Sunday, 15 November 2015

Machine down!

So it is three weeks until my Christmas shindig and my beloved Bernina 1008 is under the weather! No matter what I do, she is having none of it.
Everytime I stitch, the tension isn't right and this occurs...

Things i have tried;
Changing thread
Changing tension
Changed needle
Leaving her alone for a few days

I am all out of ideas now, other than to take her to a dealer for a proper service and borrowing my mums machine to finish my dress in the meantime!!

Help anyone? 

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Inspiring knitters: Auntie Freda

by Grandma Chic

My Great Aunt Freda passed away recently, leaving behind a wardrobe of hand knitted cardigans, jumpers and waistcoats - and the odd skirt too. She was a very neat knitter, making things for herself and her siblings, often in matching colour ways and with thoughtful details. I remember her once trying to teach me to knit, but with little success (it was a few years before I finally got the hang of it) as I watched her in awe merrily knitting away.

Freda kindly gave me two skirt suits in orange and pink, knitted by herself, to unpick so I could re-use the yarn. But instead I cut them up and used them in what was possibly my first upcycling project at college. I feel a bit bad about it now seeing as they were so well made, but it did help start my interest in recycling. I still have some bits leftover, and found a matching jumper made by Freda, which I plan to keep as a memento of her. It doesn't fit me at all, but I wouldn't expect it to, as Freda's knitwear was made to suit her own shape and very much her own style. And that's what's so amazing about knitting. It's very personal as you can make your own patterns to suit you, much like you can with sewing.

Maybe one day my wardrobe will be as full of hand knits as Freda's. I better get knitting!

 Freda's pink jumper


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Feathered - November WIP

So it has been a while. I have been busy and my lovely Bernina has been having a few tantrums so we have been spending some time apart.

I have a number of projects in my head that I want to get around to doing, including; fixing two zips, finish Colette Aster blouse(another month passed without touching it..), Colette Wren in mustard yellow, experiment with bows, leather-look shorts, a couple of new pencil skirts...... there is plenty more!

 Another project that been on the table for a number of years is a shirt dress, and last Christmas, or maybe even the Christmas before, I was given Butterick 5846.

And a few months ago I treated myself to some fabric from Fabric Godmother (my favourite place for fabric at the moment - they are so pretty and so soft!) and got myself some navy cotton with daisies and some green with white feathers - so lovely. They were both always intended for a shirt dress, and finally got round to beginning my Butterick 5846!

I had to line the skirt as the cotton was a bit thin, which is as far as I have got at the moment as I need to work out the front seam of the skirt.

Also fresh on the sewing table is my dress for my Work Christmas party on the 5th December! There isn't much to show at the moment but the whole outfit is self drafted and sparkles are planned!

Is anyone else making a Christmas Party outfit or anything sparkly?
Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Crochet Progress

by Grandma Chic

Made a little progress on my crochet bag since last week. It's taking a long time to weave in all the ends. Hopefully have it finished for next week and I'll post the results...

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

This week's crochet and knitting

 by Gandma Chic


Using quite a soft colour palette at the moment with another crochet squares bag, this time in tones of pink and cream. And below, a new fair isle patterned yoke I've been knitting for a cardigan in damson, cream and very pale pink.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Advanced Style: Stamping your individual on the world.

I start this post with a memory that changed my view point on life, not just design, for ever. A friend from work linked me this video a few years ago and it has captivated me ever since. Advanced Style. Lets all take a second to allow our perspectives on style, individuality and fashion to be transformed.

Wasn't that just bloody lovely?!

I could stare at this woman for hours, her style is so striking. Her personal vibe confronts you; doesn't allow you to be distracted until you know all she wants you to know about her. This is the power style has as a tool for communication.

All images are borrowed from the wonderful
It's not just the ladies either, this level of communication transcends gender. It literally shouts at you, "Hey! Here I am! The most interesting person you will meet today, I guarantee it." 
Its so much easier to express individual personality as an older, wiser being because you have been removed from the shackles of the fashion industry's strict standards. Those rules made in order to sell an ideal to the masses just doesn't apply to you. So what we get is a more honest and exciting view of the wearer and them as an individual. As apposed to a highly sexualized young woman or man picked out only ever to fit a marketing role. 

This isn't about looking fashionable, this has everything to do with looking good and he knows it! Maybe if we were all this enlightened about style, we would break down boundaries all over the shop. I hope you leave this post inspired and awakened.

Remember to check out these websites where I found these bloody lovely photographs, there is plenty more where they came from. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Trying to clothes shop ethically

by Grandma Chic

Calling myself an ethical fashion and knitwear designer, alot of people assume I make all my own clothes and I wish I could but really don't have time. I hardly ever step into a real shop and make a purchase (I'm usually just looking for research purposes) and feel uncomfortable for different reasons. Always looking at where things are made and from what, I wonder who made it and how it got there. I'm not going to give you a lecture on the virtues of ethical fashion because more than likely you are already a charity/vintage shopper if you are following this blog. So instead I'm sharing a few of my own experiences of trying to shop more ethically.

Charity shops
These are vital for shopping on a budget. I look out for quality fabrics and items I know I can wear with little alteration. Majorly avoid Primark items as they just won't last, even if they are cheap, they were cheap to start with! Also, if you have the time, rummaging in charity shops can be great fun - you never know what you will find.

Vintage shops and fairs
Not just nice places to be, vintage shops and fairs are very good for unique pieces that cost a bit more but will guarantee something special. Much more fun than normal shops!

Ethical labels
It's encouraging to see more high street brands rethinking their products and using organic cotton, fairtrade and recycled fabrics. Though they are few and far between and alot more needs to be done with working practices and welfare standards. There are of course brands like People Tree which create really wearable and affordable ethical fashion, with designs that I really like. I'm sure to check out their collections to reassure me the fashion industry is progressing.

Sewing and knitting
Make your own, repair what you've got and alter what you can (or ask someone very nice to help you!) When I do make time to sew or knit something for myself I still get excited about wearing it. Just remember that things take time and 'slow fashion' is the way forward!

Thank you for reading. Be sure to keep up to date with the Toile Together gang!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Aster Blouse WIP

So, being self taught in the land of dressmaking, I have a major collection of patterns from Deer & Doe, Colette, Butterwick as well as a collection of books and self drafted patterns. I am slowly trying to get through my "To Sew" list, which does not seem to be decreasing in size!!
I have only ever made one blouse previously, which was based on a vintage pattern I was given a long time ago. I made it in this lovely floral fabric that I love but I rarely ever wear this blouse as I am so ashamed by the poorly made buttonholes!

Currently on my mannequin is an Aster Blouse, a pattern by Colette. This is the second pattern I have tried, having previously made a couple of Sorbetto tops (a free pattern with a lot of room for creativity).
I need some blouses for work, and this new pattern from Colette looks like something I could adapt with options of short, long or flutter sleeves and looked like it had a nice fit to it.
I bought some Chambray from eBay - I rarely buy fabric from the internet as I don't trust fabric that I haven't touched to get a good feel for the fabric and how it would work as a garment. Also, pictures can be misleading with colours, patterns etc.
My Aster Blouse in construction - I am 80% of the way through.. just waiting to but buttons and hem! But will I ever find buttons the right size and that match? No, because every time I have swung by a shop that sells buttons, I have not looked for any. My other major project at the moment is a pretty dress for the work Christmas Party and I have been majorly.. but more of that one another day...!
The blouse in its almost finished state..
I have finally learnt to do a placket!! Easier than it looks- phew.

Shoulder Pin-tucks

I really like this pattern, and if I had time, would like to make a gingham shirt, like this one below from ASOS - love it and I have plenty of white or black buttons which would match perfectly!!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Throwback Thursday

Andrea reminded me this week of a project I did 4 years ago for a campaign to highlight FGM - Female Genital Mutilation. Something slightly different from what I work on now, but still loved the project and supporting the campaign.
The project was simply make a quilted patch for a vagina quilt - also known as Vulva Quilt - in order to help raise awareness of FGM, all started by Shoreditch Sisters - a young WI group based in London.
Below are a few pictures of my patch, which I think was about a 6inch square in size, and included a button for extra detail!

I have participated in many similar small projects, and admit I haven't done anything recently. I loved the short brief, which allows freedom of creativity to contribute towards a greater piece of work and share your skills and creativity with others and see how others have responded to the same task.
I have never seen the quilt fully finished or on display, but there is the picture below on the Shoreditch Sisters Facebook page from 2012?
My original post from my blog can be found here.
Further reading

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

this week's challenge

I bought this skirt and altered the length quite dramatically (see photo), leaving a about foot left. I really love this fabric so I used the leftovers for the yoke of a top, and this week, with the remaining pieces, I've been using them for parts of something else, and it's been quite a challenge. Stay tuned for developments!

Monday, 12 October 2015

How to sew a french seam

Hi guys, Andrea here! I thought it would be kind of cool to share with you how to sew a french seam. As you know from Jenny's post she is lucky enough to own an over locker (so jealous). Now I don't, not only because they are rather expensive (main reason haha!) but also I'm an old fashioned girl who likes to make things hard for herself, kind of sadistic like that :P

Not everyone has access to this kind of machinery so it forces you to seek out new seam ideas dug up from the past, before the era of the over locker. I find myself using this one time and time again so I thought I would share it with you.

Now if I confused you there with my explanation, here are some awesome books I refer to all the time. Basically brilliant books I recommend owning regardless of your seam choices.


There are a bunch of other seams you can do that don't require an over locker, but I find that this is the one I use the most. This seam is only suitable for lightweight fabrics, so nothing in wool or things like cotton drill or anything of that weight really. Chiffon, silk, muslin, lightweight cottons, polyesters that are lightweight, this seam finish will be great for! 

Go nuts and refer back to the past occasionally, you may just surprise yourself

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Hello from Grandma Chic

Very excited to be starting this new blog with Jenny, Andrea and Afua, and for my first Toile Together blog post I thought I'd share with you a couple of things I've been working on.

A couple of friends moved house last year and asked me to make them some curtains for their bedroom and living room. I don't often get projects like this, so although I had to brush up on my curtain making skills, it has made a nice change. Here's a peak at the almost finished pair for the living room.

At the other end of the spectrum, and quite different from sewing seemingly enormous curtains, I've been piecing together knitwear from second hand knits and my own handknitting using a variety of sustainable and reclaimed wools, incuding some lovely Cornish wool. Here's a little peak of that too...

photgraphy by Sam Budgen 2015

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Andrea's Corner of the Universe

Hi there! This is where I work, Its neat right now because I'm in between garments but when I'm working it gets real messy and I spread out a lot. 

I pretty much need everything to hand, so I find working in this L shape is more efficient for my process. I also need a huge desk to pattern cut on, this is like 2ft by 4ft and I could still do with about double that, one can dream! 

I have all of my cotton visible as well as my scissors. I have 3 sewing boxes, all three are a mess but they have specific messes inside of them so I can always find my stuff. Most of the time anyhow! 

To get an even better idea of my design space and what we are about as Toile Together, watch the video down below and check us out! 

I hope you like my little place in the Universe, stay tuned for Jenny, Sam and Afua's updates. 

Monday, 5 October 2015

Jenny's Expanding Sewing Zone

So me and my fella moved into our flat in March 2013 and my sewing space was very important to me so we decided the spare bedroom would be my sewing room. I 'temporarily' set up in the living room where it was bigger, had more light and was more social... which was enough to keep me there so everyone can watch me and my creative space grow!

Starting with just a desk, a sewing machine and a big box FULL of fabric, my workspace has expanded to this...

1x Sewing machine, 1x Overlocker, 1x Pinboard of important notes, 3x freebie rolls of fabric, notebooks, reference books and lot of boxes full of fabric, thread, patterns and other essentials.

My most recent addition to my space is my patchwork cushion on my chair which is made from scraps kept in my purple box (top right)

Inside some of my drawers... my most recent fabric purchases from Fabric Godmother, various patterns in their own envelopes and more fabric purchases.

Fabric Godmother is my current favourite online shop, and I adore the soft cotton bird fabric. One day it will become a beautiful blouse for myself.

My Bernina sisters - sewing machine and overlocker(which I only got for Xmas last year - how did I manage without it!) I keep an unpicker at the base of my sewing machine as more than likely I will need it. Also pictured is my scissor jar and essential sewing box, always close to hand when I am sewing, stocked with bobbins, chalk, beeswax, more unpickers amongst other bits.

Finally, my sewing notebook bible. I often don't go out fabric shopping without it. Any ideas I get go in here, including notes written on scraps as well all the patterns I own (from Colette to Deer and Doe) so I always know how much fabric I will need as well as those little extras like zips!

 The other essential space I use, is the kitchen worktop which is perfect for cutting out fabrics. When we move to a bigger place, I will have my own room where I can upgrade my space even further with stuff hanging from walls, a pull out/drop down cutting table and more than likely a rail so I can see all my unfinished pieces in progress!
So that is my expanding sewing zone.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Sam Budgen

Hello, I’m Sam, and I produce handmade and upcycled clothing, using vintage, reclaimed and sustainable fabrics and yarns, under the name Grandma Chic.

How I got into sewing: I first started sewing when I was a teenager and went on to study textiles and fashion at college. At university I studied knitted textiles, specialising in knitwear design, a skill I had always wanted to learn and one that was a great challenge for me.

Inspirations/Muse: Having spent some time working for pioneering ethical fashion brand From Somewhere, I decided to pursue my dream of having my own clothing line and set up Grandma Chic. Orsola de Castro, founder of From Somewhere, has remained a great inspiration to me and I am always eager to see her latest collections and collaborations.

When I started sewing, I had no real interest in contemporary fashion, but I was fascinated by garment construction and very keen to learn the skills needed to produce well made and beautifully finished garments, just like the ones I’d seen in museum collections (I always loved fashions of the past). Discovering the world of ethical fashion was very exciting, opening up new challenges and gave fashion a purpose for me. 

What I love and don't love about sewing: It’s very hard to make the same garment more than once, which I really like. Though when you come across a beautiful fabric or yarn and you’ve only got a certain amount it can be frustrating knowing that your mistakes will be hard to fix and the design requires alot more thought. On the other hand, it makes that item more precious and valuable, and made with a little more love too.

Favourite garment I have made/designed: My favourite garment I’ve made is an a-line skirt made from a fabric offcut that belonged to my Grandma. It has an extra panel added as the fabric was only just big enough and I believe it was once the hem of a dress worn by her. It was made more special by the discovery of a photograph of her wearing the dress from which the offcut came, and I will always treasure it for this reason. Grandma Chic was partly inspired by her and her unique style. 

Where to find me: 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Andrea Bonnell

Name: Andrea Bonnell

Name of Brand: I'll get back to you...

Location: Based in and around Birmingham

How did I get into sewing: I wanted to be a badass artist for a while but I soon came to realize the most exciting part of a project was balancing multiple elements and stages, all coming together to form a magnificent crescendo. Art was, for me anyway, pretty one dimensional in terms of outcome. It's way too personal to turn into a career for myself. That's where I discovered fashion design, followed it up at college/uni and have been in love with the process ever since. However, its no secret with me that I am a square peg in a round hole. I love what I do but really dislike the industry where my work "should" sit, so I just simply don't strive to fulfill those expectations. Call me a kind of outsider designer if you will.

Inspirations/Muse: Gender, traditional men's tailoring/design and vintage style women's undergarments. My muses would include spectacular people like, Cher, Liza Minnelli, Prince, Courtney Act and a few more I'm certain will crop up.

What I love about Sewing: That buzz you get when a final photshoot loops right back round to the dodgy doodle you did in a notebook. That completion of a vision. I find the design process pretty torturous, so the only reward for that is total success of the original inspiration without losing it's truth. And pattern cutting, I pretty much love getting stuck into that. Ooooo and fabric, I go ape shit for fabric.

What I don't like about sewing: We all agreed on unpicking...but I pretty much hate not having enough tables to spread my stuff obnoxiously all over. I need all of my stuff out all at the same time so I can see it but I really don't like mess...try handling that for a day :P Also, having to explain myself to people who just don't get the design process, or art, or anything of creative value! :D

Favourite Garment made/designed: So far, my red dress. It makes me feel gooey on the inside.

Where can we find you: 

Facebook Twitter apparently, My personal blog, Pinterest, Instagram and Toile Together's facebook page.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Jennifer Babey

Name: Jennifer Babey

Name of Brand: Still working on that..

Location: Southampton

How did I get into sewing: My mum was a keen quilter when I was young and I often followed her to fairs, fetes and quilting shows. I loved all the different fabrics that came in different colours and patterns. I admired the stitching and textures of the handmade quilts that people were selling or showing off. I have always been a keen crafter, having tried printmaking, bookbinding and even blacksmithing, but my heart lies with fabric and textiles. During university I studied Graphic Arts but I followed my natural instinct and got back into sewing and developing this into the work I was producing. It was during this time whilst surrounded by Fashion and Textile students that I was soon interested in advancing my sewing skill set.

Inspirations/Muse: I see outfits people wear and am often inspired by colours, textiles and shape. As well as being inspired by the scope of images that can be found on Pinterest, I currently adore Jenny Packham, the women of Mad Men, circle skirts and almost anything with a bit of lace or sparkle!

What I love about sewing: There is nothing better than the sound of a sewing machine chugging away.. oh its like heaven... But I love sewing, as well as all other crafts, because of the uniqueness of creating a piece that is handmade with such care and attention. And I can't help but gloat every time someone asks 'Did you make that..?'  

What I hate about sewing: Unpicking. It mocks you for every stitch you just did wrong. I am not a huge fan of hand stitching – like finishing on waistbands and those finer details- so close to finishing by have to get through those last few time-consuming stitches! I hate not having enough time to do the BILLION things I want to make or experiment with - my current 'to sew' list is endless!

 Favourite Garment made/designed: 
I mainly create garments for myself, and was super proud of this backless ready for a holiday in Italy in May 2015. It was based on a Burda pattern, which was Petite, so needed some adjusting for my 5ft9 and bit height! I made another version but with a circle skirt rather than gathered which I love just as much!
 I also made this dress very quickly on a bit of a whim for a Murder Mystery Party I held for my 24th. I loved the Maxi skirt and was super excited to have something with a bit of sparkle - even if I am still finding sequins around the flat...

Find me on Instagram, or our Facebook page.