Organising my fabric and patterns- digital edition!

Some time ago I wrote about how I organise and store my patterns and I thought it was time for an update. My physical storage of patterns hasn’t changed much. They still tend to be kept in plastic wallets, but I sometimes find that I am tempted by buying new patterns before really looking thought what I already have to see if there is something similar. I’m hoping that my new organisation will help put that tendency behind me!

Over the last few weeks I have been cataloguing my patterns digitally using Trello. Trello is a free app, and one of it’s big advantages is that is syncs between phone and computer. It has been a pretty mammoth effort to get most of my patterns on there, but it is nearly done, and I already love it!

That means I can input my patterns onto the computer using the bigger screen, but have all the information with me when I’m out and about. It also lets you add attachments, details and links to each entry so I even have all the correct information with me if I happen so stumble across fabric or notions for a project.

I am also aiming to sew from my stash fabrics as much as possible again this year, so I also decided to catalogue my fabrics in Trello. Now I can search through my fabric for things of a suitable weight, length or colour family without having to pull each piece of fabric out or unfold it to check I have enough. I’m hoping that it will make it easier to check if I have something suitable, before I resort to buying something new. I still have quite a bit further to go with this part, but I’ve resolved to catalogue one of my fabric boxes each week until it is done, and I recently had a clear out too of fabrics that I no longer love so my stash is definitely getting more focussed.

If you would like some more practical advice on actually setting something like this up, I used a tutorial by Helen of Helen’s Closet to get me started. It was really useful for deciding how to group fabric and patterns, and practically to start to see the scope of what is possible. I love that I can attach the cards for fabric to the pattern that I intend to use it for. No more buying fabric then having no idea why!

It was quite a commitment of data entry to get all my fabric and patterns listed, but it should be much easier now to look through and find what I want. I can check the fabric requirements for a pattern while I am out and about, or check to see if there is already a similar pattern or fabric before I buy something new.

Now it is started, it will be much easier to maintain as I go along too. I can archive fabrics as they are used, or change the dimensions that remain in my stash. There is something so satisfying about organisation for a new year!

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Top 5- Hits and Misses 2018

Last year I found it really helpful to think about which of my makes hit the mark, and which were less successful with my hits and misses, so I thought I would have another go this year too.  I think most of my sewing has been fairly successful this year, though I have just done a wardrobe clear out, and a few handmade clothes did get the axe, so its certainly not perfect yet.

So here we go:

Top 5 Hits

Amber tops and Dress

I practically lived in my Amber tops during the last part of my pregnancy when it was hot and my bump was huge.  Even since then, I must wear one at least 2-3 times a week because they are one of my most practical options for feeding in too.  I particularly love my Amber dress because I think it looks fairly stylish and is so easy to just throw on, and my Amber hack layering tee also gets a lot of wear under shirts at the moment.  I think the reason they have been so successful is because they suit my lifestyle as it is right now, not how I might wish it was.  They are also made in good quality cotton jersey, so they have survived lots of washing and grabbing straight back out of the laundry pile!

Oslo Cardigan

This is another item of clothing that regularly gets taken straight from the clean washing pile to be put back on.  When I first made it I wasn’t sure about the style on me and this was really intended as a wearable toile.   However, the oversized nature of it has definitely been growing on me, and I love how easy it is to throw on.  I would love to make another (possibly multiples) as again it fits my lifestyle right now really well.

Modified Toaster Sweater

I made this Toaster sweater right at the start of the year with some very special Atelier Brunette fabric.  I’m pleased that I used this very special fabric in something which is comfortable and practical.  I love that it fits over my Archer shirts, and the crew neck is more practical with a collar.  I’m even really pleased with my decision to go for contrasting gold topstitching.

Ultimate Wrap Dress

This dress is another make that I love because I tweaked the pattern to create what I actually wanted. I hacked the sleeve into a little flutter sleeve, modified the cross-over to be a little higher and added an empire line seam to make it fit over the bump. I have worn it a bit since the arrival of baby too, though I think it might now need re-hemming to take out some of the extra length that I added to the front. I’m looking forward to being able to wear it again next summer.

Ringer Tee

I have made a mountain of these tops for Toby and as gifts, and I’m sure there will be more. I particularly like hacking them to have poppers at the neckline while he is small, but the pattern goes up to ages 5-6, so I’m sure I will make more as he grows. It’s a free pattern too, so what’s not to love!

Hits Conclusion

There were a couple of other patterns that I would have included, but I thought it might be cheating to include patterns that made it onto last year’s successes like the Mens Metro Tee and Grainline Archer because I knew before I got started that I would love them! I also thought that perhaps I couldn’t include the skirt that I am currently sewing, even though I’m pretty sure it will be a hit because I haven’t actually worn it yet! Another that came close was the Dandelion Dungarees because they have seen a lot of wear in the last few months and the popper hack definitely worked there too. I think the things that I have included demonstrate that I’m getting more confident at hacking patterns to get what I actually want from them, not just putting up with the parts that don’t work for me.

Top 5 Misses

Kinder Cardigan

Considering how much I love my Oslo cardigan, it seems a little strange that I’m not such a big fan of the Kinder Cardigan which is pretty similar. I think it is down to a couple of issues, one being that the pattern is possibly even a little more oversized than Oslo. The other being that the Ponte I made it in is definitely more structured so it ‘feels’ bigger. I did like some of the construction methods, and the pockets though, so I’m tempted to adopt some of these for my next Oslo cardigan attempt.

Blossom Dress

Technically this was made in 2017, but I was never really going to wear it until this year. I’m not sure if it is just because it is such a large expanse of single colour, but I didn’t really hit it off with this Blossom dress. I love the fabric, and the Anna Top that I squeezed out of the offcuts, but the dress hardly got worn. It probably doesn’t help that it looked a bit strange before I had a big enough bump, and by the time my bump was bigger the weather was warming up. This hasn’t survived a recent wardrobe clear out because it looks ridiculous again without a baby bump. Perhaps it would have been better as a top.

Lucia Top

A more recent make was this Lucia Top. It was a great way to kickstart sewing again being really simple, but I’m not a massive fan of the fabric. It’s a bit too shiny and ‘polyester’y. It has survive the wardrobe clear out, but only to see if I will wear it during the festive season when red and shiny seems more acceptable. If it doesn’t get worn it might have to go too.

Lily Top

There is nothing actually ‘wrong’ with this Lily Top, it just doesn’t get worn as often as I thought it might. I did wear it while I was pregnant, and I do sometimes wear it now to feed, but I wasn’t 100% pleased with the finishing techniques and there are some areas that I don’t think are going to be all that robust. It’s not a total fail, though I don’t think I would make the pattern again.

Miette Skirt

Again, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this skirt, but I think it suffers from not suiting my changing body and style. I have been wearing a lot less that sits actually at my waist because I don’t find it that flattering at the moment. Perhaps that will change in the future and I will feel better wearing this skirt though. With hindsight, though the pockets are really useful, they just draw more attention to an area that I feel less confident in at the moment!

Misses Conclusion

I think several of these projects have suffered from the difficulties of guessing what sorts of things I was going to want to wear as my lifestyle and body have changed. Hopefully now that thigs are starting to settle down I can make more informed choices for next year and get more of them right!

What I made 2018

I do have plans to think through the successes and failures of my last year of sewing (much like last year’s hits and misses), but I thought that first it would be interesting to see what did I make.  So I made some pretty graphs to help me understand the bigger picture!

First up, is patterns.  I used patterns from a wide variety of patternmakers this year, but almost entirely independent pattern companies.  The largest proportion was of Brindle and Twig patterns, and that is likely because every time I have made their baby leggings or top patterns I have cut and sewn in bulk!  Megan Nielson also features heavily because I have made multiples of the Acacia Underwear and Amber top/dress patterns.

When I look at which patterns specifically I used, quite a few of them were either made multiple times this year (like the above mentioned baby and Megan Nielson patterns), or are remakes of patterns that I have had a while and have made before such as the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes, Grainline Moss and Archer (the new ones haven’t been blogged yet!), Sew House 7 Toaster and Oliver and S Mens Metro Tee.  I’m glad to see that my sewing is not all about sewing the newest releases and following trends, but that I am developing my own style and am able to use and adapt patterns to be made multiples of times.  Its much more cost effective for me, but also seems more sustainable.  I can be pretty sure that when I make these patterns they will be worn again and again. 

Next I thought I would like to see what sorts of things I was making.  Unsurprisingly, the majority of my sewing was clothing for myself, followed by the novelty of scrap busting with baby clothes!  Newer for me though was the addition of refashioning clothes from the charity shops or my wardrobe to make them more pregnancy friendly.  There have also been a few more practical projects such as bags and baby wipes which make up the ‘other category’.

One of my aims this year was to sew more from stash, and to buy less fabric.  I didn’t buy fabric at all for the first 6 months except where it was given to me in exchange for writing a post.  After that point, I did buy some fabric, but it has been a bit more restrained and this year has mostly been sewing from my stash.  It feels good, though I feel like there is still a bit further to go.  In the next few months I want to sort through properly and give away or sell the fabric that is no longer my style, or for projects that I don’t think I will ever get to.

So a pretty productive year I feel.  There are still a few projects and presents in the works, but it feels like even in a year with big changes in lifestyle, free time and priorities I’m getting better and better at knowing my style and sewing things that will really get well used.

Sewing when time is limited (or with a new baby)

It’s been a few months now since baby Toby arrived in our lives, so I’ve had some time to contemplate the changes that it has had on my sewing habits.  Gone are the whole days or evenings of sewing uninterrupted, and the sewing until the early hours to finish a project (sleep is too valuable now).  So here are my 5 top tips for sewing when your time is suddenly more limited.

1. Be realistic

When your life circumstances change, be that work, family or routine there are going to be changes to your sewing time too.  Having limited time doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to enjoy your hobbies, but you may have to change your expectations about what is possible.  You will probably enjoy the time that you do have more if you aren’t fretting about the things you can’t achieve any more, or the time you wish you had.  Be realistic about your life circumstances now, and choose projects accordingly.  I have been loving these baby feeding friendly tops (here and here) because they have been quick to sew, and get worn all the time because they meet the needs of my lifestyle as it is right now.

2. Make the most of short time slots

Toby is not a good daytime napper.  If I get 30 minutes during the day without a baby I feel like I’ve done pretty well.  To actually use that little time slot I have to plan ahead.

If I’m well planned, there are lots of ways that I can use that time productively, for example, reading through the next section of the instructions, pinning or pressing seams, or even a little hand sewing.  I sometimes manage to machine sew a little, but I tend not to because it’s not great if I have to stop midway through a seam to pick up a newly awake and crying baby!  with that in mind I always try to make sure that I’ve left myself a job to do which is easy to pick up and put down if I only get a few minutes at a time.

I try to keep things conveniently arranged too, with the equipment and materials that I need for the next stage all together and in easy reach.  If you have space, leaving the ironing board set up and ready to go makes the world of difference!  (See more pattern and sewing room organisation)

3. Choose fabric and patterns wisely

The first bit of sewing that I did post baby was a Sew Over It Lucia top and it was exactly what I needed- just 3 pattern pieces, and super simple and quick to sew.  The vast majority of the sewing that I have done since then has been well behaved jersey knits using familiar patterns.  I don’t have the patience of time for finicky, dainty fabric or complicated pattern fitting at the moment!

By choosing your fabric and patterns wisely you can maximise the parts of sewing which you enjoy, and minimise the difficulties.  I know that my least favorite part of sewing is the cutting out, so I have been mostly choosing to sew patterns which are either fairly quick to cut out because they have few pattern pieces, or fabrics which are easy to cut because they don’t shift around too much in the process.  You can also make both cutting and sewing easier by avoiding fabric which needs pattern matching (or taking a more laid back approach to it).

4. Batch sewing

More complicated sewing with more complex processes will necessitate more time reading and interpreting the instructions.  When you sew several versions of the same pattern simultaneously, you can maximise your time sewing compared to reading instructions and working out construction.  The second time completing each step is often much quicker than the first because you can dive in with confidence.

This doesn’t work for all projects, and is best for patterns with either a fairly forgiving fit, or which you already know fit well.  I often use this technique when sewing shirts such as these Archer Shirts from last summer.

Even more efficient is if the items that you are sewing are all in the same colour family, then you can keep switching between them without needing to change thread colours.

5. Enjoy the process, not just the end result

This tip is probably the most important.  I have come to terms with the fact that I am not going to sew so much as I did before.  I just have a lot less uninterrupted time, so even when I have a free weekend, chances are I won’t get much sewing done unless Toby is out on a walk with someone else, or asleep.  That actually makes the time that I do get to sew even more valuable though, because it is the opportunity that I get to relax, reset and do something for me.  That bit of downtime is my chance to recharge ready for the next challenge.

Repairs- it’s almost like magic!

This is a mini bonus post to tie in with the Monthly Stitch theme for the month ‘Slowvember‘.  Since the arrival of Toby my sewing has naturally had to slow down a little.  Gone are the days where I could spend a whole Saturday sewing.  With that in mind, it’s even more important that my handmade clothes are made to last so that I can get as much value and enjoyment from them as possible.

This Archer shirt is the first one that I made, and has already been repaired once before with some Sashiko stitching.  This time though it is the sleeve plackets which are in need of repair so I took a slightly different approach.

I’ve used some ordinary sewing thread to stitch around the hole to hopefully prevent it from spreading further and the same embroidery thread as before to satin stitch over the damage.  I’ve also fused a little bit of interfacing over it from the wrong side to help prevent any further fraying.

To celebrate an item of clothing which will hopefully now go on to be worn for a couple more years, I’ve added an embroidered flower to commemorate each of the repairs so far.  I think this was inspired by Elisalex from By Hand London who was doing the same to a pair of jeans to create a ‘jeans garden’.  Perhaps I will eventually end up with a whole garden of them celebrating each time that It would have been easy to give up on this shirt and let it go to be recycled or into landfill.

Wonderful Watson

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had made my own bra before, the Cloth Habit Watson Bra. I think I made this bra about 18 months ago, and have always intended to make another but not yet got around to it.  Sewing lingerie does seem to be another of those slightly intimidating projects, a bit like sewing my first trousers or jeans, bit I have to say that this was a great pattern as a first attempt.

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The Watson bra is a soft cup bra without underwires, so about as basic as it can get.  What made it so great as a first project though was the great step by step sew along.  The instructions in the pattern are good, but I really valued the photographs in the sew along to reassure me that I was doing it right.  Both the pattern instructions and the sew along also tell you exactly what stitch settings to use when sewing different parts of the bra, which I really valued as a first time lingerie maker.

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Its not always easy to find all the pieces required in lingerie patterns- most require meshes and various different elastics and it can feel a bit intimidating.  I decided to take the guesswork out of it by ordering a kit from TailorMadeShoppe on etsy.  They don’t have the same one any more, but they do have lots of kits for soft cup bras like the Watson in all sorts of different fabrics.

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The Watson pattern also includes a bikini style underwear pattern, with similarly great instructions and pictures.  My success with these pants definitely gave me the confidence to make up my big batch of Acacia Undies.

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I do have fabric and findings to make another few soft cup bras, though I think I would need to work out again what size to go with as my body has definitely changed post baby.  My little bra modification to add nursing clips would work while making my own bra though too so maybe I will have to find some time to give it another go.  I did find it very satisfying completing each small step before so it might be a good project to do in my more limited sewing time.

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Practical Packaging

Last week I showed you my reusable wipes and said that I needed to create a bag to put them in for ‘out and about’.  Well that is what I have to show you today- the pretty and practical packaging.

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This project is a great one for using up fabric scraps.  I was able to use some cotton drill and a co-ordinating quilting cotton for the lining of this little purse.  I already had a suitable zip too so everything came from scraps or stash.  When thinking about how to make the bag as useful as possible, I knew that it needed to stand up by itself  to make reaching in one handed easy.  That means that a flat zippered purse is out, and the corners of my bag needed to be ‘boxed out’.

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There are loads of tutorials out there to show you how to put something like this together.  My favorite is this one from Melly Sews which conceals all the seams within the lining, but needs a little bit of hand stitching to slip stich the lining.  A slightly quicker alternative is this one which has the seams for boxing out the corners visible inside the bag, but which is super speedy.  I chose to conceal the seams, and it is still a pretty quick make.

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I’m pretty pleased with the stripe matching too.

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I did change the dimensions of my bag because it only needs to hold a few wipes and the spray bottle, not a whole wash kit.  I used a 20cm zip and cut my outer and lining pieces to 23cm by 17.5cm.  The boxed out corners are 2.5cm or 1inch as in the instructions and this gave me a finished bag with dimensions 14cm long, 10cm wide and 6cm high approximately.

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I’m really happy with my latest quick make.  It feels good to be able to sit at the sewing machine even just briefly and create something.  I do have some dressmaking projects in the pipeline though too, including working on a toile of a dress to wear to my graduation in September.  Considering that I get to sew in 30-60 minute chunks at the moment, I’m going to have to get a move on to get it finished to my satisfaction in plenty of time.

Simple Sewing

This is not a dressmaking project, but something much simpler.  I’ve been finding my sewing time much reduced these days so this is just a quick project, but one that I have been getting a lot of use out of!  We have been using reusable cloth nappies, and it occurred to me that it wouldn’t generate any extra washing to use cloth wipes as well.  The wipes would just be washed along with the nappies.  It is possible to buy cloth wipes (we have some of these which I use for babies face/hands), but I figured that I am competent with a sewing machine so I simply dug out an old towel and set to work.

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These wipes are made from an old microfibre towel which rarely got used. An ordinary cotton towel would also work just fine, but this towel is both very quick drying and not very bulky so it seemed perfect for this project.  I cut 15cm squares, rounded off the corners and then went around the edge with my overlocker to stop them from fraying.  It has been a great project to do in small batches while baby Toby is asleep or content for a few minutes.

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Once the cloths are complete, I keep them in a basket next to our changing mat.  They can be moistened with just plain water, but I have been using a spray bottle and have mixed a few simple and baby friendly ingredients.  Here is my approximate “recipe”:

1 tbsp. Sweet Almond Oil (for moisturising and ‘glide’)

1 tbsp. Castile Soap (for gentle cleansing)

A few drops of Lavender Oil (for scent and its antibacterial properties)

200ml cold water

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In fact, we now keep some of these wipes and a smaller spray bottle in the nappy changing bag so we can also use them when we are out and about too.

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I know for most people reading this, nappy changing and baby wipes aren’t part of your daily routine, but perhaps if you use make-up removing wipes or other similar products you could also consider using something like this.  Research by Water UK suggests that baby and facial wipes account for over 90% of the contents of sewer blockages and ‘fatbergs’ because they don’t break down or biodegrade, and contain plastic.  See the full report here, but I’m willing to try and improve the situation by cutting out the need for these wipes as much as I can.  Let me know if you give it a go too.  All I need now is to make a little bag to contain the wipes in the changing bag and make them as convenient as possible.

Baby Gifts

While I was waiting for baby Toby to arrive, I was making good use of the time to sew up some more tiny outfits from all my jersey scraps.  A couple of friends have also been expecting little ones, so it seemed like a nice idea to make a little outfit for each of the new arrivals.

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Because it is near impossible to guess how big or how fast the babies will grow, I went for the 3-6 month sizes this time, and decided to pair the Brindle and Twig cuff leggings with my hack of the Ringer Tee to have a popper neckline.

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The resulting outfits look very smart, and have been happily received their new owners.

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I even remembered to sew a tag into the leggings to help tell the front from the back!

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Because babies cannot be relied upon to keep clean for long, I thought that a couple of dribble bibs in co-ordinating colours would make a good addition to the outfits.  These are just triangles of bright quilting cotton, backed with some soft sweat-shirting.  I used Prym colour snaps as closures because they come in so many fun colours and designs.

The other bib is just a simple outline, again with snaps to close it.  I did a bit of scrap quilting in pretty coordinating fabrics.

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I love putting together baby clothes.  Its just such a good use of scraps and special fabrics!

Making something special!

So I have been absent from the blog for about a month, because our little baby finally arrived! Its been a tricky month for both me and baby as we have had a couple of extra complications, but I think we are both on the mend now and starting to get on with our new ‘normal’ life!

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Matt and I have been spending the last little while getting to know the new addition to our family, and we are all doing well. As expected, we are pretty tired from nights up feeding and busy days, but we are starting to learn more about our little boy and his likes (especially sleeping in the buggy while out on a walk).

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It might be a while before normal service and regular blogging is resumed because my life has suddenly become a lot more about feeding, changing and sleeping than sewing. I think he might just be my greatest make yet though! Certainly he is the most perfect.

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