Goodbye 2016 – Hello 2017

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With 2016 drawing to a close, and some saying “good riddance”, we start looking forward to the days getting longer and the new challenges we can face in 2017.

Will it be the year you choose to enhance or progress your sewing skills? Or will you find other challenges to set yourself?

2016 has been an odd year to say the least. For me personally a mix of highs – my best friend getting married, and lows – the loss of so many wonderfully talented people – David Bowie, Alan Rickman and most recently Carrie Fisher. But the end of a year brings with it a time to look back and evaluate what’s happened, how we reacted to it and also how we can adapt and move on positively into the New Year.

The break we’ve had over Christmas and New year with the store being closed has provided me with the time I needed for a bit of quiet reflection.

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The Bearded One and I have worked exceptionally hard this year on a large project that neither of us quite realised would take the time and energy it has. However, The Book that we have been working on is now complete, well our part in it is now complete, it’s off being printed and will be available at the beginning of April 2017. (We are hoping to get advance copies for the Sewing for Pleasure Show at the NEC in March.) I am still not quite sure what to make of it yet. It’s a bit fresh and I’m still a bit too close to the process to fully appreciate what we have achieved.

A friend, who has written several books, described it as being a bit like having a baby. You’re excited in the beginning at the prospect of this amazing adventure, then the enormity of what you have signed up for hits in. Carrying on you just want it over and done with and then at the end they hand you this finished manuscript and you can’t quite believe how it got here.

It does look amazing and is full of information. I hope will be useful and informative for both those new to sewing and those who want to learn a few more techniques and processes, as well as being an aide memoire for things you’ve done before, but perhaps not for some time.

Because writing the book has taken me away from Sew Me Something a lot more than I’d hoped this year, we have only released two dressmaking pattern and two bag patterns. Nothing to be sniffed at I know but not what I was hoping for. However, as with all things there is a balance and working on the book has also provided a huge resource of information to share to help people to sew better and enjoy the process of sewing and creating.

We have also used this break to begin planning how we can use this resource and best share all this information. So there will be new patterns on their way very soon, the first next month, there will be a series of tutorials covering the techniques and processes you have asked us about and for those that can’t join us for a workshop, online courses to show you how we would do things in our own workshops so you can still learn from the comfort of your own home as if you were actually with us.

The challenges I am setting myself are to be able to deliver what I set out to. It will require organisation, commitment and discipline. If I’m completely honest not my strong points as I’m easily distracted by……ooh fabric! But then what challenges me comes easily for others. And vice versa. So what will you challenge yourself to do in 2017? Can we help you meet your sewing challenges?

Happy New Year

Jules

Peaseblossom Colour Block Pattern Hack

img_0109The Peaseblossom T is a wardrobe staple and I have quite a few of them in different fabrics and various adaptations.

The simple boxy shape lends itself to colour blocking and this is an easy to follow tutorial to show you how to adapt the pattern.

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The front and back of the Top are basically the same shape so to make life easier you can transfer the lines from the front on to the back.

I have used a coloured pen to make it easier to see but when adapting patterns yourself you should always use a really sharp pencil to ensure you’re as accurate as possible.

Decide where you want the seam line to separate the two colours. This is really up to you and the proportions of colour you want to use. I have decided to have a horizontal seam 8cm down from the front neckline. But you could also use vertical seams as well.

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Draw a line across the front at right angles to the centre front. It is very important to make sure that the new seam line hits the centre front at right angles.

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The centre front or back is a line of symmetry, so imagine a mirror reflecting whatever is on one side on to the other. If the new seam line is slightly off 90° you could end up with a ‘peak’ or ‘valley’ in the middle of the new seam line.

Peak or valley lines with dotted lines as the true horizontal.

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To make sure this doesn’t happen use a set square, quilter’s grid or specialist Patternmaster that has 90° lines on it to use as a guide.

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Transfer the seam line on to the back.

Method 1 – Lay the front pattern piece on top of the back.

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Use a tracing wheel to trace along the line and through to the back piece.

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Lift off the front and there will be the tiny prick marks made by the tracing wheel.  I have tried to show these but they are really too small.

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Use these to draw in the new seam line.

Method 2 – If the paper is thin enough lay the back over the front so you can just see the new seam line on the front through the paper of the back. Or you can mark the centre front point and the sleeve point and just join the two dots.

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Double check that the new seam line on the back hits the centre back at a right angle by using a ruler with 90° lines on it to use as a guide.

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Separate the back pattern pieces and the front pieces by cutting up the new seam lines.

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Add seam allowance on each side of the new seam lines. Add a strip of paper to each side of the new seam lines.

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The seam allowance on the Peaseblossom is 1cm so you can either continue with the same or if you prefer to use a larger seam allowance add 1.5cm.

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You can use the grading lines on a Patternmaster or quilter’s grid to make sure the seam allowance is parallel to the stitching line.

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Add in balance marks (also called notches). Match up the two front pieces with each other and add in a single balance mark or notch. This will ensure that the two pieces match up correctly when sewn together.

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Do the same for the two back pieces but use a double balance mark or notch to indicate that this is the back.

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**In pattern notation a single notch is always used for the front and a double notch for the back.

The pattern pieces are now ready to cut out and make up in your chosen fabrics.

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This is a really easy pattern hack to do just remember to keep an eye on those right angles.

If you are making your top from a woven fabric have a look at our How to Sew a Clean Finish Binding tutorial it gives a really neat finish to the neckline.

Happy sewing!

Winding Up 2016 and Winding Down For Me

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Blax the cat is chilling out with me in the garden

We are winding things up now as we head towards the end of the year at Sew Me Something. Our last workshops have run and we can begin to sort out and tidy up in the studio. The sewing machines and overlockers will be having their annual holiday service and will come back in the new year all shiny, dust free and ready to go.

It is a chance for me to wind down too. It’s been a pretty hectic year and with the shop closed for two weeks over Christmas and New Year I can finally put my feet up and sip my sloe gin!

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Homemade sloe gin

As the years have gone by working for myself, the more I have come to realise that we do need to be kinder to ourselves and to make time to wind down, chill, find a quiet space or however you want to describe the time we take to just be. Things can get a bit hairy sometimes on the modern hamster wheel of life and it can feel rather relentless.

So I have tried to build a bit of quiet time into my day and it is slowly, very slowly developing into a habit that I do not want to do without. It often isn’t at the same time every day and it can involve doing things too like getting out of the studio and going for a walk down to the river, or sitting in a cafe drinking coffee and people watching, or even 10 minutes of meditation.

At the risk of sounding like a middle aged hippy I have found listening to a meditation app* on my phone helps me to quieten the million and one things I have whizzing around my head and just allows me to ‘breathe’. Meditation takes practice and I am nowhere near being able to still my mind completely but having taken 10 minutes out to try, I can then pick up from where I left off feeling a lot calmer and more focussed on what I need to do.

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Trying to still my thoughts

In fact I did it before sitting down and writing this.

What do you do to unwind or to find a bit of peace during the day? Let me know in the comments below.

You can also subscribe to our newsletter so we can let you know what’s coming up in the new year.

*I listen to Headspace, but there are loads of other apps and ways to meditate out there.

Jules

Do you value experiences more than stuff?

img_0859My kids have been busy compiling their Christmas lists. Fortunately, their lists are getting shorter as they get older, there was a record number back in 2008 with 68 miscellaneous items on my son’s list! However, although shorter, their lists are still largely made up of various items of ‘stuff’. The amount of pink plastic has receded now my daughter has entered her teenage years but she also wants a list of ‘stuff’, mostly make-up.

The Bearded One and I were chatting about this and what to get the kids for Christmas the other night. And when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas I flippantly replied “Time!”

But on reflection I think this is the truth. The thing I most want is time. Time to sew, time to walk in the park, time to go to the theatre, time to learn new things, time to spend with friends. Time to spend doing what I would like to do, experiencing new and interesting things that take me away from the day to day.

I have enough ‘stuff’, but I would REALLY love to learn how to make a pair of clogs, or to learn how to throw a pot properly, or how to knit Fair Isle, or do the backstage tour at the RSC or how to whittle a spoon (okay, that one is slightly odd). However, I have realised that the materialism of my youth has given way to a much more basic need to enrich my soul, if that doesn’t sound too prosaic.

Maybe I’ve come to this way of thinking because so much of what I do is about helping people to discover the joy of making their own clothes. I have to admit, I get a lot of pleasure from those ‘lightbulb’ moments when people in our workshops suddenly get how to use an overlocker with confidence, or how to do a full bust adjustment in a pattern cutting session.

I know that The Bearded One will have got me a couple of nice little things for Christmas. A renewed subscription to The Simple Things magazine is now a regular seasonal treat! But there really isn’t that much that I want. What would make the most difference for me next year would be to learn new skills, to experience new things and to meet new friends along the way.

Surely it’s better to do rather than to have?

I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

Sewing Storage

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I was having a really good sort out the other weekend and trying to find homes for all my sewing and yarn bits and pieces. I do realise I am incredibly lucky as I have an entire studio to be able to work in, but that is kind of “work”.

I still like to be able to sew and make things at home, I think making is just in my DNA, so I have been trying to find suitable receptacles to hold all the various gubbins I have. I wanted to avoid the usual but ever so practical plastic boxes and tubs as I wanted to have these containers on display and ready to hand whenever the mood to make takes me.

There is my little round basket, made by my very own hands no less, to hold all my sashiko embroidery threads and templates. I like the texture and feel of the willow and it’s very easy to tuck away onto a shelf if need be.

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Then there is the vintage basket I have had so long I can’t remember where I actually got it. This holds my current knitting or crochet project and again I love the texture of the woven and plaited wicker. I was drawn to the bright yellow contrasting colour on the handles. I love yellow it is my favourite colour. My childhood home had a bright yellow front door so maybe it goes all the way back to then. I hope so.

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The latest addition to my sewing storage is this beautiful hand crafted shaker sewing box. I fell in love with it at the local Artist and Makers sale Discover, Gather, Give in Stratford upon Avon, and it’s made by James Morgan. It has a smooth, tactile surface and intricately shaped joints on both the box and the lid. It is softly padded inside and it came with it’s own weighty pin cushion filled with sand to help sharpen your pins. It is almost too beautiful to use really and I am slightly reluctant to throw all my sewing paraphernalia in to it.

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So maybe I’ll just leave it on the window seat for a while to look at and stroke occasionally before it becomes part of my sewing storage.

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Where do you keep your sewing bits and pieces and why? I’d love to find out.

You can find some of our sewing storage baskets in our online store.

Jules

Our Friends In The North

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Our Stand at the show, yes you are seeing double!

We have just one back from spending some time with our friends in the North. In other words we have been at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate. This is a lovely show to do, not only because it’s in the middle of beautiful Harrogate and the Royal Hall at the HIC is stunning.

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The Royal Hall At the Harrogate International Centre

Or that it’s home to the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms but because we can get to meet so many of our lovely customers.

Harrogate is a beautiful place and of course we did pay a visit to Betty’s  – Louise was blown away by it’s charm and elegance, not to mention the cakes!

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I know it’s not a cake but a very scrumptious Rosti instead!

And we were even serenaded by a lovely man on the piano – such sophistication!

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The lovely pianist tinkling the ivories

The Show itself is very interesting and we really enjoyed the textile art on display there.

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Art Work by Debbie Lyddon
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Art work by Dionne Swift

 

If you came to the show or popped along to see us do let us know.

We look forward to coming back again next year.

Jules

Is It Better To Make Or To Receive?

IMG_0787.JPGAs the big day draws closer there is still time to get handy and make some Christmas presents. But are we putting pressure on ourselves to “hand make” everything? Do the people in our lives that don’t craft and make stuff really appreciate what we do?

Does it really matter that the hours of patience involved in creating a certain something for that certain someone go unrecognised?

I don’t think it does.

Surely it is the pleasure that we gain from the act of making that gives US as much pleasure as it does to the person receiving the gift. The more I sew and make things the more I come to realise how much that time benefits me in allowing me to have the time and space to think about ‘other stuff’ and to just enjoy that moment. At home we try and make as much stuff as we can for Christmas and other presents, partly because it’s cheaper, but also because it is a chance for me to engage with my kids. Who being teenagers find that a real chore, but at least it gives us a starting point. So this year as well as my sewing a few things we will also be baking, bottling, stirring and brewing.

Here are a few ideas you might like to try..

Chocolate honeycomb One of my favourite Christmas treats

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Sewn Handwarmers Tutorial by Rae Ann Kelly

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Pyramid purse Tutorial by Laura Stott for the Sewing Directory

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Christmas Chutney Our very Own Mary Berry’s recipe

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Infinity Scarf This one is from us

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Crochet Facecloth Tutorial by Kate Alvis on Ravelry

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Let us know what you’ve been making for Christmas.

Happy present making.

Jules