Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Me-Made-May'13 - Sign me up!

It's that time of year again... Spring is (supposed to be) springing, birds are singing and sewists all over the world are frantically panic sewing in the hopes of expanding their "me-made" wardrobes in time for Zoe's annual self-stitched challenge, Me-Made-May.

The idea, if you're not already familiar, is that we pledge to wear at least one handmade or refashioned piece of clothing each day for the month of May. For me, the reasons to take part in these challenges are threefold: 1, it's a specific chance to celebrate and show off what I've made/see where the gaps in my me-made wardrobe are and what I've clearly been avoiding making. 2, with every challenge and indeed item of clothing I make, I am reminded of how little I spend and how little demand I create for new clothes and fast fashion, with the aim to reduce my consumption further. 3, although I could (and mostly do) apply reasons 1 & 2 to my every day life regardless of this challenge, I love the community aspect, and the support and collective inspiration that comes with seeing hundreds of people worldwide get involved. So, my pledge:

'I, Elisalex of By Hand London and Stitch me Softly, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '13. I endeavour to wear one item of me-made or refashioned clothing at the very least, each day for the duration of May 2013'

This is the third time I've taken part in Zoe's challenges, and for the last one I rather ambitiously pledged to wear at least two items of me-mades... I did it, but suffice to say that there were many repeats, and I got pretty sick of quite a few items! So I've gone back to pledging just the one! And if I manage more, which shouldn't be hard seeing as I have a significantly more extensive me-made wardrobe another year on, well then that'll just be a bonus.

One thing I did find hard last time was the photographing and documenting my outfits each day and consistently writing it up throughout the month. So, instead, I think I'll just do my best to Instagram daily @elisalex (using the official hashtag #MMMay13) and then do a little round-up post at the end.

So who else is getting involved??

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Scouting for Spring

Let me begin by saying, poo to [most] shop bought clothes. What I can make for myself is so much better.

photos by Richard Round Turner

Let me go on by saying that the only reason these photos look all professional and posed is because they are professional and posed - we had the official shoot for our new collection of sewing patterns at By Hand HQ a couple of weekends ago, so I took full advantage and jumped right in while the girls were doing their make-up to get a couple of decent shots to submit for something I won't mention just yet (and won't mention at all if it comes to nothing!).

What I really want to talk about here is my new Scout Woven Tee by Grainline Studio. As far as other indie pattern designers go, Jen is up there with my favourites and my bestests. No one does polished casual classics like she does, in my humble opinion. Have you seen the Archer shirt?? Nothing short of perfection. I bought and printed that pattern within minutes of it having gone live.

So. You'll notice right away that this is not a straight up Scout. I made it from a beautiful, but huge, man's shirt I picked up from Traid for less than a fiver and had taken apart at the seams. I wish you could have a feel of the fabric yourself - the softest cotton lawn - the kind that only gets better with wear, and wear is what you get when you go second hand. I cut the front in two pieces with the already existing button placket as my centre front, and added a little collar to keep to the shirt theme. In the end I actually stitched the placket shut to avoid it flapping open at the bottom. I am deeply in love with this pattern. Perfect in its simplicity, wearability and adaptability. 

The timing of this make was, at the time, so perfect. Skies blue, trees beginning to blossom, sun shining and birds singing... but it wasn't to last. Having had the promise of Spring dangled in front of us so teasingly last week, only to be snatched back and force fed another helping of snow instead, I'll be wearing this top under a good few layers until further notice. In the meantime, I already have another Scout in the cutting and various metres awaiting the same treatment, as well as big plans for the Archer. Roll on Spring!

(In the photos above I am wearing: Scout Woven Tee; Charlotte Skirt; vintage shoes; Sonya Kashmiri bag)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Refashioners 2013

I could hardly believe my eyes when I got an email from Portia, aka Miss P, a few weeks ago asking if I'd like to be a part of this year's The Refashioners! Sewing blog buffs among you already know exactly what I'm talking about, but for those of you who don't - this year will see the second series of The Refashioners, in which Portia sends mystery (and generally pretty dodgy) thrifted garments out to a handful of bloggers for them to refashion/customise/repurpose/remake altogether into something not just wearable, but desirable.

Not only can I not wait to see what I've been sent to refashion, but I'm also feeling pretty damn proud right about now to have been placed among such prestigious blogging company. The other girls taking part are all huge inspirations and I'm almost more excited to see what they come up with than I am to take part myself! Almost, I said! Just lay your peepers on the line-up -

Zoe - So Zo...
Dixie - Dixie DIY
Lauren - Lladybird
Tasha - By Gum By Golly
and me

There's not much I enjoy more than a good challenge... if it's more than I can chew, I'll take me a big bite! Portia, do your worst!! x

Saturday, 23 February 2013

DIY tile coasters

I have a bit of an obsession with tiles. Especially Islamic, Art Nouveau & Mexican tiles. A bit like my obsession with fabric I suppose: I would (and do) hang fabrics on my walls as if they were works of art. And since tiling most of my kitchen a la Mejicana, I thought it only fitting to put the leftover tiles to good use. It's like I always say - a beautiful dress should always have a matching cushion case. In this case, a tiled kitchen should have its matching coasters. Here's how:
Get some tiles. Get some felt. Get some glue (I like UHU).
Cut felt to match tile.
Stick felt to bottom of tile using glue.
Now make a dress and use leftover fabric to make a cushion cover.
Result: you're at my house.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Gifts that keep on giving...

It was one of those truly touching moments back in June when I received a squishy parcel in the post containing a generous metrage of a certain Aztec cotton jersey from a certain generous with a capital G fellow blogger friend - yup, none other than Marie of A Stitching Odyssey. Wanting to make the most of the beautiful print, I immediately made up a floor sweeping 1/4 circle skirt. I still had a little leftover which went back into my stash with modest hopes of one day becoming either a top along the Renfrew or Dixie lines, or simply another breezy mini skater skirt or something... But apparently the Stitch Fairy had other plans - and somehow I managed to get a whole dress out of little over a metre! And I still have leftovers!!?!! Marie... what did you send me? The fabric that never ends??? BLESS YOU.

If you follow me on Instagram @elisalex you will have already seen this picture of me freezing half to death...

The dress is just another variation on a very simple self drafted bodice - previously made up with a dipped hem skirt, 1/4 circle maxiskirt which was later re-made mini due to some unfortunate machine inflicted shrinkage - and this time with a straightish miniskirt that kind of goes up at the side seams a bit like a mannish shirt... What's that even called?? I feel like it's on the tip of my tongue here... 

I actually made this dress way back in December, along with a fair few other as of yet unblogged makes. I'll get to it eventually, I promise! But I'm afraid the By Hand Blog comes first - especially with exciting things like sewalongs and new patterns coming soon...!

It's only now looking at these pictures that I've noticed the stripe matching at the side seams - not at all perfect by any means - but pretty good considering it wasn't even done consciously. I'm sure this isn't the last we'll see of the Aztec jersey. In fact, I don't think I'd be alone here in guessing that Marie is actually, and not so secretly, the Stitch Fairy herself!!! 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Better late than never: my first (Disco) Renfrew!

I've had this pattern for a long time. Probably even since Tasia first released it. I had just finished my Minoru jacket and was definitely sold on the wearability of Sewaholic patterns. Within the first hour of receiving my Renfrew in the post I had already traced and cut all my pattern pieces (ok fine, I did no such thing. I cut that tissue paper right outta the packet. I try to be more of a perfectionist these days). But at the time I didn't have any decent jersey in my stash, so I slightly ran out of keen steam and instead settled for salivating over everyone else's versions of the Renfrew Top that kept cropping up in my reader. Seriously, there was a month or so where I don't think anyone blogged about anything else! Renfrews that stick out in my memory have to be Andrea's Renfrew cardi (definitely need to try that), Marie's flamingo print numberLladybird's many monochrome's and Joanne's adorable maternity Renfrew.

So, with my PMS sewing list in mind, I have been sure to keep a sneaky eye on the lookout for worthy knits whilst fabric shopping. I've acquired some stripey knits, the odd metre of a block colour here and there, and they will definitely all get Renfrewed at some point soon. But - then I met this muted gold viscose jersey, and immediately I envisioned the Disco 'Frew. A fabric such as this requires appropriate treatment, after all. 

The adding of the peplum could not have been easier; it's just a super short circle skirt (always having to refer back to our circle skirt maths tutorial of course) seamed to the waistline of the bodice and reinforced with elastic, which also cinches the waistline perfectly. The seam itself isn't so pretty from the right side, but that's easily remedied with a belt. As for the hem, I used the same vintage Tyrolean tape I used for the shoulder seams (such a pretty detail!) stitched over the turned in hem. I'd actually never thought to do this before when hemming a knit fabric, but it worked so well, and adds a bit of welcome extra weight. Fit-wise, I cut a size 4 (UK 8) and ended up taking about half an inch out of the side seams, and I had to shave a good inch from the sleeves to make them a slimmer fit. Looking at these pictures now, they could probably do with another half inch or so taken out to smooth those crinkles, and a good inch off the sleeve length! Which reminds me, the sleeves on my Minoru jacket are too long too... Something to remember: my arms are shorter than Sewaholic patterns suggest!

I am definitely planning more of these, most likely more casual, less blog-worthy versions. There will be stripes, block colours and long sleeves aplenty. I doubt I'll go for the cowl neck variation, not really my thing, but you never know; give me a couple of metres of some supersoft thermal knit and I could be swayed. You'll see it here first.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

What the f*** is that in your freezer??!?

In my freezer you'll find the basic essentials of life (bear in mind this is just my little fridge freezer; I also have a pretty serious industrial freezer big enough to hide a pair of bodies that I found on the side of the road that is host to a many more exciting frozen goods... no bodies though):

Fish fingers. Obviously.

Lots of ice-cream. Of both the Italian and dairy-free varieties.

Black Cow vodka. Seriously good stuff. Made by a friend of mine in Dorset, this is the world's first vodka made from pure milk. Seriously good stuff.

A sandwich bag full of crochet granny squares. Whaaaaaat?! 

Truth is, I got moths.

I started crocheting these squares in the Summer, using my many, many random balls of DK yarn with which I don't yet have the patience to knit something real, but always seem to buy from sale bins or discontinued stock. A technicolour granny square blanket along these lines seemed the obvious fate for those poor lonesome yarns. 

After a slowish start, I really got into the swing of things as Autumn turned to Winter when I was given a beautiful yarn basket from a beautiful friend for my birthday. I knew immediately that that would be the official granny square blanket basket. So things were going great... and then I went away after Christmas for a couple of weeks... the moths saw their opportunity, moved in and got busy.

Anyone who knits/sews/owns cashmere will know that it's not the fully grown moths that chomp away on your best woollens, but in fact their larvae. Their pesky, greedy, good for nothing offspring. Killing moths as and when you see them is obviously a good preventative (extreme moth contraception), but what you really want to do is actually stop them f***ing in your stash. This time I was too late. When you find those white wispy strands of moth larvae the only thing for it is to get that shit in the freezer. That's the only way to kill them.

I have not been put off by this little hurdle however, and I am full steam ahead with operation Technicolour Granny Blanket Stash-Bust and hope to have all 432 - yes, four hundred and thirty-two - squares done and joined for next Winter. In the meantime, as a precautionary measure, each square I complete is immediately relocated to a sandwich bag in the freezer until further notice.
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