Sunday, 11 May 2014

I've moved to WordPress

One day I would like to work for Colette Patterns and they like their employees to know how to use WordPress, so I've moved my blog to there. All my previous posts from this blog have been exported to WordPress, but you can still read them here if you like. : )

This is my new url: I hope you enjoy reading my blog on this new platform. I think it looks nicer anyway.

If you would like to follow me on wordpress, you can find the "follow" button like this: go to the bottom of the page on my new blog, click on the little "+" sign and look to the right in the grey area. You can also follow by email by entering your email address in the box to the left. : )


Saturday, 10 May 2014

Craftsy Sale -- Up to 50% off!

This Craftsy Sale only lasts until midnight tomorrow (MT time). If you enrol after clicking on these links, you'll also be helping to keep this blog going! : )

Save Up to 50% on Select Craftsy Classes!
(This post contains affiliate links which means, I will be compensated if you purchase after clicking these links.)

Don't miss out on Craftsy's Birthday Flash Sale! Get select online classes at up to 50% off for a limited time only. You won't see so many classes with prices this low again soon. Hurry, offer expires May 11th at 11:59pm MT. Shop Craftsy's Birthday Flash Sale!


Sneak-peak at the Secret Garden Tea Dress

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I'm setting up a pattern company for my current project at university. Yesterday I made the design toile. There are a few changes I would like to make, but I thought I'd show you a few little pictures -- not the whole thing though! I don't want to spoil the surprise! :)

The theme is the Secret Garden Tea Party, so there is a Victorian influence on the design, and as the Secret Garden was about change, the dress will turn from a day dress into a party dress with an overskirt. At the moment there is a vintage style placket, but unless I can find a way to make that work with the machine-stitched lining, that may have to be replace with a zip. I hope I can work around that though.


Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Minimalist Sewing Kit

I have been reading Miss Minimalist lately and thought I ought to revise my previous post "What you need to start sewing" by writing "The minimalist sewing kit". This is not about presser feet, since what you need in that line depends on your sewing machine and its stitches. This is about the tools and few resources that you use in every project, and a few that you will need for sometimes but not all the time.

1. Pin cushion that you can wear on your wrist.

While you can sew without a pin cushion, at university I am required to drape on the stand, which is made a lot easier if I have pins "to hand" as it were. If you buy a pin cushion, make sure it is squishy and not filled with paper as the new ones seem to be. Of course, you can make a pin cushion from left over fabric and fill it with an old sock or some stuffing. Sand in a pin cushion will help to keep your pins sharp, but it would be heavy to wear on your wrist.

I haven't put an Amazon link here because I don't trust shop-bought pin cushions to be stuffed with anything other than cheap paper now.

Here is a video from Youtube on how to make a wrist pin cushion:

2. Forked Pins

These are only essential if you are sewing plaids or other things that need to match perfectly. They make all the difference, but if you are just starting out and not bothered about plaid, you can skip these.

3. Pins

Yes, people do sew without pins, but sometimes pins just make the job easier, especially when matching seams or hemming accurately, or sewing gathered pieces evenly onto other garment sections.

4. Needles

Hand-sewing and machine needles are essential. (Goes without saying really.) I like to have twin needles for hemming knits, for decorative sewing, and for pin-tucks. 3-4mm is a good width to have and will work with most, if not all, zigzag sewing machines.

For single machine needles, a size 90 universal needle will cover most of your needs. On fine fabrics you might need a finer needle (a 70 or 80), and on heavier fabrics, a 100 might be called for. As for changing your needle with every project, I don't usually change my needle until it breaks, which isn't very often. Many dressmakers are the same. If the stitch looks good and the thread doesn't break, why change the needle?

As for hand-sewing needles, most of the time I just pick up on that is a comfortable size and that will go through the fabric. Occasionally you may need a bodkin needle (or "knitter's needle", which is not the same thing as a knitting needle) to thread something through a casing, but not very often.

 5. Quick-unpick

AKA the unpicked or seam ripper. Before they were invented women used embroidery scissors to cut unwanted stitches, but this simple little tool is often safer for you fabric. It is also used to open buttonholes. If you ask most seamstresses what their most indispensable sewing tool is, this will likely be the answer.

6. Bobbins for your sewing machine

You probably have four or five of these that came with your sewing machine. They are small so can be carried easily in a travel sewing kit. I keep mine tidy in a toe-separater that came in a manicure and pedicure kit I received as a gift. It stops full ones from unravelling and rolling around the box.

7. Black and beige thread

If you buy a "complete sewing kit" from a store, more likely than not it will have lots of thread included. Unfortunately, the thread is like junk-food for your sewing machine. It's so fluffy and weak that it will leave your machine full of lint, and may snap if you try to sew anything thick. If you have any of this, reserve it for hand-sewing or hand-basting.

You also don't need the vast array of colours that come in these kits. Most of the time, very neutral colours will be perfectly fine, unless you want a bright colour for show. Gutermann make the best thread with the least lint. The colours are not as nice to look at on the shop stand as Coats threads are, but Coats threads are a bit linty. Gutermann, perhaps because they are a German company, have very practical colours, as you can see above. You don't need the kit above (it's there for illustrative purposes). You can just buy some black thread and some beige thread, and if you need a colour, buy it when you need it.

While we're on the topic of thread, it's best to get polyester thread, rather than cotton, because polyester is stronger and has a little give in it.

 8. Tape measure

One simply cannot make clothes without a tape measure. The fit would be completely random!

Fibre-glass, retractable, in metric and imperial. They are three excellent features to have in a tape measure. Mine also has a magnet on the back for picking up lost pins and needles. Fibre-glass means it won't stretch or warp. A retractable tape measure is much more convenient than one you have to constantly wind up, unless you like wearing one around your neck as tailors do. Having a tape measure in metric and imperial measurements means you can quickly convert between systems for people who are not used to both.

Tape measures' widths are not random, you know. Most of the time they will be 5/8" (15mm) wide, which is the standard seam allowance on home-sewing patterns. Mine is 1cm (3/8") wide, which is my standard seam allowance. Tiny metal tape measures are usually 1/4" wide. Some tape measures are wider at 2cm (3/4"); I'm not sure why.

9. Embroidery scissors

Yes, you can easily make clothes without embroidery scissors, but I like to have a pair hung around my neck for convenience when I have to trim threads. They are also convenient if you have to travel with a small sewing kit, or sew at a machine that doesn't have a thread cutter on it. If you get some, be sure to look for ones with very fine points, preferably strong too, for cutting into the corners when sewing bound buttonholes and welt pockets.

10. Dressmakers shears

It's important to have some that are comfortable for you. If you are left-handed, get some left handed ones and you'll feel the difference (my brother is left-handed and I've tried his scissors with each hand). There is a rule that you must not cut paper with your fabric shears, but I always cut my dressmakers' tracing paper with them. If you need to sharpen your scissors, you can cut up some aluminium foil or get them sharpened professionally.

11. Cotton Tape

This is something that you will be glad of when you need it. It's sewn on the wrong side of the fabric while you sew a seam that must not stretch, such as a shoulder seam when you sew knit fabrics, or a waistline seam. It's also used in tailoring to "ease" things. It comes in black or white for versatility. I suppose you could use non-shiny ribbon instead if you like. It's up to you.

So that's the shortened list. I could shorten it a bit more to just:
  1. shears
  2. pins
  3. needles
  4. thread
  5. tape measure
  6. seam ripper
Of course, you need a sewing machine as well, and an iron and ironing board. A tailors ham is useful, as is a sleeve board, but the things in the pictures are part of the sewing kit, and the things I just listed are equipment if you ask me, and they are rather big things that need space of their own. Perhaps I'll write a post about them some other time, but I already have a post about buying a sewing machine, if you would like to read it.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

How to Add & Sell a Pattern on Craftsy

After I started my Craftsy store, they sent me an email to show other people how to do the same thing. I can't see any reason not to, so I've copied and pasted the sample blog post to here. : )

(This post contains affiliate links which means I will be compensated if you purchase after clicking these links.)

In addition to wonderful online courses and craft supplies, Craftsy also has an independent online pattern store that lets anyone upload and sell downloadable e-patterns with no fee!

How do you add a pattern to Craftsy and start your pattern store? It’s easy!

1. Make sure you have a Paypal account. All pattern transactions happen through Paypal, and Craftsy requires that you have a Student, Premier, or Business account in order to sell patterns.
2. Put your pattern in .pdf format. You can’t upload any patterns to the online pattern store unless they’re a .pdf file format, so if they’re currently saved as a Word doc, .jpg, or other file format, you must convert it to a .pdf before you upload it to Craftsy.
3. Include a photo. All patterns must have at least one photo to accompany them, but you can add up to five photos. Colorful, interesting photos tend to work the best for catching our members’ eyes!
4. Fill out the pattern description. We will ask you some basic questions around your pattern making it easier for Craftsy folk to find your pattern and know what your pattern is for. Make sure you have info about your pattern handy for this step.

For more information on how to sell a pattern through Craftsy, or to get started, visit Craftsy today!

Shop Indie Patterns

I'm going to try to build a good business with PDF patterns, and it would be great if you did too. The more people buying indie patterns the better, and I say that as someone who has retailed patterns from one of the Big Four and I know how draining it can be to a shop-keeper's profits. At least with Indie patterns you know the money is going to the person who did the work, and no-one is losing out.

Craftsy is also a great platform for your patterns. I've had more downloads of the Sailor Dress Pattern in the past week than I ever have on B****St**e. I think it's because having the widget on my blog gets more traffic to it, and people go to Craftsy to find indie patterns. I got 29 downloads on Craftsy on the 25th April! I was so surprised! : )


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The delights of starting your own indie pattern company

Yesterday I uploaded the Sailor Dress Pattern to Craftsy (as you can see on my new widget down the page), and I got an email this morning saying that I'd already had 7 "sales" (quotation marks because that pattern is free UPDATE: The pattern is now £2 to download). It's quite a thrill, you know, to get real results from my pattern making and designing. After that little success I think I can probably at least make some extra pocket money from having my own independent pattern company. While I'm in university I'll call it Student Designer to go with this blog. *I think I can do this!* : )

One of the great things about this is that I already have everything I need to start. Here's a photo of my "studio" (my room):

When I'm working with adult-sized patterns I have to borrow my brother's desk to extend mine. His is identical to mine except it's blue where mine is pink.

To store my rulers, I hang them on a curtain hook. The software I use is Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

To get things done I have to do to-do lists and not demand too much of myself. I'm going to have to do just one design for this project because, with the extra work of digitising, marketing, selling, writing sewing instructions and doing a photoshoot of the design, there is no way one person can do any more than one design in a six week module. I was rather overambitious before. : I will get all this done on time. I will.

Upcycled Cap-sleeve Tee

Now, before you read any further, guess what this tip is made from. I want honest opinions now. : )

9 Great Things About this Project
  1. Quick to make
  2. Easy to fold into a drawer or suitcase. The two-piece Peter Pan collar and squarish shape of the tee mean that you can easily fold the top into quarters and put it neatly away.
  3. Super-comfy. This one is made from a nightie and is so comfortable it’s amazing!
  4. Stylish and fashionable. The simple vintage look is very much in vogue.
  5. Adaptable. Its simple styling means it can be make up in various prints or plain fabrics, and extra seams can be added as style-lines.
  6. Versatile wardrobe staple. Depending on the fabric choice, this style can be worn to just about any occasion.
  7. Minimal fitting. If you have a pattern that fits your shoulders and neckline
  8. Little fabric (mine was made from a nightie that had worn out at the seams and edges).
  9. Good for beginners. The most complicated thing in this project is the collar, which can be omitted if you would like a plainer tee, or mastered with careful attention.

7 Upcycling Thoughts:
  1. The new product must not look upcycled (unless that’s your point)
  2. Co-ordinate you colours. If you’re combining fabrics, the easiest way to make the new product look shop-bought is to use fabrics that harmonise. How often do you see a RTW garment made from just one colour?
  3. It really helps to use a well-drafted sewing pattern, unless you’re one of those lucky people who can just fluke all your sewing projects. : ) I altered my close-fitting block to make a dartless t-shirt pattern. I don't know if the same method that I used would work for someone over an A-cup, but it seems to work fine for me. If anyone asks in the comments, I'll do a tutorial on how I did it, but one thing I noticed is that because t-shirts drape and stretch, they will look really loose if you use the "close-fitting dress block" that is meant for wovens. It's surprising how much looser the look. I also did a cap-sleeve adaptation as shown in Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear, and a Peter Pan collar as shown in the same book.
  4. Treat your project as if you were using expensive fabric. Take all the care to sew and press properly and neatly that you would were you using expensive fabric. The point of upcycling is to give an old thing a new lease of life, but that life will be dreadfully short if you are embarrassed to wear the garment out of the house.
  5. On the other hand, upcycling can be a good opportunity to make a toile. You can even toile the upcycling project if you have two identical worn-out things. For instance, my top was the second attempt because the first one didn’t work out (learning curve), and I had two nighties that had worn out at the seams and edges.
  6. You can easily knock-off RTW clothes, and this way you’ll be doing so ethically:
      • no sweatshops
      • made in England
      • New-from-old = not going to the tip.
  7. Upcycling is also a good opportunity to practise working with unfamiliar fabrics and techniques. I am not very experienced with knit fabrics, and even less so with combining them with wovens. I learned a few things by making upcycled t-shirts.

10 Things I’ve Learned With this Project

  1. For vertical seams on not-too-tight tees you can use a plain old straight stitch, but maybe a bit longer than usual (3-3.5mm)
  2. Shoulder seams need to be stayed by having non-stretch tape stitched with them.
  3. Hems should always be pressed before stitching.
  4. A walking foot (or something similar) should be used on stretchy bits like hems to prevent an unwanted lettuce leaf effect.
  5. Facings should always be used when you sew a collar on because it makes it easier to sew, and gives a neater end result, plus you can add a label to the facing and make it look really professional.
  6. Pressing is even more important when using stretch fabrics than when sewing just wovens. It makes your garments look so much neater.
  7. You will probably need to hem the collar and facing down because the fabrics are so different.
  8. When drafting the neck facing, use the shoulder seams from your block, not from the cap-sleeve pattern, or you’ll have to dart out the extra fullness afterwards.
  9. The hem-allowance should be 0.5cm deeper than the stitching’s distance from the fold even when you’re using a twin-needle hem. The extra can be trimmed after if you like, but as jersey doesn’t fray, you don’t have to.
  10. You should measure the new neckline and make sure that you can get your head through. I can just get my head through this neckline, but another centimetre’s neckline width at each shoulder seam would have been nice.