More Morsbags Please

Being ever so slightly tragic in my adoration of “The Great British Sewing Bee”, I follow a lot of contestants on Twitter. I love that show, not just for the sewing – but I dream of a fabric stash like that, let’s be honest – but because unlike most competition style shows there’s no bitchy comments to a secret camera, no gloating when someone has to unpick their seams – it’s just nice, comfortable sewing with lovely people and Claudia Winkleman who is gorgeous. I digressed, oops. Anyway! The winner of the 2014 season, Heather, was photographed making a “Morsbag”. This was a new word to me, so I went over to the website and went “Oooh!”

A pile of Morsbags

On the face of it, Morsbags are a simple idea. You make a cloth bag, and use it instead of plastic bags. What makes Morsbags a bit special is that you make them and then give them away. You don’t sell them. You gift them. To people you know, people you don’t know – anyone anywhere. The fabric can be anything too, there’s a big push for recycled fabrics such as old sheets or clothes. As you can see I’ve made a bit of a stack so far (I’m up to 13, but I’ve another 5 or so cut out ready to sew) and all of mine are stash fabrics. Some of them are failed projects. The purple up there is a skirt I was halfway through before I just thought “This isn’t working” and shoved it into the stash, and the brown flowers are a sheet I dyed yellow and then forgot to use. The rest are  fabrics I’ve hung on to because they’re “special” but I thought “What am I hanging on to them for? They might be special, but they’re not being very special hidden away in a box”. I’ve made two froggy ones, one of those lives in my handbag and the other one is currently in transit to Lizzie in the UK who also adores frogs.

I can’t pinpoint what’s so exciting about these things, really. It’s a combination of things – using up forgotten fabric, reusing failed projects, the fact that making them is a breeze and the fact that once you’ve made them they’re gifted away. All of these things, combined together, make for exactly the sort of thing I love. Making, re-using and random acts of kindness.

If you’re interested in the project, you can find all the details at Morsbags.com. To make official Morsbags to hand out, you are asked to buy the labels to sew on, but these are sold at cost and are only 5pence each (about 10 US cents). You can also join a local pod (or group) to make it a social thing if you fancy that. You can use a different pattern if you prefer, or modify the given pattern (I sew my handles on slightly differently to make them extra super strong), and you can go nuts and embellish or patchwork or dye… whatever you like. I’ve so many smaller bits of fabric lurking in the stash that a patchworked Morsbag can’t be far away.

Look at all that blather, I’m pretty excited about this whole deal.

FP: Marathon Skirt

I don’t post a lot at Craftster, but I do lurk a bit and keep an eye on the challenges when I remember. I usually forget to look until too close to the deadline, when my fabulous ideas would take too long to complete, so I was excited to check the site in good time for the 100 Things Challenge. To celebrate the 100th craft challenge hosted by Crafster, members were asked to make something out of 100 somethings. I bounced some ideas around for a while, trying to think of 100 somethings I could use. Eventually I went back to my first thought, a 100 panel skirt. 200 seams right? How long could it take? Bloody ages is the answer to that, for reasons I shall explain (that’s a cliffhanger, to make you keep reading).

Fabric cut into strips

After raiding my stash for the floral fabrics – both of which had been bought for reasons I can’t recall – I went to Savers to hunt down a bedsheet. I have a bottle of red dye and even though it’s too pinky for my tastes, it would do. Happily I found a red sheet, so I didn’t have to dye a thing. I say red, it’s orange in some lights. I wanted the skirt to look deliberate rather than random, so I went with 50 strips of the red and 25 each of the florals so it would have a consistent pattern.  I also cut the strips with a taper so the skirt would be A-line.

Now, I don’t have an overlocker, so I had planned to French seam the whole lot. Once I started sewing though I thought perhaps I’d not left enough seam allowance to French seam, so I did straight seams the first time. I was going to zig zag them afterwards to stop the whole lot falling apart in the wash (the white floral is quite an open weave and tends to fray all over the place).

Skirt in progress with wide strips

This worked in as much as I ended up with a skirt, but it was a skirt big enough to hold a circus under. Not having enough fabric left over to re-cut the strips, I unpicked the bloody lot. All of it. Well most of it, when I got to the last batch of 6 I recut because that was quicker. Then I put everything back together going with the original plan of French seams.

(Quick aside – a French seam is a double seam. The fabric is sewn wrong sides together first, then turned and a second seam is sewn to encase the edge inside the fold. This means edges are protected from wear and tear and won’t fray. Mostly used on sheer fabrics where overlocking or other finishing methods will show through, also handy for massive patchwork skirts and people who don’t have overlockers).

Skirt laid flat before sewing together

Here’s the skirt before sewing the final seam. A combination of slightly uneven strips and slightly uneven seams gave it a bit of a swirl, most of which was pressed out later, but there’s still a curve to it. I don’t even mind.

I’d decided earlier to put a waistband on it. I don’t normally fuss with waistbands when I make skirts. I either use an old pair of jeans or just fold the top of the skirt over and run some cord or elastic through it. However, the sheer number of seams would make that unacceptably bulky around the waist where I have plenty of natural bulk already.  This was originally going to be quite a deep waistband, but the finished size of the skirty part dictated a shallower band. Yes I let myself be bossed around by fabric.

Skirt finished and laid flat

I have to say, this new flooring is awesome as a photo background. Anyway! As you can see, I did not only the waist band but also a hem band – the bulk of the seams meant folding a double hem was not practical. It’s probably doable, but it would have been quite bulky and even the sturdy Elna machine might have decided to die as a result.

French seams all over the place

The hem and waistband were both done with a double layer of fabric. This was partly to match some of the weight of the skirt itself, and partly so I could enclose the raw edges inside the hem/waistband. They all got a zigzag first, but hopefully keeping them hidden and protected will stop fraying.

At various stages through out this project I thought “This isn’t even going to fit when it’s finished”, but hooray! It totally does.

Hooray! It fits!

I don’t normally fold my shirts up like that, all my tops are very long so it was a case of “Fold that and see the skirt”. According to my instagram, I started cutting the fabric on the 19th of June, and I finished the skirt on the 4th of July. Of course, I wasn’t doing nothing but sewing, I have a job and a life and stuff, but still. Was it worth it? Yep. I really love my marathon skirt! If I were to make another one (shortly after hell freezes over I suspect), I would make the strips have a wider taper. It’s not as A-line as I planned. I’d also make them longer, because this is the shortest skirt I own now. But overall, I think it came out pretty well. I just need somewhere to wear it now!