couple of millimetres). While I was attaching the sleeves, I noticed I was struggling to set the sleeves nicely. I thought it was strange, but I put it down to being tired and a bit fed up of my rescue project.

Well, when I came to try on the top, I could barely squeeze my arms into the sleeves.

No, I hadn’t been eating lots of spinach (OK, if you never saw Popeye, that joke just went down like a lead balloon).

Instead of the Cassandra elbow length sleeves, I’d grabbed the pattern piece for a pattern I’d been making for my 4-year-old daughter.

No, don’t ask how I could be so stupid.

My remaining pieces of fabric were even smaller now. No way even my trusty Ballerina top could fit onto those. BUT… part of it could. From about the armscye down, in fact. And I had some remnants of black cotton jersey of roughly the same weight left over from my Rise turtleneck. I managed to get the upper parts of the bodice front and back, plus a neckband, with a tiny bit left over – just big enough for short sleeves – from the black jersey. So I was going to make this a short-sleeved top, until I realised that in my offcuts from the original navy maxi skirt I had a couple of pieces big enough to make the rest of the sleeve piece. Hurray!

I’m going to pretend that this is what these fabrics were destined for all along.

The only drawback is that it’s a bit, well, Vulcan…

Live long and prosper, friends…

Till next time, have a great week!

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Sewing resolutions (or: why I will not be wearing crushed velvet in 2018)

Hello and happy new year! I hope that everyone reading this has had a wonderful and joyful Christmas and festive season. We had two weeks off – and offline – and it was such a tonic. I have enjoyed going back to the immediacy of living in the moment I’m in, and two weeks without using my phone has totally smoothed out the frown lines I acquired lately – seriously, I feel like I’ve had non-surgical Botox! With this in mind, I have resolved to spend less time on Instagram in 2018 (along with reading more and going to bed earlier). How do you feel about new year’s resolutions? I always make them, ranging from small, achievable changes like making sure I drink 2 litres of water a day (that was my resolution for 1998 and it’s still going strong!) to bigger things that are renewed every year like being more patient. I accept that by the end of the year some resolutions will have become embedded and others will still be works in progress (I think I’ll be making the patient one every year forever…) This year I made 5 sewing resolutions, and you can place your bets now on which I’ll have stuck to by the end of the year…

1. Only sew things I will wear

This one really hit me with my final make of 2017, the velvet dress I made for the Little Red Dress Project. Despite not having worn velvet since I was a teenager, with velvet popping up just about everywhere last season I couldn’t shake the idea of a red velvet dress. We were working on the Cassandra pattern at the time, so I had a vision of a swingy red velvet Cassandra to wear over the holidays. I modified the pattern to make it a v neck, and (foolishly, as it turns out) turned the fitted sleeves into bell sleeves using this method, and finished them with a rolled hem.

It just all felt a little too Kate Bush…

But oh dear… the combination of crushed velvet and the flared sleeve just made me feel like it was 1992 again and I should have dyed my hair mahogany and donned my carefully pre-scuffed Doc Martens (yep, along with Rimmel Black Cherries lipstick and the Levellers’ Levelling the land album, those things pretty much sum up 1992 for me). So this resolution is about making clothes that reflect me, and not letting over-excited creativity lead me someplace where I don’t recognise myself.

2. Slow sewing (reboot)

This was one of my resolutions for 2017, and it has been a bit hit and miss so I’m renewing my resolve for 2018! I first discovered the “slow food” movement in 2011, when we were planning a holiday through France. I had never heard of the slow movement before, and it appealed to me on a very deep level. Life feels so hectic a lot of the time, and taking time to appreciate the moment, filter out all the noise and stress, enjoy small things and really see what’s around me is… well, kind of like my Holy Grail.

Slow holiday 2011. This is one of my favourite places on earth.

For me, “slow sewing” doesn’t necessarily mean complex projects, or making a simple one last longer than it has to, but rather taking time over every detail of every project and enjoying the process as well as the end result. So, not like my red velvet dress. One of the rules of the Little Red Dress project is that there should be no reveal until the week before Christmas. I imagined that I would be ready and waiting with my dress and my photos, serenely welcoming the week when I could show it to you.

Hahahahahahaha. Know thyself! I started it at the beginning of reveal week.

I could have just abandoned the idea, but then what was I going to do with 2 metres of red velvet? So I whipped it up in about an hour. But speed sewing or sewing to a tight deadline takes away what I really love about sewing – how it rests my mind, gives me time and space to create,  and means that while I’m doing it I can’t get sidetracked  by anything else on my ever-expanding “to do list”. So I’m on the slow wagon this year, hoping not to fall off too many times!

3. Mindful designing

This is connected to “slow sewing”, and isn’t so much about changing how we do things, but about having a design ethos. We have far more ideas than time, and I want to learn how to feel ok with just focussing on a few. We released 8 patterns in 2017, because as a brand new company it seemed right to build a catalogue. Our goal for 2018 is to release 4 patterns, and we’re starting the year with a research and design phase to develop them and see where the process takes us. And all of my makes will be sporting one of these gorgeous V&S labels that Rich made me for Christmas!

He also got me tickets to see A-ha. It’s hard to say which I love the most.

4. Making use of what I already have

This is not only about using fabric from my stash, but also seeing how garments I no longer wear can be given a new lease of life. I made a start on this last year with my silk skirt refashion, and I have this idea in my head to use all our old jeans and scraps of denim to make myself a denim jacket – let’s just see if that one ever comes to pass, or whether it’s back on the list for 2019!

It’s going to be a jeans patchwork…

I generally find it quite hard to squeeze one garment out of another (it’s always narrower in one part than I need it to be!) so I may have to think about combining this goal with my final resolution:

5. Sewing more for my children

My daughter always has lots of handmade clothes, my son only a few things. But I just love sewing for him as well, and he loves it too. Just before Christmas I made them these penguin sweatshirts, using the Everyday sweatshirt pattern.

Who doesn’t love penguins?!

The moment I showed them their finished sweatshirts they were yanking off their clothes so they could put these on – cue my heart bursting out of my body! And my daughter wore this dress on Christmas Day, from a pattern which will be our first release of 2018 and has a special place in my heart!

If there’s one thing I love more than a beautiful dress, it’s my beautiful girl wearing it!

And finally, while I was writing this post, Sarah Liz published a new take on the MAGAM sewalong for 2018, asking participants to set out their sewing plans for the year. This sits well with my theme of resolutions, and I find this challenge to be one that really channels my creativity well, so I’m signing up for the whole year! MAGAM is about “selfish sewing”, so my 12 plans are all for me and I’m including 3 things I want to design, 3 fabrics I want to use up, 4 specific garments for my handmade wardrobe and 2 “wildcards”. So here they are, in no particular order:

Design
1. A fitted sweater for cool weather
2. Knickers
3. Sleeveless summer swing dress

Fabrics

4. A faux leather jersey that’s too thin for the jacket I originally had in mind
5. A beautiful jacquard I got for Christmas
6. A woven fabric from the days before my monogamous relationship with knits (top contenders are a floral lawn and a lattice eyelet).

Specific garments
7. Leggings
8. A tunic-length top
9. A summer cover-up
10. A Christmas dress I will actually wear (ok ok you get the picture: no more crushed velvet)

Wildcards
11. THAT recycled denim jacket
12. Try a new-to-me pattern company

So there we are, my goals for 2018. They sound quite ambitious but actually I think they’re pretty connected, and just manifestations of a desire to slow down, enjoy things, and make wearable, durable garments. Do any of my resolutions resonate with you? Do you make resolutions in the new year? And do you have any sewing resolutions or goals for 2018?