Quick DIY for the Home

So, my new house has quite a bit of space, and I have many plans on how to fill that space. Of course, most things must now go on the back burner until I find a new full time job (different story for a different time), but in the meantime there are a few little things I’ve done to make the house feel more like my own home.

I get antsy without a project. I’m midway through a dress at the moment, but after the first fitting it was too big, and then some life stuff happened, and getting out of bed has been really hard lately, and so all motivation to finish it went out the window. But I digress. Because of all this, I haven’t done anything creative for a couple of weeks now, and yesterday my creative urge came back with a vengeance.

I have this old, tired corkboard/whiteboard in my bedroom that I’ve literally had for years. And yesterday I decided it was time for an upgrade, to a fresh new message board. So, I got myself a new corkboard and a frame, and set about my quick afternoon project. It’s really quite simple, and no sewing required. First, I removed the original aluminium frame from the board. I cut it to size, to make sure it would fit within the frame. I then cut a piece of fabric the same size, plus a little extra on each side to wrap around the board. Once in place, I used a hot glue gun to secure the fabric, set it inside the frame, replaced the backboard and screwed it all in place. The end result is a suave new board to hang on my wall!

The other simple DIY from a few weeks back, was a quick sewing project. Basically, I have a tendency to hoard fabric scraps. Mostly because I convince myself I’ll find a use for even the smallest bit of discarded fabric. Often times, that’s not the case, and my collection of scraps was getting out of hand. So, I decided to make a door snake. I measured the width of the bottom of the door, and then I cut a rectangle length of fabric to match (adding a little extra for seam allowance). Using just a simple straight stitch, I folded the fabric in half, right sides together, and ran a single line of stitching along the raw edge at the bottom, and along the long side, leaving one side open. I turned it inside out, and stuffed it with pieces of scrap fabric until the snake was full. Then I turned the edges on the open side in to hide to raw edge, and sewed the opening closed. Simple, quick, and a good use of discarded fabric! Winning all round!

Anyway. My next project will be a curtain for the toilet window (there’s construction going on behind my house, and the last thing I need is a tradie walking past when I need to pee!), and after that…well, like I said, I have a lot of space to fill!

Sewing Update (Simplicity 1252)

At the start of the year, I set myself a goal to sew one new thing a month. My plan was to make a different item than I have ever attempted before, or use a different or tricky fabric. So far I have stuck to this goal, albeit barely!

January was a Peter Pan collar dress with a waistband. February was a loose fitting tee for my best friend, made from faux leather and a light, floaty patterned fabric that I have no name for. The first was a success, the second…well, I wasn’t overly happy with the end result. I used an existing shirt of hers to create the pattern which,in hindsight, wasn’t the best way to go given what I was working with. The seams were wavy, the sleeves were boxy and a little too GaGa-esque for either of our tastes. I made a couple of quick alterations, but all in all I was pretty disappointed. I also let time get away from me a little bit, and I know that if I had have taken the time, the result would have been better. The good thing about it, is that now I know my weaknesses when it comes to that kind of fabric, and I can work towards improving. Silver lining!

March was a tricky month, and I very nearly didn’t make it. I went on holidays, and I made some small progress on a jumpsuit I’ve had planned since pretty much the start of the year, but then life got in the way. Now, by some wonderful circumstance, I managed to get two days off this week. Two consecutive days off. Which is pretty much a dream come true for me. So yesterday, I abandoned by jumpsuit idea altogether, because it is still too far from completion to get done in a day. Instead, I raced down to the local Lincraft and picked myself up a basic commercial pattern. I’m not usually a pattern kinda girl, preferring to make things up and challenge myself that way. But, desperate times and all that. The pattern I went with was Simplicity 1252, a basic 60’s style sleeveless shift dress.
Image result for simplicity 1252

The other night I caught a film called God Help the Girl (review pending), and I was inspired by the outfits in the film when I chose this pattern. Aside from wanting something I could smash out in an afternoon, I was looking to emulate the vaguely hipster-y, mod style of clothing worn in the film. I found some lightweight wool suiting in a dark green tartan that was perfect for the project – and at only $10 a metre! – and so I set to work.

I count this my new thing for March, because all of the dresses I have previously made, have had a defined bust and skirt, where this dress is one piece. The pattern was simple to follow, and just as simple to put together, though I made a number of alterations. First thing I did was lose the neckline facings, in favour of a full lining. I wanted to be able to just slip the dress on, and the silk lining has the added bonus of helping to keep everything smooth. Secondly, the pattern has a front centre seam, which I think looks a little strange. I did actually add the dart in initially, but ended up unpicking it and leaving just a small detail at the top, and I liked it much better without. The third thing I did was alter the length. I always go a size up when I’m making commercial patterns, because I like to allow for error, so I used the size 10. When I cut out the pattern pieces, the finished dress would have sat at the awkward just below the knee length, because whilst I’m not overly short, I’m not especially tall either. And I wanted to make a mini dress anyway, more reminiscent of the fashion of the late 60’s. So I cut a solid three inches off the length, and then hemmed it with a 1/4 inch seam.

I did have a little trouble when it came to hemming, because I was stitching the lining and the outer fabric together to hide the seams within, and the wool had a little stretch to it, where the lining silk didn’t. This left me with too much fabric at the end of the seam line, which created an unsightly wrinkle. To fix this, I simply unpicked the back seam a little, and did a little snipping and stitching to tidy it up and reduce the bulk. I just had to add a small slit in the back of the dress, but that doesn’t affect the aesthetic, so I was happy with the end result.

All in all, I am infinitely happier with my March make than my previous month’s attempt, and I can see myself wearing this dress a lot, probably styled with a white collared shirt and a cute continental necktie. Or I can grunge it up with a pair of Docs (note to self; buy Docs) and a leather jacket. I think, because of my fabric choice, this will be a really versatile little number. Plus, I have plenty of fabric left over to make a pleated skirt and matching bow tie. So even though I left it until the last minute, and I used a commercial pattern, I am still going strong with this one new make a month goal. And I’m starting to get some ideas for the next ones too, so good things are coming!

Habits of a Modern Day Sewist


I cleaned my sewing room on the weekend. It has been kind of a shambles for a long time, and I finally got up the motivation to clean it. Honestly, I should have done it sooner. It makes everything so much neater, easier and more relaxing. But as I was tidying, I found myself with two pins in my mouth. I had no use for them, but I had picked them up from the table and they went straight between my lips for…safekeeping? When I actually put them back in the pincushion, it occurred to me that I have all these sewing habits that probably seem really strange to people who don’t sew. So here are a few, to maybe (probably not) help you better understand the habits of a sewing addict.

  1. Obviously, the pins. Now, I will pin something together and as I sew, I will remove them from the fabric. Without fail, the first one I take out will always, always go straight in my mouth. The rest find a happy home stabbed back into the pincushion, but for some reason, I always end up with that first one between my lips. I don’t really know why, but it’s just a habit I’ve always had.
  2. My idea of a leisurely Saturday is going to the local craft/sewing shop and spending time perusing the fabric selection. Whether I have a project or not, I always love to go and have a look. I touch and smell the fabric and more often than not, impulsively buy it because I am weak willed when it comes to pretty things. Which brings me to my next point.
  3. Some people go to the supermarket for one thing and come out with ten; that’s me in a fabric shop. Even if I go for a shop with no real purpose in mind, there are few times that I leave without a bag full of things I wasn’t initially going to buy. Fabric and elastic and ribbon and thread, pins and buttons and interfacing and dye…the list really is endless.
  4. Sewing in my underwear. This is usually for convenience, honestly. Plus, I hate wearing pants and it’s not like I live with anyone. But if I’m making something for myself, I need to be able to try it on and make sure all my measurements are correct, and see whether I need to tweak or tuck something. It’s just easier to do it in my underwear because then I’m not taking things off and putting them back on and taking them off again a billion times in a sewing session.
  5. Calling myself a ‘sewist’. Technically, sewist isn’t a real word. It’s not in the dictionary, and the little red line keeps coming up under it every time I type it, reminding me of that fact. But the correct term is sewer, and don’t try and tell me that when you read that then, your thoughts didn’t immediately jump to toilets and manky pipes filled with bodily waste. Hence, I get to use a made up word when referring to myself in regards to my sewing skills.
  6. Being oddly affectionate towards my sewing machine and overlocker. I know they have no feelings, or brains and that talking to them makes me seem like a madwoman. But they work hard, and without them, I would be sitting there sewing by hand so I think they deserve affectionate pats and words of encouragement/thanks. Don’t judge me. The machines are my friends.
  7. Scouring Pinterest for ideas, writing them all down and then making none of them. Pinterest is like my drug of choice. I can’t get enough of it, constantly looking up new things to make and create. Some of them I have tried my hand at, others are still firmly stuck in the ‘will get around to…eventually’ pile. But there is a world of creativity out there, and it’s always good to find motivation and inspiration for the days when my own brain comes up with nothing.
  8. Check people out, not because they’re good looking, but because I want to try and determine if I can replicate what they’re wearing. This is a habit I only got into over the last year, as my sewing skills improved. More than once, I have been caught out staring intensely at people like some kind of creepy weirdo, when all I’m doing is mentally working out how difficult it would be to make their outfits. Mental note; be more subtle.
  9. Hoard fabric. I am not a hoarder, except when it comes to sewing materials. I have so much scrap fabric floating around my sewing room, on the off chance that I might need it for something. When I cleaned the other day, I finally had to reconcile with the fact that those off cuts and remnants I had been saving are useless, and taking up precious space I could be using to store proper lengths of fabric. Even though it pained me a little, I threw them out…though give me another few weeks and I’m sure I will have built the collection back up.
  10. Forgetting to eat because I’m too engrossed in my current project. This is a bad habit, I’ll admit. Often times I get so in the zone that before I know it, I’ve been sewing for four hours straight, and my stomach is making bizarre noises that could be easily mistaken for Star Wars special effects. Good for productivity, bad for energy levels and, y’know, survival.

Some of these habits may seem strange, but it is these things that make being a sewist (there it is again) so much fun. And with that in mind, I am going to go and…get on Pinterest and search for cool things to do with scraps of fabric! Sew long, friends! (eh? Eh? Hilarious)

Making, and Wearing Handmade

There is something so cool about wearing handmade. Today I got out of bed and put on pyjama shorts. As I was pulling them on, it kind of struck me that I had created them. I had taken flat fabric and turned it into a wearable item of clothing. And that is really fucking cool.

I’m still relatively new at the sewing game, having only really started last year. But even since I first brought my sewing machine home, and set myself up with an ironing board in my bedroom for a sewing desk, things have improved. My skills have improved, and developed. The first thing I made properly was an apron. My friend had given me a whole bunch of fabric, and there was this sweet owl patterned material in the mix. Without using a pattern, I drew and cut and stitched and the result was a dodgy, but wearable apron. I was so proud of myself.

I made a few more aprons, to get the hang of my machine, and develop a technique. Then I started with skirts. The first one I ever made was a disaster. It turned out really well, and was lined and everything. Right up until I put it in the wash, and the coloured waistband bled into the mainly white skirt and stained. And then there was the shrinking issue. When the lining shows up a good inch below the fabric, you know you’ve stuffed up somewhere. Well, suffice to say, I’ve pre washed my fabric ever since.

For a long while, I didn’t really do any sewing at all. I didn’t have a place to set up at my dad’s house, and I am pretty bad when it comes to staying motivated. But then earlier this year, I got back into it, and found that I really, really loved making things. I take great joy from challenging myself, and have a kind of smug stubbornness in regards to not using patterns. I tend to just look at things, shrug and say ‘yeah, I could probably make that.’ Plus, patterns often confuse me anyway.

Once I moved out and had a bona fide sewing space, everything intensified. I started The Elegant Fox, started making things for other people as well as myself, and began expanding my repertoire. The beautiful thing about sewing is that there are always new things to learn, and a world of things to create. As of last night, I’ve added making cabochon jewelry to my skill set. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for months, and the pieces I ordered finally arrived this week. And I have so many more ideas in the works, so watch this space! (or this one). Many more cool, creative things are on the way!