souvenir shopping…

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… a short break from the grey Belgian winter in sunny California – except it rained for almost the first time in a year while I was there and apparently Belgium had spring…

… but, you can’t begrudge rain in a region that desperately needs it, and cold wet weather is good for one thing – staying in and crafting…

… and in order to craft you need to buy supplies, so the friend I was visiting, who is even more creative than I am (check out her amazing paintings), spent a reasonable amount of time in fabric and DIY shops ensuring we were equipped for at least a month of being holed up, before heading home and spending a rainy afternoon doing.

… (un)luckily the weather improved during the week, so we were able to get out and about and be proper tourists with plenty of hikes and walks on the beach, a visit to Monterey aquarium as well as a trip to the huge Alameda flea market, and many of our projects remained on our “to do” lists at the end of my trip. My suitcase was bursting at the seams on the way home.

… the only thing I made was another t-shirt, using the free plantain pattern by deer and doe in a beautiful organic hemp knit. It is much nicer than I expected, I wasn’t super excited about the pattern before I made it, but I had it on my computer. It was also an opportunity to show G that you don’t need a serger to sew knits, and they aren’t even scary. I still need to tidy up the seams and sew the hems as we didn’t find a double needle until later in the week.

souvenir shopping @ grt*escp… the projects I planned and will make now I am home include another long sleeved t-shirt in lovely bamboo knit, a schoolhouse tunic in a pretty floral, a pair of pyjama bottoms in another floral, a sweater in a bulky cream knit and at least one basket with rope. G found a fabulous tutorial online and made one while I cut out the Plantain. More details to follow soon!

… I also picked up more fold over elastic and clear elastic while they were readily available…

… so many projects, I think I need another couple of weeks holiday to complete them all.

souvenir shopping @ grt*escp souvenir shopping @ grt*escp souvenir shopping @ grt*escp

second time around…

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… I was around first time they were fashionable…

… I drafted my own pattern, snapped up all the jersey I could find from my local market fabric seller, and sewed up leggings in every colour under the sun…

… the legging trend faded, I still had my leggings, I mainly used them to sleep in…

… at a meeting in Rome all those years ago and one of my colleagues mentioned she was going running each morning in the Circus Maximus. I asked to join her and then realised I hadn’t packed running gear (probably the only time in my life that has happened). Not to worry, a t-shirt, my red and pink striped leggings and a pair of trainers… no one would notice at 6am. A couple of years later, talking about that week, I mentioned to the group we had been running each morning, I wasn’t prepared, so I had gone in my pyjamas, my colleague commented “I did wonder…”

… leggings seem to be back, super simple to make, super versatile, this pattern by “teach me fashion” looks extra comfortable with the jersey waist instead of elastic, the pattern is very reasonable, and you get a clear video to guide you through the make…

… I will be recommending this to newbie sewing friends, and I will keep following the “teach me fashion” series, this is their third pattern and video combo, I really like what this mother and son team are doing…

love at first sight…

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… I am not usually one to jump on the new pattern bandwagon, I draft a lot of my own patterns, I have a reasonable collection of Japanese patterns I love and as I don’t do skirts or dresses that eliminates a lot of temptation…

… ever since I got back from Ghana last winter I have been planning on making a top with some of the Ghanaian fabric I brought back from my trip, but I didn’t know which one… while I love the wax designs, I am not 100% comfortable wearing bright patterns all over…

… scrolling through my blog reader one day a few months ago and an image jumped out at me: Cherie of “you and mie” was taking part in a blog tour and had made up the imagine gnats bess top. The contrasting solid back and patterned front of her top, the sleeves that wrap around from the back, the small pleats giving the front a little shape were all just what I was looking for: simple at first appearance, but really subtly special. I bought the pattern immediately, printed it within days, taped it all up soon after, and even cut out the fabric. Ghanaian wax for the back and after going through my pile of solids to chose the right contrasting fabric for the front, I decided on some bright blue, upcycled tablecloth from my mother’s trade fair days!

… and the weeks rolled by, and I finished off various other projects, but the pieces of the bess top stayed on my shelf.

… Saturday morning, waiting for the plumber, I finally got round to sewing up the top. The design is ingenious, but not immediately intuitive, I had to check the instructions a few times, but it came together easily and really looks lovely. I just need some warm weather now! Maybe next week in San Francisco!

Ghana wax bess @ grt*escp Ghana wax bess @ grt*escp

 

pant-astic…

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… as I said, the first attempt was rather wobbly…

… a few sessions with the quick-unpick (shouldn’t that be the super-slow-unpick?), and I had removed my wavy FOE from my disastrous undies…

… for my second attempt I decided to pretend I was making a t-shirt, and went for the 75% neck binding rule, FOE was sewn into a loop, mid-points were identified and pinned, and the FOE was sewn, stretching all the way…

… the results were better, but there were a few places the fabric had escaped the FOE…

… could I face unpicking another set of stitches? No! Scissors were brandished and the top was cut off. There must be a better way of attaching FOE…

… google led me to various sites (including a 17 episode youtube series on making a single pair of underpants)… eventually I watched the Seamster Patterns (previously disparate disciplines) tutorial for making her (lovely) yellowtail camisole. She sews the FOE one side, before folding it and sewing it on both sides…

… I lined up fabric, elastic, placed the needle in the fabric, did a couple of stitches, then stretched the elastic and sewed – first on the back side, then folding the elastic on both sides… it worked!

… the next pairs will be tidier, but I am pretty happy with how these 2 pairs turned out, and after a day of wear I can say these hipsters are very comfortable! They stay exactly where they should, walking around town, cycling to work and back and even during 90 minutes of hot yoga! I will be making more…

… and I am also planning some other projects with FOE at the same time…

pant-astic @ grt*escp pant-astic @ grt*escp

Why did that take me so long?

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… soon after I started my new job (way back in October), I noticed my dark work friendly jeans were no longer work friendly as they had worn out and I was showing flesh!

… a quick lunch time shopping spree the same day, and I came home with a new pair of jeans, that just needed a few centimetres cutting off the bottom, and then they were good to go…

… the sewing machine has been brought out on numerous occasions in the past 6 months…

… the plan was always “I’ll sew this, then I’ll shorten my jeans”…

… various projects have been sewn, some shown here, others not (yet), but the jeans kept getting put back on the work in progress shelf…

… is it just me, or do other people hate shortening trousers (to the point of not answering friends calls for 2 weeks because you know she is going to ask you to “just” shorten a couple of pairs of trousers she bought).

… Sunday a week or so ago and a couple of friends came round for a craft brunch, one brought her crocheting, the other various sewing projects she wanted guidance and help on. As Sylvester was being patched up I finished the hem on a cardigan I had made on the overlocker a few weeks ago, and when my friends I left, I decided before I put the sewing machine away I should finally shorten my jeans…

… as I was measuring how much I needed to cut off, I remembered seeing a tutorial online on shortening jeans without cutting off the bottom.

… google delivered, and I found various explanations of the same technique: basically you measure how much you need to cut off without the original hem, fold that distance up, and sew close to the original hem line. When you fold the hem down and press your seam becomes invisible, and you still have the original hem. As I didn’t need to shorten by much I didn’t cut off the excess, but I did top stitch around just above the hem line in dark blue thread. It is invisible, but should hold the folded fabric up.

… all in all, it took me less than 30 minutes to shorten my jeans, well almost 6 months of procrastination, and 30 minutes of sewing!

… I might even call my friend back.
shortening jeans @ grt*escp shortening jeans @ grt*escp

new magazine…

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… I have been meaning to post this for weeks…

… I don’t know where time went!

… a few weeks ago I was in my local supermarket, I don’t usually bother looking at the magazines, but for some reason on that day I decided to have a look. And I found the first edition of a new Belgian sewing magazine: La maison Victor.

… it is really pretty; the layout and design are lovely; each pattern is shown in a series of photos “in the wild”; patterns seem to be a range of levels, from a super simple dress to a more complex jacket; it is similar to Burda, or Japanese pattern books in that you will need to trace your patterns from a labyrinth of coloured lines…

…I haven’t decided whether or not to sew anything from it yet, but I have enjoyed leafing through it a few times already!

Victor magazine @ grt*escp Victor magazine @ grt*escp Victor magazine @ grt*escp Victor magazine @ grt*escp Victor magazine @ grt*escp Victor magazine @ grt*escp Victor magazine @ grt*escp

playing with piping…

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… and not the decorative kind!

… when I started renovating my apartment I thought the kitchen was passable, and I would wait a while until I would renovate it. Sure it didn’t have a cooker, but it had a sink; I splurged on my dream fridge; I had my camping stove and I could get a microwave for the year or so until I decided what I really wanted to do…

everything is temporary - except my dream fridge!

everything is temporary – except my dream fridge!

… when I moved in I quickly discovered that the plumbing had a few hiccups. Every time I washed anything in the sink I ended up standing in a puddle…

… one weekend mid October I decided I had had enough, and I went ahead and ripped out the old cabinets, the swollen, rotting work surface that made my skin crawl; the bent, dented drawers and the leaking plumbing. I cut back silicon, took apart Ikea cupboards, pulled them out from under the work surface, and managed to get it to all come crashing down! I took everything apart, sorted metal from wood, plastic in separate bags and took it all to the container park…

… when the guys redid the electricity here they really messed up the tiles, cutting channels in the tiles rather than removing a column, then patching their paths up with lumpy plaster (often mixed with brick dust, giving me “pretty” orange “features” in the walls. I knew I was going to have to replace the tiles along the way, but I thought until I decided which tiles I wanted, I could just place my kitchen cupboards in situ, and move them when it came to tiling. I had already decided I wanted the free standing Udden kitchen units from Ikea.

… when I removed the old kitchen cupboards I had a surprise… the last kitchen update had been done somewhat hastily (to be polite) – tiles on top of tiles (just like all my layers of wallpaper!), and a huge hole in the wall, down to bare brick! Plus, all the years of leaking plumbing had chronically rusted all the heating pipes.

not a pretty surprise!

not a pretty surprise!

… sometime in the autumn I put the Udden units together, and since then they have sat in the middle of the kitchen, semi-in use… though I haven’t had an operational kitchen sink since then. When I drew up a sketch of the kitchen I decided I wanted to move the sink, so I needed to move the taps. Not a big deal in itself, and I probably could have done it myself, but I also wanted to tidy up the piping, changing joints and making sure things ran parallel and I want to run a gas pipe to where I want to put a cooker. I don’t have to tools to cut thick old pipes, or the absolute certainty of what I am doing…

… mid-December I called the plumber I had used previously, he was about to head off on holidays, I waited a couple of weeks then called him again, his number seems to have been cut off… in the mean time a friend gave me the number of another plumber, he came round a few weeks ago, assessed the work, got down on his hands and knees, peered under the bath, told me he could do a good, tidy job… I haven’t heard from him since, he doesn’t answer his phone… this seems typical of workmen here. The painter who was doing the bulk of the work here last summer hasn’t been back since late September, he doesn’t answer my calls, he doesn’t seem to mind I have a load of his equipment still and unfinished work; the guy that came round last weekend and said begrudgingly he would finish off the one room that still needs the plaster finishing, and needs painting, the guy that said he would come back later in the week hung up on me when I called him mid-week…

… Saturday morning I decided that if I keep waiting for workmen I won’t ever have an operational kitchen… so I decided to start by attacking the rusty pipes myself. I sanded them down, brushed them down with a steel brush, then I degreased and washed them well. I switched the heating on to warm them, to ensure they dried well, and then painted them. First coat and they still looked terrible, second coat they are looking better…

playing with piping @ grt*escp playing with piping @ grt*escp playing with piping @ grt*escp

playing with piping @ grt*escp… I will do a third coat during the week and try and find a plumber!

playing with piping @ grt*escp

something pretty after all that ugliness!

well, that was a challenge…

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… so many great suggestions for quick kids projects, thank you!

… in the end I decided to quickly whip up a pair of best harem pants, as per Jo’s recommendation and an envelope necked t-shirt as recommended by Kat

… easy!?

… or not!

… after going through my jersey collection I decided I needed something a bit more fun and kidsy, so Friday after work I rushed by the fabric shop, put my blinkers on and headed straight to the back where I know the kid’s fabric is… it was sales, things had been moved, cursed sales lady sent me back to the front of the shop, I was trying not to see the adult jersey reduced to 5€/m, I returned to the back of the shop looking for the kid’s stuff with 2 bolts tucked under my arm…

… mother is a sailor, we both work in marine stuff, pirates seemed the obvious choice… I left the shop quickly before I accidentally picked up anything else!

that was a challenge @ grt*escp… patterns printed and taped up – wow – 3 pages of A4 for a pair of trousers, I can see the attraction of sewing kid’s clothes! Plus both items fitted on two lengths of fabric 50cm each…

… I made the trousers first, easy enough, until I notice I had sewn the waist band on inside out – duh… this would be the first of many sessions with my unpicker…

… for the t-shirt I used smalldreamfactory’s envelope t-shirt pattern, and I really struggled with the neck… so much so, I actually made the t-shirt 3 times and then took it all apart as I was never happy with how the neck lay. It still isn’t perfect, but in the end I gave up! So much for a quick couple of hours project, it took me the better part of the day…

… at least the mother loved them, the birthday boy was far more interested in a plastic toy with flashing lights!

that was a challenge @ grt*escp that was a challenge @ grt*escp that was a challenge @ grt*escp that was a challenge @ grt*escp

keep on serging…

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… before I got back into sewing regularly I bought a light weight knit cardigan on etsy from BLUSHFASHION. I love it, it is super flattering, really comfortable and it is perfect when I am travelling in Africa, going from the hot outside to freezing air conditioned meeting rooms as it folds up small enough to slip in my bag without wrinkling and is smart enough for meeting ministers!

… I plan on making another one in another colour soon, in the mean time I decided to test out the pattern on a piece of cosy red fleece I was given at last summer’s sewing blogger’s meet.

… I took my original cardigan and traced around it on pattern paper. It is somewhat bat-winged, with a shawl collar, so an easy shape to copy, but fabric hungry… I spread my fabric out this way and that and tried to work out the most efficient way of cutting all the pieces out, in the end I winged it and crossed my fingers…

… I was ok until I needed to cut out the second collar piece… I ended up having to sew together 2 pieces, I just have to sell it as a design feature! It came together super quickly on the serger, it is super cosy, and I think it looks great, I wore it out in the wild to the second sewing bloggers meet up (photos were taken afterwards, hence the wrinkles!)… I am really pleased with it!

batwing cardigan @ grt*escp batwing cardigan @ grt*escp batwing cardigan @ grt*escp

 

a real quick question…

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… people with children, can you help me?

… the baby I made the snow suit and the baby blanket for is turning 1 this week, I have been invited to a party for him this weekend… I feel like I ought to sew up a gift!

… what do 1 year old boys, or mother’s of 1 year old boys want??

… I was hoping to use fabric I already have, maybe some of colourful African wax, or some jersey. Do small boys wear pyjamas (cotton bottoms, t-shirt top), would a jersey top with cotton sleeves work…

… I will only have half a day at the weekend to work on what ever I decide to make, so a fully fledged button down shirt is probably more than I want to make. I would also prefer a free or not too expensive pattern as I won’t be making many variations…

… any hints or recommendations would be most welcome! Thank you!!what do small boys like @ grt*escp… a year ago with the blanket and hat I made him.