Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Six Days On...

Honey, sleeping

Why post about politics on a sewing blog? Is that what people are coming here for? I'm guessing, almost certainly not. Particularly if you're British, I imagine you are coming here in the hope of momentary relief from the constant news stream, which so many of us find ourselves glued to as events have unfolded since the EU referendum. But I've been writing this blog for nearly nine years now and it's a diary of my life, albeit the largely stitch-related side of it, but a diary all the same. So in a week when the most seismic political and social change for my country within my life-time has just occurred it seems almost impossible to carry on and not document it in some way. What we put on the internet leaves a permanent record of ourselves and for that record to be that I sewed on oblivious, seemingly without a care, would feel like an embarrassing misrepresentation of myself. So please feel free to skip over this post if you'd prefer - it's here more for me than for anyone else. It is not intended to needlessly rile people or to make 'Leave' voters feel that I am attacking them - I understand and respect that many feel positive about the forthcoming changes. It is simply a post documenting how I feel, to be woven in amongst the patchwork of life that is also recorded here.

To date, since seeing the first results coming in last Thursday and slowly realising as the night went on what was about to happen, the world feels like it's been turned on its axis for those of us who wished to stay a part of the EU. The magnitude of this decision and the ensuing chaos feel almost impossible to absorb: our prime minister has resigned; there has been a vote of no confidence in the opposing party's leadership and many of his shadow cabinet have resigned; Scotland is likely to have a second referendum; Ireland's troubles have been placed in danger of reigniting; our economic stability has been put in jeopardy and many people's EU-facing jobs are already at risk; our country's choices are also likely to affect the stability of both the EU and many other countries' economies; many people who live and work here feel unwelcome and scared, with hate crimes in Britain up 57% from the previous week. It's perhaps this last thing that is most upsetting of all: the vile racism and xenophobia that this vote seems to have legitimised leaves many of us feeling that we are living in a country that we no longer recognise or want to be part of.

This feels like a public school boys' game gone horribly wrong: a referendum offered only to win an election and then fought to raise profiles, with neither Westminster side ever believing that 52% of the voting British public would call their bluff, and it has implications that will last for years to come. I feel unexpectedly grief-stricken, as well as furious, about what has happened.

I also feel guilt that I did nothing - other than discuss the referendum with like-minded people - in the run up to this vote. To have remained quiet and apparently neutral now makes me feel somehow complicit in what has happened. My friends and acquaintances all - bar one, as far as I'm aware - were planning to vote Remain and the few posts I saw from others who I follow on social media were in favour of Remain too, so in the bubble in which I can now see that I exist, posting Vote Remain literature felt like it would have been preaching to the converted. Even my grandmother - only a few years off being 90 - on being handed her postal vote by my mother apparently turned to her and just said rhetorically and emphatically: we want to stay, don't we?

Negativity makes me feel uncomfortable and I find myself searching for some piece of hope or positivity in relation to all of this with which to tie up this post, but there feels so much uncertainty that I can't think of what to say at this point - it still just feels too bleak. So I will simply say that I am sending love out into the world irrespective of how anyone voted and that regular sewing bulletins will be resumed shortly,

Florence x

Monday, 20 June 2016

Peony English Paper Piecing pattern

A Close-Up

My Peony English Paper Piecing Pattern is finally ready to meet the world! I rarely ever make quilt-related things twice, but I did with this (you can see my other version here), so I feel I can safely say this is an enjoyable pattern to sew. I think what holds my attention about it is the lack of repetition; each new round of the flower is a different shape and offers room to introduce new fabric prints, colour or placement. It's also a refreshingly quick make when it comes to EPP - perfect for mini-quilts, wall hangings, the central medallion of a quilt or super-sizing to make a whole lap quilt!

Peony English Paper Piecing Pattern

So here are a few details about what the Peony EPP pattern includes:
  • Full-size pattern pieces that can be printed on regular printer paper at home. 
  • Photos demonstrating tips and techniques.
  • Illustrations and diagrams showing exactly how the pieces go together.
  • Lots of tips for how to English paper piece curves - from wrapping the papers to sewing the actual pieces together. 
  • A colouring sheet so that you can plan out a colour scheme. 
  • Used at 100%, the actual size pattern pieces produce a finished design that measures approximately 13.25" x 13.25", but the pieces can be scaled up on a photocopier and adapted for a full-size quilt if you wish. 
  • The pattern includes a seam allowance around the perimeter of the completed piece - this means that you have extra room built in to: frame it; bind it; make it into a cushion (which you'd need a seam allowance for); or appliqué it a background to use as the central medallion in a quilt. 
  • This pattern should be a suitable challenge for anyone who has successfully completed at least one paper piecing project already. 
  • It's instantly downloadable for you to save and print out from your own computer.
  • It costs just £6 (at the time of writing, that's around $8.80USD, $11.70AUD, $11.30 CAD).
  • You can buy a copy, here!

It's always a real treat to see new versions of my patterns appearing on Instagram. If you'd like to share, hashtag your progress with #PeonyEPP or email me a photo if you have a private account/don't use IG!

Florence x

Saturday, 18 June 2016

A Stripy Grey Top and a Squirrel's Nut Pile

Handmade Grey Stripy Top

I was sent this fabric a few weeks ago by my lovely blog sponsor, Girl Charlee, after much debate about the virtues of different fabrics in relation to retaining one's modesty (i.e. one's bra not being entirely visible through it).

In the end, they sent a few different samples of stripy greys over (Girl Charlee have so many knit fabrics that they actually have multiple varieties of grey stripes!) for me to choose from. Jen liked my original choice, the super sheer stripe on the left hand side, while Mark felt the slightly thicker knit jersey on the right may be more versatile (which led to some merriment over whether I would align myself with the exhibitionist or the prude!). In the end, I requested some of more demure jersey on the right and thought about drafting a habit to wear in the nunnery, while Mark filled me in on an exciting new line of lead fabric sheets they're soon to be releasing due to customer demand - apparently they're not overly drapey and require a welding torch and hammer rather than needle and thread, but they do cover all modesty! For colourways, they're anticipating stocking grey, dull grey, anthracite and original lead. But in reality, while my final choice is definitely comparatively less sheer, it's still actually an incredibly fine fabric!

Handmade Grey Stripy Top

But ridiculousness aside, buying dressmaking fabric over the internet can be so tricky and it's a total delight that Girl Charlee are so willing to talk through whether a fabric might be exactly as I'm imagining it to be, if it will be right for an intended project and suggesting alternatives just in case it isn't.

Anyway, onto the actual fabric. This fabric is a real surprise. It looks almost identical to this fabric in terms of weight and sheerness, even though it isn't a slub, but the feel is like no other jersey I've ever felt. It is the softest jersey imaginable. It feels like the kind of thing that you'd wrap babies in. It looks like respectable daywear, but I secretly feeling like I'm going out in pyjamas each time I wear this top because it's just so ridiculously soft. It also retains the smell of fabric softener more than any other fabric I've ever known (dressmaking gives a perfect comparison place for this as, like most dressmakers, I prewash all my fabrics before cutting into them to avoid the finished garment suffering first-wash-shrinkage), which caused me to keep burying my face in it while I was sewing this. Fabric softener is one of my favourite smells - it smells like care, comfort and warmth all at the same time and possibly also has underlying connotations for me of momentarily being at the high point in the never-ending laundry cycle.

Which makes me suddenly want to ask (the point of my asking this comes much later in the paragraph - there is actually a link, even if you can't work out what it is yet) if you have a subconsciously collated file in your brain of nice things people have said to you over your lifetime - perhaps more passing asides than intentional compliments? What I love so much about them being unintentional compliments is that they're even more valuable because the accidental compliment-giver says the thing with little thought, not intending to flatter particularly. It just happens that their comment strikes a chord with a value or trait that delights you more than they'd imagine. And so you can quietly squirrel the compliment away in a nut pile without any awkward blushing or embarrassment. That this would count as one of those nuts possibly makes me odd (you've finally got to the link), but over a decade ago, when I sold some of my then-toddler's clothes on eBay, the buyer reviewed the transaction commenting only on how amazing the clothes had smelt when she unpackaged them and then sent a message asking which washing powder I used. For some reason a stranger at the other end of the country thinking that our clothes smelt nice made me feel really happy. I can actually think of two other nuts in the pile involving smell, but only because I'm thinking about it. The other nice thing about this particular filing cabinet is that I can't remember a single other thing in it as contents from it reappear through word association just as unexpectedly as the original compliment did. If you were just able to rummage around in there and see them in a great big list, I think they'd cease to feel so special. I would love to know if anyone has a similar mental filing cabinet. I would also really love to know what's in it, but appreciate people may not want to share their nuts; I feel quite protective of mine too, which is why I'm revealing only one of the scent-related compliments.

Handmade Grey Stripy Top

So, having quickly detoured around a squirrel, eBay, communications from the North of England and the random contents of my head, the one thing that I'd change about this top is that for some reason I did a far narrower hem than my usual chunky 1" turn up and I'm not so keen on this as it looks a bit less 'finished' to me. I often seem to do this during dressmaking: that is make some small, random change that later perplexes me as to why I might have done it.

Florence x

Ps. You can get 10% off fabrics at Girl Charlee using the code 'Flossie'.


Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Double Gauze Shirt

I cut this shirt out last year and then found that the weather changed, causing my spring/summer dressmaking bug to finally desert me. I always remember a woman who worked in my local fabric shop several years ago telling me, with a look of complete mistrust and suspicion on her face: Quilters are weird. They're here constantly all winter and then in the summer they just disappear and nobody knows where the go or what they're actually doing. The implication seemed to be that they could actually be off murdering people for all she knew, only to reappear in September ready to absolve themselves of their crimes by indulging in some gentle needlework.

I was actually buying dressmaking fabric at the time, so she wasn't aware that I also quilt, but inwardly I was amused to be one of the weird breed of quilters who, like migratory birds, change where they're headed the moment the weather warms up. But rather than going on a killing spree, this quilter at least, is just dressmaking. The wish to make clothes in late spring and early summer hits me every year and has little to do with any particular logic or rationale related to a summer wardrobe, but feels more like a gravitational pull. Although, my English paper piecing continues regardless of the season.

Anyway, returning to my most recent make, this shirt is made from a quite extraordinary fabric. It's a double gauze with a large check on one side and a much smaller check on the other face. But it's softer than a Nani Iro double gauze and also has a slightly puffy feel to it reminiscent of a seersucker. I really, really like it. I haven't spotted it in a single online shop though, so unfortunately, I have nowhere to point people for a source of it - do let me know if you know of one. I've lightened the above photo up quite a bit, as its one downside is that it's a beast to photograph. I bought enough yardage to make a shirt and a skirt (not to be worn at the same time!), but sadly I was trialling an extremely fancy pants iron out for a manufacturer on my initial attempt to make this last year...and found that the pants on that particular iron weren't quite fancy enough as it suddenly sprayed a trail of white and brown debris all over the shirt which proved to be indelible, so the fabric set aside for a skirt had to be cut into when it came to remaking the shirt. If I was given a penny for all the iron-related traumas I've experienced now, I would have enough to buy myself a very large ice-cream, possibly with a flake. (Actually, I was sent an electric toothbrush by way of apology, so I fared rather better than being given the ice-cream and it was also quite nice to come to the shirt afresh this summer and found that I'd already cut all the pieces out, so that I could get straight on to the fun part).

It's shown far better in the photo at the top of this post, but I was able to use the contrasting smaller check side to make the button placket, shirt sleeve hoikers (what's the official word for those?) and collar and it's a really nice feature to have the check peeking out from inside where the collar falls down. As I said earlier - I found that it's virtually impossible to photograph it so that the print shows up clearly.

I finished with french seams throughout, just because. The pattern is my own and the same one that I used to make this shirt, although I've shortened the sleeves a little this time around (I never feel like they are when I'm actually wearing it, but the photos made me retrospectively feel they were too long on that shirt) and left off the collar in this version. So really it's more like this shirt, but less drapey, so to me it has more of the feel of the first shirt than the second! Like a pony perfecting its one and only trick, I have plans for this pattern in several other fabrics.

Although actually, I'm more of a two-trick pony, because I've also been remaking this top recently and have plans for more as my sister would like one too. It's so good to be gathering a handful of patterns that feel completely reliable in terms of fit and that get regular use in my wardrobe, although it can make me lazy as it feels far easier to just remake those patterns in different fabrics than to challenge myself to try something completely new.

What are you drawn to sewing now that the weather is warming up (or cooling down if you're in Australia)?

Wishing you a lovely weekend,
Florence x
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