Monday, 30 March 2015

Creating A Bridal Button Bouquet

 Today is my second wedding anniversary so I thought I would share with you one of my favourite makes ever - my wedding bouquet.  I'm not really that into fresh flowers - I like them don't get me wrong - they're just not something I was particularly fussed about when planning my wedding.  I'm not an especially conventional person and I just pick things I like, whether they're traditional or not so our wedding did end up having a few unexpected turns.  Well unexpected for other people anyway!

My bouquet in action!

I ended up making a button bouquet which quite frankly I would NEVER do again ha ha.  I absolutely love my bouquet to pieces and it is utterly perfect in my eyes but making this was far harder than I expected and if we're being completely honest here (which we are because erm, that's what I do!) no one else is going to think it's perfect.

If you look at the button bouquets for sale from the pros you may well get a bit of a shock at the price.  Well let me tell you I think it's completely justified.  Not only do these things cost far more to put together than I expected (they need A LOT of buttons), getting that rounded shape is clearly a skill only possessed by the chosen few.  This little crafter is not in the chosen gang and neither it seems are a lot of other people who give this a whirl.  The pros offer rescue services for those that have attempted colanders, sieves etc as support!

My bouquet is mostly buttons with a little bit of jewellery that belonged to my Grandma and a few sparkly beads.  It was important to me to try and incorporate subtle references to my grandparents in the wedding as they have all long since died.  For my Grandma that meant being in my bouquet.

A pendant belonging to my Grandma, you can just see the pendant dangling to the right
One of my Grandma's brooches
I used jewellery wire for the stems which I wouldn't recommend as it isn't rigid enough to hold the weight of the buttons.  I think quite a few people use floristry wire but I was adamant I didn't want green stems.  I thought the silver jewellery wire would be perfect but to get more rigid it would have been too thick and unmanageable for turning through the button holes.  That balance between strength and manoeuvrability eluded me.

I knew another bride getting married in the same month who had bought a brooch bouquet and she helpfully showed me pictures of the underneath of her bouquet to help me understand how the individual stems worked together to get the right shape.  This did help although mine still doesn't have a very smooth appearance.  I didn't mind though.  Very few people knew I was making this and it had quite an impact on the day.

Running repairs after being given an unexpected bear hug and my poor bouquet getting stuck in the middle
For the bridesmaids I bought foam peonies and some bargain Christmas decorative twigs with glass beads that I pulled apart to get the right size and length to sit between the peonies.  Unfortunately I don't have any decent photographs of these so you'll just have to trust me that they looked nice!  I also made a miniature button bouquet for my gorgeous niece who was my flower girl, again pictures appear to be elusive.

These pin heads were exceptionally sparkly although you can't tell from this photograph

All of the bouquet handles were wrapped in ribbon with quilt batting underneath for comfort and then pinned in place with crystal headed pins.  I was so pleased with them all and so glad that I made the effort to do this.

What about you readers?  Did you or would you DIY your bouquet?  What about other aspects of your wedding?  I would love to hear your stories.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Come Fly With Me - New Look 6891 Top

This loose fitting top was my second completed garment and I must admit to being ridiculously pleased with it when it was done.  Of course it still has some foibles but nothing I can’t live with or feel the need to go back and correct.  I sort of like having those things to chart my sewing progress, or at least I hope it’s progress!

I tried French seams for the first time and absolutely love the way they look.  In fact I didn’t find them hard at all which was a surprise, they just take a bit longer but surely it’s worth it to have your seams neatly tucked away.  I’ll caveat that though by saying that I only did the side seams with this technique.  Let’s gloss over the fact that I completely ignored the need to finish the centre back seam, shoulder seams or armholes.  Having disliked the finish I got using a zig zag stitch on my McCalls 3341 skirt seams and without pinking shears or an overlocker in my sewing arsenal I simply just did nothing.  Not cool.

Lovely French seams
Not so lovely back seam - unfinished lol

I did make an alteration to this pattern as I didn’t want to have a centre front seam cutting through my balloons and I also wasn’t a fan of the gap at the top that’s intended by the pattern.  There was absolutely no chance of me attempting any pattern matching so I cut the front as a single piece, remembering to remove the seam allowance.  I can’t actually remember how I did this now but I’m pretty sure I didn’t do it by cutting on the fold which now seems to be a perfectly obvious and easy solution.  No doubt I did something complicated like tracing half, turning over and tracing another half.  Whatever, I still got there.

The gathering at the neck and armholes was another new technique for me and I took my time with this and was very happy with the results.  I used the basting and pulling technique which I think was included in the pattern instructions.  I could improve on my efforts with this I think, particularly in the armholes as my gathers probably weren’t really close enough to the seams so they got a bit uneven once through the sewing machine.

 I promise there is gathering there, not loads but some!

The bias binding and tie at the neck was yet another new technique to me and generally this went pretty well.  I’m already in love with self binding but I might not be when I’ve tried it with a less forgiving fabric ha!  My stitches fell off the binding at times but it’s all secure so who cares.  My machine did struggle a bit towards the ends of the ties so I did get some thread breakage there and my stitches are nowhere near the edge.  I took a bit of a sledgehammer approach and just made sure they were joined together, regardless of good stitch placement.  Again who cares, it’s my second make!

Very happy with my bias binding

The bow is together even if the stitching isn't perfect

There is one thing I don’t like about this top and do care about and that’s the sleeves.  The fabric is a medium weight cotton from My Fabrics and I sort of anticipated that it might not be drapey enough for the sleeves and it wasn’t.  I wanted the balloons pretty badly though so I just ignored that and ploughed on.  They stand a bit proud and I’m not sure it’s going to improve a lot – the cotton has got softer with washing but I think it’s kind of done with that now.  So stiff sleeves it is, ah well.

Still no attempt at pattern matching and I'm just fine with that

This top has seen a fair amount of wear although I wouldn’t say the fit is that great (my fault not the patterns I’m sure).  I paid a lot more attention to the pattern sizing this time and cut based on my bust measurement which I knew would mean taking in at the waist later.  I figured I could just do this once it was on me before I sewed the side seams and I did do this but I found it fiddly without a buddy to help.  (My dress form was a distant dream at the point I made this top.)  And I stabbed myself with pins quite a bit L  Fortunately it’s a loose top so it’s easier to get away with this.

New achievements for my portfolio:

  • Bias binding - both making and attaching
  • French seams
  • Inserting sleeves
  • Gathering
  • Staystitching

Overall a definite win and I’m still totally in love with those balloons!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

My Very First Sewed Garment (As An Adult!) - McCalls 3341 Skirt


 It’s more than a 18 months now since I made my very first garment since taking up sewing again and despite the fact that I’m not a frequent sewer I really do feel I have come a long way in that time.  My portfolio of techniques whilst still small is growing and that’s all I ask of myself really.  When I was deciding what to make all those months ago the idea was mostly born out of the fact that I had seen a dress I loved made from a Russian Dolls fabric.  I am a total sucker for anything with Russian Dolls on it!  Not the cheapest of dresses, I hadn’t taken the plunge to purchase when I began to develop an interest in learning to sew and decided to see if I could find the fabric.

After trawling the internet for quite some time I managed to find the exact same fabric!  Winner.  Next stop finding a pattern to go with it.  As a complete beginner I wanted to start with something I actually thought I could achieve and a line skirts seemed to come up repeatedly in blogs and sites suggesting beginner projects.  I find a line skirts extremely flattering on me so I was very happy to go down that route rather than holding out to make a dress and potentially buggering up with my precious fabric.

I spent ages assessing patterns and trying to get my head around the line drawings that are shown on the packets.  OMG talk about confusion reigns.  To my eyes it was like learning a whole new language, I simply wasn’t used to looking at clothes in that way and found it difficult to visualise those drawings in fabric.  Of course most packets show photos or at least illustrations of finished garments too but I vividly remember thinking that pattern packets were a rather weird concept to get used to.  I mean what the heck are all those numbers on the back?  I was about to learn!

You can just about see the dart and very clearly see the side seam

Eventually I settled on McCalls 3341 and purchased the pattern, fabric and the listed notions including an invisible zip.  Cue extensive research online as to how to insert an invisible zip and a lot of faffing around delaying before I finally started my project.

It took me about a day to make this skirt from start to finish and I slogged at it pretty much non stop.  I cut a size 12 which was based on my RTW size rather than taking any notice at all of the measurements on the pattern.  Rookie mistake!  It sort of worked out OK in the end more from blind luck than any judgement.  If I’d cut according to the pattern guides I should have cut a 16 but that clearly would have been ridiculously huge on me in the end.  I’ve since learned that the so called big four pattern companies are notorious for adding stupid amounts of ease to patterns so in this case that really worked in my favour :D

No attempt at pattern matching whatsoever!  DGAF

Absolutely every single thing I had to do in the construction of this skirt was new to me - understanding pattern markings, understanding grain lines on fabric, laying out the pieces and cutting them, marking and sewing darts, inserting the invisible zip, adding a waist band facing, finishing seams and attempting a blind hem.  Reading that it sounds like A LOT of new things for just one simple project but when each part is broken down it’s not so bad.

I am super proud of this skirt.  It is miles from by no means perfect and I am totally OK with that.  I know if I did the same pattern again now it would be better but ultimately I made something I can wear and I am so not going to beat myself up for being a beginner and producing something that makes me look like one.  It’s been washed, it didn’t fall apart, job done.

A very visible invisible zip

My invisible zip is far from invisible (I had to use a standard zipper foot – there are only so many accessories I’m prepared to buy when I have no idea if my interest in something is fleeting or not), my blind hem is very visible in places, my zig zag stitches on my raw edges look really weird to me – definitely not my preferred finishing method if I had enough experience to have a preferred method yet J

A not quite blind hem - visually impaired hem?
Really not loving those zig zagged edges

Eurgh, just eurgh
I wish I’d known about Craftsy when I made this skirt.  The free tutorials on there are awesome and would have given me a big head start in achieving this skirt.  Having said that there’s a lot to be said for not spending too long researching stuff – sometimes you just have to dive in and learn as you go along.  I’ve noticed lately I’ve spent a lot of time reading sewing blogs, dreaming of patterns I want to buy and generally not doing enough sewing.  Never going to produce new clothes that way!