Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Down in the alley: The Spoolettes go bowling!

Just incase you left the planet last weekend, The Spoolettes hit the alleys and went bowling!

This was a long time planning. but we finally got a date down that we could all make and one that gave us plenty of time to make our shirts. Yeah, you read that right, all TWELVE of us made our own bowling shirts and I can't begin to tell you how impressed I was with the results.

For me, I toyed with the idea of which pattern to use but in the end I decided to draft my own. I was a little nervous as I hadn't actually worked with this kind of camp collar before, but it was all pretty straight forward and mega points go to camp collars for not having shitty collar stands to deal with. Yey!

I chose a hot pink cotton poplin from eBay and here's how it turned out. Excuse the toilet selfie.

What you can't see is my Dolly for President badge!

To break up all the pinkness, I added some animal print ribbon to the sleeves because as you know I love me some animal print! The thought of embroidery did not last long in my little head. I thought of all the hours I'd spend doing that versus making something else and decided to see if I could make someone else do it for me. Oh yes, eBay you deliver again! I found a great seller who makes these gas station style name badges, and ordered a 'Dixie Lou' straight away.

Simply iron on and bowl, baby!

Here's a better pic of the finished article and one that isn't in a toilet (actually at this point it still needed buttons!).

That collar looks pretty camp to me

So, that was my shirt for the big event. I loved making it; I loved the challenge and I got to test my drafting skills with something new. So it was a winner all round for me.

The bowling itself was one of the best night's out I've had in ages. I love the Spoolettes so much and it makes me so happy to know I have found such a wonderful group of friends through sewing. Seriously, I'm glowing just writing this.

A few of us met up in a pub to begin with. Here's Alison, Kathryn, Sally, me and Fiona. Check out those shirts! Kathryn's is actually made out of a galaxy duvet cover. Genius! Sally's is another incredible refashion, Alison was displaying some really badass embroidery while Fiona was super cute in her top from a vintage pattern. Adorable!

At the lanes, we grabbed our drinks (who are the Spoolettes without a drink in their hand) and started nailing those pins. Okay, well, some of us hit the pins and some of us hit the gutter, but seriously, who would Dixie Lou be without heading for the gutter, right Mrs Bee? ;)

We really had the best time. I cannot wait to go again as I want to decorate the back of my shirt. I ran out of time and inspiration for this and I hang my head shamefully. But, fear not, Spoolettes, I gots me some ideas cooking.

 Yeah, Spoolettes bowling shoes shot!

 Rehanon looking more fabulous than fabulous

 I would

Oh Palma Cristal you drink of bowling champions 

 Sally showing true bowling form

 Me, Kathryn and Mrs Needles

Alison perfecting her bowling stance 

The winner! 

The Dude abides. Kathryn drinking a white Russian

 Dinner in Ray's Diner. Thanks Ray for my yummy 
veggie burger and hard shake! Peanut butter and whiskey if anyone's asking.

This made me so happy. Oh Don, you're always trying to get with me, 
even when I'm bowling 

Sally kindly sent me these next photos and they crack me up. It looks like I like to inhale my beer!

For our next event, we're planning a posh frocktails night and I'm pretty excited! Head over to our Facebook page if you want to join in on future events with the coolest girls in town. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

And we have a winner! My Big Giveaway Results...

Super pleased to announce the winner of my big giveaway.

Just to remind you, up for grabs was a MASSIVE bundle of fabric kindly donated by Minerva Crafts as well as a brand new copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Fitting, kindly donated by moi! Oh and some lovely Christmas fat quarters and thread for a lucky overseas winner.

I used a random number generator thingy-me-bob on the internet to pick a winner and....

<drum roll please....oh thanks royalist kitty whoever you are>

Congratulations, Marylou!

You are the winner of all that lovely fabric and the book! You didn't say if you were in the UK...hope you are, but please email me at with your address and I'll post all this amazingness to you this week.

And now for our overseas winner!... Kitty? Kitty? Oh... he's gone. But.....

Congratulations, Gillian!

Yey, my lovely friend you won! (A total honest draw, I promise). Gillian, I'd bring your stuff over when I am in Canada, but as it's Christmas fabric, will seem pointless by the time I see you, so please email your address and I'll post this off to you asap so you can get crafting some Xmas goodies. 

Thanks to everyone who entered! Only another 354 followers to go until I reach 1000...god knows what I'll giveaway then ;) 


Friday, 15 November 2013

Minerva Blogger Network: Viva la velvet

Back when I was choosing my 'Winter' collection of Minerva fabrics for the blogger network, I got the big idea to work with velvet. I was dazzled and very much in love with the jewel-like colours adorning the A/W 13 fashion shows, my particular favourite being the deep red, wine velvet as seen in Diane Von Furstenburg and Ralph Lauren's collections.

I have only worked with velvet once before on a refashion project and so, for the pattern, I wanted to keep things simple. My vision was a flared mini skirt that would both work with the drape of the velvet and be practical for a day-to-night look. The closest match was this skirt by Salme Sewing Patterns.

One of the great things about Minerva Fabrics is the customer service. I emailed Vicki with a link to the pattern and a description of what I was looking for, asking her which velvet in their range would work best with this pattern. She sent me a Polyester Velvet Velour in a sumptuous wine colour and I fell in love instantly. It  has amazing drape and feels like a little bit of luxury on my person.

Before starting the project I made sure I researched working with velvet. I found this great link, which has advice about pre-treating, cutting, stitching and pressing your fabric.

Stop. Think. Velvet!
The first thing to do is sit down, rest and tell yourself this is no ordinary fabric. This is velvet. Once you've picked yourself up off the floor, you can then wash your velvet. As the article suggests, it's good to pre-treat in the manner that you intend to clean your garment. I didn't want to be making regular trips to the dry cleaners for such a small skirt, so I took the plunge and pre-washed the fabric on a cold wash. Relax, people, it was fine!

Next, you need to think about nap. No, wake up, I mean your velvet's pile (snigger)! Velvet has a defined pile which, like satin's shine, can look very different in opposite directions. For a simple pattern such as this skirt, it's not a headache at all, but it's something to bear in mind for bigger projects. You may need to order more fabric in order to position your pattern pieces so that they are cut with the same nap. I once made a bias cut evening gown in satin and nearly self-combusted.

Speaking of cutting, ALWAYS cut velvet with a single layer of fabric and if you can, use serrated scissors. That pile is a pesky thing and makes cutting nigh on impossible on the fold. For this pattern all I had to do was mirror the front pattern piece to create one big front skirt pattern. The back pieces are also cut separately on a single layer - make sure you cut those even and completely on grain. This pattern does not include seam allowances. The instructions recommend adding 3/8" but I think it would be better to add 5/8" because the velvet will fray so you may want to finish the seams using a different method - more of that later.

My, 'always cut on a single layer' face

Next up stitching. Okay, yes this is a more sensitive operation than with other fabrics, but it's good fun learning to work with a new fabric type, and Minerva's velvet is very sweet and friendly to work with. Trust me.

Because this skirt is cut on the bias you need to stabilise those bias seams. One website suggests adhesive spray, but after trying this on a scrap I wasn't convinced. Even when it dries, it pulls the pile off and makes it impossible to finish the seam properly. Instead, I opted for my old friend silk organza. I cut long strips and basted them to the bias seams, then stitched the seams with a walking foot using looser tension and pressure settings. No puckering or moving. Bazinga!

Silk organza basted to the wrong side of the bias 
seams before pinning and stitching

Now comes pressing. Fortunately for me, I have a hot line to the world's sewing supremo Mrs Bee who kindly informed me to use a nice fluffy towel under my pile (double snigger) when pressing. To get nice crisp seams without ruining your velvet (and yes, you'll ruin it with no point of return) you place a towel under the right side of the velvet, hover your iron 1/2" over the seam and simply steam it. Using a scrap piece of fabric or your finger if it's made of steel, gently finger-crease the seam open. You may have to do this a few times, but it really works and gives you a lovely clean seam! To finish the seams you can bind them Hong Kong style or serge. I have left my pinked, but I am not sure how long they will last. I hated the effect of zig zagging and over-locking just didn't work on my seams.

Another important tip for this pattern is to stay-stitch the waist edge of the front and back so that it doesn't stretch. Just do this with a longer stitch length and your walking foot.

When interfacing the waist band do not use fusible interfacing. Most advice suggests it will not melt properly onto the back of the velvet - and again, in my opinion, the less pressing you do with velvet the better. I used a medium sew-in interfacing which worked a treat. Once you have stitched the waistband, grade the seam allowance because otherwise it will be a bit of a sandwich when you come to finishing that band on the inside.

I know you want to ask me about the zip, but you're scared of what I might tell you. It's okay, it's not that bad! The best thing to do is FIRST do not cut the Salme pattern as it is with the extended zip seam. I increased the whole seam allowance (from waist to hem) by 1", then you don't have that funny right angle that reverts back to the 3/8" seam to contend with.

SECOND, hand pick that zip! This for me, was the only thing I was going to attempt zip wise. There was no way I was inserting a concealed zipper into velvet using my machine. My sanity was at stake and it's fragile at the best of times. So, I prepared the zip seam, prepared my thread with wax and hand picked it in. It looks great, the waist seams align perfectly and I am smiling normally and not maniacally.

Hemming is also not a problem. I didn't follow Salme's instructions but instead hemmed by folding over roughly 1/2", basting, folding over again and catch-stitched the hem in place. Initially I was going to bind the hem but I didn't have enough bias binding for this. Boo.

I'm really pleased with this skirt and it's perfect for this season as well as upcoming Christmas festivities! I just realised that I am channeling a sexy little Mrs Claus in this ensemble. My shirt by the way is also handmade using a self-drafted pattern. I haven't worn it in forever as I lost some buttons, but  I replaced them weekend with super cute plastic diamante-effect hearts.

If you've not worked with velvet before, give this a go! Minerva’s velvet is a great introduction to this type of fabric and it’s easy to work with – and it’s only £5.99 p/m, which means you can have an on trend look for the Christmas season for minimal cost. Plus if you like what I have made, you can buy my kit here! I'll be wearing my skirt with jumpers, denim shirts and t-shirts. It's pretty versatile depending on your styling.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Introducing The Spoolettes!

Some time in the summer, fuelled by spicy American food and beer, myself, Nicole, Sally and Amy created The Spoolettes.

Was ist das, I hear you ask?

Well, it's a shitastic birth of awesomeness. Granted, at the time of The Spoolettes creation, we were in the midst of some serious summer loving. I held a party at Chez Dixie Lou where a group of us, bound by the love of all things fabric and thread, drunk a crap load of cava and tequila, ate my cheese and pineapple hedgehog, and danced until my lounge floor was a soppy puddle of tuck-dancing (don't ask) and booze. Ahhh take me back there now!

Days later, Mrs Needles - a woman of class and connections - took myself, Sally and Amy for cocktails on the fifth floor of Harvey Nichols. Picture it - London skyline, evening sun, champagne cocktails and Knightsbridge. Yes, this my people, is how we roll, and most importantly this is how YOU can roll too.

Join the Spoolettes!

Okay, so it's not all drinking and living the high-life, but it is always fun AND it's not restricted to London and the UK. We love meeting up with each other, talking sewing, eating great food and checking out events - so why not organise this where you are? If you don't drink, so what, grab a juice, The Spoolettes never judge and just want you to have a good time and make even better friends. Don't like late nights, no problem, why not organise a little afternoon of fabric mooching with afternoon tea? The Spoolettes love nothing better than a vintage tea pot and some cake - okay, maybe of us have gin in our teapots, but who's looking?

Plus, by becoming a Spoolette, you'll always have someone there to stop you from taking a beautiful vintage prom dress and turning it into this:

The Spoolette sisters have your back

What do WE like to do?

Anything! Recently, a group of us went to the V&A in London to see the 1980s From Club to Catwalk Fashion exhibit, and later this month The Spoolettes are hitting Bloomsbury Bowling Alley in handmade bowling shirts. I cannot wait for this! We're then hoping to do a UK version of the Austrialian Frocktails night, so hey US, get on board too! This coming Monday, we're welcoming Amity from Lolita Patterns with a day of fabric shopping in London followed by dinner and drinks.

And, don't forget UK Spoolettes, Dolly hits London next June... perfect timing for our Dolly/Joan sewalong don't you think?

So what do YOU need to do?
There's no special criteria - this isn't Heathers or Mean Girls, just email me at and I'll send you a cool little badge for your blog and hey presto! You're in the coolest worldwide gang since The Outsiders. We've also created a Facebook page that will act like a noticeboard for meet ups. If you're visiting a certain city, why not post your holiday dates and see who is around? I'll be in Toronto and Ottawa myself at Christmas so I'm hoping to meet up with my Canadian Spoolettes for sure. You ladies know who you are and expect a Spoolette badge in your inbox soon.

For Facebook, I'm going to invite some international sewers to sign up as admin for their respective countries - if anyone is interested in undertaking this role, email me. Once I get the required 25 likes on the page, I'll make the Facebook url known.

Since the big London meet up back in April, organised by the amazing Rachel, I have met some truly wonderful people who I now value as great friends. This is, most importantly, what being a Spoolette is and we hope to have you on board this love boat.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Spooky sewing - the 'Happy Skulls' woven t-shirt

During last week's spooky festivities, I was sitting at my desk when I heard whispers from the fabric shelf. "Hey, Clareeeeeeeeeeey...". As any dumb girl in a horror movie, I didn't run straight for the front door, but instead I thought it best to head straight for the voices armed with just my french curve. At this point I'd also like to add I had perfect hair, cleavage and the pertest bum-bum - basically this:

As the whispers continued, I tip-toed closer. The room was silent bar the tinkering on a random piano. I lifted my french curve, and prodded a heap of jersey. Nothing. I mouthed "omg" and breathed in and out so that my amazing cleavage went up and down a couple of times. I took another deep breath and lifted up my precious chambray, which was quivering underneath a puddle of oxblood faux leather.


After nearly crapping myself, I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. No mini psychos in hockey masks, but my happy skulls fabric from Toronto! "Do you remember us?" Oh happy skulls, how could I ever forget you? Let's whip you up into some spooky goodness straight away!

I bought this awesome chiffon when I was in Toronto in the summer. I think it was about $6 p/y and I found it while I was mooching around Designer Fabrics on Queen Street with the wonderful Catja, Andrea, Gillian and Sara at our Toronto meet-up on my birthday. Catja and I even made a great jingle, aptly named "Happy Skulls" of course, which we sung at the cash register. We're not crazy, we just really like buying fabric with smiling skulls on it!

Inspired by the lovely Fiona's awesome scout tee, I decided to draft my oven woven tee-shirt complete with cool pleats across the bust.

To achieve this, I used my basic bodice block which I lengthened, closed the bust dart to release the waist dart for a looser fit, and then added five pleats using a cut & slash method. If anyone is interested in how I did this, let me know and I will write a tutorial. These pleats can be added easily and are useful in sheer fabrics for providing extra coverage over your bust area.

This was actually my initial intention - to hide my bra and make the top more practical to wear as the fabric is very sheer - but in the end I decided to underline with an ivory white polyester I had leftover from a project a few years ago. The skulls and underlining are joined at the shoulder seams, neckline and armholes, leaving the side seams free so that the top has a flowing movement to it. The sleeves are not underlined.

Inside view: ignore the tacking stitches still in the sleeve hem!

I finished all seams with a french seam and hemmed the bodices and sleeves with a narrow hem. The neckline is finished with bias binding I made from the skull fabric. I had to experiment on scraps for ages as both fabrics had a tantrum when it came to stitching. In the end I had to go down to a 60/8 sharp needle, which resolved the kicking and screaming, and mainly the skipped stitches.

This project took a little longer than anticipated owing to the delicate fabric, french seams and trying to pleat impossibly slinky material, but for me, the outcome has been so worth it. I really love this top. It's fun and feels great against my skin. These photos were taken in Greenwich park and I'm teaming 'Happy Skulls' with my leather-look trousers from Zara and leopard print Vans.

What's one of your favourite things about Autumn right now? For me, it's LEAVES!


<Playlist: Spooky - Dusty Springfield>