Meditation cushion and yoga bolster

I have a real problem with throwing away scrap fabric. I’ve been saving up piles of it for years now, like a rodent building a nest. Every corner of the sewing room has a Bag for Life stuffed to bursting with scraps and old clothes. I needed a plan, something more concrete than ‘one day I’m going to make footstools for the living room’. Hence the double dose of ‘lifestyle’ items I came up with here.

First is the zafu, or meditation cushion. To be honest, the state of my hips is such that I prefer to meditate in a chair whenever possible, however I did want a zafu to put in front of the shrine. Something solid and well-stuffed. The pattern for this came from here and is a breeze to cut and sew. It’s basically two circles and a long rectangle. You pleat the rectangle and attach it to the circles, easy.

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Second was the yoga bolster. Owing to the aforementioned hips, I do a fair bit of restorative or yin yoga. This generally involves a lot of holding asana (yoga poses) for extended periods, often with a variety of props to support the body and allow it to release. Central to this is a bolster. It can’t be some flimsy pillow, given to flattening out. It really needs to be a sturdy number, something that can take a full body weight without totally flattening out, ideally shaped to support the spine, hips or shoulders. You can do cylindrical ones – it’s on my to-do list –  but I opted to start with a cuboid version. This pattern comes from here and is similarly easy, you’re just sewing rectangles together – and could add piping if you wanted a more upholstered look. This has handles at either end, which are completely necessary as this thing weighs a metric tonne.

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So the sewing is easy, if only it ended there. Stuffing these took over whole weeks of not only my life, but the life of Mr Pixington too. Essentially, we would bring down one of those bags for life, each of us sit with a pair of shears and spend a whole evening cutting and stuffing. In most cases we snipped into pieces of fabric and ripped but nonetheless we had blisters after night one. The zafu took maybe 2.5 evenings (say 10 hours total) and the bolster took more like 20 hours to fill – 40 if you consider it was two of us. Guys, I am so up for recycling and reusing, but making your own fibre-fill is TIME CONSUMING! The lesson learned from this experience: Cut and store scrap fabric in batches rather than trying to shred it all at once!

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Anyway, I’m delighted with the outcome. These are 100% recycled products (well the thread isn’t I guess, let’s say 98% recycled). The main fabric is upholstery fabric I picked up after a magazine was disposing of it (one of the benefits to the location of my office). They were both small pieces, hence the lack of pattern matching on the bolster. All the fill is scraps and old clothes. Both items work perfectly, they have a heft that gives them a feeling of being more like furniture than soft furnishings. The zafu is ideal for cross-legged mediation, although I think I would prefer to have two stacked to accommodate my sitting style. The star of the show is the bolster however. It has been my friend through so many bridges and child’s poses, propping me up and allowing me to pass from pain and discomfort into opening and relaxation.

I’ve still got kilos of scrap fabric knocking about so hopeful to make some more recycled bits.

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Meditation cushion and yoga bolster

Here comes the hurdy-gertie dress it’s singing songs of love

This was my first (and so far only) make from the legendary Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book. I’ll prob talk more about it over time, but I do recommend this book heartily. There are so many options and a fantastic series of chapters on various techniques. I had initially been irritated while trying to work out how to do an FBA on the surplice bodice, leading to a UFO pinned to my dressform for over a year. Only picking up the book again to start writing this did I realise that there had been full instructions all along on how to do FBAs on not only basic bodices, but also surplice, v-neck and others. So I really can’t fault it on being an all-in-one resource for a number of gorgeous vintage looks.

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I began with this mainly because it jumped out at me from the pics. Gertie’s version is called a Rockabilly Dress and the facing is flipped to the outside and finished with rick-rack. I loved the shape but didn’t want the floof so opted for a more basic construction with the facing on the inside, also omitting the suggested puff sleeves (a decision I completely stand by). The dress is made up of the all-around pleated skirt piece, v-neck bodice and basic sleeve. All the pattern pieces are on nice heavy-gauge paper in the back of the book, so you do have to be prepared to trace. I have to really work myself up to wanting to do that, but am trying to build up a collection of each piece in my size (if that were only a stable metric) on decent pattern paper so save destroying the originals.

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Oddly, my pattern piece for the back bodice tells me I added 10cm overall FBA. Yet comparing the front piece to the original shows I did no such thing. Whether I had another pattern piece that I threw away, or I was just lying to myself, history no longer recalls. I’ve got a second version of this cut in a red seersucker with the 10cm added, so we will see! This version is a 14 all over, an FBA seems likely given the finished garment measurements for the 14. I don’t believe I made any further adjustments. The fit was initially very good indeed, although I have gained some waist since then and so have lost some of the ease.

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This was made before I moved house, so at least 18 months ago, so unfortunately I have no pics of the construction phase, nor do I remember a lot. One grave error still sticks in my mind every time I don this though: I stretched out the sodding neckline. The fabric is a rayon challis that I believe I picked up from Abakhan’s website on a whim (I never order swatches to be honest). It’s lovely, swishy and soft. But when I stay-stitched the neckline, , for some reason I did it outside of the seam allowance instead of inside and had to pull out the stitches. At some point in construction the neckline became quite warped. It’s not ruined and I still wear it, it that little gape reminds me every time: inside the seam allowance, doofus.

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The only other snag I had in construction was putting in the neck facing. As I was off-book at the point – the instructions call for the facing to be the outside – I think I just tried to improv rather than look for another dress with the same bloody neckline in the book. So it’s a bit flappy in all honesty, and probably is missing an understitch or two to make it more secure.

Not a construction issue, but more human error, I ALSO managed to rip a small hole right at the bust apex by having the garment all scrunched up while I was trimming something else (Gods I‘ve come a long way since making this). It had to be mended with some interfacing and the prayer that no-one look too closely.

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This includes a lapped back zipper, which was a fun technique to learn and is fully detailed in the book. It gives a nice clean finish but is a nightmare to try and do up on your own.

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Here comes the hurdy-gertie dress it’s singing songs of love

Dungaree and me: Marilla Walker Roberts collection and T&TB Cleo dress

I’ve spent a lot of the last 12 months ensconced in pinafores. Through thick and thin, through hot and cold, through the seemingly endless traumas of working life, one garment has stood by me through it all, the humble dungaree dress.

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The first foray into this elysian realm of frumpy-comfort – frumpfort (TMTMTMTMTMTM) as I shall now call it – was the Marilla Walker Roberts collection dungaree dress. It’s View C of a four View pattern including trouser-dungaree, jumpsuit, dress and T-shirt. I’ve not yet investigated the other options but may be tempted by the trouser version at some point.

The size range on this pattern is pretty great, I cut a size 6  and there are two sizes beyond that available on the pattern. Initially, it came up huge, but like a really nice huge. It came to just above the knees and had acres of ease in it. I have since worn it on every flight, for most gardening jobs, for work, to the pictures and any occasion on which I want something comfortable with big pockets.

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Construction was fine and the instructions are clear and easy to use. The only difficulty I encountered was putting in the tab for the side closure, it’s just a bit fiddly getting it to line up perfectly with the bib, facing and skirt pieces. I used a grey needlecord picked up somewhere on Goldhawk Road.

These pics were taken in July while camping, and either due to the shrinking fabric or the expanding me, it’s not quite what it once was. I do still reach for it in case of long car journey, or especially for camping, but it’s prob a bit too mucky for work-wear now.

Onto the Cleo, which I have made twice once in red cord and again in a slightly stretchy denim. I made the them both ‘mini’ length.

On the red dress, I used the hip pockets included with the pattern and made no adjustments. I cut the largest size in the pattern and overall, I neither love nor hate it. I have encountered the same issue with other T&TB dress patterns. I’m always the top of the size range, which is ok, but the garments always fit a bit funny. Like there’s a tubular shape to both this and the Bettine (no-one will ever see the disaster of a Bettine that I made) have that looks ok when standing but immediately hitches up when you sit down. Like there is no flare at all, it’s a perfect tube. Having never ported around a thin body, I don’t know if the fit would work better on a smaller frame, from the pics I have seen of this, I can only assume so. I believe this was the first of the T&TB patterns to include a larger model on the marketing, so perhaps that I was I was tempted back into the fold having decided this brand wasn’t for me some time ago. But as I say, I don’t hate it, it just doesn’t move with me and I end up sitting at my desk with it bunched up around my waist.

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curiously tubular

I had reserved this denim to make ginger jeans then got disheartened by a lengthy toile process (still ongoing…) and decided to just use it. This time I made an adjustment to pattern to flare the skirt out slightly. I think this may have been a successful adjustment except… I also decided to include seam pockets – which ended up being my undoing. As you may be able to see, I used pockets from another pattern that are just friggin gigantic. When I put even the merest oyster card in one of the pockets, the pocket bag droops down below the hem of the skirt. They are so voluminous that they don’t even being to blend into the seam and are perpetually visible like I’m some terrible magician. Sitting here writing this I can see, in my peripheral vision, great barrage balloons of pocket peeking out from either side of my body.

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It’s not a bug it’s a feature…

So anyway, for your consideration, here are the dungarees three. My recommendation is the Marilla Walker for its easy 70s vibes, frumpfort, size range and pattern options.

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Dungaree and me: Marilla Walker Roberts collection and T&TB Cleo dress

Robe d’action – Deer & Doe Myosotis dress

Salut dear reader, today’s make is the summer-saviour Myosotis from French indie pattern company Deer & Doe. It’s my third make of theirs. The Plantain t-shirt is now so ubiquitous in my wardrobe that I have older ones now serving pyjama duty. I also made an Aubepine shortly after my last post before the self-imposed blog-break which I now doubt I could squeeze into, so it may remain un-blogged. But it was a lovely dress made for an occasion and so for that I thank it.

A few releases went by from D&D that I thought ‘hmm it’s nice if you are tres mince, but it won’t be for me’ until, saints be praised, this release came along, complete with a plus size model in the marketing. Lo and behold, I could suddenly see myself in this garment, representation matters and increases your potential audience, who’d have thought!

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Note: I realise that I have referred to larger models both here and in reference to the Cleo from T&TB. I also realise that these models are, while larger than the norm, still probably straight size, or low-plus size. I myself am low-end plus-size (not sure exactly, prob 18-20) and so do benefit from a certain degree of privilege here. In some (mainly indie) ranges I can cut the pattern with few adjustments. I’m delighted to see bigger bodies on these patterns, but would be even more delighted to see bigger ones, to have a feeling that sewing while fat isn’t some arcane, esoteric activity that involves an armoury of rulers and French curves and pattern paper – but something that could be catered for, out of the packet a la Cashmerette.

Anyway, fat politics notwithstanding, I saw this gorgeous pic and dared to dream – could there finally be a shirt dress for me? I have not worn something that buttoned up in the front and looked good since the blessed summer uniform came out around June each year in primary school. Many years ago, I made this T&TB blouse. Who was I kidding? I also attempted a Grainline Archer, and it’s too meh to even really talk about. The lesson I learned was: buttons don’t belong there dude.

But still, the shirt dress pilot light stayed lit and seeing this I decided to give it another go. I had this Ikat print that I picked up in Brecon while on a canal boat holiday last summer. It was some end of bolt offer, just under 3m and I snapped it up thinking it might end up as a kaftan. I didn’t fuss too much with pattern matching given that the skirt would be gathered but tried to a least line it up horizontally on the bodice.

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I made View B and I made no adjustments in the end. I made a muslin and decided to just go with it. The sewing of this coincided with two events: the rising temperature in London and the almighty arse-ache of the new Thameslink timetables. This meant I was now schlepping to and from London Bridge in rising heat to travel for longer on smaller, hotter and more crowded trains. The risk of heat-based fury was great, a hero was needed. Along came Myosotis. The muslin was blousey sure, the waist floating inches from my body, the back baggy, the skirt slightly too long. Maybe it wasn’t the dress I wanted, but it was the dress I needed.

Wearing this for the first time was a revelation. I sat on the train, free in my crisp cotton, oversize shit dress, secret squirrel cycling shorts preventing the scourge of thigh-rub, air circulating around me. I was summer made flesh.

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Anyway, I rather like it as you might guess. Construction was ok. I don’t know If I made an error in cutting, but the collar was too long by about 2” and had to be carefully trimmed to fit and maintain the sharp finish. I also had trouble catching the collar when I top-stitched, but that is a perennial issue for me. Again, not sure if this was my error or not, but I swear neither the instructions nor the pattern indicates that the sleeve caps need to be gathered to ease into the armscye. Like it’s not a little ease, when I pinned it without gathering, it overhung each end by miles.

The reason I have dubbed this Action Dress is that it has a surprising secondary function. I initially made it to have a smart work dress that didn’t raise my core temperature. But a recent camping trip to Dartmoor made me realise that this dress is perfect for summer rambling. It can be chucked over a swimming cossie in seconds, for trips to the beach, or in my case a 5k hike to a swimming hole. It doesn’t rub or cling and dries in minutes in sunshine, so was ideal for the hike back. The pockets (or frockets and Mr Pixington likes to call them) are capacious enough to keep car keys, phone and purse safe. It kept me cool and mobile and for these and all the reasons above I’m giving Myosotis an enormous recommendation.

Robe d’action – Deer & Doe Myosotis dress

1 shed, 3 Turner dresses

Apart from the Deer & Doe Plantain (and pants), this pattern – Cashmerette’s Turner dress – represents the most revisited for me in the last 18 months. I’m at four with a fifth on the way. I think I’ve waxed lyrical here and over on Instagram before about Cashmerette patterns in general and about this one in particular, but they truly are a goddess-send. Big boobs? Round tummy? Invisible waist? Yes, I have all of these things and Cashmerette has got me covered. No need for full-bust adjustments, just work out your cup size according to the size chart and go from there.

fullsizeoutput_120As this is a stretchy pattern, it’s super forgiving but I do make a few very basic adjustments – I grade down from waist to hip, in this case just one size (sometimes I need to do 2). I also shorten it slightly. Looking at the pics I should probably do something about the excess fabric at the back too, but I’m not mad at it.

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We’ll call it a cowl back ok?

Construction is very straightforward with excellent instructions. I have used an overlocker for most of these – although i have been known to just stay at the machine using a zigzag when I can’t be arsed to move a cat, or myself. The only lightly faffy part is inserting the clear elastic at the waistline. I find it so difficult to keep it stretched and flat at the same time, it just wants to roll into a tube – perhaps I am just buying cheapo elastic.

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So, can I just talk a bit more about why I love this pattern? It’s the Empress of secret pyjamas you guys. In anything from the cheapest Ebay jersey to a more bougie shop-bought knit, it is the most comfortable piece of heaven you could wish for. The flared skirt and empire waist mean I can just live my life in peace without the tyranny of waistbands, buckles, buttons and zips. No more I say, my stomach is free. The skirt hits just above my knee – not a length I had gone for typically. It opened up a whole new world of secret squirrel cycling shorts and bare legs in summer. In this case, I make the Patterns for Pirates Peg Leg leggings somewhere between the shorts and cycle length usually in a swimsuit lycra and that is sufficient to prevent a whole season’s worth of thigh-rub.

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Thank the maker for these shorts

Second to that, it looks – by my admittedly scruffy standards – pretty put together. I initially came to this pattern desperately needing a smart outfit for a do. Feeling fat and unwilling to ever let spanx near my body again, I figured I’d give this a try. I could have (and nearly did) cry with gratitude when I pulled on the yellow quatrefoil (from Girl Charlee) version of this late on a Saturday afternoon. It was so close to the wire that I was cutting off threads with my teeth on the way there but to know I had something to wear that not only looked the part but also, dare I say, was a flattering and bold piece of sunshine yellow gorgeousness was everything.  I felt beautiful in it.

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And that’s the key for me, a moment of realisation, I can feel beautiful in clothes without the need for discomfort, in fact it may be a prerequisite. In addition, comfortable clothes can be beautiful.

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So here for your delectation are dresses 1, 2 and 3, yellow quatrefoil jersey (2 way stretch) a red plain dye jersey and a black plain jersey (both 4-way stretch). Not pictured is a teal version that was found to have creases that shamed even me when it came to photographing. Also, please excuse the bad shed-art. Mr Pixington is strangely devoted to that painting so hanging it here was a compromise.

 

 

 

1 shed, 3 Turner dresses

I’m back, with pants!

My last post was December 4, 2015. I make that nearly 3 years since I last blogged. December 2015 coincides perfectly with us putting our flat on the market and starting the search for a new home. That at least accounts for 7 of those lost months. A new house was found, and a sewing room was immediately decorated and inhabited, but for some reason, the drive to blog just wasn’t there. Or, being completely honest, the drive to be photographed. I’ve been delighted to have space and freedom, a garden and a room to sew in, but more then ever, I just did not want to have to see my own image. I’m not going to harp on it, suffice to say I don’t appear in this post, but that’s mainly because I’m not about to put pics of myself in my scanties online! I’ve borrowed a DSLR and invested in a remote and am determined to learn how to smise, find my light and all that jazz – or at least find a bit more peace with my aging and expanding.

So, on to the subject at hand – knickers! This has become my favourite quick project for using up scraps. I sew a lot with jersey, it’s the best for work and a handful of Cashmerette Turner dresses and Deer & Doe Plantain tops can keep me going all year, summer and winter. This leaves me with sizeable jersey offcuts. For every top cut from 2m of fabric, I can usually make 2 pairs, although sometimes I have to cut extra gusset pieces from elsewhere.

For a pattern I used this great guide: https://www.instructables.com/id/Panties/

Basically, I took my favourite pair of comfy pants – and these are 100% the comfy variety, a full brief if you will – and kind of stretched and pinned them flat on my ironing board to trace off the front, back and gusset.

I neatened up the drawing, making sure the joins would line up, and halved them, putting in a ‘place on fold’ marking and a reminder to cut two of the gusset.

Construction is easy – you put a gusset right side up, a back right side up and then a second gusset wrong side up. You stitch this seam – I use the overlocker for all seams on this patterns – then you do the same with a front.

Flip it all to right side and add the leg elastic. I did this by trial and error and ended up preferring about 55cm for each leg and 70cm for the waistband (I’m, at a guess, a UK size 18 but I haven’t bought RTW for at least 5 years, but the pants I modelled these after were M&S 16-18). I do this with the sewing machine on a zig-zag stitch, usually on a 3cm width and 3cm length if I remember to change the settings. I’ve used both picot and foldover and much prefer the picot, it seems less apt to slither out from under the foot!

I put the picot with the decorative edge facing inwards and the straight edge flush to the raw edge of the pants.

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Non picot edge aligned with raw edge, on right side

Stitch with a zig zag, then fold it to the wrong side so the decorative edge is now on the outside and topstitch with the dotted zig-zag, or stepped zig zag – any idea what that is called?

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What is number 9 called?

Last step is to stitch up one side seam, attach the waist elastic in the same way and then the final side seam.

And that’s it, super-duper comfy undies (Johnny, is that a multi?) . I’ve even made some from a skater dress that was never, ever going to look good on me, but I loved the print. I’ve had to make a few allowances from time to time, like cutting with the grain going across the garment instead of up and down, but that’s just between you and me and my unmentionables.

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An ex-dress
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Undercrackers
I’m back, with pants!

A farewell and an apron for a tractorgirl

Sarah and I have been friends for over 20 years. We met in the canteen at school aged 13, in 1995. The news had got around that my parents were taking me to Glastonbury that summer, the Stone Roses due to headline the Saturday night. ‘You b*tch’ or something similar were her first words to me. Luckily for our friendship, John Squire broke his collarbone and Oasis took their place as headliners. Sarah and I have been friends ever since.

 

Now she is leaving London for her spiritual birthplace, Ipswich. A devoted Ipswich Town supporter for her whole life, she has met a local dude who has charmed her away to the wilds of Suffolk. And I’m going to miss her.

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So what do sewists do when their hearts hurt – they sew something right? The idea for this little number bubbled up a few months ago when she announced her plans to move. It was scribbled out on a work pad almost exactly as it ended up.

I drafted my own pattern based heavily on the apron in my own kitchen. I did buy a pattern from Simplicity but the options were all very frou-frou and I wanted something more like the chefs wear on Great British Menu – serviceable and functional.

I traced the general shape and then added some width to the top half as mine was a bit slight up top. I divided the pattern in half where I wanted to join the blue bit to the white bit and added on seam allowances and enough for quite a deep hem at top and bottom.

Next I made the bias binding – my first attempt at this! I went quite thick with it as I wanted the binding to resemble the trim on the Ipswich kit.

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I just cut out a whole tonne of it and stitched it together – in the end it was more than I needed.

The fabric is a cotton drill from Amazon, a real find. It’s super cheap, very sturdy and heavy and the blue was almost a perfect match for the current ITFC kit.

Construction was a matter of sewing the blue top to the white bottom, sewing white bias binding to the top half with long bits hanging at each end for the ties and a loop at the top for the head. I then sewed the blue bias binding onto the bottom sides, again leaving loose ends. I then stitched together the loose ends along the length to make a super sturdy tie. It’s a bit wonky at this point as essentially the bias binding is twisting at the waist, but when tied up it looks ok.

Ipswich Town fan trigger warning: If you don’t want to know how I got the badge, look away now.

I bought an ITFC shirt from the 2006 season off ebay and simply cut out the badge. I had thought about embroidering one but it’s way beyond my skill levels. I set the zig-zag stitch width low on my machine and attached the badge to the apron front around the edge.

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The pocket is a patch pocket with blue bias binding inserted on each side.

The final flourish was the shorts – a suggestion from Mr Pixington – which were again achieved with a narrow zig-zag (is this satin stitch??). I just sketched on the lines with chalk and went for it, came out a charm!

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So good luck to Sarah and Matt and good luck to the Tractorboys. I’ll miss you Boo! xxx

A farewell and an apron for a tractorgirl