Friday, 29 April 2016

What's in your sewing machine drawer?

I'm nosey. When I was little I used to ask my Grandma if I could have a "rude" in her sideboard. I meant root, have a look and generally be nosey. There was and still is some pretty cool stuff in that cupboard.

So, today I am asking you if I can be nosey and have a look inside your sewing machine drawer. Share your photo's on Instagram and tag me @dressmakerssocial so I can see or blog about it and pop a link in the comments.

I have a five year old Singer Confidence, it does the job but as my skills grow so does the disappointment in the stitches the machine produces.

This is what my sewing machine drawer looks like...

It's pretty full!

This is what is in it...

Sewing machine needles, I just topped up my stash, there is not normally this many in there.

Machine feet and a test button hole to remind me where to line up the red mark on the fabric because I forget overtime. I use the four on the right hand side most of all. 

Screwdrivers, bobbins and spool holders.

Pins (that have now been re-homed in a pin cushion), a couple of buttons, seam rippers or unpicks depending what you call them, a chalk pencil and my new sewing gauge. 

A couple of cleaning tools. I use the old paint brush most because it's great for dusting underneath the  needle plate. 

So I have shown you my drawer, what's in yours?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Fabric choices

Sitting at my sewing machine today got me thinking....

I'm wearing silk and sewing wool. A year ago I mostly sewed with 100% woven cotton and occasionally a viscose or cotton knit. 

So what changed? I came to the conclusion that it is working in Ditto Fabrics and being surrounded by gorgeous viscose, silk, linen, wools and more. Cutting or tearing these fabrics on grain for other people helped me overcome an irrational "fear" of them. I now tell people that there is nothing to be scared of with silk noile. Just take your time with it. Make a toile/muslin if it's a pattern you have not used before. If you have questions about it, attend a class and ask a teacher or look it up online. And most of all it's just fabric - don't be afraid of it! 

I don't let the type of fabric put me off anymore, just the colour of it! But that is another thing I have learnt this last year and another post to come...

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Turmeric Dye

Yesterday morning I was scrolling through the explore section on Instagram and came across this image...

I went downstairs to the kitchen (which is soon to be painted) and the original yellow walls made me think. I love this colour but it isn't right for our small kitchen (I have bought a light grey paint) so inspired by the instagam post I looked up how to dye with turmeric and decided to give it a go. I am thinking of yellow kitchen accessories to go with the grey. 

I found this tutorial on turmeric dying and set to work...
Salt and water were brought to the boil and some unbleached calico (or muslin) was added to the pan to simmer for an hour

The calico was left to cool and removed from the pan, then excess water was squeezed out. I love Japanese Shibori dying techniques so I attempted some of those. 

But I didn't have wooden blocks so I used these plastic trees, I wondered what effect they would have. 

I also fold and twisted the fabric around a ladle handle

Then I made the turmeric dye by boiling the spice and water together before submerging the calico.

I left them in for about 20 minutes.

Rinsed them in cold water and hung them out to dry. They looked amazing until they dried and the colour faded to a yellowy brown. 

The little strip on top below was left in for two hours and the colour is much stronger. The fabric on the bottom is the dried fabric from above. 

I were to do it again I would leave the fabric in the dye for longer and maybe try a different brand of turmeric because the one I saw on the tutorial was more yellow and less orange.

Have you dyed with natural dyes? What were your experiences like?

Saturday, 2 April 2016


Can you guess what I am posting about?

You will need a little more patience until the big reveal!

The suspense is over! Let me introduce you to #dressmakers52
An photo a week challenge on Instagram for a whole year!

So what is it I hear you ask?! Let me tell you!

I loved organising the MIY March photo a day challenge with Wendy. Having a prompt everyday encouraged me to post, I was inspired by all of the people taking part and most of all I loved social aspect of chatting with people all over the world. For me the only downside of the challenge is how intense it was, great for one month a year but it was exhausting! in the end we had nearly 6000 photo's in #miymarch16 and that was a lot of liking and commenting! 

I felt a little lost on the 1st April and missed everyone, whilst being slightly relieved at a day off! It was then that I remembered my friend telling me about an artist doing a 52 Cards challenge where his photo's are theme based for each week of the year. This got me thinking... what if I do a photo a week thing that would keep me in touch with all of the lovely folk I met in March and more?

Hmm, so this is what I came up with...


A Sunday Social, photo a week. A hashtag where we can all hang out!

This is how it will work...
  • I have a deck of 52 cards that I have written photo prompts on
  • Each Sunday morning (i'm in the UK) I will shuffle the cards and post the theme for that week
  • There will be no pre-planning, it's all about the luck of the draw
  • Cards will then be put on the discard pile so that there will be no repeating of themes
  • To join in, post a photo for the theme and use #dressmakers52 so that we can all see them
  • Like I joined Wendy Ward for the running of MIY March Wendy is joining me to host this challenge
  • You can post one or more photos anytime during the week 
  • We will both be posting our fave four on the Saturday* each week. I wonder if we will overlap?!
  • Or post at anytime during the week, it's up to you!
  • This challenge is all about being social (after all it is the reason I started Dressmaker's Social) if you want to repost a photo that you love or even your own favourite four you are welcome to! Just remember to use the #dressmakers52
  • A year is a long time so if you miss a week or a few it doesn't matter, just pop by and join in when you want to
The Rules...
Not really rules, more like guidelines!
  1. Use #dressmakers52
  2. Join in
  3. Have fun
  4. Like and comment on each other's photo's (this may help with the new Instagram algorithm)
So what do you think? Are you with me? See you over on Instagram!

Starts tomorrow Sunday April 3rd 2016!

*updated 6/4/16

Friday, 1 April 2016

Round up of #MIYMarch16

Wow! March was really something! Thank you to everyone who took part in #MIYMarch16 it was great meeting so many new people who sew and seeing all of your photo's!

This is a round up of the last half of the challenge!

The themes...

My photo's 

And the top four for each day!

Congratulations to all of the people list in the top 4's each day, there were so many awesome photo's it was difficult to choose. 

These are my overall favourite 4 photo's from the whole challenge!

Looking gorgeous! @ooobop
@diannebowles you make me laugh!
@makers_note I love your feed!
Very awesome hand tattoos @a.malmin

Looking forward to #MIYMarch17 already!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Dressmaker's Social with Vicki Halliday

Wow, that was a fun evening. Vicki Halliday also known as @vicki_mostly_sews on Instagram is one interesting lady 😝 

Vicki kindly agreed to talk to us about her day job... A Wardrobe Supervisor at the Guildford School of Acting... At tonight's Dressmaker's Social. 

I decided I would try and live Instagram her talk. So here are my frantically typing and photo's of Vicki's wonderful talk! Thank you Vicki!!! 

Getting ready to start...

We're off... Theatre Wardrobe Supervisor @vicki_mostly_sews is telling us about herself. From science to theatre degree and into costume she is now head of wardrobe at Guildford school of acting GSA. Her job is seasonal. Works in a university working with young learners and professionals and works on 20 shows in an academic year. Most of the work is third years working real theatre so the students know what it's like in the real world. Job is doing everything necessary to hit the deadline. 200 costumes for the Our House production. Lots of planning and organising.

Vicki started her costume career as a dresser at Glyndbourne. She has worked as a costume assistant at the English National Ballet and worked at the Royal Opera House. Whilst there she was able to go through their stock of costumes in Wales and make giant umbrellas out of crinolines.

"We have a big stock of costumes. Different sections. Wired stuff goes in panto. Every show and every day is different. Use as much as we can from stock. Hire things, military etc. Buy things or make them. Steer away from making as production times are short. Costumes have to perform too so there are lots of problems to solve. Then comes the laundry and maintenance and packing up!"

Budgets vary from about £5000 for a big show down to £900 for a play. Use charity shops and eBay a lot!

Name dropping time. as requested by Maria... She has dressed a member of S Club 7 or Steps when she worked on a production of Grease. She has also helped Charlie Dimmock into a dress and Michael Aspel a jacket.  

Disasters... Things might not work on stage under lights etc. Need to be pragmatic and not emotional! A girl got stuck in a dress and rather than cutting the zip the dress was cut. Had to be fixed for the next night 😳

Touching time! Sequin dresses are from Performace of into the woods. Two needed as one was a prop.

A wig for Rapunzel, with a detachable plait. Made of Raffia and soaked in fire retardant that took 3 days to dry. 

Clothes from a Shakespeare production including hand printed dresses and customised gilets.

A dress made by Vicki for The Importance for Being Ernest. 

Thank you so much Vicki for your awesome talk. 

Vicki has guest posted on the blog before and you can check out her refashioners post here!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

#miymarch16 day 20

Blimey time is flying! 

Time for a little round up of #miymarch16 that is 2/3 of the way through!

I am continually surprised by the amount of people who are taking part and posting some amazing interpretations of the themes.

This what days 10-18 looked like...

To check out the photo's daily, log on to Instagram and search for #miymarch16 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Day 14 of #miymarch16 Sew Underrated

We are half way through #miymarch16 and for the first time I am a little stuck on choosing a photo for the theme. 

Today it's Sew Underrated.

And my first thought was "tacking" so I posted this... 

The more I thought about it though the more I kept coming back to the reason I started Dressmaker's Social, a monthly meet up group in Brighton. It was to meet other like minded people, people who sew their own clothes and like to talk about patterns and fabric as much as I do. 

So my second post for Sew Underrated is this blog post. And my answer is Sewing Friends, whether in real life (I am lucky to have met lots of lovely sewists in person at the meetups) or online via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And the support that we give each other. It's been said many times before but people who sew really are the nicest people! 

So here's to you guys and a look back at some of the meetups....

Our next meetup is next Monday 21st March at The Marwood Coffee Shop, 52 Ship Street, Brighton. 6.30-8.30pm £2 per person. 

Our guest is...

Vicki Halliday! Vicki works in theatre costume as a Wardrobe Supervisor and she will be answering your questions! But we need them in advance so send them to me at and I'll pass them on! 

Looking forward to seeing you there! 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

#MIYMARCH16 - day 10

This March I have been running #MIYMARCH16 on Instagram with Wendy Ward of MIY Collection, MIY Workshop and author of The Beginners Guide to Dressmaking. 

And what a 10 days! The participation in #MIYMARCH16 has blown me away. I am loving seeing everyone's interpretations of the themes and I am feeling very inspired to get on with some sewing that I have been considering for a while, so Ginger Jeans here I come! 

This is what the last 10 days has looked like...

Each day has a different theme and we started off with Sew Me on day 1...
Here I am! Hello!

Wendy and I post the daily prompt in the morning but there are usually already photo's ready and waiting to be looked at. This is the result of people in different time zones taking part which is very cool. With the help of social media the world really is a very small place. 

Then we post our photo for the day... Here are mine...

Then we take it in turns to choose our favourite four that we announce the next day...

Friday's is prize day, first up was a voucher from Ditto Fabrics. Tomorrow's sponsor is Maggie from Textile Garden who sells the most amazing range of buttons. Looking forward to seeing how you hold it together tomorrow and checking your pics out on Instagram! 

P.s. You can join in at anytime! All you have to do is, have an Instagram account or create one, follow me, @dressmakerssocial and Wendy, @thatwendyward and use the hashtag #MIYMARCH16

P.p.s. Check out Wendy's blogpost about #MIYMARCH16