Sewing Books: My first love

Greetings from the other side! I know we all love a good sewing book. Our collective sighs over the latest GBSB book, Fashion With Fabric, bear witness to that! I am also massively excited about the English language release of the Japanese sewing book She Wears The Pants (just a shame that the price on UK Amazon is waaay higher than Amazon.com).  I photographed my crafty bookshelf on a recent blog post. I’m sure there were some there that you might also have. I can spend hours poring over the pictures, dreaming about future projects. And occasionally make one!

So when I found this vintage Learnabout Sewing Ladybird book on eBay, I just had to have it. Just looking at the cover gave me a warm, cozy feeling. I remember reading it avidly as a child, dreaming about the cross stitch dressing table set on Binca canvas. I eventually made a bookmark that looked just like this at school. Didn’t we all?

Ladybird Learnabout Sewing

This edition was published in 1972 all for the princely sum of 24p. The book starts with a lovely introduction:

“There are many kinds of needlework and much of it is done solely for pleasure. You will enjoy learning how to sew, and making the things in this book…… You will be more pleased with the result if you have kept your needlework clean and tidy. Always work with clean hands. If they are not clean – wash them!”

Ladybird Learnabout Sewing

What is it about the Ladybird style that is so comforting yet instructive? It’s like settling down for an afternoon of crafting with your Mum or Grandma.

There’s the obligatory illustration of the notions and tools required. I’m sure every single sewing book I possess has a similar artful spread of sewing tools.

Ladybird Learnabout Sewing

Some of the most ‘stylish’ projects in the book are the doll’s bonnet and hairband. There’s some useful tutorials too: how to sew on a button and how to turn a hem.

Ladybird Learnabout Sewing

How I wish I could turn back the clock to the early 1980s to have a Ladybird-fuelled crafternoon with my Mum!

Ladybird Learnabout Sewing

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Sewing for Small People

When it comes to sewing for kids, I’m torn. The home sewist in me loves the idea of cute and quirky unique clothes lovingly made by hand. But my practical side wonders whether it’s ever really worth the effort. Perhaps I’m guilty of a nostalgia for my own distant childhood of homemade clothes. I mean, what’s not to like about pink knitted balaclavas with pom-poms on?! Let us not even mention the brown crimplene flares with white crosses on that worked like bully-magnets. My sister and I won’t have been the only ones to have spent their childhoods in highly flammable apparel.  I guess what I’m saying is that there seems to be a perennial mismatch between mum-made childhood clothes and the gratitude of the recipients. Should I really expect my fickle small people to appreciate the work that goes into the clothes they request on a whim?

GBSB Shirred Dress

So, I’m still waiting for my youngest small person to decide whether she wants to try on her new GBSB Shirred Elastic Dress from the Fashion With Fabric book. It’s hard to gauge her impressions as yet, but I am rather pleased with this little number. It was my first attempt at shirring, and it was far easier than I ever thought. The whole project was an evening’s work.  I used elephant/mammoth print cotton lawn bought on Goldhawk Road, which I’ve seen on a few other blogs. See Amy of Almond Rock’s blog for a more grown-up take on the fabric, and a discussion on whether it’s an elephant or a mammoth!

GBSB Shirred Dress

More success has been had with these fantastic reversible sun hats. In fact it was hard to get my hands on them for the photo! The pattern is from the Oliver & S book, Little Things To Sew, and was really simple to follow.The topstitching around the crown and on the brim give this hat a really high quality finish. I made both hats up in left-over quilting cotton: Amy Butler’s Tumble Rose pattern, and the hyacinth one is an old Kaffe Fassett. The sizing comes up a little small, so perhaps they won’t last as many years as I’d hoped.

I found the pattern online for free:

Pattern and instructions: http://www.melaniefalickbooks.com/storage/STCCraft_OliverS_BucketHatPattern_.pdf

So, are your homemade gifts received with compliment or complaint? And will they one day grow to appreciate them, or should I just give up now and go back to selfish sewing?

GBSB Casual Trousers

Thanks so much for your lovely comments about the fate of Sew South London. It’s really wonderful to hear that you enjoy the posts. I feel motivated to continue, but at a different pace. I’m really looking forward to writing some more varied posts. With all the sewing I’ve been doing there’s not much mental space for anything other than finished garment posts. I also think I might re-brand as Sew South East Asia!

I’ve been having a push on summer clothes as it’s been glorious spring weather here in South London, and as you know I’m soon to head out for the horizon. Of all the patterns in the GBSB: Fashion With Fabric book that I most wanted to try out (after the drapey dress) was the casual trousers. The original pattern was for a playsuit. Brave as I am, there’s not many than can pull off a good playsuit look once you get past 18 months old.
GBSB casual trousersThe pattern took half an hour or so to trace off, then maybe the same again to cut out. The sewing didn’t take long either! Sometimes you just need some instant sewing gratification. The first pair are black with white polka dot viscose purchased from The Wimbledon Sewing Shop in Tooting. The drape is fantastic on these trousers, but the downside is that they do look (and feel) a little like pyjamas. In fact when I wore them, my personal stylist (aka Mr SSL) politely enquired which train I would be taking to work. He then informed me that he’d be on a later train. He literally could not believe that I would wear pyjama bottoms to work.

GBSB casual trousersPair number two were made with delicious Indian cotton from The Cloth House in Soho, purchased with my final batch of birthday vouchers. I didn’t try to pattern-match the block print, other than to line up the pattern pieces at the same point on the hem. As luck would have it, there’s one point on each outer leg seam that matches perfectly. As the seam tapers in, there’s no chance of matching the print the whole length of the seam.

GBSB casual trousersThe cotton paid drapes differently and create less of a clown-like silhouette. Both pairs are comfortable to wear. The elasticated waistband was quick and easy to insert, but to avoid the granny-trousers look I think you need to have a top covering it.

The light’s not great in these photos. To incentivise my photographer I told him he didn’t need to leave the sofa. All credit goes to my clever pre-schooler who took the photo at the top of this post!

A Book Review, A Girl’s Dress, and a lot of Swearing

Greetings, sewing chums. It’s been a while. Work and life have got in the way of blogging, but I have been beavering away in the background on a few projects. Today I bring you two firsts: a book review and a girl’s vintage-style dress. Spoiler alert: it involved a LOT of post-watershed swearing.

I was given ‘Sewn With Love: Classic Patterns for Children’s Clothes and Accessories’ by Fiona Bell a couple of Christmases ago. Despite being filled with gorgeous vintage-styled patterns for kids, It’s been languishing on my bookshelf while I gorged myself silly on selfish sewing. After a number of heartfelt pleas  to “make me a dress please, Mummy”, I gave in.

Sewn With LoveI don’t think of myself as a novice sewist these days, which made the problems I encountered all the more annoying. First off was a PDF pattern that was fiendishly hard to assemble. I’ve cut and stuck my fair share in recent months and I’ve always found the quality of indie PDF patterns to be really high. This was not the case. The margins were tiny, and pieces were laid out in the least economical way possible. There was an absence of standard pattern markings.

The written instructions were sparse, accompanied only by the vaguest of sketch drawings. Thankfully I’ve learned enough over the past couple of years to make an educated guess. The least satisfactory of fudges was the bottom of the button band extension. I had a couple of attempts, and gave up on the basis that it would not be noticeable.  I am hoping all will become clear when I attempt the cuffs on my next big project: The Grainline Archer.

button extension

I did wonder if anyone who actually makes clothes had proof-read the book. Other irritating errors and omissions included metric/imperial measurements that didn’t tally  (for example the option of 1cm or 1/2″), and interchangeable non-standard seam allowances of 5 or 10mm. The fabric requirement was huge and not proportionate to the pattern sizing; I probably had at least 1.5m too much. The final straw was the pattern piece for bias binding the neckline that was at least 4 inches too long.

No doubt, the images in the book are lovely. It’s an aspirational craft book, rather than a serious sewing book. It’s put to shame by the quality of independent companies, who create patterns with clear instructions and easy-to-assemble PDFs. In the spirit of adventure I would probably attempt another dress, but would know to expect that the instructions were merely suggestions. I did enjoy making a scaled-down dress, and threw in an alteration for good measure by adding an inch to the length of the bodice to accommodate my tall girl.5o's girls dress

As you’d expect, my daughter absolutely loved her girly, twirly dress, so the adventure was worth it! I shall be taking Patrick Grant to bed tonight to console myself: Mothers’ Day came early this year with the arrival of the new GB Sewing Bee book in the post and it looks fantastic….. What’s been your worst ever sewing pattern experience and are you ready to cope with the end of another series of the GBSB?!