Thursday, 11 December 2014

Minerva Bloggers Network - Christmas Tartan Skirt

Hello there! Well, winter is definitely here - all my gloves and scarves are out and in use, and the light fades at around 4.00 most days. There's a definite need for warm and woolly clothes. And with Christmas just around the corner, what better choice for a project for this time of year than a tartan woolen skirt. 

I found this brilliant wool fabric from Minerva, which was labelled as a 'coat dress weight'. For a moment I thought it may be too chunky for what I had in mind, but when it arrived I realized it was just right - not too heavy, but just that little bit thicker than your average fabric. I wanted a sort of pencil skirt, but with something different about it. I took inspiration from a lovely flouncy skirt that Ozzy Blackbeard had recently made, as well as the trend in the 40's and 50's for floating panels and swing coats and jackets, where fullness and movement were often at the back of the garment. 

I decided to use my own self drafted pencil skirt for the front half of the skirt, then combined it with this pattern from Burda for the back:

Modell 122 Burda Style 09/2014
I actually took the draped panel from the front of the dress, and shifted it to the back of my skirt.

And this is what I came up with:

I think this is the first time I've ever worked with a tartan or plaid. Whenever I've worked with any kind of repeating pattern like this, I usually find it's all about making choices as to which parts will match and which parts just won't, and how much effort you actually want to put in. As you can see from the picture above, I decided to concentrate on just making sure the horizontal lines were level, but there was no way the colours were going to meet up because of the nature of the tartan.

Centre back seam close up
But one thing I did do to make life easier (or maybe because sometimes I'm just really lazy) was to leave out side seams altogether:

No side seams!
 Because the skirt was straight up and down at the sides with no flare, I was able to overlap the pattern pieces at the side and cut the skirt in one piece. There's just a seam at the centre back and darts at the tops of the sides where the front and back pieces curved. No side seams meant I was able to cut down on the amount of pattern matching I had to do - yay!

I also decided to match the waistband where I could at the centre front. What the pattern decided to do after that I left up to fate!:

Centre front waist band
The fabric is pretty soft, not too itchy, but I lined it to avoid any of that scratchiness:

And that's my Christmas tartan skirt, which I think will be perfect for Christmas day. I've already practised eating in it, and can report it can handle quite large amounts of food, so all's good there! 

See you soon!

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Suit (of Sorts...)

Believe it or not, I'm a responsible person at work, in charge of 11 people and all of their training, payroll, issues, etc. For years, I've been able to get away with not dressing like a grown up. Skirts with a cardigan and the odd dress have been fine but recently I've been sifting through my work clothes and I think they need a bit of attention. So for this project I thought I'd break my own personal rules and make a (sorta) suit for work. 

It's a combination of patterns - for the top I used this bolero from Vogue 8721, which is fast becoming an old-standby:

I used the bolero on the bottom right

Then I used the skirt from this pattern, a 1970's does the 1940's Simplicity 6110:

I made the skirt with the pockets, but I love all the styling on this pattern - I might have to make everything!

I used some black twill that I picked up at Fabricland in Bristol. (Which by the way was great - check it out if you're ever in the Bristol area.) Not sure what it's made from, I think it's a wool and poly mix, but the weight and drape was perfect for this project.

We're currently experiencing cold but these photos were taken a few weeks ago when it was unusually warm:

It looks like a pretty simple project, and it should have been if I hadn't put my self-drafted bolero lining together wrong way round, and then stretched the right front facing out of shape. This made the jacket sit all wobbly on one side, but was fixed with a lot of unpicking and re-cutting of the lining and facing, and some sneaky piecing together.

Inside view of the bolero - you can just see a sneaky seam on the lower right of the photo where I had to piece a replacement facing together.
The curves at the front wouldn't stay 'sharp' when I ironed them; I was already hugely frustrated by this outfit, so I decided to use spray starch on them. The directions on the can says not to use it on dark fabrics, but I tested it and it seemed fine. Result - lovely front curves! (sounds a bit rude...)

What's so great about the skirt is the pockets, which are usually filled with scraps of scribbled on paper at the end of a days work:

I've been a bit slow at posting recently, so this outfit has already had a few outings at work. It's my new favourite work outfit! It sounds odd, but there's something about having a matching ensemble which makes me feel 'grown up'. Maybe suits aren't such a bad thing after all...

See you soon!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Minerva Bloggers Network - Animal Print's a Basic, Isn't it?

Hello! After a month off, I'm back with Minerva - I've missed it! I've decided to start off with something completely different for me - a batwing jersey dress, made from stretch fabric. The main reason for such a departure was to get to grips with my new  Singer overlocker, which I bought for the bargain price of £129 from Lidl. (For non-European readers, Lidl is a chain of bargain supermarkets from Germany, who also have themed offers once a week - anything from garden furniture, to tools, or even toys).

My new overlocker!

For the pattern, I used this brilliant tutorial from Mollytov - go check it out, because it's so easy!
I pretty much copied all the measurements outright; the only changes I made were to the length of the skirt, which I just added a couple of inches to.

And for this foray into jersey I decided to use this stunner from Minerva :

Black and gold snake print jersey from Minerva
This fabric is out of this world! What you can't really see in the photo is the extra layer of sheen on top of the print that gives the fabric a life of it's own. I love, love, LOVE animal print, to the point where I consider it a basic. It isn't really apparent on this blog, but I have leopard skirts, jackets, dresses, tights, and even underwear. So I thought it was about time I introduced a bit of animal! 

And here it is:

I've been sewing for 30+ years, but I've managed to avoid jersey and overlocking all this time, except for the odd project here and there. Despite endless testing and fiddling, I'm still not sure I really know what I'm doing with the stitches and the tension, but as a first project it's not bad. 

Close up of the overlocked seam I used - is this right?

Close up of neckline
And of course I couldn't resist the pulling a few disco moves in this outfit:

 And that's it! If you like what you see, be sure you check out Minerva's website.

See you soon!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Nicole Needles!

Amazing what you can achieve with bits and pieces you have knocking around the house......

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Catching Up On Stuff

How's everyone been doin'? Thought I'd just do a post about the bits and pieces I've been up to recently. It'll mostly consist of a whole lot of stuff I've started, but haven't actually finished! But I've also been to exotic places - well, Budapest - and not so exotic places - Bimingham, eaten some great food and bought some cool sewing stuff.

Let's start with sewing-

Simplicity 6110, circa 1973

I'm finishing off the skirt from this pattern, which I bought a while ago from Raystitch. I love the styling on this pattern so much - someday I'm going to make the ensemble on the far right, turban and all. But for now I'm making the pocketed version in a black twill for work, with a matching bolero jacket.

It's also been time to cull the wardrobe, and I've found a few bits which are either totally worn out, or they can be re-modeled into something better, so expect some posts in the future about re-making and so on.


I finished another pair of socks!

They took a fair while to finish, not because they were hard but because I'm slow. I used Debbie Bliss 4-ply; they went on their first trip outdoors the other day and I can confirm they performed well!

And so I'm straight on to the next project:

I've started this pattern from a 1960's Woman and Home leaflet in a 4-ply wool mix from Drops in this mustard, which is a slightly ugly colour but I love it.


I visited Budapest in August for the 3rd time. I love this city! It's beautiful, cheap, and has great cake:

Wonderful cake!

Just your average coffee shop

But they do modern as well - the new underground station
And I traveled not so far to Birmingham for Charlotte's SewBrum meet-up which was fab. 

I'd never been to Birmingham before and I have to say the selection of fabric was excellent. I'm kinda regretting not buying some of this beauty:

It was a lovely day, and I met a whole new set of sewing enthusiasts and bloggers. And if it wasn't for Birmingham, I wouldn't have the next bit to write about-


Singer Overlocker
While chatting to Sarah from a Million Dresses, I found out that Lidl was going to be offering Singer overlockers for the bargain price of £129. That Monday, I was up before sunrise and on my local branch's doorstep for 8.00 am. I seemed to be the only sewist in Hackney there at that time - everyone else was clamoring for the Tefal irons - but if Instagram is anything to go by there were quite a few purchases up and down the country before 10.00. I haven't opened it yet - I'm one of those really annoying people who can wait to open presents - but I've got some ideas for jersey projects so watch this space. I also picked up some cheap overlocking thread, and an eyelet and rivet tool.

And that's pretty much it for now - see you soon!

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Swimsuit Issue

I spent my early years (up to age 14) in Northern California. Despite what the rest of the world is led to believe, Northern California, particularly the San Francisco Bay Area, is not particularly warm. Beaches are often 'dramatic;, ie windswept and grey. Watch any film set in San Francisco, and you'll notice people are wearing a lot of coats and jackets, like in 'Vertigo':

Kim Novak in 'Vertigo', at the San Francisco seaside in coat and gloves - that's how cold it can get.

Understandably, I'm not a big beach lover. I'm also not too comfortable with swimwear. At the risk of sounding like a prude, isn't it a bit weird that it's ok to prance around in ensembles which cover less than our everyday underwear? I've come to view swimwear as a necessary evil, that I tolerate for holidays in the sun, and then usually reluctantly.

But then I found this on Ridley Road, my local street market:

Big Cat Kaftan!

I don't know who Hong Zhan is, but I love his/her/their work!

Mr Needles and I were due to visit Budapest and it was on the cards we would be visiting one of their famous spas, so swimwear was going to be required. I'd seen quite a few fellow bloggers make the 'Bombshell' with fab results, but this wasn't going to be suitable - all that sexy ruching would obscure the tiger print. Besides, I was getting a 70's/80's disco vibe from the fabric.

Enter Kwik Sew 3780:

I'm pretty novice with jerseys, and even more novice with swimwear, so I spent AGES agonizing over whether this pattern would work for me. Mainly, I was concerned about bust support. I'm a 32 E, depending on the brand of bra, and hate 'light support' - I like to feel strapped in at all times! I was considering buying a sports bra, and somehow inserting it into the finished costume. But in the end I went with the recommended shelf support, and it seemed to work fine.

I cut the front section from the Tiger kaftan, and the back from a super stretchy red swimwear lycra from Dalston Mill Fabrics. Here's the result!

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

I'll explain the expertly photo shopped image above, courtesy of Mr Needles. I had every intention of taking a photo while we were in Budapest of the day we spent at Szechenyi baths, bobbing around in the beautiful heated pools, lounging in the steam rooms, and generally relaxing. I loved it! But Mr Needles lost his wristband in one of the pools, and all hell broke loose while we tried to explain to the staff what had happened. Then there was some suspenseful periods of waiting while they went to get the manager, and it was all finally resolved. So taking blog photos kinda got overlooked.

Support isn't too bad in this suit - I wouldn't do any vigorous swimming in it, but the bust shelf worked pretty well. The Kwik Sew instructions are excellent, explaining exactly how much elastic to use for each size, what stitch to use, and so on.

Here's the bust elastic on the inside:

I decided to line the suit with the same fabric as the outer. This gave the suit a stability and firmness that I liked.

Seam sewn with faux overlock stitch
I don't have an overlocker, but the fake overlock stitch on my Elna worked perfectly well. It took a while to get used to the rhythm, coupled with having to stretch the seams a little as you sew, but I think I got the hang of it.

Clear silicone elastic
The pattern says to use 'swimwear elastic' on all the hems and turnings, but I thought that would be a bit thick and chunky. I'd noticed that this clear silicone is often used on stretch hems, so I decided to give it a go. And so another handling technique to grapple with - this stuff is so slippery! I attached it to each leg opening, armhole, and neckline, following the measurements in the pattern instructions and using a 3 step zig zag:

Inside of hem
Once the elastic is applied, the turnings were folded in place and then sewn with a shallow zig-zag:

Hem viewed from right side
And here's the back view; there are a few wrinkles, but on the whole the fit isn't too bad:

I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this suit, so I thought 'Why stop there?' I'd been listening to a lot of punk, and watching a lot of documentaries like 'Punk Attitude'. How could I combine this current interest with sewing? Why, swimwear, of course! I present the Dead Kennedy's swimsuit:

Again, the appropriate background was provided by Mr Needles.

I started with a XXL t shirt from Camden Market - here's a before picture:

Then I carefully picked apart the neck trim and the hem, so I had as much fabric to work with as possible:

Next, I lined up the front piece so that the centre front ran exactly through the centre of the logo:

Then I just used the same construction as the other suit. This one was lined with proper swimsuit lining, again courtesy of Dalston Mill. I also used a bit of one of the sleeves for a gusset. Only the front piece was cut from the t-shirt; for the back I used a matt black lycra - I didn't think disco strength shininess was the right look for this suit. And using the t-shirt fabric at the back would have resulted in a saggy bottom when it gets wet:

The fit of this suit is slightly different due to the fact that the front piece doesn't have the same amount of stretch as the back, but it'll do for sunbathing. Or maybe I'll wear it for Halloween!

I would totally recommend this pattern to anyone not sure of themselves when dealing with lycras. What Kwik Sew lacks in presentation (see my previous discussion here) they make up for in instructions, which I thought were just brilliant. And now my (slight) fear of lycra and stretch is conquered!

Here's some Dead Kennedy's to get you in a holiday mood:

See you soon!