Friday, March 28, 2014

I made shoes!

Since I saw Tilly's post about making her own shoes, I've been wanting to try it too. Of course I Can Make Shoes, where Tilly took her course, is in London.  Now, finally I was in England for work and decided I would spend some money on this, as I have small feet (EUR: 34, UK: 2) and it makes it hard for me to find shoes that fit and are the style I want. The only course that would fit my schedule was of course none of the cheaper ones, but the one for 3 days: Start your future in footwear, which came with a price tag of £500 (see this and other courses at the website). But I decided it was worth it. Even if turned out to be something I wasn't interested in, I thought I would at least have the experience.

Before I signed up, I wanted to know if I could make mid-heel shoes instead of the high-heeled ones, as I normally wear children's shoes that have no heels at all, and I don't think I would actually wear the high-heeled ones. Amanda got back to me super quick and told me, it's possible, but if I want to make sure there is a correct last for my size, I should buy one, but I could order it and receive it when I came to the course, so that the shipping costs were less. I thought this was a great idea, since I was already getting excited about making my own shoes, and to make them you would need a last of your own. It of course got the price up with £100.

Well, finally the long-awaited day arrived. I was staying in London with a friend and I had looked which bus I should take to the train and then which train to take further. Well, I did take the right bus, but to the wrong direction. In the end I was only about 15-20 min late and hadn't missed much, so it was ok, but I was really annoyed at myself...
The day started with Amanda telling us about the shoemaking process and she had taped our lasts already with masking tape, so that we could start designing right away. I was a bit worried as I'm not particularly good at drawing, but doing it to the last in 3D wasn't too bad. And of course Amanda was there to help :) I chose lovely bright red suede for my fabric and I really wanted to get the mary jane style, as they for some reason don't ever have them in my size - well, with heel anyway.

Filling the bottom with cork filler
After drawing the pattern, we cut it and after adding some allowances cut the fabric. Mine was quite thin, so I also needed interfacing. And of course you need lining as well. The whole shoe making process seemed not too intimidating when you have help all the way. I'm sure you can also learn at home (they sell kits and instructions on the website as well), but I would really recommend taking a course. Even though I had someone explaining what to do, I messed up and Amanda ended up fixing things. I'm sure that by myself I would've had been lot more frustrated. No, there was no frustration at all and after the first day I had almost finished the upper (which is the top part of the shoe), and I had my insoles covered as well.

Second and third day went by as fast as the first one. Lizzie joined Amanda as a teacher and it was even less waiting around. We were also quite lucky as there was only 4 of us, when the maximum size of the group is 6. We had a great group, 2 Brits, 1 Egyptian and 1 Finn from France. We all bonded over lunch and shoe-making. I loved to see everyone's shoes taking shape and they were all fairly different to each of our tastes. And I loved all of them, even if I think I would only wear mine.
See more pictures at the gallery of I Can Make Shoes
The shoe making process involved a lot of gluing, some stitching, and then some drilling and hammering... I definitely learned some new skills and I was very happy with the end product. There was the strap, though, which if I really had thought about it, I would've liked to topstitch that with white like the shoes, now it looks a bit home made. Also, I noticed after letting them set a bit, that one of the sides wasn't pulled as tight as it could and it's a bit wonky. But I would say these are minor details. All in all, the shoes are great and the little things don't really show if you don't look too closely.
The shoes had to wait a week before you could try them on, so that there was time for the glue to really set in. I finally tried them on and they fit like they were made for me. Oh wait, they were. Here are few pictures with me wearing them. Sorry about the mirror pictures, I'm staying at a B&B and needed to make do.

If you are interested in shoe making. Or more likely if you already know how to make shoes you might be interested in J. T. Bachelor and S&K Leathergoods & Fittings that sell leather and shoe making supplies in London (these are here to remind me as well...). If anyone knows other good places for supplies (especially in France!), please let me know in the comments!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hello, my name is Anna and I'm an addict... (aka Craftaholics Anonymous)

Well, I will blog about last weekends thing later (there are still some pictures to be taken), but yesterday I actually went to a craft fair in Birmingham. This was a bit of a surprise event for me, as I actually didn't know about it before Sheila from the B&B told that she's going. So, I tagged along...

It was held by ICHF Events
@NEC Birmingham and with the same ticket you could enter all three parts:
1) Fashion, Embroidery, and Stitch
2) Sewing for Pleasure
3) Hobbycrafts

I had looked at the website before and the main things for me to see where a workshop by Bernina (Bernina in Finnish) & Madeira. There were actually three options for me, but I got my first choice, the stitch covered mini notebook, which was perfect timing-wise. The main idea was to try free motion embroidering with a machine, so that's why I had some choice. That started only at 11:45, so I had time to go an listen to Stuart Hillard's 10:30 talk on wardrobe customization, which was the other main event for me.

While I was waiting for the talk, I looked around a bit and just next to the talk podium, they had The Giant textile books. So, amazing! See the pictures below for two of the books and visit their website to see more pictures and past exhibitions.

So, then it was time for Stuart's talk. If you've never heard of him, shame on you. Well, not really, but he was a contestant in the first series of The Great British Sewing Bee. He gave really good tips on what you can do with just few simple things. I'm a lot better at doing something from scratch than customizing, so I was excited about this and he didn't let me down. And I even got a picture with him! And just look at his pants, I love the color!
Stuart demonstrating what you can do
with a t-shirt and a tie
Me and Stuart. I have the worst posture ever in
this one and it makes me look kind of fat...
well, at least Stuart looks good :)

I had a bit of time before my machine embroidery workshop, so again, I was just looking around. And I saw this guy making all kinds of cords with an interesting method. And of course I decided I need to learn it and I got the kit. There was a beginner's kit, but the one I got included the beginner's kit + more advanced stuff. I think I'll be ok with it :) The method is called lucet and you can find more about it at Ziggy's website.

So, then finally it was time for the workshop. It was taught by Pauline Verrinder from FibreFusion. And in one hour, she managed to help us learn free machine embroidery (no embroidery machine needed!) and we made a small note book as well. First it was a bit of practicing, I tried to do a flower (that looks better than I would've expected for my first try and then I tried writing my name, which was a less successful attempt. But I think my final product looks pretty good. You can see here the actual notebook (the cover keeps opening, so I needed to weigh it down with my camera case) and a zoom in to one (the better one) of the flowers.

After this workshop and lunch I went to see if I could get to an appliqué workshop in Sizzix stand. It was a workshop without reservations and the next one was starting in half an hour, so I decided to sit down and wait. I actually got very tempted to buy the cutting machine they advertised (which I guess was the point of it all), but I think with the amount of quilting and appliqué I'm doing at the moment, I can be without one... The workshop was held by Angela Southey, who also writes on the Sizzix blog. I got so much out of it and I think my needle case turned out ok (and I didn't have one!)

I also met a really cool person who I shared the machines and iron with. Jenny has her own company and she buys bags which she then embellishes and sells further. Take a look at her work on her website.
Needle case with a butterfly appliqué
After all of these workshops it was 14:30 already. But this was kind of perfect. The place didn't have a lot of places to sit down, so people started to get tired around this point. I had sit most of the time until then, so I was totally ok for walking. So I missed the worst rush. I had managed to buy a few things in between the workshops, but now I started to have a hard time controlling my shopping impulses. I think I used more money than I had planned, but everything I got was useful (well, I really shouldn't get more fabric...) and things I haven't really seen in Paris. Or I'm sure some of the stuff you can get there, but I would have to go look for it.

So, at this point my shopping included, in addition to the lucet stuff: a meter of tweed remnant (£5) and some general stuff for sewing like glue pens, rotary blade sharpener, some cable needles for knitting, and a scissors case. I still needed an embroidery hoop for machine embroidery, which wasn't too hard to find.
Linton tweed: 100 cm x 140 cm / £5

I also saw some good deals on patterns, but luckily most of the ones I was interested in didn't have my size anymore, so I ended up getting only two. The underwear one is mostly for the corset as I think I can make a petticoat without an actual pattern. And I was very happy to find one of the retro patterns I've been drooling on in sale.

I also found some plain red cotton fabric, which is perfect for my vintage dress, that I'm still planning on to do. I have some linen in the same color, but I've been a bit worried that it might be a tad thick with the polyester.

And then I saw this really cute tractor fabric at Doughty's and I really need to sew a shirt for my nephew. He just loves tractors: my mom got him a t-shirt with a tractor on it for Christmas and he only took it off when my sister told him that if he doesn't give it to her to wash now, he won't have it for the whole next week... So, just to have a dressier shirt, right? And when I was in line to buy that I saw the girls in front of me getting the cool camera fabric below and I just had to be a copycat and get some. The color isn't really my color, but at least there are some yellow cameras... And maybe I can combine it with something... :)

After I got some food, I had a bit more energy left and I saw the cutest cat fabric ever! It was in thre Little Laura's Haberdashery and they had the same one in white as well and while I was pondering out loud to the lady next to me that I would get it as a contrast, she pointed out to me that there was actually even a better contrast fabric on the shelf. The black one with paw prints on it. How perfect is that. I'm thinking of Alma & Chardon (with a contrast edge), or maybe something like Ava or Macaron...

And then something draw me back to the tweed and Linton. Maybe the fact that I got into my head an idea of a tweed jacket and my 1 m piece wasn't big enough for that (for the 1 m piece I'm actually planning Thurlow). So, I went back and looked at the 2 m pieces that were meant for jackets. And I saw it right away. It was actually one of the most expensive ones at £60. I really loved it, though, and while I was wondering if I should get it the lady asks me if I'm a student. I said I was, although an astrophysics student, and she told me that the student price was £45. She kind of sounded like I should've actually been a dressmaker student or something, but I guess she felt sorry for me: I'm sure she saw how much I liked it... And the best thing: this was actually a fabric ordered by Chanel, but when the fabric is older than 3 years they can start selling it as a fabric as well. So, I need to make a Chanel jacket, right? And what is a better pattern than V8804? So, I think I need to go pattern shopping...
Vogue 8804

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My plan for the rest of the year

So, I've been doing everything else but sewing, and even though I don't want to stress about it, I really want to get better at it. So, I decided to make a plan for this year. Nothing too ambitious, because then when I can't keep up, I end up giving up altogether. So, my goal is to make at least 6 garments this year. I still have like 9 months to go, so I think this is reasonable even if I get some slumps sometimes.

My planned pieces are:

1) Bathrobe
This I've actually started: I have traced most of the pattern pieces. What's great about this project is, that I won't have fitting issues as it doesn't really have to fit. I mean I have to fit inside it, but when I lived at home I used my dad's old bathrobe a lot because it was so nice and soft. So, it really can't be too big... I found a really nice fabric from SelfTissus, unfortunately they only have solid colors now, but here's a picture that used to be on the site. As a pattern I'm using Jalie 2567.
Bathrobe fabric
Jalie 2567
2) Vintage dress
This I've also started, but I got nervous about the fitting part... So, this is actually what I planned for my last year's Monthly Stitch challenge for September. But then things happened and I just didn't have time to finish. I have traced the pattern and even cut and marked the muslin. So, I need to start the fitting process. I have an idea how to do this, Craftsy is really helping me in understanding how it's done. It's so much different to actually see how the fitting is done, than trying to figure it out from a book.

I'm still planning on the same fabric as originally, and I'm doing the short sleeve version. If the final dress fits and otherwise succeeds, I will do a long sleeved version from a petrol blue wool I bought from sale last year (3m/15€, pure wool!).

3) Renfrew
I've been planning to make a renfrew top for a long time. I'm a bit nervous about sewing with knits but I just have to start somewhere. I'm thinking of starting with a short sleeved version in this as well. I have a perfect amanita fabric (I just learned what that red mushroom is in English), although it is more turquoise than in the picture here. If I like how it turns out, then I will make another version (maybe a long sleeved one) from this cutest monkey fabric ever! Second one should be quite easy to make if the first one is good, right?
Monkey fabric for renfrew no 2
Amanita fabric for renfrew no 1

4) Cambie
This is something I need to finish before it's time to defend my thesis. Well, there's still about 1,5 years until that time, but at the rate I'm going, it will com up fast. Well, I might want to use the cambie before that, but I think I can still wear it for my defense. And why is this a perfect dress for that? It's that because of the fabric, which I "designed" and ordered from Spoonflower. So the quote marks are there, because I just basically took this super pretty Hubble image of the Orion bar, and then just chose how it's featured in the fabric. I also ordered some basic black (which is not quite black as the printed fabric will never be quite that, but it will match the picture fabric black) and I will use that for the bodice and then the Orion bar will be on the skirt part. And I chose this particular picture, because this is the area I'm currently researching. I'm kind of excited about this! Yes I know, I'm a geek.
Credit: NASA, C.R. O'Dell and S.K. Wong (Rice University)
5) Swing dress
This is something I actually started way back and got stuck with the fitting... There seems to be a pattern here... (pun not intended). So I just had started swing dancing and lost my heart and then I got the pattern. This was also the time I got interested in sewing again and there was Casey's sew-a-long from where I found the pattern. I traced the patterns cut the muslin and it's been at that stage for couple of years now... I really like the look of it, I have a pretty brown fabric with some print fabric for contrast and I just want to get it done!

6) Tofino pants
Well, it really depends how long can I make my tofino pants, they might be more like shorts: I only have 1 yrd of the fabric. It was all that was left, but hey, it's dinosaurs, so I really had to get it anyway. And I'll make shorts if it's not long enough for pants... If it was normal width I probably could squeeze pants out of it, but the width is just 106 cm. But don't you think it's cute? I can't wait to wear my pyjama bottoms!
Dinosaur fabric for pyjama pants
Well, the actual projects might change, but this is what I'm planning now. And anyway the goal is to finish at least 6 garments, I'm not being too strict about these being the actual 6. In general I'd like to have more blouses, and now I realized there's not a single blouse on my plan... So, that might change. And I can of course make more than 6 if I can. I'm just super slow with my sewing, and I like to try not to cut corners, because then the clothes are more wearable.

I also have some knitting projects and next weekend I'm doing something quite exciting! I will post about it next week, so you will have to live in suspense until then. Oh, and what did I notice on the weekend? The second series of the Sewing Bee is on! And I can watch it on tv as I'm in UK for awhile. How cool is that!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Slow beginning of 2014...

So, life has been crazy for me. Lot of traveling, both for work and for fun and I've been somewhat sick most of this year. Nothing super serious, but I did break some ribs from coughing... In any case, I haven't really felt the urge to pick up a project. Last year I did do a skirt for my niece/goddaughter for her birthday. It's basically the same circle skirt I did for myself, but it has a elastic band as a waist.
The skirt - ready to be sent
What was actually better than the skirt: yes you guessed it - the bubblewrap...
For myself, I haven't really done anything. And now I'm in UK for a month, so no sewing machine... But I took some knitting with me, we'll see how much I get done. I have a sweater I started long time ago and it's basically just missing one sleeve. I wanted already to finish it, but realized I didn't have all the yarn with me in France. So my mother found the rest and brought them when my parents came to Paris. I have no idea how it ends up fitting, I got the Sweater Surgery class from Craftsy just in case.

I also took yarn for another sweater, which I'm planning a bit better with the help of another Craftsy course: Knit to Flatter (Can you see the addiction here? But I love just watching the courses, even if takes me a long time to actually use the knowledge...). Hopefully I have time to at least start that.

My scarf
The new yarn
Yesterday I went to a local Hobbycraft store in Milton Keynes. I ended up spending £50 for odds and ends. Well, I have this scarf that I love a lot, a friend made it for me. And I saw similar yarn it was made from and decided I'd like another one :) This might wait until I'm back in Paris, though.

I also found something interesting I hadn't seen before and as it wasn't super expensive, I thought I want to try... It's a knitting loom. I like leg warmers a lot and decided to try how it would be like to knit them with a loom... I basically just need basic rib stitch, so it's should be fairly easy. There's a booklet, though so the loom comes with instructions for socks, but it uses the same size heel for all the sizes, which I find a bit strange. But there seems to be a lot of information in the net (what a surprise) about loom knitting, so I should be fine.
Knitting loom and the yarn for legwarmers
So, hopefully I have something finished soon. Sewing will have to wait until I'm back in Paris, but I have some ideas (+ few things I've started). Hope my life will be a bit less crazy for a while...