Every Cloud… and all that.

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“Every cloud has a silver lining” – This is one of those glib little phrases that get churned out when we’re told bad news by someone and we don’t really know what to say, but want to say something reassuring in the hope that everything will be alright in the end.

It’s a phrase I have muttered to myself multiple times daily for nearly a month now. Because on Halloween my lovely, but rather forgetful, husband fell 8 feet from some scaffolding and broke his back. Yes that’s right he broke his back. He fell so hard a vertebra exploded and then went back into almost the right place again – almost. The pressure on his spinal cord meant his legs were effectively being electrocuted for two days. The pain from nerve damage is not like anything else. Broken bones or even child birth don’t have anything on it, it’s in a category all on its own.

For those who follow me or my husband Charlie Budd on social media you have probably seen the references to it and that he is going to be alright. He wasn’t though, and for a several heart stopping hours I really thought our lives were going to be thrown off the edge of a cliff. I am sure the sight of a woman walking through the hospital car park at 2am in the morning sobbing uncontrollably can’t be that unusual, surely.

The hours during Charlie’s surgery to insert permanent pins and rods into his spine (effectively making him bionic!) and those waiting for him to come back onto the ward again were painfully, achingly slow and some I would never wish on even my worst enemy.

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Don’t worry the beard has remained unharmed!

But he is on the mend now after some incredible medics and surgeons have literally bolted him back together. When you really need it the NHS is a truly wonderful thing. The pins and rods he has had inserted into his back fuse several vertebrae together stablising the broken one while it heals. He has to wear a body brace to support his back and prevent him from bending and twisting for three months and then we can work on the physio side of things. But after all this he actually managed to walk out of the hospital only two weeks after he fell.  

How can I possibly find a silver lining out of this?

Well for a start he could be paralysed or even dead and he isn’t so we can tick those boxes!

The injuries Charlie has sustained mean he will take a long time to recover and return to normal. The thing is we don’t quite know what normal is going to be just yet. He can walk, well more of a shuffle really, and as he says himself “he ain’t gonna win any races against a three toed sloth any time soon!”  But he is getting stronger and more mobile every day. (Thanks be to all the Gods that ever existed!)

However, this is going to be a life changing event for us. He cannot work for at least six months and even then he won’t be able to return to his former occupation. Charlie was a high end painter and decorator with an attention to detail I have rarely seen matched. He is/ was booked up for most of next year already. But there is certainly no way he’s going near any more ladders even if he were able to bend and move enough to be able to do all the things he did before.

This could be viewed as a disaster, a tragedy, a calamity, how are we going to cope? And this dear reader is where my silver lining comes in. Where the little sunbeam rays of hope creep their shiny fingers around the oppressive clouds of doom.

Charlie, although very good at painting, has other talents too. Some of you may have seen his instagram posts as @thetallphotographer on instagram. He is well versed in photography having taken pictures since he was a child, and more recently proved a dab hand at cinemagraphs and plotagraphs. If you want to see what those are have a look at his Instagram feed.

For a long while now we have both been coasting along doing what we’re doing and not being completely satisfied with the direction of travel. Don’t get me wrong I love teaching and all things sewing related, especially pattern cutting! But we have felt that we weren’t quite where we wanted to be with our respective businesses. Charlie is a creative soul and needs to be channeling that creativity in a more satisfying way. He is extremely good at putting together small but perfectly formed videos showcasing independent businesses and has been working on this more recently with a view to turning it into a business. This is now becoming a reality as editing is something he can do in small bouts of sitting at his Mac.

Queue a massive kick up the pants! A life changing event. A chance to take stock.

Now I don’t advocate that taking a nosedive from some scaffolding is the answer to everyone’s prayers but it has brought us up short. Made us take a good, hard look at what we’ve got, where we want to be and how are we going to get there.

It has made us reassess what’s important. We both work bonkers hours and actually enjoy working but do we need to do it how we were doing it? Is there a better way? Can we get off the treadmill we’re on and create a better life?

I think we can. So while breaking your back and being in screamingly excruciating pain really fucking sucks, (and I make no apologies for swearing, I’ve done an awful lot of that too lately: I’ve seen my husband in screaming agony – literally, and I’ve seen the MRI scans of his broken back), the silver linings really are becoming visible.

I’m working from home more and will be for the foreseeable future, but I am actually more productive. I have a new vision for where I want to go with Sew Me Something, what we can provide to you the sewers and dressmakers, and I have a better idea of how we are going to get there. So watch this space.

Another of the wonderfully glib phrases that springs to mind here is “when life gives you lemons – make lemonade”.

“RIGHT” (she says hands on hips standing in the middle of the room) “pass me the fucking juicer!!!”

 

Sewing Imogen’s Front Placket

Imogen placket cover image

This is a tutorial I have been meaning to put up here for some time now, but with one thing and another it has taken me until now.

The Imogen Top is a pretty straightforward one to put together but to get the front placket absolutely ‘bang on’ takes a bit of accuracy so here is how I do it.

 

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I tend to apply the interfacing and then trim off any overhanging pieces. This ensures you’re using the fabric as the guide for sewing and pinning not the interfacing.

Make sure you have interfaced the placket pieces (and one of the neckbands.)

File 11-11-2017, 11 32 22Like anything it’s the prep that makes all the difference. So marking the stitching points for the placket opening are key. I use a pin and a marker pen for added accuracy, rather than tailor’s tacks or chalk, but whatever works for you. Just remember the A word!!

File 11-11-2017, 11 32 36The little dot at the corner of the placket opening is marked by poking a pin through the dot on the paper and then gently lifting the paper away from the fabric and marking where the pin goes through the fabric with the pen.

File 11-11-2017, 11 32 57You can then flip over the fabric and where the pin comes out of the second layer mark with the pen again.

File 11-11-2017, 11 33 13On the placket pieces make sure to mark the small dot at one end using the same method of poking the pin through and marking with a pen on both pieces to make sure you get a pair.

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Now when you come to offer up the placket pieces to the front neck opening you can match up these dots exactly. Remember to place the RIGHT side of the PLACKET to the WRONG side of the FRONT. This way you end up doing the topstitching on the right side keeping it nice and tidy.

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Place a pin at the base of the placket where the dot is to make sure you end exactly on the dot.

Sew down the sides of the opening attaching the placket pieces with a 1cm seam allowance. Again accuracy here with the seam allowance will mean it’s easier to finish the placket neatly.

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Make sure to finish exactly on the dot!

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Slow your stitching right down and even hand wheel or just sew one stitch at a time to make sure you finish exactly on the dot.

You should have two perfectly level rows of stitching. (If you mark everything accurately.)

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Press the placket away from the front so it lies over the seam allowances.

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Flip the front over and snip into the ends of the lines of stitching. Again it’s the A word. Accuracy is important here too, because if you don’t snip right up to the ends of sewing you will get “woolly corners”, to quote my old needlework teacher, when you try to pull the placket over to the right side.

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You must snip in far enough to allow the placket to sit flat after being pulled over to the right side.

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Press under the raw edge that is left on the placket by just under 1cm.

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The pins on the right side should be turned around so they follow the direction of sewing. Basically this means you always have the pin head towards you so it’s easier to remove the pins as you go. 

Fold the pressed edge over to enclose the seams and to sit just over the sewing line of the seam. Pin in place along the length of the placket. Pinning this way will hold more of the placket in place as you sew.

If the folded placket doesn’t ‘fill the space’ ie. sit neatly inside the gap without hanging over or leaving a gap between the other placket pieces you may need to adjust how much has been folded under in the previous step.

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Flip the front over and you can see the little triangular pieces of the front left behind the placket.

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Flip the placket pieces back over to the wrong side and fold the triangular piece down. Fold the placket pieces back in place.  

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Make sure they are even along the bottom edges, and create a perfect V shape from the right side. The triangular piece is tucked down to the wrong side now so it should look nice and neat and level.

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Sew from the right side along the edge of the placket piece. Make sure that none of the original placket seam stitching is visible and that the placket hangs just over that line of sewing.

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You can use a pin to hold the bottom edge of the placket in exactly the right place so you can sew one stitch from the placket on to the front.

Drop the needle down so you can pivot and sew along the bottom of the folded over triangular piece. Stop just in time so you can pivot again and do one stitch to take you back onto the other placket piece.

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Sew back up the edge of the other placket piece. You should have a row of sewing that comes down one edge of the placket hops onto the front, across the flat bottom of the placket, hops back onto the other side of the placket and up the other side.

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You can remove the marker pens spots with a paintbrush and a dab of water.
You may note while reading through this tutorial that I haven’t used stay stitching around the opening as described in the pattern instructions. This is for several reasons:

  • I find the extra stitching can get in the way of real accuracy.
  • They can remain visible after sewing in the placket.
  • Most of the time a stable fabric is used so it’s not strictly necessary. And if it’s not necessary there’s no point!
  • I’m not a “sewing purist,” so am quite happy to use whatever processes I feel I need wherever I feel I need them – or not.

I included the stay stitching in the instructions as a way of making sure to get an accurate opening following feedback from our pattern testers.  But please let me know if you use stay stitching here of if you prefer not to.

There are always ‘better’ ways of doing things and sharing the knowledge is what we’re all about. 🙂

Jules x