dressmaking with light

I have been busy sewing and the first thing I made was up-to-date pattern blocks. Those took ages as it’s difficult to fit the body block easily without the assistance of someone else who sews but after much trying on and marking and re-marking I’ve got new basic blocks that I can use. I also looked through my various books and the trusty internet for help when I got stuck.

The first actual wearable item I subsequently made was trousers with an elasticated waistband for keep-fit class which turned out well and are a suitable weight for wearing all year round. Encouraged by those, I used the remaining fabric (ponte roma) to make a pull-on top which will be handy for keeping the chill off in the autumn/winter when I’m scruffing around the house. I based the design on a combination of a Guernsey fisherman’s top and a kimono-type sleeve and the amount of fabric available.

pull on top

Next I made a proper pair of trousers with a fly front (not shown). I had several yards of suiting-weight grey fabric bought years ago and reckoned that if the trousers didn’t turn out too well, I hadn’t lost much except a few hours of my time. They do fit me well but are still unhemmed as I’m undecided about whether to reduce the leg width a little more. Sewing with 100% matching thread meant that I could hardly see the seam when I needed to rip out some stitching. Luckily for me I had some birthday money to spend and bought a daylightcompany.com flexible sewing machine lamp (model DN1180) which was unexpectedly delivered within 24 hours. It’s fab! It has two sticky mounts so you can transfer the lamp for use with something else. I’m not being paid for this review but I would highly recommend this lamp to anyone whose machine lighting is not as good as they’d like. An alternative to the additional lamp is not to use matching thread – I watched a tailor explain on YouTube that it didn’t matter much what colour thread you used as it was on the inside and not seen. Fair point.

sewing lamp

I currently own nine books about pattern drafting, cutting, and fitting (you can just see them behind the sewing machine). The earliest was printed in 1951 and the most recent in 2003. The styles in most of them are now extremely old-fashioned but as ‘vintage’ is currently very popular does that make me up-to-date for a change? Fortunately the basic principles of drafting and fit remain the same so if you fancy dabbling in pattern drafting and come across an old book on the subject, don’t let the illustrations put you off.

I’ve enjoyed all of The Great British Sewing Bee and I’m currently watching a series of Project Runway USA but I’ve never understood how the contestants are able to pull off some of those outfits (particularly tailored ones) in such a short space of time. I’ve never considered myself slow at dressmaking but I would find it difficult to match them. Do they have assistance off-camera or is there some judicious time-editing going on or am I just jealous?





some of this, some of that

On Tuesday I set up my machine for some thread painting with the thought of making a short video of the process because I’ve seen so many sewing demos online and thought it couldn’t be too difficult. Ha! The lighting wasn’t quite right so the stitching didn’t show up clearly on playback (although my hands didn’t look too bad) and if the camera got knocked it sounded like a volcano erupting. Finding the ideal camera position was difficult and the lack of a zoom facility didn’t help although how I might have operated that as well as moving the fabric is still a quandry. How do others do this so successfully? Perhaps there’s just a lot of deft editing or they have someone else doing the filming or they use a camera more suitable than my webcam (which is tethered to my pc with a not-as-long-as-I’d-like-it-to-be cable). Frustratingly, I couldn’t find anything online that might explain how I could do it better so it might take a lot longer to win that oscar!

This is what was stitched during the filming and it’s obvious that I had no clear stitching plan in mind before I began. I used a layer of pelmet interfacing which had been painted with poster paints and sprinkled with salt crystals before the surface dried to give that mottled effect on the right. (I’m still finding salt on the work bench several days later.) I backed the interfacing with batting and a layer of cotton but I needn’t have done as it’s easy to thread paint on a single layer of the interfacing.

fme doodles

Yesterday I did some leaf prints on a scrap of thick canvas-type fabric and on the remaining coloured interfacing (which hadn’t been layered with anything else). I’d gathered leaves weeks ago and I wish I could now remember what I rubbed on them in an attempt to preserve them because it was quite successful! I do know that I subsequently ironed two of them between sheets of kitchen paper and those were the leaves I used for the print attempts as well as a leaf shape cut from flexible fabric in my craft supplies (there, because it hadn’t lived up to its original description as being suitable to prevent rug-creep). The backs of the leaves were rubbed with the flat side of an Inktense block and then placed upside down and the image transferred to damp interfacing/fabric with a brayer.  On dry fabric/interfacing I very lightly sprayed the coloured leaves with water before transferring. I think the interfacing as a background worked best of all because it’s quite rigid. The larger leaf stood up well to use and I think I could probably take further prints before it finally disintegrates.

leaf print