Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Shirred jersey skirt

Well, from the comments on my last post it isn't just me who loves Anna Maria's voile - if you haven't already entered the give-away, then you still have time to win two whole metres of Anna's wonderful voile - just go to this post and leave a comment.

I went to my local fabric shop yesterday morning to find some dress lining for the wonderful voile that Rachel of Ray-Stitch very kindly sent for me to keep for myself (...again, see the last post), and got distracted by this navy jersey fabric. Mmm, that could make a lovely skirt, I thought.

I whizzed up this jersey skirt while I thought about voile sundresses, for I am procrastinating about making one. I adore the fabric so much that I feel huge pressure to make this dress something that I completely love...I can't bear the idea that I will end up making something that never gets to venture out of the wardrobe and into the sunlight.

So back to the jersey skirt: it is two hemmed rectangles of lightweight jersey, with about 3" of shirring at the top, similar to something lovely that Adrianna made recently. I love it. It took about an hour and half to make and is so wearable.

And oddly, I realised afterwards, that was me, making something from jersey, which I have feared and simultaneously been in garment-making awe of,  for about three years. I was thinking about the voile dress so much that I forgot to be scared, forgot it was my feared fabric and just shirred it on my sewing machine and then whizzed the seams up on my overlocker and returned to the sewing machine to hem...all in a daze, as though it were cotton....hurrah! Now I just need something to think about while I make the voile dress...

Sunday, 27 June 2010

A give-away: Anna Maria Horner voile

Yes, I'm double-taking the title of this post myself...after having mentioned Anna Maria's wonderful voiles in pretty much every other blog post since I first laid my eyes on them...well, I don't just have some for myself, I have some for you too!

Last week I had a surprise email from Rachel, of Ray-Stitch goodness, asking me if I'd like to give away some of her lovely fabric on my blog. Such a difficult decision to make...it took several seconds (but that was only because my brain temporarily short-circuited at the loveliness of the idea).

Rachel has very kindly sent me two whole metres of this wonderful Forest Hills voile to give away. It's such a lovely amount of fabric. With two metres, a hat, skirt and dress can be made for a small child; or a beautiful sundress can be created for yourself; or the makings of a quilt are there to be added to. Or it can just be hung in a window and admired...because I haven't yet said what I think of this voile.

Since it arrived on Saturday morning and I unwrapped it, I've been trying to think of ways to describe it to you, because it's not like any fabric that I've ever felt before. I've read so many times about this voile feeling like butter, but I hadn't been able to comprehend quite what a wonderful analogy this is before feeling it for myself. It does indeed feel just like butter. It also has the feel of silk, but without that slightly dry, sticky sensation on your finger tips (or is it just me that gets that?). When you hold it, it trickles through your fingers like water. It has so much slippery movement and sheen to it, but is completely matt in appearance. It's heavy and knows its own mind, while still being feather-light and slightly sheer. It is a complete dream of a fabric that I'm finding is too lovely to pin down with words.

Perhaps Rachel had anticipated how difficult I might find it to part with this fabric...because she very kindly offered to send a couple of metres for me too. Is there no end to this girl's goodness? I am planning to make a sun dress and I'll show it to you as soon as  it's finished...but it could be a week or two, as I'll be making a muslin for this as I love the fabric too much to dive straight in.

But wait, wait! There's more! There is currently 20% off everything at Ray-Stitch (including voiles). Simply enter SUMMER10 at the checkout (all caps, no spaces) and the discount will be yours.

Ray-Stitch is based in the UK (hurrah!) and has a huge range of stock from sewing patterns to fabric; knitting patterns to wool; haberdashery to linings; thread to scissors; to sewing kits to do with children. But what I really love about it, is the ethos with which it's run (you can read about it here), because it's always nice to feel like you're buying things from nice people.

If you don't know quite where to begin (for there is lots to look at) then I'd recommend heading straight for the voiles (obviously). As well as all the usual, lovely designer fabric ranges, Ray Stitch also stocks so many organic lines and I'm loving the colours of these organic cottons and the idea of these organic jersey fabrics, which would be so lovely for childrenswear. They also carry the much-talked about Colette patterns, and there are also some amazing books too.

Oh and you might want to sign up to the Ray-Stitch newsletter, so that you hear about discounty goodness like this first hand.

To enter the give away, just leave a comment on this post and you will be included in the draw. The winner will be picked by a random number picker at some point mid-week and I'm happy to post anywhere in the world. Remember to leave me a way of contacting you or to check back here yourself, as Blogger doesn't always show me your email address.

It's such a treat to do a give-away with something that I love so wholeheartedly, because as with present-giving, when it's something that you really want to keep for yourself, you know that it's a goody (so thank you so much for letting me be the giver, Rachel).

Wishing you luck,
Florence x

Friday, 25 June 2010

Nani Iro dress and a surprise win

Ever since I saw Kate's photo of the beautiful dress that she made for her daughter using this Nani Iro print, it's been on my (very long) wish list of fabrics. Zebra-girl happened to see it too and it went straight to the top of her wish list.

It's a double gauze fabric, which my research tells me means that there are two layers of fine fabric held together by a grid of stitches so tiny that they're virtually invisible. It's a fabric invented by the Japanese as a solution to the sheerness of single gauze, as well as for its excellence in keeping the wearer cool in their more humid climate (and for a day or two right now, our own muggy English climate). I can't tell you quite how beautiful it looked hanging from the washing line in the breeze...the photo doesn't do it justice.

Oh, the confusion I had in trying to work out which way up to place the white, speckled panel...I ended up drawing some awful sketches to help myself decide. But as I am Florence-the-Fliberty-Gibbert and Zebra-girl is Zebra-the-decisive, I eventually asked her to put me out of my misery and tell me which way up she'd rather it went. She opted for the right hand picture which meant cutting my pattern pieces across the grain...but oh, wonderful Google, it seems that Melissa of All Buttoned Up found herself in the same predicament and went across the grain too and her dress looks perfect, perhaps this is not such a dressmaking crime when it's not a knit or jersey fabric?

I worried about washing it, and whether the layers of gauze might separate, but an hour or two after I started worrying, Kate emailed me to say that she'd just experimented with washing an off-cut and it had held together perfectly, so I happily put it in the machine at 30 degrees and it did indeed remain as one and only shrank by a comparable amount to that of a regular cotton fabric.

I felt slight trepidation about sewing with the gauze too, but I think, again, this came from fear of the unknown, as in the event there ended up being nothing scary about double gauze at all. I'd been warned beforehand that the thing I really needed to concentrate on was keeping it from fraying, so armed with that knowledge I overlocked the edges of every piece before I began sewing it together (although a zig-zag stitch or a french seam, would probably keep things in check). As always, the moment I started overlocking I wondered why the overlocker spends so much time in the under stairs cupboard, as it really is a dream machine that just whizzes through seams so much faster than a sewing machine.

So here's the finished dress...it's the panel of white that really makes me love this fabric and completely brings it alive.

The only part of it that I sewed on my machine was the hem...and as far as I could tell it behaved just like standard cotton.

Oh and a little bit of shirring...you didn't think I'd miss out on that, did you?

So all good? Well, in my eagerness to make the dress last for longer than this summer, I sized everything up by what seemed a fractional amount...but actually I may have been a little generous as it's rather gapey, so I think that I may have to rework it a little if I can prize it off Zebra-girl for a moment. She is in love with the fabric, adores the feel of it and can't stop admiring the wonderful flecks of colour that speckle their way across it. She doesn't seem to think its poor fit is an issue...but I know I'll cringe every time I look at it if I don't put it right, which would be a shame when the fabric is so lovely.

Oddly, I've only seen this print used for children's clothing, but before I cut into it I wrapped it around my own waist and thought it would look quite fantastic on an adult. The fabric, by the way, (which is currently on offer) came from M is for Make... where last week I found lots of hidden fabric! I had not realised that if you click on each fabric swatch you will find lots more fabric from the same range to scroll through hidden behind it. I emailed my partner in obsessive fabric window-shopping (she who is The List Maker) to share my find and she too was amazed and delighted to discover these hidden gems. So I thought I'd share it with you too...just in case.

As if finding hidden fabric wasn't enough excitement, I was even more thrilled and surprised to find that I had won a Crafterhours Skirt Week first prize for the A-line skirt that I entered, along with this gorgeous button to add to my sidebar and soooo many wonderful goodies! I added my skirt to the Flickr pool right at the beginning of the competition, but then there were so many lovelies (that were all a little more seasonally appropriate than mine too), that after a couple of days I hadn't actually thought that my skirt could even be in the running...so imagine my surprise to come in from the the garden one evening, having been celebrating the warmer weather over a bottle of wine with Mr Teacakes, to quickly check the weather for the next day (and inevitably take the quickest of peeks through my favourites in Bloglines), and find my own skirt near the word 'winner' on Crafterhours. A more sensible person than I would have left conveying their excitement until the next day...but I was so surprised and delighted that I felt compelled to comment right at that not-so-sober moment...and in doing so felt like the drunk girl at the party where everyone else is is abstemious and one must try and 'act normal'. I'm not sure I succeeded, but luckily, because Adrianna and Susan are so dear, they have only said nice things to their merry visitor.

Throughout skirt week, as well as posting the winners for each category, Crafterhours have been posting skirt-making tutorials. I am in love with this one (obviously, it's shirred AND is made using Anna Maria's dreamy voiles!) and this one, because it's so clever. I'm so hoping that I get the time to try one of these this summer.

The children's skirt category winner and runners-up were perhaps the most adorable selection to look at. The winning skirt was amazing, and I know that I would have loved that as a child. When I was about four years old I had a denim pinafore and from the bib pocket rose four shiny, brightly-coloured colouring pencils. I am so fond of the memory of this dress and when I saw the rainbow ending in the pocket-shaped pot of gold on the winning entry I could imagine that the wearer may form similarly fond memories.

Well goodness, this was just meant to be such a brief post...I've been so much better at saying less recently (which has led to so much more posting, as to say less...seems to take up less time).

I shall be back on Monday, with something very exciting to share with you.

Wishing you a lovely weekend,
Florence x

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Shirred / Elasticated Headband Tutorial

Quite unexpectedly this has become my own unofficial shirring week. Yesterday, as I quickly fashioned a new headband for Zebra-girl with a shirred elasticy back, I suddenly realised what a perfect practice-project it would be for those who don't yet want to launch into making a whole shirred dress, and don't have quite the same zeal for shirring through the contents of their own wardrobe as I seem to possess.

What's completely super about the shirring on this headband is that it means that one size pretty much fits all as it's so very stretchy, I'd say from 4 - 104. Yes, although I think of headbands as primarily being for children, this will fit an adult too (worth saying as I think there's a certain type of woman that could pull off wearing a headband...possibly a potter, with bohemian dress, who exudes an unselfconscious sort of thrown-together cool...she would look quite wonderful in a headband. I am not a potter). The size may need to be reduced a little for a toddler.

The other super thing about this headband is that it's cut on the bias for a head-hugging and flattering fit; it curves snugly around in the most pleasing way...no gaping here! Hurrah!

4.5" x 15" piece of fabric cut on the bias
13.5" x 4" piece of fabric NOT cut on the bias.
Sewing machine elastic
Regular sewing machine thread
An iron

If you haven't shirred anything before, then you'll need to read the tutorial that I wrote on shirring before you begin, as it has lots of information in it that I won't explain here.

As per the shirring tutorial, before you begin make sure:
  • that you have regular cotton thread in your spool holder and shirring elastic in the bobbin case
  • that you have reduced the top tension
  • that you have lengthened the stitch length
There's no need to hem this fabric before you begin, simply line the presser foot up with the raw edge of the fabric and shirr along the long side of the fabric. Secure the stitches at the beginning and end of each line of shirring and cut off thread tails.

Once you've finished shirring, the fabric should be about half its previous length. It should look something like this from the front:

And this from the back:

Now fold it in half length ways so that the right sides of the fabric are together on the inside. Pin along the long edge. You will need to sew along this edge with a 1/2" seam. Remember, before you begin to sew: to fill the bobbin case with regular thread, and to put the upper tension and stitch length back to the settings that you would normally sew with. You have now entered a shirring-free zone.

As you sew you will need to stretch the fabric out so that it temporarily reverts to the flat state that it was once in. To do this hold it taut at the back and front, and let the fabric feed through the machine at its normal pace.

Now turn right side out...yes, this is tricky...I normally pace around a bit as I do this...it feels like it helps in what I always find to be this inexplicably tense sewing moment.

Once turned, roll the seam to sit in the middle at the back and you should be left with something resembling this:

And this from the front:

Set the shirred fabric to one side and take the bias cut piece of fabric. Fold it in half length-ways, with the right side of the fabric facing inwards.

Pin in place and then sew along the long edge, this time using a 1/4" seam. Once completed, turn right side out and gently fold each short edge inwards by 1/2" so that no raw edges are exposed.

Place the shirred fabric within the bias tube by about 1/2" with the visible seams both on the same side (because you won't want to see those on the finished band).

At this point, you have a choice - if you want the small pleats to be a point of interest (as seen in my picture of the finished head band, 2nd photo from the top) then fold the pleats so that they sit on the outside of the headband, if you don't want the pleats to be visible then you should fold the pleats to the inside of the headband (i.e toward the side of the fabric where the seam lines are visible). The shirred fabric should sit within the bias tube by about 1/2".

Fold the excess material at each side toward the centre to create two small and even pleats. Pin them in place.

Sew two lines of stitching to secure in place and then repeat for the other end.

Run the iron over the pleats to work them into a good shape...this can take a minute, but it's worth getting them to sit perfectly for a good finish.

Hurrah, the headband is finished. If it's for you, then head back to the potting studio (or put on a swirly 1950s style skirt and head to the bowling alley, that's another scenario in which I can picture adult headband wearing)...if it's for someone small, present them with the divine creation and leave them to pick out their own adorable clothing combination to compliment it.

If you have the time then I would love to see any headbands that you might make from this pattern - you can either email me or drop them into my Flickr pool here.

I sincerely promise that this will be the last you will hear from me about the S word. This doesn't mean that the obsession is over, as the moment I've pressed 'publish post' I'm getting straight on with shirring that I have planned for tonight...but I will try not to talk about it. Or at least not to dedicate any more posts to it.

I hope this brings you some headband happiness,
Florence x

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

She's having a baby...

The madness continues: shirring is infiltrating my existing wardrobe of clothes. This top (from Gap) is one of my favourites, but it's very long and baggy...do you see how strange I looked tucking random bits of it in the hope that it wouldn't appear as though I was wearing a tent as I went around Paris? Not very chic.

I could have just hemmed it a little shorter, but I put off hemming things as it's not my favourite kind of sewing...and I felt a little scared to cut this jersey top as I love the fabric. Shirring has all the answers...you don't need to cut the fabric, there's no tedious cutting and folding of hems. I simply whizzed in with two lines of shirring around the bottom and the top is the now just right for me.

So here I am at about 10am looking possibly pregnant:

At around 10.03am my machine was merrily elasticising the fabric as I looked on gleefully.

At around 10.09am I have seemingly had the baby, and am just left trying to find an angle at which my arms don't look like sausages. [Knowing how versatile shirring is I'm sure that there's something it can do for this predicament, but until I've found out what that thing is I shall persist with my nightly regime of push-ups].

Do share your own shirring adventures. I know that a few people said that they were getting straight to it after reading my tutorial earlier in the week - I'd love to know how you got on.

Florence x

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Goodness from Australia

A few weeks ago Australia-based Sew Tessuti were celebrating their 18th birthday...and I was lucky enough to win one of their celebration giveaways...where I was permitted to pick any Japanese pattern book of my choosing from their extensive collection. What a wonderful win!

After much pondering, in the spirit of selflessness (but we all know how much fun small ones are to sew for...so really, this was just as much for me as it was for her), I chose this pattern book of dresses suited for small Zebra-girl and then we excitedly waited for the patterns to find their way over the seas.

It's just as lovely as I had hoped that it might be. And Zebra-girl has been leafing through it too, picking out things that she'd like to wear.

We both agreed that this was our favourite.

If you haven't already, then do go and look at the Sew Tessuti blog, it's one of my recently-discovered favourites...I'm not going to put a straight link in though, as the cuteness that they've been showing in this post is too wonderful not to see right this moment, so I'm diverting you, with the suspicion that you'll fall over yourself, just as I did, at quite how wonderful one of their customer's most recent dressmaking escapades proved to be.

Thank you, Colette - I love my pattern book. Happy 18th year.

Florence x

Monday, 21 June 2010

Shirring tutorial

As promised here's the shirring tutorial that some of you asked for and that I was more than happy to put together (due to it meaning that I have a seemingly legitimate excuse to ignore making those curtains for a few more hours). The photos are many...just because whenever I'm looking at how to do something if someone just tells me with words, I'm left thinking 'are you sure?' or 'can she really mean just like this?'. Before I started shirring I consulted several books and had a good look around online...it seems that there are several different ways to shirr with regard to tension, stitch length, how the end of each row of shirring is handled and several other variables. This is my way...and it works very happily for me. I hope that it does for you too.

For the uninitiated, shirring is the process of sewing with elastic thread in the bobbin in order to elasticise fabric. Why would you want to do this? Not only does it add textural visual interest, it's also fantastically practical. Because shirring adds some stretch to the fabric, it is perfect for dressmaking (example here), as it offers a very forgiving fit to the final garment that has some 'play' in it. Additionally it means that you can forget about zips and buttons - your fabric will happily stretch to allow the garment to be taken on and off. Fabulous? Yes, let's get started.

Firstly, you'll need some shirring elastic, as shown above. It's only a mm thick and comes in a variety of different colours, however, as it will only appear on the back of your garment, I think that a light and a dark coloured elastic should suffice for most shirring eventualities. Unlike regular sewing, when elastic thread is in the bobbin case it is not pulled up through the fabric, which means you can be a little less exacting about colour-matching.

Use regular cotton or polyester thread in the top spool holder. The colour should match your fabric.

Fabric - my own rule of thumb is that I cut double the width of actual fabric needed, as the shirring will reduce it by approximately 1/2. The height measurement remains as it would if you were not shirring the fabric, so just add in normal seam and hemming allowances.

Preparing the fabric

It's essential that you hem any edges that need finishing before you begin shirring...as it will be virtually impossible to do this afterwards. In the case of shirring the back panel of a child's dress, or the top of shirt then it will normally only be the long upper edge that requires hemming.

You should also make sure that the fabric has been ironed to give a smooth surface to work on.

 Wind the bobbin up

The bobbin should be wound by hand, putting about as much tension on the elastic as you would if hand-winding a a normal cotton thread: firm, so that it sits in the bobbin neatly and without excess slack, but not pulled completely taut. The best way is to wind it fast without thinking about it too much, and the tension should be just about right!

You may want to wind a couple of bobbins up, as I find that I use two to shirr the top of one small dress panel (luckily, shirring elastic is inexpensive).

Load the bobbin into the bobbin case exactly as you normally would, and then place in the machine.

  • The top tension should be set slightly lower than usual. I reduce mine to 4, but you may wish to reduce yours further...it's worth playing around on some test fabric as every machine is different.
  • The men in my local sewing machine shop once told me that they would never alter the bobbin tension as even they wouldn't be capable of resetting it as precisely as it had been done in the factory...some tutorials mention playing around with this...but you really shouldn't need to and one shirring escapade can never be worth upsetting your machine's equilibrium.
Stitch Length

  • The stitch length will need to be lengthened. I normally sew with mine at a length of 2, for shirring I go up to 3.5. Again, play around on a piece of test fabric and see what works best for you.
Let us begin! Wheeheeeee!

  • To shirr you will be sewing in parallell rows, using the right-hand edge of your presser foot as a guide. Start by lining it up with the edge of your fabric - this will be where you make your first line of stitching.
  • The fabric should face the right way up, so that the regular cotton stitches are formed on the face of the fabric and the elastic is on the underneath.
  • Take a few stitches forward and backwards to secure the threads and then stitch to the end of the row. I tend to use both my hands for the first line to make sure that the material is flat at the back and front as it goes through the machine.
  • My machine sounds a little louder than normal when using elastic thread in the bobbin - I don't think that this needs to be a worrisome matter, so just enjoy the shirring and ignore it.
  • When you reach the end of the row, take a couple of forward and backward stitches to secure and then clip the threads. You should have something resembling this.

Subsequent shirring rows...

  • Continue shirring in the same way, always remembering to secure the threads at the beginning and end of each line and lining the right-hand edge of the presser foot up with the last line of stitching.
  • After the first line of stitching, you'll need to pay more attention to keeping the piece of fabric that you're working on held flat. At first you'll be able to do this by stretching one hand around your work...but as the shirring lines increase and the fabric becomes more playful with its new-found elasticity, you'll need to launch a two-handed assault on keeping it flat.
  • But remember, you're not trying to pull the fabric through the machine faster than it would naturally travel, simply holding it flat against the bed of the machine and repressing its impish spirit!
  • If your bobbin thread runs out mid-line, don't panic. Simply reload the bobbin and, holding the fabric taut, take a few securing stitches and continue on your way. Shirring is very forgiving and a multitude of sewing sins can be hidden in its folds.

Finishing off

When your final line of shirring is complete, secure and cut the threads. You should be left with a springy piece of fabric that can be pulled in and out accordion-style (and if you're new to shirring too, then you may well spend some time marvelling at this. I certainly did).
The reverse side should look like the above.

The top hemmed edge, will probably look a little ugly and unsuitable to be seen at the top of a dress. Don't panic, this is easily solved by ironing. I iron on the face of the fabric, so that the heat isn't directly on the elastic. Give it a good press and it should look much more presentable, as below.

If the fabric hasn't reduced by as much as you'd hoped, then pressing the entire piece of shirring can retract the folds further and make the shirring a little tighter.

Your shirred piece of fabric is now ready to insert into whatever item you happen to be making. I hope that you loved shirring as much I have.

Warning: I'm currently shirring the contents of my entire wardrobe...it's an addiction that can become all-consuming. I suggest only buying shirring elastic in small quantities, as a mass of it can be a dangerous thing and allow one to simply go wild with it. Wishing you self-restraint.

Happy shirring,
Florence x
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