Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


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On the doorstep – Blaise Castle House Museum

I’m sure many of us go on holiday and enthusiastically embrace the cultural delights on offer . But how many of us, have neglected to visit the wonderful museums and art galleries on our doorsteps? A little while ago I decided that I hadn’t visited the House Museum at Blaise Castle for years. The main reason for my visit was to take a look at the costumes and social history exhibits. The museum has a huge collection of costumes dating from the early eighteenth century onwards. Sadly only a fraction of them are on display, but the small exhibition is an interesting insight. Apparently it is possible to arrange a visit with the curator if you want to see some of the other items which are in storage.

First, there is a display of shoes and accessories. These shoes are made of brocade cloth and have vellum soles. It’s a shame, but I didn’t make a note of the date of these shoes, but I can see the left and right shoe are not differentiated, which is typical of shoes before the nineteenth century.

Regency Shoes

Eighteenth century shoes

These boots from the 1850s were made of cloth and have leather toes. This type of boot was generally used for walking and travelling

boots

Nineteenth century walking boots

 

1930s Shoes

1930s Shoes

 

1960s shoes

1960s shoes

These beautiful court shoes date from the 1950s.  The stiletto heel, is for me always associated with the 1980s. However, the phrase “stiletto heel” was first recorded in the early 1930s. The stiletto heel is made of a metal spike embedded in the heel, but there is uncertainty about when this technique was first used, but thin high heels were certainly around in the late 19th century.

1950s shoes

1950s shoes

My favourites, though, are the boy’s football boots from the 1930s. They are, of course, made of leather and very different from their modern counterparts!

Children's football boots

Children’s football boots

This brocade evening dress dates from about 1927.

1920s evening dress

1920s evening dress

This fantastic velvet and chiffon dress from the 1930s would have been an amazing dress for a glamorous occasion.

1930s evening dress

1930s evening dress

A couple of dresses from the 1960s. On the left, a silk cocktail dress and on the right, a maxi-length evening dress

1960s dresses

1960s dresses

Muslin regency dress

Muslin regency dress

There are also a few older dresses. I particular like the regency dresses. This white muslin dress dates from 1812 and shows the silhouette evokes classical Greek statues.

The embroidery is created using tambour work, a popular and fashionable style of embroidery at this time using a pick to pull thread through the fabric. I think the embroidery has a Greek feel to it too.

Muslin regency dress

Muslin regency dress

This striped silk dress is more triangular in shape, as favoured by Parisian ladies. The end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 the Paris influences could once more be seen in British fashions.

Regency Dress

Regency Dress

The hem of this dress is padded, this helped to hold the skirt of the dress in the desired shape and was also decorative.

Bodice of Regency Dress

Bodice of Regency Dress

Hem of Regency Dress

Hem of Regency Dress

This pelisse robe was worn over the dress like a coat. It dates from around 1825. It is still a beautiful vibrant colour.

Pelisse 1825

Pelisse 1825

The decorative squares at the hems and cuffs are made by covering small squares of cardboard with fabric.

Pelisse Cuff

Pelisse Cuff

This next dress shows the lower waistline and fuller skirts of the early Victorian era (1840).

Early Victorian Dress

Early Victorian Dress

This dress is from the later Victorian era when bustles replaced the crinoline.

Victorian Dress

Victorian Dress

The great advantage of this museum is its small size and being able to get so close to the clothes.  Not only could I get a real feel for the details and embroidery, but I could even see the hand stitches on some of the dresses.

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#SummerOfBasics – Black Skinny Jeans and a Feline Friend

Well, time has marched on and we are nearly at the end of August. I tried to get on top of my sewing and knitting this weekend, but despite quite a reasonable amount of time at my disposal (unusual for me) I am admitting defeat. I know that I will not make the Summer of Basics deadline. But all is not lost. I already have a new top. My skinny jeans are finished (see below) and I have started my hat. I had to rip back to a lifeline last night and I know that the hat won’t be finished by the end of the month. However, I am confident that it will fit me – I tried on the ribbed cuff and it was perfect!

Both the grey top and the skinny jeans I’m making for the Summer of Basics use Burda patterns. I’m not exactly sure why I decided to sew two Burda patterns so quickly in succession – bad planning on my part or perhaps once I had the outfit formulated in my mind I couldn’t step away from it. I have a feeling of trepidation at the start of every Burda project. The instructions are generally minimal and often lacking in linguistic clarity. Fortunately, I had shared this pattern with my Mum and she was first off the starting blocks her pair of jeans. This was very handy as when I got to the usual head-scratching stages, I knew we could compare notes. I was in despair over the instructions describing the fly zip insertion and decided to go my own way with some good pointers from my Mum.

Skinny Jeans

I am extremely pleased with the fabric I bought for my jeans from Fabric Godmother. The fabric seems to have gone from their website, but this is similar. It is described as cotton/ spandex mix, with 40% stretch. I’ve found it hard to find stretch woven jeans fabric and certainly nothing with this amount of stretch. I suspect these jeans will replace my current pair of jeggings, which were bought many years ago and are a cotton / polyester / elastane blend. They have stretched out of shape badly at the knees. I’m hoping that the lack of reliance on polyester in the fabric I’ve chosen for my black skinny jeans will circumvent this problem. I’m actually rather disappointed I didn’t decide to make a pair of jeggings out of this fabric – jeggings are so handy for travelling since a belt isn’t a necessity!

In terms of the fit, I made the size 42 straight from the pattern, but I did trim down the leg seams at the hips a little to make a tighter fit across the hips. I also needed to adjust the length as they were somewhat long in the leg.

I did use my jersey interfacing rather than conventional interfacing in the waistband. I wanted to keep some of the stretch in the waistband. Time will tell if this was a wise decision. I’m a little concerned about the amount of wrinkling, but I wonder if this is partly due to rushing out and taking photos without wearing a belt. I think they need more of a road test – I may take in the side seams a smidge more.

All in all, these jeans are a great addition to my wardrobe. They can be worn with almost anything and I wear jeans all year round – a perfect basic!

Skinny jeans

Photo-bomb by all means, but please can you do that bottom-licking thing somewhere else?

I’m off, you’re just not interesting any more!

I almost forgot about the photo-bombing cat. It’s my neighbour’s cat, who has typical feline pretensions around ownership. I often find him lounging on the bench in my back garden and giving me accusing stares when he’s asked to give up an inch or two for me to sit down. Looks like he’s owning my photo shoot now too!


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#SummerOfBasics – Progress Update

It’s now the middle of August and I’ve made some good progress on my outfit for the Summer of Basics. The only spanner in the works (albeit a lovely spanner) is that I’m going on holiday tomorrow for ten days and this will mean that I have under a week to complete my makes on my return. I’m hoping I can pull this off!

The Cable Hat

I ordered some beautiful yarn from Jamieson and Smith in the silver grey colour. The yarn is 100% Shetland wool and is apparently “perfect for cables”. I’m hoping I’ve made a good choice for my hat, I’m no expert on choosing wool.

The hat I have decided to make for this make is from the Craftsy “Fall” (Autumn for us here in the UK) Knit-Along from last year. Although I have only listened so far to the “preparation” parts of the tutorial, I have been really enjoying the course. Kate Atherley explains everything so well.

The reason I chose this project is that I am desperate to make a hat that fits. I have an extremely small head and I have a hard time finding hats that fit in the shops. As a general rule only children’s hats fit well, but can be a bit prone to pinkness and bows. Kate’s guide to swatching is great and I’m confident that after knitting two swatches I have a needle size that suits the wool and is right for the pattern. This should bring the size of the hat to the size suggested by the pattern. However, I’m still tempted to take out one of the cable repeats to achieve the suggested fit of 5cm less than head size, for a snug fit.

I suspect I’m not going to start my hat until I come back from holiday, but I have all my tools ready – circular knitting needles and a cable needle. I’ve never used either so this will be fun.

The Black Jeans

I think a whole post needs to be devoted to my jeans, but I thought a little update might be useful here. I’m using this Burda pattern to make a pair of skinny black jeans.

Front of jaens (unfinished)

I’ve made the front including the fly and the back. These have now been sewn together at the inner and outer leg seams. This just leaves the waistband, the belt loops and hem. Sadly, I’m not going to get to take these on holiday, although I suspect that a pair of black jeans was never in contention for a holiday in 30 – 40 degree heat!

Back of jeans


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Technophobia – Uploading images to Instagram

technophobe

(ˈtɛknəʊˌfəʊb)

n

  1. (Sociology) someone who fears the effects of technological development on society and the environment
  2. someone who is afraid of using technological devices, such as computers

I’m a technophobe, I’ve said it! I definitely have an aversion to new technology. I still have a video recorder, a tape deck and a Nokia brick.

I joined the Summer Of Basics challenge and when I started reading the rules and guidelines I realised I needed an Instagram account to properly take part. Instagram – really? Is Instadross not the social medium of choice for the selfie-obsessed teenager? Don’t tell me I need to learn something new? I so hate that!

I registered and much to my dismay I found that Instagram only uploads photos from phones. I don’t have a Smart Phone; I bemoaned technology and ranted about the idiocy of social media, forgetting that I’m a blogger and work in IT! But once I’d calmed down I started to think that there may be a way around this, a way that I could get my DSLR camera shots, which are properly edited, from my computer onto Instagram.

I hope these links will be useful for anyone else who likes to resist Smart Phones, instant publishing and generally anything new, like me:

  • Exporting images to your phone using DropBox

This solution isn’t much use for me since I don’t have a phone, but this can be used to get edited images off your desktop and onto your phone ready for uploading to Instagram.

Advantages: It’s free.

Disadvantages: Requires a phone. Can be a bit time-consuming and cumbersome.

  • Using User Agent Spoofing

This is the method that I’m most interested in using. Essentially you use a web browser and configure it to “look” like a mobile device, thereby fooling Instagram into thinking you are using a phone to upload your images.

Advantages: It’s free. Can be accomplished in most web browsers. No third-party software needed.

Disadvantages: Not every feature of the Instagram app is available through the Instagram mobile website.

  • Using Third Party Apps

There are many third part apps available. After reading around this subject it is probably worth bearing in mind that there are some problems with using third-party apps to access Instagram.

Firstly, Instagram very strongly encourages users to upload images from their mobile devices. Accounts can be flagged or even closed when uploading from other sources. (Spoil sports!)

Secondly, to interact with Instagram and post on your account, some of these apps and services require your login details. It is worth being cautious before handing over login details to third-party services.

Here is a summary of the ones I’ve found. There do seem to be other apps mentioned on line, but many seem to no longer be available. There are also a variety of apps that provide interaction with Instagram, but don’t seem to actually upload photos. This article provides a summary of those that can be used by Macs.

BlueStacks

BlueStacks emulates Android apps on your desktop. This is tutorial for using BlueStacks.

Advantages: Can run the Instagram app and any other app of your choosing on your desktop.

Disadvantages: It costs. Seen reports that BlueStacks doesn’t work well on the Mac.

Uplet

Uplet is written exclusively for Macs. There’s a good tutorial on how to use it here.

Advantages: Straightforward to use. For Macs only.

Disadvantages: It costs.

Gramblr

There are PC and Mac versions for Gramblr.

Advantages: It’s free! Can be used by PCs and Macs.

Disadvantages: Some reports of bugs (see here)

Deskgram

Deskgram is an app that has PC and Mac versions.

Advantages: Can be used by PCs and Macs.

Disadvantages: It costs to upload photos.

 

For more information on this topic, this article is a good starting point. There are screenshots and some information about many of the methods and apps I’ve mentioned above.

I managed to set up my Safari (Mac browser) “as an iPhone” and uploaded my first photo to Instagram. Here’s a screenshot the result. It doesn’t look amazing, but I relied on Instagram to resize the photo for me. To get a better shot I really need to resize my photo into a square with PhotoShop – I’ll try that later.

Instagram Screengrab

Am I delighted that I’m now using Instadross? Not really, I’m not ever going to be someone who snaps pictures and publishes them insta(gram)ntly on line. Has it changed my reluctance to try new technology? Absolutely not; I’m a deeply entrenched technophobe still! Time to turn the wireless on for some music……


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#SummerOfBasics – Shades of Grey blouse (#105 – Burda 11/2016)

August is upon us and suddenly time is catching up on me. This year I’ve given myself extra sewing deadlines because I’m entering the #SummerOfBasics challenge in addition to the Independent Pattern Month over at The Monthly Stitch.

In my last post I detailed my proposed plans for my outfit. I finished my first make, the Burda top back in June. (Just a little late with my posting). This top is featured in the November 2016 edition of Burda Style magazine. It is a simple top with long sleeves finishing in an elastic cuff, a round neckline with pleats and a front slit. There are raglan sleeves and a waist tie.

Burda Top

I bought the fabric for this top from Sewn Bristol. It is a beautiful double-gauze fabric in two shades of grey – rather plain, but then this is a basics challenge!

Neckline of Grey Top

My first step when I started this top was to see if I could find any other bloggers who had used this pattern. I’m glad I did this research, because they highlighted a couple of points that I incorporated into my top. First of all, there are slits between the body of the top and the raglan sleeves at the front. Allison C left these out of her version as she thought the slits would reveal bra straps. I omitted the slits too for the same reason. The second modification I made was to the ties at the waist. In the pattern these are made from one layer of fabric. I can understand why this is the case, as using a jersey the ties could be very heavy. However, I decided to cut four of the tie pattern pieces and made a double-layer tie. Apart from the tidier finish this afforded, this meant that I could also take advantage of the double-faced nature of the double-gauze fabric. I kept the outside of the tie in the darker grey and the inside uses the lighter grey side of the fabric. When I knot the ties this gives an interesting tow-tone effect.

The pattern suggests using jersey, but as I had a woven fabric I used woven braid to finish the neckline. Other than this I made no changes to accommodate using a woven fabric, since the pattern is a loose style.

Needless to say the pattern had the usual excrement-level instructions which seem to be the norm for Burda. A fair amount of interpretation was required. I think I’m finding the whole Burda experience less daunting these days, but I put this down to my own perseverance rather than any improvement in the quality of the instructions.

Shades of Grey Top

I’m nearly halfway through my skinny jeans. It seems at the beginning of August that I still have plenty of time, but with about two weeks of holiday lined up this month I know I’m going to be pressed for time. I was up in Scotland at the weekend and thought that I would grab a few minutes in Glasgow to bag myself some Shetland yarn for my hat. Disappointingly, there were long flight delays and the time I set aside for shopping didn’t happen, so I’ve ordered online.


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#SummerOfBasics – The Plan

It’s getting to the end of July and I thought I’d review how far I’ve got with my summer sewing. I have managed to make my Hack It outfit for The Monthly Stitch. Here are the more detailed posts for the Moss skirt and the Tonic T-shirt.

My next task is to get to grips with my Summer of Basics outfit. Summer of Basics is a make-along where participants make three basics items for their wardrobes over the three summer months (June, July and August). The garments can be knitted, crocheted, sewn or a combination. They don’t have to be summer clothes as such and the definition of what “basic” means has really been left up to participants. More details can be found on the Fringe Association site.

I know that many participants are already posting their updates on their blogs and Instagram. I have made some good progress, but I’ve yet to post anything yet! First of all though, I thought I’d write a little about the selection of my three intended garments. As the challenge is all about basics, my thoughts turned to the types of clothes that I think fit this description. When I think basics, I think of clothes that I will turn to again and again and that complement my existing wardrobe. For this reason I gravitated to patterns that that were casual and relaxed in style, in fact clothes that could be worn every day.

The pattern for my first make comes from the November edition of Burda Style. The top has long sleeves fitted with elastic cuffs. A round neckline with a slit at the front and a long tie that can be fastened at the front, side or at the back, whatever you prefer.

I have found a few versions of this top on line. Allison C has made a beautiful metallic version. There is a stunning red version by Ellen and this lovely version is made from a very stretchy rayon in maroon by Lisette at La Cubanista Cose.

I noticed that a couple of the versions above have missed out the slits where the raglan sleeves join the top at the front, but as Allison C points out in her blog, these just show bra straps and I am inclined to leave these out too.

Burda Top

There is also a sleeveless version of the blouse, which I really like as well. Perhaps I’ll sew that up some day.

Sleeveless Burda blouse

In the magazine the top appears to be made in a jersey, but being a relaxed fit, woven fabrics with drape are also suggested. I bought a beautiful double-gauze for the top at Sewn Bristol. I’ve never sewn double gauze before, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it. It is beautifully soft and I’m really looking forward to wearing the top.

Double-gauze

My second make will be a pair of skinny black jeans. Again, I’ve chosen a Burda pattern. No real reason for this other than it is a PDF I bought ages ago and had been knocking around on my account unmade. There isn’t much I can say about this pattern other than it is a classic 5-pocket pair of jeans.

Classic Burda Jeans

I’ve have spent a long time deliberating over fabric for the jeans, because finding denim with a good stretch is not a small task. I found this Super Black stretch denim at Fabric Godmothers. Handily, they detail the percentage stretch which makes it easier to pick out a fabric suitable for skinny jeans. This particular fabric has 40% stretch which is quite high, but should make super skinny jeans.

My last make will be a hat. As the Summer of Basics encourages mixing sewn, knitted or crocheted items for your outfit, I thought I would knit a hat. I’m a very shaky knitter still, and I hope I have chosen an easy make. At the end of last year, Craftsy brought out a free Fall knit-along which included three small knits – a hat, a cowl and a pair of fingerless mittens. I signed up for it in the Autumn, but never started it.

Craftsy Class

Given that the knit will be my first hat, it seemed a safer bet to go with a pattern that has a make-along video with it. The hat pattern is available in two slightly different designs – a beanie hat and a slouchy version. To stretch my knitting skills it has a cable design. To fit in with my other two makes, I’m intending to knit in a dark grey or black. I’ve yet to buy the wool.

Craftsy class

I wouldn’t say my garments are particularly summery, but they are definitely “basics”. All are going to be made in grey or black, which for me are ideal neutrals in my wardrobe. They are also typical of the types of clothes I wear frequently either at home or work; comfortable and practical. They’ll also be ideal for mixing and matching with other items in my wardrobe.


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IPM2017 Hack It contest – Tonic Tee

After finishing my zip-tastic hack for the Grainline Moss, I moved onto my  second garment for the Hack It contest at The Monthly Stitch.

My top is based on the Tonic Tee from SBCC patterns. I’ve never tried a pattern from this company before. I find it really helpful when a designer has a free pattern that I can try before I buy another pattern. The Tonic Tee is free as a PDF when you sign up for their email newsletter.

The pattern itself is a classic t-shirt with a scoop neck. The Tonic Tee pattern comes in lots of sizes, which is fantastic – ranging from XXS to 3XL. They are specifically designed for petites, so the patterns are for those that are short in stature. I’ve never really thought that I’m “petite”. I’m at the taller end of the range that SBCC state for their designs, but I do have a short body. After consulting the sizing chart and comparing this to my body measurements, I didn’t alter the pattern at all; must be a first for me.

The fabric is a purple cotton-spandex Art Gallery jersey. I do love the Art Gallery jerseys, but they are a bit pricey, so I immediately snapped up some when I saw that Fabric HQ had a sale.

I made two modifications to the design to fit in with the Hack It contest. First, I changed the neckline to a V-neck. Second, I altered the hemline of the t-shirt so that it is curved rather than straight.

I’ve been avoiding v-necks for years; when I bought clothes I always found them too revealing. Now that I make clothes all the time, I can decide how low-cut I want that V. I basically followed this tutorial on the Colette Seamwork website for the Aberdeen t-shirt, to draft the new neckline and also to sew it.

I did have some problems in the construction stages though. It took me a couple of hours to get to the point where I was happy with the way the v-neck looked. I also don’t think I have been less chilled during a sewing session for years – there was lots of swearing involved too! The problem was that I just couldn’t get that v-neck as tidy as I would have liked. I pinned, tacked, sewed and then unpicked numerous times. I just wasn’t happy with the way the neckline sat. I’m still not sure whether I nailed it or not, I defer to you, my readers, for that verdict. Rest assured I’m not making another v-neck anytime soon; I just couldn’t handle the stress!

I do like the construction method, even if not entirely happy with my execution of it. I had a good look at my lone RTW t-shirt which is a v-neck and noted that the manufacturer had literally sewn a standard neckline and just sewn the neck band at the V across to made a triangle – this construction technique looks rubbish to me. I’m such a critic of RTW clothes these days!

I finished the hems with a zig-zag. I sometimes wish that I could brave a twin needle, but with a sewing machine of the vintage mine is, I’m not sure that I can. Although, I think a good zig-zag does still look good, even if it isn’t the finish we are used to seeing in shop-bought t-shirts.

Overall, apart from my problems with the v-neck construction, I like my t-shirt. It is close-fitting, but that is definitely the intention with this design. Looking at the photos with the skirt,  I think that the t-shirt does accentuate my sticky-out belly (not good). However, I’m much more likely to wear t-shirts untucked with jeans. I took some more photos with the t-shirt paired with jeans.  I think that the gentle curve that I made on the hem looks good when the t-shirt is untucked.