Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Five things I learned at the Simplicity blog meet…

Faithful followers at the church of May

So, as you probably already know, there was an excellent Simplicity meet up in Manchester (yay the North) at the weekend. Many of the truly lovely attendees have already written up some excellent posts about what was covered on the day, so I’m not going to try and cover all of the subject matter (some great write ups by Red W Sews and Wrong Doll). But believe me, it was fantastic. The sheer amount of tips and advice that May Martin was able to cover was astounding, as was the goody bag of patterns and magazines, so a huge thank you to Hannah at Conker Comms and to Simplicity for their generosity and general brilliance.

Having had a few days to reflect (and test out some of the tips), here are my take aways from the day:

1. TV editing can be misleading: I knew from GBSB that May really knew her stuff and that she seemed like a nice person. What I didn’t expect was how much I would really, really like her - she instantly put us at our ease, had a brilliant sense of humour and made us all feel like we were all mates getting together for a bit of a chat. I honestly could have listened to her all day. I loved her passion, her stories about previous students and the frequent ‘May Mantras’, which were genius. Just a lovely, lovely lady
The joy of crotch fitting

2. Sewing is still heavily female dominated: Obviously I’m always happy to spend time with clever, creative women, but it was clear from the event that there is still a very strong female bias (no pun intended) to sewing. Yes, there are more men on the Sewing Bee than last year, but it would be fantastic to have more men participating and seeing more of their amazing skills

3. Everyone buggers it up sometime: I still have this frustration with not seeing steady improvement, and simple things causing me to get cross with certain projects, so it was a good reminder that errors still happen even to the best sewists. The main thing is to learn how to get out of those tangles with a calm and measured approach that is going to always protect your garment or project. May’s tips for when your sewing machine decides to eat your machine are going to be so useful

4. You probably already know why you are going wrong: You’ve just decided to cut some corners. We all know: use the right needle, use decent thread, read your manuals. In many cases, it might well be your machine that is causing the issue, but it was probably your choice to do something a bit faster or without the right amount of prep that is actually at fault

Testing out May's wisdom on differential feeds

5. Sewing people really are awesome: I’m still pretty new to the whole sewing/blogging malarky and whilst you read a lot about everyone being friendly, introducing yourself into a gang where it feels like everyone already knows each other (and knows a lot more about sewing than you) can be a bit like being the new girl who joins the sixth form. When I first walked in, there were people who already knew each other and there was that slight feeling of anxiety at knowing nobody. But in fact, all you need to do is say hello and that all immediately dissipates. Everyone is happy to chat, and I came away having finally met some people who I’ve been following for a while (and can finally rid myself of that strange stalkery feeling of knowing lots about them, but not having ever really said much about myself) and a whole load of new blogs and people to follow. Thank you everyone for being so ace.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

A Bernina Baby with a Barkcloth Bonus

It appears I’ve stayed true to my word and my latest project has been super simple, but super satisfying. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about losing their ‘sew-jo’, and whilst it seems a bit daft now, I never thought about applying it to my circumstances. Actually, it turns out it was just what I needed.

But first…the exciting development chez Knitty is my new arrival: a hefty 8kg bundle of joy in the shape of a Bernina 330. I spent many hours ploughing through online reviews and information about which Bernina would be the right investment machine for me, but I have to put all of the credit with Bamber’s, my local sewing dealer. The team there listened to what I wanted (and more importantly what I needed) and then gave me sound, sensible advice and chance to test out the various machines in my budget. No pressure at all to make a decision on the spot, but instead more than happy for me to decide in my own sweet time. 

And it was absolutely the right decision. The machine is fantastic - so quiet and smooth. I love its simplicity and useful set of utility stitches, which I will be using for the majority of projects. And not to be a total nerd, but I could watch the little bobbin filler all day. My only slight issue is that I’ve learnt way more from online videos, rather than from the manual, when I’ve come up against small problems - e.g. how to thread the twin needle so the threads don’t tangle. But, these really are tiny things, which are more than outweighed by the advantages.

Sticking to my resolution of starting small, and choosing good quality fabrics, I decided to use a material I’d been coveting online (and yes, I know that goes against my final resolution), a beautiful Cloud 9 barkcloth, to make some cushions for our living room. The material is absolutely lovely to work with, although it frays very quickly, so I overlocked everything once I’d finished sewing to make sure they’d stand up through a lot of use (and small people using them for dens…) The cushion covers themselves are simple envelope closure pieces, and there are a billion tutorials out there. 

My top tip for these would definitely be to make sure you choose really good quality cushion inserts, and make the covers fit as close to the insert measurements as possible. That means the cushions will stay plump, and they stay super comfy.

So, that’s about it. My next projects will be a wee bit more complex, but this was a nice, no pressure break, which I think I needed.

Also, in other sewing-based news, I’ll be heading out to my first ever real-life sewing event - the Big Simplicity Blog Meet on the 21st in sunny (hopefully) Manchester. Really looking forward to meeting lots of people in real life, who I have been admiring from afar for their amazing skills. Hoping that some of that will rub off on me! Are you going?

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Getting back into the groove

Hmmm, so that went quickly. So much for my resolutions of writing some kind of post every month. I could say that it’s because I’ve been so busy, but then, isn’t everyone? And I’m pretty sure in and amongst all of the time I’ve spent pootling about on t’internet between now and last September, I could have managed to write something within six months. Particularly that writing is a big part of my day job. 

So, consider this my jump back into blogging. Where it will lead and how long it will last I’ve yet to see, but enough of the excuses. There are also other plans afoot that would make it a useful exercise to at least start writing a wee bit again.

Since I last wrote, I’ve been pretty productive. There was a flurry of activity around Christmas when I managed to make a few presents, including more kids PJs - this time with added unicorns - and I made the daring, but I think pretty successful attempt to make a Ailakki jumpsuit for my work Christmas party. It stayed together for the whole night, even coping with my interesting dance moves, so that definitely warrants a success. 
There has also been knitting (whilst watching a lot of Nashville and House of Cards)

I don’t think I want to start ploughing back through things I’ve not blogged about, as I’m not sure it’s really all that interesting to look back. This would definitely be the time in the movie for some kind of montage sequence, where the things I’ve made get increasingly amazing - cue 80s soundtrack.


But the one thing I’ve taken away from the past six months is that that simply isn’t going to be the case. I’ve made things for both me and the girls, which have turned out pretty well (step forward the aforementioned jumpsuit and Kitschy Coo Skater Dress) but there are still things that make me want to scream in annoyance. I still struggle to sew straight, and there is often a lot of unpicking to do, either due to my failure to understand the steps properly, or my lack of patience and guessing at when comes next. There have been a couple of patterns recently where the sizing has been utterly bonkers - these I may write about in more detail, as I’m keen to find out more about where I am going wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to give up on the whole thing - far from it - but I would love to be more confident about the things that I make. 

So, in not-at-all-timely fashion, I have decided to make some resolutions:

  1. Start small: I’m going to keep concentrating on making a few things well, rather than a whole load of stuff badly
  2. Make good fabric choices: a couple of recent projects have definitely not been helped by the quality of the fabrics I chose, all of which were impulse buys due to their price. Also, it kills me, but gazing at all the online fabrics is also not helping. For now I’m sticking to visiting shops in person, and attempting to only pick good quality cloth
  3. Put this all to some good use: I’m not sure what this will be yet, but there is some thinking to be done.
  4. And finally, take the plunge and send my old creaking machine to the dealer in the sky. I’ve been saving up for a while, and am almost ready to invest in a machine that will last for a long time to come. Any recommendations? Am very tempted to go down the Bernina route…

So, that is that. Let’s see what happens from now on!