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Back again.

 

Hello! I seem to be getting into a very lazy habit of only updating the blog about once a fortnight. My excuses are that it’s too frustrating trying to post using the iPad, and it’s so much easier to update Instagram and Facebook. Probably best to follow me there, if you feel like keeping up with me on a more regular basis.

Here you can see me in a fantastically stereotypical Instagram shot – staring whimsically into space as I contemplate how I’m going to get out of this dress when I haven’t added the front placket yet.

I was originally going to make a dress, then I changed my mind and decided to make a shirt. Thanks to a slight maths error (okay, the fact that I didn’t measure my hips properly) the shirt didn’t fit, so I decided to chop off the bottom eight inches and make it into a dress after all. But because I was cobbling together two patterns, I hadn’t quite worked out how I was going to get in and out of the thing. My task for today is to cut into the skirt and add a placket, so I’ve got room for buttons below the waist.

I have quite a few buttonholes in my future – this petticoat needs eight of them. (I just need to find eight matching lingerie buttons from my stash.) The pattern is Butterick 3263, and I made the slip to test the fit of the bodice before I embark on the combinations. Just as well I did, as the petticoat didn’t fit me at all! I took in two inches at the centre back bodice, half an inch at each side, an inch out of each shoulder, and added a dart at the centre back skirt to accommodate my sway back. I’m now slightly paranoid that I’ve made it too tight, but I won’t find out until the buttons are in place. (Cue the traditional cursing of my sewing machine that refuses to make buttonholes unless I’m standing in the sewing machine shop complaining to Sue about it – when of course it makes them perfectly. Git.)

In an attempt to be more organised, and to try and keep both my pattern and fabric stashes under control, I’ve started work on a new system. I’ve printed out a little picture and the fabric details for each of the patterns I sew most often, and glued them down to the pages in a small Filofax that was sitting empty in a drawer. I plan to add swatches for each garment as I make them, so that I can see what I’ve got already and where any gaps might be. The second section will be swatches cut from my fabric stash, so that when I go fabric shopping I can see what I’ve got at home, and make sure I’m not duplicating things. This will also allow me to match up the patterns with the swatches, and hopefully shrink the stash a little bit by actually sewing something from it!

Section three, which you can see poking out on the right, is swatches from clothes that are already in my wardrobe. (These were cut from inexplicable horizontal loops on the back of my jeans.) Having these with me will mean that I can buy fabric (or wool) to match clothes that I have already, thereby creating Actual Outfits rather than a wardrobe full of lovely clothes that bear no relation to one another. (Currently I have nine pairs of smart trousers, and no tops at all to go with them. I’m very bored with black t-shirts already.) I’m also contemplating knitting tiny swatches to match my cardigans, though I think that might be a step too far into madness. Perhaps just sticking in a few strands of yarn would do just as well.

Speaking of madness… the other day I made this little doll face. I found her a bit fiddly (hence the slightly squiffy eyes!), so I enlarged the pattern, thinking I’d try making a doll on a slightly larger scale. Except that when I really looked at the photocopied pieces, I realised that “slightly larger” is actually going to turn out about three feet tall! Do I really want to make a doll at that kind of size? Well, I’ve got a big enough piece of felt, so why not?! We’ll see how long it takes for me to get bored of stuffing all the pieces. (I predict: Not Very.)

In Other News… 

I’ve been clearing out my pattern stash into the Etsy shop.
There are a few vintage patterns that turned out not to fit me, a few that I bought and then changed my mind about, and a few that are cut out to sizes that I now can’t fit into. More to come over the next week or so.

My zipped pouches were reviewed over at Blonde Ambition.
Thank you Katie, for the lovely review!

The Vintage Haberdashery Mystery Boxes have disappeared from Etsy
…but I do still have one left. Let me know if you’d like it, and I can pop the listing back up just for you. Otherwise it’ll sit on my shelf feeling lonely, until I can find a good home for it.

And now? Buttonholes. Lots of buttonholes.

(And hoping that it doesn’t rain on the four loads of washing currently drying in the garden, because I’ve got no room for all that laundry in the house if the weather decides to chuck it down!)

All hats, all the time…

Felt cloche hat

Okay, that’s not strictly true, and I don’t even really know what I’ve been doing with myself over the last fortnight apart from working a lot and feeling a bit ill, but I have just finished a little flurry of hats, so here they are.

The one above is the colour of a perfect cup of builder’s tea, trimmed with gold lace that took weeks and weeks to arrive from China. I won’t be ordering that lace again, but I’m making good use of it while I’ve got it. This one in particular is very pretty, and I have enough left over for at least one more hat.

Felt cloche hat

This one’s more the colour of coffee, or really good dark chocolate. This is also lace-from-China, which I’ve altered slightly from its original form. It had a segmented piece at the top which is designed to have ribbon woven through it, but in this case I preferred it without. The loopy bits are all couched down securely to the crown of the hat, but the teardrop shapes are left loose to allow a bit of movement.

I’m hesitant to describe these two hats as “Steampunk” just because they happen to be brown and gold, but perhaps they’ll be the perfect addition to somebody’s outfit.

Felt cloche hat

I wasn’t at all sure what I was going to do with this lavender coloured felt, and then I spotted this gorgeous organic cotton lace from Lancaster & Cornish. Okay, so it’s a lot more expensive than the Chinese lace (in this particular instance, fifteen times more expensive!!), but now I’ve worked with it I’m in no doubt that it’s absolutely worth it. The quality is amazing, it’s organically produced, and to be honest it’s just plain gorgeous.

The flower embellishment is also organic – a cotton and bamboo blend from the Organic Textile Company. I have quite a lot of little scraps of this fabric left over from a dress, so I can feel a few more of these flowers coming on – perhaps as brooches.

Felt cloche hat

And this… this is what came off my new cloche block from Guy Morse-Brown. Isn’t it just gorgeous? I realise I seem to be singing my own praises here, but really it’s the hat block that does all the hard work, and Owen Morse-Brown (who makes the wooden blocks) has carved an absolute work of art. I’m in love with the asymmetrical shape, the way the crown hugs the head, and the cutaway at the back of the neck which makes it incredibly easy to wear. I’m keeping this one, and I’ll definitely be making more!

Felt cloche hat

The flowers are made from the offcuts of felt that I trimmed away from the brim, and they’re cut out with Sizzix paper punches. It’s quite hard work to hammer the punches through the thick felt – they’re not really designed for that kind of punishment – but the flowers have come out with nice clean edges. The centres are Swarovski crystals. (I’m trying not to think about how much it looks like one of those flowery swimming caps.)

The hats are all on Etsy, should you fancy a closer look.

I’m now at that awkward stage once again where I need somebody to buy a hat (or a bunch of smaller stuff from the Emporium) before I can afford to buy any more felt hoods to make new hats with. It seems unlikely that wool felt hats are going to fly off the shelves in the middle of summer, but at least it’s not as though I have a shortage of other materials to make things from in the meantime. I have some carded wool batts on order to make some felt which will hopefully be heavy-duty enough for slippers or hats, I have lots of organic cotton to turn into tunic tops, and I have plans to make a few things for myself. Summer dresses, perhaps. I certainly won’t be short of things to do!

Garden, 6am

Garden, 6am

I’ve been awake since about 4:30 in the morning, something that’s increasingly common now that I’m not taking sleeping tablets to control the fibromyalgia. I wake up (this morning thanks to the entire dawn chorus taking place in the forsythia outside the bedroom window), and I don’t go back to sleep again. Today, after having a bit of a grumble about Nature on facebook, I decided to go outside and have a bit of a look at it.

Garden, 6am

This wild corner is in the top right of the picture above. The garden’s about 30 metres (120 feet) long, and this is standing right at the back (underneath the blackthorn tree), looking towards the house. It might look like an overgrown mess, but this is my favourite part of the garden at the moment. We’re letting it run completely wild, with just a little attempted management of the overgrown lawn grass. I need to look up when you’re actually supposed to mow a meadow, because that’s what I want this to become.

Garden, 6am

Who’s been sleeping in my bed?! We haven’t seen any evidence of foxes in the garden at all, but this squashed patch of long grass is there every morning, which suggests somebody’s been sleeping here. Could be a fox, could be a cat, could be a party of hedgehogs. Who knows? Whoever it is, I’m pleased we’ve got company.

Garden, 6am

The tiny apple tree (not even five feet tall and only a couple of years old) is absolutely bursting with braeburns. Last year we harvested them too soon, worried about losing them in the storms. This year it’s going to be even harder to wait, having watched them grow all year!

Garden, 6am

The tiny pear tree (ditto) is also looking great. The pears had all gone before we moved in, so we don’t know what they’re going to be like, or quite when they’ll be ripe. And who knew that pears grow upside down?!

Garden, 6am

The enormous hypericum is just starting to come into flower, along with some of the other long-neglected shrubs. I can’t wait to see it in full bloom, it’s going to be fantastic.

Garden, 6am

Is this a type of geranium? I’m not sure. I haven’t got around to identifying anything that’s growing in the wild patch. Whatever it is, it’s all over the place at the moment, along with lots of campions and the last of the garlic mustard. The bees are loving it, even at this time of the morning, and so am I.

Improving on Me-Made May

28/5/14

You may have spotted that I didn’t post very many photos from my Me-Made May escapades. This is partly because I mostly look like some kind of strange triangular bag lady (I like layers, and most of my clothes are comfortable-shaped), and partly because it turns out that I only wear about four outfits, over and over again, with very minor variations. How boring!

28/5/14

Towards the end of the month I made a last-ditch effort to wear some of the smarter clothes in my wardrobe, only to discover that when I put them on… well, suddenly they’re not so smart any more. This dress is now very firmly on the “waiting to be chopped up and turned into something that doesn’t look like a giant floral sack” pile. There’s just no point in wasting time and fabric making clothes that require waist shaping in order to look nice, when waist shaping isn’t something that I actually have myself. Although, having said that, my other vintage dress (also made from an Advance size 18½ pattern without alterations) fitted really well and looked lovely!

17/5/14

See? I still don’t have a waist, but the dress looks smart, not like a huge great cushion’s attacked me while I wasn’t looking. I think this is partly down to the fact that this dress has a smooth skirt rather than miles of pleats. (Also: not a selfie, vintage-style foundation garments, not layered with t-shirts and bloomers and giant boots on account of it being freezing at work.)

Lace crop top

Sadly, even if I did have the budget to wear lovely things from Kiss Me Deadly every day, the fibromyalgia simply wouldn’t allow it. But, the whole Me-Made May experiment did reveal that I am very much lacking in the Me-Made underwear department – despite the fact that I spent plenty of time and money on the London College of Fashion’s Structured Lingerie course back in 2011. I bought this lace when I came back, in a fit of enthusiasm, and it’s been untouched in a box ever since, along with a metre and a half of pink, and four metres of a prettier-than-it-sounds grey. This particular lingerie is about as unstructured as you can get (no wires, no fastenings, nothing), but I used a lot of the skills I learned on the course to make it. The pattern itself is from Sewing Lingerie, a Singer reference book, where it’s described as a “sleep bra”.

The wide stretch lace that I used to make this is actually really affordable, and comes in lots of different colours and patterns. If this one (and the pink one I’ve just finished, and the two or three grey ones I’m going to make next) turn out to be comfortable, I can feel a drawer full of these coming on before Me-Made May next year!

Well, most of the time.

Today I woke up to discover outrage all over the Etsy forums, because a percentage of shops have been enrolled in an “experiment” without any prior warning. Okay, I’m sure it says somewhere in the T&Cs that we’ve all agreed to this kind of fiddling about as part of our contract with Etsy, but in this particular case a bit of advance notice would have been nice. What Etsy have done is to remove all information about shipping costs until after an item has been added to the shopping cart. This is resulting in loss of sales (who wants to faff about adding things to a cart to find out information that should be part of the listing?), and for European shops, anyone involved is now in breach of EU distance selling regulations by not displaying their international shipping fees up front. There’s no way of opting out, no way of changing the situation, we just have to ride it out until Etsy deems the experiment finished and hopefully reinstates the shipping information!

I have to admit that I’ve been thinking about moving away from Etsy for a while… not because of any problems I’ve had with Etsy (until this morning!), more because I’d like to have my own store with its own design and branding, which I can’t have on Etsy. One of the strongest points about the stalls I’ve done with the Emporium in Real Life has been the branding, and that’s lost amongst all the identical-looking stores on Etsy. I’m doing what I can with my product photography, but it’s not brilliant, and I’d like my branding to be stronger.

I’ve used Big Cartel before, and I’m quite tempted to try them again – although with around 100 products in the store at any one time, their fees will be more than I’m paying on Etsy. But then I can do things like adding the different styles of zipped pouches under one listing and still retain inventory control of each different print, which is something you can’t do on Etsy. The shipping information is set up in the same way, which I like – you simply set a profile for each object. This works well, as it allows me to charge exact shipping fees, whether it’s £1 for a sewing pattern or £12 for a hat.

I’ve also been looking at Shopify – a friend has recently set up a lovely gift shop on this platform, and my husband’s using it to launch a board games shop very soon. The fees again are more than I’m currently paying on Etsy (and Shopify’s lowest monthly fee is only 99 cents less than Big Cartel’s highest!), so I’d need to be sure I was definitely going to be making enough sales to be able to cover the cost of the fees. On Etsy you pay by item rather than by month – so at least if you don’t sell anything (depressing thought), you don’t pay anything. The other down side of Shopify is that you can’t specify shipping per individual product, you have to set a flat rate based on the overall total of the order, or by the weight of the products. This simply doesn’t work when Royal Mail calculate their prices by size as well as weight – hats aren’t heavy, but they’re big, and I want them insured!

Shopify is perhaps the most professional-looking of the three though, and allows a great deal of customisation. It would also allow me to import and maintain this blog, which would be a bonus! Both Shopify and Big Cartel would allow me to use a custom domain name if I wanted to, and they both have integration which allows direct selling on Facebook. What they don’t have, however, is the huge community surrounding them which is the biggest benefit of Etsy. Admittedly I don’t get too involved in teams and forums and groups, but the fact remains that almost two-thirds of traffic to my current shop comes from within Etsy itself. And that would simply disappear if I disappeared from Etsy, which means I’d have to do an awful lot more work on marketing – which frankly is not my forté. I want to spend my time making stuff, not running a marketing campaign to sell it.

I don’t do very many stalls in Real Life, and my products simply aren’t priced to be sold in other people’s shops, so I really need my online presence to work for me in terms of actually selling the things that I make.

If anybody has any suggestions based on their own experiences, I’d be really grateful to hear them. I’m so confused right now that I don’t know what to do for the best!

New mannequin, new photos

First glimpse of my new ghostly mannequin. Isn't she lovely?

Please excuse the grainy Instagram snapshot and the incredibly messy sewing room, but this is the first glimpse of my new mannequin. Isn’t she lovely? Much more sophisticated than my polystyrene heads.

Organic bow tie

The arrival of the mannequin has led to a day of product photography, which (as it turns out) is rather difficult. Especially when your “studio” is two pieces of wallpaper propped up on the bed, and a reflector that’s quite difficult to wrangle at the same time as the camera! Still, these photos are a definite improvement on the previous ones, even though they do still need improvement themselves. Work In Progress, and all that.

I wanted to showcase the last few bow ties, as I’ve added a coupon code to the Inexplicable Emporium. Simply enter “FATHERSDAY” when you check out, and you’ll receive 20% off your order. This is valid until June 15th – but don’t forget to allow enough time for your parcel to arrive in the post!

Purple cloche hat

I’ve also re-photographed all the cloche hats (some with greater success than others), to try and make them look a bit more tempting. I’ll finally be able to work on some new hats soon, as the lace I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived! Although I had a slight incident with a vegetable slicer at the weekend, which means I can’t do any hand sewing until the hole in my thumb has healed a bit more. Oops.

(By the way – the code “FATHERSDAY” works throughout my Etsy store, not just on the items that your Dad might like. So if you’ve been coveting a hat, you can take advantage of the offer to buy it at a bit of a discount.)

I do love this pink and purple one. If somebody doesn’t snap it up very soon, I think I might just have to keep it.

Dress Success!

17/5/14

You remember that whole work/life balance thing that I was talking about the other week? It seems to have toppled over slightly. It happened not least because I was working towards an Inexplicable Emporium stall that took place at work, at our Museums at Night event. The combination of making sure I had enough stock ready on time, coupled with staying out long past my bedtime, and then compounded by an extremely hectic day off, have led to me hobbling to work today with my walking stick, because I was simply too exhausted to stand up all by myself. Oops.

But! The event itself was a fantastic night out, we sold enough stock to make all the effort worthwhile, and I managed to finish my new dress in time to wear it. Phew!
(Note to self: NEVER wear those shoes again. Beautiful, but so uncomfortable. Ouch.)

Advance 8065, 1956 dress pattern

The pattern is Advance 8065, a shirtwaist dress from 1956, in an extremely modern-proportioned size 18½. Next time I need to shorten the back bodice ever so slightly, but otherwise it’s an absolutely perfect fit. And after wondering whether I’d ever wear it again after the Vintage Night, the answer is a very definite yes! The dress was so comfortable, and so easy to wear, that it’s actually going into my work wardrobe rather than my Special Occasions pile.

I only made one alteration to the pattern, and that was to eliminate the side zip. Because the bodice front matches up with the side front skirt seam, it was easy to simply leave that seam open a few inches, add a placket, and then close it again with snap fasteners. Next time I’ll add two more buttons, but I needed to get this one finished in a hurry and didn’t have time to hand-stitch two more buttonholes!

In fact, I enjoyed wearing this dress so much that I may have already bought the fabric for another one… to match my niece’s Christmas dress. Because honestly, how could I resist a navy blue dress that’s COVERED IN BEES, with buttons to match?

Surprisingly popular!

A little bouquet of felted flowers. Wet felt for the petals, needle felted in the centre to hold them onto the bobby pins at the back.

This little pile of felted flowers (complete with grainy Instagram filter – I’m “inexplicableemporium”) is waiting to go to work with me on Saturday evening, where I’ll be having a stall at our Museums At Night event. Well, that was the plan, anyway! The two green were ones were made by request for a friend, and the blue one sold on Facebook this afternoon, to another friend who’s also ordered a waterfall jacket that I’m really looking forward to making. Thankfully I still have seven hair flowers to take with me, plus another nine brooches the same size that are just waiting for the pins to be sewn on.

Small felt hair flower on a bobby pin

This is the size of the smaller flowers – about 7-10cm (3-4″) across, and quite deep. It’s attached to a bobby pin that has a little round pad at the top, which holds it firmly in place. The pad sits in between the flower petals and the centre ball, so it’s completely hidden and very secure.

Large felt hair flower on a ribbon-covered comb

This one… well, first I was going to keep it. Then I sewed it onto a comb, and remembered that combs really don’t stay put in my hair. But I was worried that it would be too big, so I popped this photo onto Facebook to ask for some feedback. Apparently it’s not too big at all, a friend has claimed it for her own, and I’m in the process of making half a dozen similarly-sized ones to take to the Vintage Night tomorrow!

Yesterday's felt flowers, now dry and ready for brooch pins. More enormous flowers for hair combs on their way!

And this, again from Instagram, is a selection of the flowers I made yesterday. I’m hoping that there’s enough of a range of colours to appeal to lots of people, although from the response I’ve been getting to the photos, I’m hoping that their popularity isn’t going to be a problem!

Oh gosh, that sounds smug, and it really isn’t supposed to. In fact, I’m a little bit overwhelmed about how supportive and enthusiastic people are being. I’ve seen links to my Etsy store shared on forums, received offers of collaborations, and everyone’s just generally being lovely. I think I’m gradually starting to whittle down my making into things that I’m really happy with – so the fact that other people are happy with them too is the icing on the cake!

Satisfying Saturday

Look what I just found for the princely sum of TEN PENCE at my local church fair! It explains all the things I never quite understood about dart manipulation, plus I love the 1980s styling. Brilliant!

Now this is what I call a bargain. Paul and I popped into our local church’s fair on the way home from the Post Office, where I managed to pick up this excellent book for the princely sum of TEN PENCE. I had a quick flick through, and suddenly the mysteries of dart manipulation seem a lot clearer. Once the Vintage Night’s out of the way, I feel inspired to draft myself a new bodice sloper and do some experiments!

The start of a Miette cardigan - my first top-down seamless knit. Though I'm a bit worried I'm going to run out of this great sparkly yarn!

And this, the product of about a week’s knitting (on and off) is the yoke of a Miette cardigan in a lovely mottled pink yarn with a sparkly strand running through it. I’d thought that seeing everyone else’s photos from Me-Made May would make me want to rush out and buy lots of sewing patterns. Thankfully that’s not the case, but seeing lots of different versions of this cardigan did make me want to cast on immediately! It’s a cropped style, which is good for me as I’m very short-waisted, and also good as I don’t really have enough yarn for the pattern. It’s supposed to have three-quarter length sleeves, but I’m definitely going to end up with short ones. Once I’ve finished the body, I’ll knit the neck and front bands. Then I’ll know I can use all the remaining yarn on the sleeves – assuming there is some!

I don’t know whether I’ll get it finished in time to wear it as part of Me-Made May, but I’m going to give it a good try.

(Oh, and both of these photos are also on Instagram. If you’d like to follow me there, I’m “inexplicableemporium”.)

Orange Wool Jacket

Who remembers this jacket, that I made last August? I’d very much like to make some more, but in order to buy the fabric I’ll need to take pre-orders.

Don’t worry – your jacket doesn’t have to be orange! Though it does work best with wool or wool-blend loosely woven fabrics, like this one. The front, neck and bottom edges are not hemmed, they’re slightly frayed to show the nature of the loose weave. (Don’t worry – they’re also stitched along the edges, so they won’t unravel.) The sleeves are trimmed with a small cuff.

These jackets are pretty much free size, as there are no shoulder seams to fit into, and they don’t fasten across the front.

Orange Wool Jacket

Fabric Land suiting or t-shirting
If you’d like a jacket made from any of the suiting fabrics on this page, the cost will be £65
A plain cotton jersey version would cost £55
Or you could have a patterned one from this page, or this one, for £60
(The lower part of the sleeves can be made in a contrast colour, if you like.)

Organic Herringbone or Linen
If you fancy some heavy organic herringbone weave (scroll all the way down!), that’ll be £140
Organic herringbone or linen with flowers or swallows print will be £165

Organic cotton jersey
A lovely soft t-shirt style cardigan in a wide choice of colours can be yours for £120

Verity's Harris Tweed Jacket

Harris Tweed
For a really sumptuous jacket, why not go for genuine Harris Tweed? It’ll cost £235, and it will come complete with a Harris Tweed Orb label, to confirm its authenticity. It’s available in a stunning range of colours, from very traditional heritage weaves to incredibly bright modern shades.

If you’d like to choose your own fabric, I can advise you on what would be suitable, how much you’d need to buy, and how much the resulting jacket would cost.

UK Shipping will cost an extra £11, as I’ll send them out by Special Delivery.

If you’d like to pre-order a jacket, all you have to do is let me know which fabric you’d like to go for, and I’ll put together a custom Etsy listing for you.

You can either pay the full amount up front, or you can pay a 50% deposit. Again, let me know which, and I’ll create the Etsy listing for the correct amount. This will allow me to order the fabric and make a start! You’ll need to allow up to four weeks from the date of your payment, as I need time to order and receive the fabric and actually make the jacket!

You can contact me by leaving a comment below, sending an email to claire@eternalmagpie.com, or by sending me a message on Facebook or Twitter.

I really like making these jackets, and my orange one has been very popular (orange-ness notwithstanding!), but unfortunately I currently lack the funds for buying the fabric to make more that I can pop into the Etsy shop readymade. Hopefully these pre-order options will work out!

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