Thursday, 13 November 2014

Minerva Bloggers Network - Animal Print's a Basic, Isn't it?

Hello! After a month off, I'm back with Minerva - I've missed it! I've decided to start off with something completely different for me - a batwing jersey dress, made from stretch fabric. The main reason for such a departure was to get to grips with my new  Singer overlocker, which I bought for the bargain price of £129 from Lidl. (For non-European readers, Lidl is a chain of bargain supermarkets from Germany, who also have themed offers once a week - anything from garden furniture, to tools, or even toys).

My new overlocker!

For the pattern, I used this brilliant tutorial from Mollytov - go check it out, because it's so easy!
I pretty much copied all the measurements outright; the only changes I made were to the length of the skirt, which I just added a couple of inches to.

And for this foray into jersey I decided to use this stunner from Minerva :

Black and gold snake print jersey from Minerva
This fabric is out of this world! What you can't really see in the photo is the extra layer of sheen on top of the print that gives the fabric a life of it's own. I love, love, LOVE animal print, to the point where I consider it a basic. It isn't really apparent on this blog, but I have leopard skirts, jackets, dresses, tights, and even underwear. So I thought it was about time I introduced a bit of animal! 

And here it is:

I've been sewing for 30+ years, but I've managed to avoid jersey and overlocking all this time, except for the odd project here and there. Despite endless testing and fiddling, I'm still not sure I really know what I'm doing with the stitches and the tension, but as a first project it's not bad. 

Close up of the overlocked seam I used - is this right?

Close up of neckline
And of course I couldn't resist the pulling a few disco moves in this outfit:

 And that's it! If you like what you see, be sure you check out Minerva's website.

See you soon!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Nicole Needles!

Amazing what you can achieve with bits and pieces you have knocking around the house......

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Catching Up On Stuff

How's everyone been doin'? Thought I'd just do a post about the bits and pieces I've been up to recently. It'll mostly consist of a whole lot of stuff I've started, but haven't actually finished! But I've also been to exotic places - well, Budapest - and not so exotic places - Bimingham, eaten some great food and bought some cool sewing stuff.

Let's start with sewing-

Simplicity 6110, circa 1973

I'm finishing off the skirt from this pattern, which I bought a while ago from Raystitch. I love the styling on this pattern so much - someday I'm going to make the ensemble on the far right, turban and all. But for now I'm making the pocketed version in a black twill for work, with a matching bolero jacket.

It's also been time to cull the wardrobe, and I've found a few bits which are either totally worn out, or they can be re-modeled into something better, so expect some posts in the future about re-making and so on.


I finished another pair of socks!

They took a fair while to finish, not because they were hard but because I'm slow. I used Debbie Bliss 4-ply; they went on their first trip outdoors the other day and I can confirm they performed well!

And so I'm straight on to the next project:

I've started this pattern from a 1960's Woman and Home leaflet in a 4-ply wool mix from Drops in this mustard, which is a slightly ugly colour but I love it.


I visited Budapest in August for the 3rd time. I love this city! It's beautiful, cheap, and has great cake:

Wonderful cake!

Just your average coffee shop

But they do modern as well - the new underground station
And I traveled not so far to Birmingham for Charlotte's SewBrum meet-up which was fab. 

I'd never been to Birmingham before and I have to say the selection of fabric was excellent. I'm kinda regretting not buying some of this beauty:

It was a lovely day, and I met a whole new set of sewing enthusiasts and bloggers. And if it wasn't for Birmingham, I wouldn't have the next bit to write about-


Singer Overlocker
While chatting to Sarah from a Million Dresses, I found out that Lidl was going to be offering Singer overlockers for the bargain price of £129. That Monday, I was up before sunrise and on my local branch's doorstep for 8.00 am. I seemed to be the only sewist in Hackney there at that time - everyone else was clamoring for the Tefal irons - but if Instagram is anything to go by there were quite a few purchases up and down the country before 10.00. I haven't opened it yet - I'm one of those really annoying people who can wait to open presents - but I've got some ideas for jersey projects so watch this space. I also picked up some cheap overlocking thread, and an eyelet and rivet tool.

And that's pretty much it for now - see you soon!

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Swimsuit Issue

I spent my early years (up to age 14) in Northern California. Despite what the rest of the world is led to believe, Northern California, particularly the San Francisco Bay Area, is not particularly warm. Beaches are often 'dramatic;, ie windswept and grey. Watch any film set in San Francisco, and you'll notice people are wearing a lot of coats and jackets, like in 'Vertigo':

Kim Novak in 'Vertigo', at the San Francisco seaside in coat and gloves - that's how cold it can get.

Understandably, I'm not a big beach lover. I'm also not too comfortable with swimwear. At the risk of sounding like a prude, isn't it a bit weird that it's ok to prance around in ensembles which cover less than our everyday underwear? I've come to view swimwear as a necessary evil, that I tolerate for holidays in the sun, and then usually reluctantly.

But then I found this on Ridley Road, my local street market:

Big Cat Kaftan!

I don't know who Hong Zhan is, but I love his/her/their work!

Mr Needles and I were due to visit Budapest and it was on the cards we would be visiting one of their famous spas, so swimwear was going to be required. I'd seen quite a few fellow bloggers make the 'Bombshell' with fab results, but this wasn't going to be suitable - all that sexy ruching would obscure the tiger print. Besides, I was getting a 70's/80's disco vibe from the fabric.

Enter Kwik Sew 3780:

I'm pretty novice with jerseys, and even more novice with swimwear, so I spent AGES agonizing over whether this pattern would work for me. Mainly, I was concerned about bust support. I'm a 32 E, depending on the brand of bra, and hate 'light support' - I like to feel strapped in at all times! I was considering buying a sports bra, and somehow inserting it into the finished costume. But in the end I went with the recommended shelf support, and it seemed to work fine.

I cut the front section from the Tiger kaftan, and the back from a super stretchy red swimwear lycra from Dalston Mill Fabrics. Here's the result!

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

I'll explain the expertly photo shopped image above, courtesy of Mr Needles. I had every intention of taking a photo while we were in Budapest of the day we spent at Szechenyi baths, bobbing around in the beautiful heated pools, lounging in the steam rooms, and generally relaxing. I loved it! But Mr Needles lost his wristband in one of the pools, and all hell broke loose while we tried to explain to the staff what had happened. Then there was some suspenseful periods of waiting while they went to get the manager, and it was all finally resolved. So taking blog photos kinda got overlooked.

Support isn't too bad in this suit - I wouldn't do any vigorous swimming in it, but the bust shelf worked pretty well. The Kwik Sew instructions are excellent, explaining exactly how much elastic to use for each size, what stitch to use, and so on.

Here's the bust elastic on the inside:

I decided to line the suit with the same fabric as the outer. This gave the suit a stability and firmness that I liked.

Seam sewn with faux overlock stitch
I don't have an overlocker, but the fake overlock stitch on my Elna worked perfectly well. It took a while to get used to the rhythm, coupled with having to stretch the seams a little as you sew, but I think I got the hang of it.

Clear silicone elastic
The pattern says to use 'swimwear elastic' on all the hems and turnings, but I thought that would be a bit thick and chunky. I'd noticed that this clear silicone is often used on stretch hems, so I decided to give it a go. And so another handling technique to grapple with - this stuff is so slippery! I attached it to each leg opening, armhole, and neckline, following the measurements in the pattern instructions and using a 3 step zig zag:

Inside of hem
Once the elastic is applied, the turnings were folded in place and then sewn with a shallow zig-zag:

Hem viewed from right side
And here's the back view; there are a few wrinkles, but on the whole the fit isn't too bad:

I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this suit, so I thought 'Why stop there?' I'd been listening to a lot of punk, and watching a lot of documentaries like 'Punk Attitude'. How could I combine this current interest with sewing? Why, swimwear, of course! I present the Dead Kennedy's swimsuit:

Again, the appropriate background was provided by Mr Needles.

I started with a XXL t shirt from Camden Market - here's a before picture:

Then I carefully picked apart the neck trim and the hem, so I had as much fabric to work with as possible:

Next, I lined up the front piece so that the centre front ran exactly through the centre of the logo:

Then I just used the same construction as the other suit. This one was lined with proper swimsuit lining, again courtesy of Dalston Mill. I also used a bit of one of the sleeves for a gusset. Only the front piece was cut from the t-shirt; for the back I used a matt black lycra - I didn't think disco strength shininess was the right look for this suit. And using the t-shirt fabric at the back would have resulted in a saggy bottom when it gets wet:

The fit of this suit is slightly different due to the fact that the front piece doesn't have the same amount of stretch as the back, but it'll do for sunbathing. Or maybe I'll wear it for Halloween!

I would totally recommend this pattern to anyone not sure of themselves when dealing with lycras. What Kwik Sew lacks in presentation (see my previous discussion here) they make up for in instructions, which I thought were just brilliant. And now my (slight) fear of lycra and stretch is conquered!

Here's some Dead Kennedy's to get you in a holiday mood:

See you soon!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hopping on the Blog Hop Bandwagon

I've noticed this 'Blog Hop' thing bouncing around the internet for a while, and now it's come my way. The lovely Coo at Betty Stitchup, who I met this summer when she visited London, has put me forward to answer the 4 questions. Go check her answers out, and look around her blog at all of her gorgeous, retro-inspired outfits.

Let's start!

What am I working on?
I've just finished one project and am trying to decide what to do next. I usually have a big pile of patterns, that sort of acts as a visual 'to do' list. Here's my current pile:

It's usually stacked neatly......
I'm in need of some new work clothes, so it's likely I'll make the bolero in the bottom right and match it with the skirt from the top left. But the Maudella is also speaking to me, and she's saying 'I'm much more fun - make me out of the Japanese print!' You'll see one of these in a blog post soon, no doubt.

I also have a bottomless knitting bag, where nothing ever seems to get finished. It's currently holding some nearly finished socks, and a 2/3 finished jumper:

My knitting bag, with the black and white jumper sleeve(left), and the nearly finished pair of socks(right)
I'm pretty sure the socks will be on my feet in time for winter, but the jumper's a bit further off...

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
When I started, I thought I was the only one out there working from old patterns, but I soon found out I'm not. So I'm not really sure what makes my blog any different from other sewing blogs. Blogging, and then meeting other bloggers, has given me a great deal of confidence in my skills, and where pre-blog I may have held back, or toned down some of my outfit choices, now I seem to push myself further. I don't like 'twee' clothes or themes, and I increasingly find myself railing against current mainstream fashion which to me has very little glamour or rebellion involved in it. So I suppose I aim to present work that's technically and stylistically challenging, but also harking back to the past. 

Yup, that's me being 'technically and stylistically challenging'...

Why do I write/create what I do?
I've been sewing since I was a little girl, but it's always been a solitary pursuit. I've never joined a sewing club, or attended a knitting group. Blogging was a way of finding out if there was anyone else out there. It was also just a way of archiving my creations, a sort of note book to remind me what I've made, procedures and techniques I've learnt, etc.

How does my writing/creative process work?
I make stuff, then I post it - simple as that. I like to explain the inspirations behind some of my projects, like copying a piece from a film or an old photo. I would only write posts about subjects I would find interesting, so every now and then I'll include some holiday bits and pieces (usually with a sewing basis), or tutorials on techniques I think readers will find interesting. I really just make it up as I go along. I work full-time, so I have to squeeze posts in usually in the evenings; you'll notice that some of my post times are at ridiculous hours. Photos can happen any time. It's usually just me and the tripod, so they tend to be indoors, but now and then Mr Needles will help out with some outdoor shots.

Not every photo makes the grade, like this 'Popeye' pose

A fellow blogger recently told me that she'd like to see more about me on the blog, like outfit posts, or hair tutorials. I'm still not one of those people who's comfortable with 'sharing' on line. I suppose my basic insecurities also make it hard for me to believe that anyone would be interested, but I might branch out.

And that's my blog hop - I hope it was enlightening! The next step is for me to pass on the baton to some fellow bloggers. My 3 lucky bloggers are:

Janene Ooobop, who is always effortlessly stylish, with great photographs to boot!

Emmy at My Oh Sew Vintage Life - she makes gorgeous dresses, and regularly takes you through the insides of vintage pieces she owns, which I find particularly interesting.

Fiona at Diary of a Chainstitcher - she just gets better and better, and she's so damn cute.

See you soon!