Sunday 31 May 2015

I've Got The Sewing Bug: The One Where I Make a Dress & an Apron... *Hillarys Crafts Competition Entry*

I've got a new hobby! Sewing! 

I love a good hobby... I sort of collect them...from baking, cooking, knitting, reading and crochet to paper cutting, card making, up-cycling, and adult name it, I do it! 

I like to fill any spare time I have doing things I truly enjoy (part of my #beingkindtomyself initiative) and for me, being creative and making things from scratch is one of the biggest joys in my life. I tend to be a bit of an all-rounder, and am willing to give everything a go - I've even been on a lino cutting and chocolate truffle making workshop in my time - I like to be diverse! One of the skills I've always wanted to learn but never had the equipment or confidence to take up was sewing - I'd done some hand sewing and stitching on small craft projects, but up until I fell pregnant with Bert, I'd never even touched a sewing machine. 

This all changed when I met my beautiful friend Janet, who is an amazing seamstress and super-mummy to four gorgeous girlies - we met at our local WI group and hit it off straight away...she runs fantastic evening sewing courses from her home in Bedford (Kitchen Table Sewing), and before I knew it I'd signed up to one of her beginners courses! On this course I made a gorgeous tote bag, and a set of two cushions for Bert's nursery. It was so much fun, and I got to grips with the basics of a sewing machine. 

Janet very kindly let me borrow her machine for a while after our course, and I got to work making Bert (who was still in my tummy at this point) a gorgeous reversible and wipe clean play/changing mat which I'd seen on a Kirstie Allsopp programme. I absolutely loved the items I'd made, and vowed that I really must get myself a sewing machine so I could make more lovely things. 

Bert's reversible changing mat which I made using Quentin Blake's 'Cockatoos' fabric back in 2013, to match Bert's nursery...One of my first solo sewing makes! 

Then Bert arrived, and well, as most parents will know, when your first baby arrives all hobbies and crafts go out of the window for a while..! 

Fast forward 20 months, and with a shed load of weight lost, my confidence building, and much more time to enjoy crafting again, I found myself longing to learn some new skills and expand my crafting repertoire. 

At one of our regular coffee, cake and park meet ups with our kids, Janet and I got chatting about my weight loss, and how much I was now enjoying fashion and clothes shopping now that I was at a healthy weight and a size 12. Janet is a huge fashion lover too, and makes loads of her own clothes - I am constantly ooh-ing and ahh-ing at her incredible makes wishing I had the skills to make my own clothes too, but secretly feeling like I'd never be good enough to make myself something to wear - then as if by magic (it's still possible that Janet might have actual factual mind-reading skills!) she made me the kindest offer...a free place on her 4 night dress making course to make the fabulous Megan dress pattern from 'Love At First Stitch' by Tilly Walnes

I couldn't resist: all I needed to do was buy the pattern and turn up with 2m of my choice of fabric! SOLD! Janet has been majorly supportive throughout my weight loss journey, and I was so touched when she said how proud she was of me and that she'd love to give this to me as a way of celebrating my achievements - thanks mate, if you're reading this, I totally appreciate it. 

So I set to work choosing my fabric and managed to find a fab Royal-baby-inspired blue fabric covered with stunning white crowns - quirky and colourful, perfect for my first "for me" sewing make. Before I knew it I'd spent 8 lovely hours at Janet's kitchen table with four other awesome ladies fitting and making beautiful dresses for ourselves. It was such an awesome process, and this week I finished the dress and I wore it for the first time yesterday - what an amazing feeling to wear something you've crafted from scratch!! 

The making of the Megan dress...

If you haven't come across it before you must have a read of Janet's fabulous blog Kitchen Table Sewing, and if you're local to Bedford get yourself on one of her courses - she's even doing a 'make your own knickers' night soon! Amaze!

Janet has very kindly once again let me borrow one of her machines for a while, and so I haven't wasted any time in cracking on with some more sewing projects. Umm-ing and ahh-ing about what to make next, the sewing fairies were obviously shining down on me, because I was emailed by the people over at Hillarys blinds to say they were launching a new bloggers craft competition where they'd send you a meter square piece of one of their new roman blind/curtain fabrics for you to craft with, and if you wrote about it in a blog post, they'd enter you into a judged competition, where their favourite entry wins £1000 - sewing and a competition? This is possibly the best ever combination for me as I am a mad "comper" (competition enterer!) and really enjoy creative competitions like this. 

So I chose the rather beautiful Daisy Pistachio fabric from Hillarys, and my brain started whirring into action to decide what I could make...

I wanted to make something I knew I would use and enjoy, but the fabric's colour scheme didn't particularly match any of my decor, and I didn't want to craft anything too random - I wanted it to fit with my home, my personality and my blog...then it struck me! AN APRON! 

I collect aprons - I had a pretty impressive 18 different aprons in my collection, and I have genuinely worn each and every one at some point during my baking at home. I decided it would be awesome to make myself one from scratch, using an existing apron in my collection as a guide, and so I set to work cutting out my pieces and working out how to construct it. 

Before I started I went on a lovely shopping trip to buy little extras to add some fun detailing to the apron: a gorgeous length of bright bottle green grosgrain ribbon for the neck loop and side ties, some cream ric rac (who doesn't just LOVE ric rac!) and some green buttons from my button tin!

Using an existing Cath Kidston apron as a guide, I tentatively cut into the Hillarys fabric...

Pinned in place and ready to cut! 

Once the main body of the apron was cut out I worked on pressing, sewing and finishing the seams on each edge of main apron piece. Next, I added the side tie ribbons and neck loop - ensuring to remember to backstitch to keep it all securely in place - I finished the raw edges of the ribbons and fabric with pinking shears to reduce fraying. 

Sewing in the ribbon side ties. 

After sewing in place the side ties and neck loop, I decided to add a length of cream ric rac to the top neckline of the apron for some fun detailing - I wanted to play around with other stitches on the sewing machine I was using, so I went for a zigzag stitch to hold the ric rac in place. 

I then added two green buttons underneath the neck loop ribbon, which really helps to bring out the green within the fabric. 

Then I moved on to finishing the neckline...

Pinning in place some facing to the back of the neckline piece 

I added this piece to the top back of the apron on the neckline to add strength and hide the placing of my neck ribbon loop. This was what had been done on my original Cath Kidston apron I was working from, and I wanted to copy the shape and make as closely as possible! It wasn't too tricky to do and has made the finished item much neater and more professional looking.

Next I moved on to adding a front pocket.

Pinning on the pocket piece 

Once the main apron was constructed, the side ties and next loop was in place and the neckline finished, I was ready for the final step: to cut out my pocket piece, pin it and then sew it in place. I decided to make it a two pouch pocket by running a seam down the centre of the main rectangle to divide it in two, and added a little green button to the centre of the pocket for a fun bit of detail. 

Pins, pins, pins - they really are your best friend when it comes to sewing! 

Once the pocket was in place my make was finished - a quick press, and I was soon dancing around my kitchen in my lovely new apron! 

The finished article: up close and personal to the double pocket.

My stitching might not be straight and perfect, but it is lovingly handmade, and I'm so proud of it!

T'ah D'ah!!!! My hand sewn apron in all its glory! 

I didn't waste any time in getting my bake on, and made a yummy cashew nut wholemeal loaf to enjoy with dinner last night while prancing around showing my new apron to anyone who would look (namely my husband, Bert and even the cat - she was totally unimpressed!)

Proud as punch in my new Daisy Pistachio apron! A double whammy as I was also wearing my handmade Megan dress! Hooray for my new hobby!

Fresh bread anyone?

I love the ric rac detail with the green buttons across the top...

and adore the bright green grosgrain ribbon ties - such a fun bright colour! 

There's nothing like a bit of awkward posing with a homemade loaf of bread! 

Pride of place amongst my rather large apron collection: number 19 is gloriously handmade by me and I couldn't be happier with it. 

One of the best things about hand making items from scratch with fabrics that you love is when you manage to be extra thrifty and salvage a second make out of the leftover scraps...

An added bonus - there was even enough fabric left over to make a cute and handy little pouch to keep my new kindle safe from scratches! I love it when a plan comes together....

I had so much fun creating these items I will enjoy using at home, and found the challenge of not working from a specific pattern really exciting and liberating - having just worked with a fairly complicated dress pattern as my first 'big sew' it was refreshing to work outside of the perimeters of a set in stone pattern - it's fun to wing it sometimes! 

I'm absolutely loving this new hobby, and am excited to get my own machine one day soon (maybe for my birthday?! hint hint!) ... I think my next make will be the pyjama bottoms from Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes (if you haven't got this book I highly recommend it, it is the perfect beginner's book!) 

A big thanks goes to Janet for all her encouragement, guidance, and for letting me borrow her machine to indulge my new love of sewing! 

Have you ever used a sewing machine? What has been your favourite make?

Mrs B


Disclaimer: This post is my entry into the Hillarys Crafts Competition. I was sent a 1m x 1m square piece of this Daisy Pistachio fabric which is from Hillarys new roman blinds and curtains collection in order to create something marvellous with it! :-)