The Marks & Spencer Shwop & Sew Lab

On the 20th June, I shall be setting up shop inside Marks & Spencer’s, Broadmead as part of The Bristol Big Green Week! Excitement!!

I’ll be running two Workshops, the first being for Beginners to Up-Cycle a T-Shirt in to a Shopping Bag or Infinity Scarf, the second for more intermediate Sewers will turn a T-Shirt into a Shirred Skirt or Tunic! All T-Shirts are being donated by Oxfam, and the event is completely free BUT it’s first come, first served so you’ll need to get in fast!!

You can see all of the details here, and the full Schedule is below:M&SYes, you can meet the winner of The Great British Sewing Bee! Eek!! And just look at all of the good things you can come along to learn, Up-Cycle or repair. I shall definitely be hanging around to take a peek at the Refashion Competition and for Matt’s talk (and a cheeky glass of something!).

I’ll be sharing the makes over the week as I put together the samples and instruction sheets so watch out! I love the idea of Up-Cycling all of those old T-Shirts into useful Shopping Bags (did you know the UK stops giving Shopping Bags out for free at the end of the year? Well, we do so make your own re-usable one now!!).

See you there, can’t wait to meet you all.

Happy stitching!

Moving on up into 2015!!

2014 was an exceptionally busy, stressful and chaotic time for Laura After Midnight! From exceptional highs, and very low lows’ I learnt so much, and can’t wait to get my teeth into 2015…

To be honest the year started out fine and dandy, then around August two of the contracts I had- teaching Sewing at establishments across Bristol- ended very abruptly… just after I had signed the lease on my very first shiny new Studio! To say this put my financial situation into an interesting position is a slight understatement, but then something magical happened in September… I had scrambled to put a short Sewing Course List up of my own in a effort to keep myself up and running (I had never intended to teach from the Studio as I felt it was a little too small), and people started booking! People I had never met found me, liked the look of what I was doing and paid to be taught. I actually can’t put into words how happy this made me feel, and I will never forget the rush of excitement and gratitude I felt when I discovered the first Course had sold out!

With a couple extra Sewing Machines, one of which was donated by a Sewer I had taught who was moving back to the U.S., two more bought by my Mum and Dad, and a quick trip to Ikea the Midnight Atelier and Workroom was born… and I started welcoming some truly fantastic people along to nerd out about Sewing!

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Packing up and moving the old Studio to the new Workroom with a wonky trolly, determination and copious amounts of Tea! (above, left) The moment I realised I was stuck in the lift and had to take a picture between giggling! (above, centre) The last thing to be taken out, the cheerful Red, Black and White Bunting I made when I signed the lease but still had to wait a week to move in the the old Studio (above, right). 

In just four months this side of my business has grown exponentially, and a couple of weeks ago I signed the lease on a new space. Another huge step for me as the space is larger, and I can fit more students in, offer different types of Classes as well as having room to work on another aspect of Laura After Midnight: Pattern Making.

In 2015 I am intending to expand the current Patterns I offer within a broad ‘Costume/Alternative’ theme, which will draw on my experience as a Costume Designer and Maker. I’d also like to start Blogging and writing about this a little more as it is by far the most talked about aspect of what I write and teach about, and I think it is incredibly important I talk some more about advanced techniques in Sewing. There are many, varied Blogs and Websites talking about Sewing, but not many explaining more advanced techniques for the Beginner or Intermediate Sewer.

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The day the Chaise Longue I scored on Ebay for just £30 arrived! It’s Edwardian, needs recovering but I love it! (above, left) Me, all proud in my huge new space, full of ideas and plans and so excited I could skip! (above, centre) Moving day! It went in a little neater than I had hoped and will have to be carefully covered as I start the renovations (above, right). 

You may be wondering why I want to teach this side of things and there are two reasons… the first sounds very egotistical but I’m super proud of it too- I’m really, really good at Pattern Cutting! I also love it, and this leads me to the second reason (which is slightly more complicated)… I am tall, like 6” tall, and every Pattern I have made up since I was 14 I have had to adapt. I’ve been adapting Patterns so long I can’t remember who taught me but it was probably my amazing Mum. Currently I have to add in up to 4″ to the length, which means I have to adjust where Darts are, Armholes, Seam Lines and… and …and. The list is endless so when I got my first introduction to Pattern Cutting at 16 I don’t think anyone will be surprised that I consumed it! In teaching I have noticed that my average student isn’t the average shape. They’re tall like me, larger, short, all sorts of variations and they have often gravitated to Sewing as a way to create clothing which looks better on them. The Beginner or Intermediate Sewer often doesn’t understand why that then doesn’t look as amazing as they had hoped and I would love to start illustrating the process of how you can sculpt Patterns and Garments to not just look good on you, but make you look fantastic!

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Snapshots as I set up the new space… more on this to come in the next few weeks!

I also saw record sales on Etsy towards the end of 2014 however; received the nastiest and demanding messages from buyers who could not or would not understand I hand make my products and there will always be a waiting time, especially when shipping internationally! This was a huge contributing reason for my temporarily closing Laura After Midnight on Etsy in December, which after the stress of dealing with such abuse was a sad relief. In combination with the new EU VAT Regulations I am left unsure of the direction I need to take selling online and have decided to take a break from this side of Laura After Midnight whilst HMRC and various other Governments across Europe duke out how everyone will deal with the VAT Issue. It will give me time to Blog more and start designing Patterns as well as finishing Patterns and Kits which have long been set aside so the start of 2015 should be a very exciting time!

Places are booking up fast for the new Courses, as well as spots at Sewing Club, so if you are Bristol based check them out quick! Don’t forget you can pop along to Crochet Club– which starts on 10th January- for free and join me and others in creating Crochet goodies (I’m quite, quite obsessed!). Join Bristol Sewing Club on Facebook, or the Newsletter for up to date information too.

I wish you all love, luck and fun stitching times in 2015 and if you have contributed to the Laura After Midnight story so far, thank you.

Happy stitching!

 

Notions: The Sorbetto Top from Colette

My lovely new issue of Love Sewing Magazine has just arrived- a much anticipated event!- and I have just been reading the article written my Sarai of Colette (click here to see my Interview with Sarai last year) about making their free PDF Sorbetto Top. It reminded me that I wrote a little about making my Sorbetto up earlier this year for The Great Bristish Sewing Bee!

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I am completely in love with this Pattern! The scoop neck is just right, the armholes and straps fit wonderfully- they’re a pretty interesting shape to be honest,  and the fit and flair of the side seams is just perfect. I decided to Self Bind, meaning I hand made Bias Binding from the same fabric to finish the Neckline and Armholes however the hem is simply neatened and machined. Simple, and all sewn up and hand finished in under two hours!

As I said, this is a free PDF Pattern and I highly recommend it! The BEST thing? It only took an hour, yippeee!!

The essential tricks needed for a simple top like this are basic machine skills, good ironing and some simple hand stitch knowledge. Any top like this will only have two pieces- a front and a back- so a lot of the work you do will be in the neatening of the raw edges about the armholes, neckline and hem. Facings are one way to go however; Bias Binding is a another choice which I feel can make the garment look a little more unique. You can choose to Self Bind as I have, use a contrast, satin or even a lace edged binding!

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Pin, and stitch the Bias Binding Right Sides Together on to your garment (Colette’s pattern instructions for the Sorbetto take you through this step in detail). Lay flat, and push the Seam and Bias Binding away from you as illustrated above right.

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Fold the top of the Bias Binding down by the amount of Seam Allowance you have (normally 1.5cm/5/8″), and pin. Then fold again to lie next to your original Seam. Pin parallel as shown.

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 Thread a needle with thread twice as long as you need. Fold in half. Thread the loop through the Needle, and pull longer than the other threads (above left). Take a stitch through on of your machine stitches, and a small amount of the Bias Binding (above right) and, before the thread has been pulled though entirely, thread the needle through the loop and pull tight. this will anchor your thread.

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Continue down the length of the Bias Binding, taking stitches through the machine stitching and edge of the fold of the Bias Binding. Do not worry about making them teeny tiny, even lengths are better and mine are normally about 1cm or 2/8″ long. When you come to the end or need to re-thread simply thread your needle through the loop of a stitch to tie a knot.

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And there you have it, a nice simple Slip Stitch to finish any garment beautifully.

Pressing- not ironing!- is also essential and I have found a wonderfully demonstrative article on why ironing should be a firm part of your Sewing knowledge here. She makes quite the case doesn’t she boys and girls?!

A few notes on pinning (which was hotly contested during The Great British Sewing Bee!) and why even this Seamstress still does it… … it means you often don’t have to hand tack pieces together. It is also a great way to keep things in place as you sew that may alternatively slip out of place. You can use Pins to easily control ease in a garment. They’re gorgeous, have you seen Merchant & Mills selection recently?! They’re invaluable when sewing darts and finally, they are often what helps a beginner or intermediate Sewer create a more professional garment. About the only time I don’t use pins is on straight seams I am piecing quickly. Having said all of that, use pins wisely as they can mark delicate fabrics- so pin in and parallel to the Seam Allowance- and sewing machines can snag on them.

Finally, to Under Stitching. A sadly neglected art I am afraid, and even I am guilty of doing this and just pressing the Neckline down! No more! Here is my Tutorial to make us all Under Stitching superstars!!

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Pin the Facing to the Neckline and stitch the seam according to your Pattern Instructions. If you pin at a right angle the sewing machine will happily sew over the pins- especially useful when sewing curves! Remove the pins, and clip in to any curves.

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Fit the Zipper Foot on to the sewing machine and, on the Facing side, and making sure the clipped seam lies underneath the facing, stitch round nice and close to the edge as illustrated.

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 The Under Stitch will immediately make the Facing ‘roll’ towards the back so that, with a little press, the facing will sit invisibly behind the front. Lovely!

The image to the far right clearly illustrated the technique of sewing the Seam Allowance at the same time at the Facing.

Don’t forget to take a peek at Laura After Midnight on Pinterest, I have a great collection of free patterns and sewing projects over there from all corners of the globe! Remember that all Laura After Midnight Patterns are also available at PDFs here!

Happy stitching!