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Friday, 11 November 2016

Liberty Kindle cover workshop

My Liberty addiction continues. To encourage others to come to the pretty side, my next sewing workshop is going to be Liberty themed.

Beautiful fabrics, cake, and great company. The sewing will be a relaxed affair. You'll leave with a nice pretty Kindle cover to pop in your handbag, plus, an extra kit to take home.

Thursday 15th December, 7.30 pm at Fancy Bakery

How about it?

Have a great weekend!


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Scotty's Tiger Liberty Shirt

I've been hankering after making this shirt for ages. I woke early this morning, and, with my usual Sunday long run buddy away, and myself very clearly wide awake in a house full of fast asleep family, I quickly decided today would be the day for making a new shirt.

One of the lovely things about my return to work has been the opportunity to dress a bit smarter, and, being someone with a love of making my own clothes, to make a few new ones. I made a few items before term started, but haven't found time to do much sewing since - I've been understandably busy with my return to teaching after a decade away. Initial nerves are well behind me - I'm nowhere near as good as I'd like to be yet, but, I'm loving being back in a school setting, and it's down to me to keep chipping away until I'm back at match fitness as far as classes of teenagers are concerned.

A handful of colleagues have picked up on my handmade clothing habit, and I can't lie - it is nice to have someone say something nice about your clothes, and then look impressed when you admit that yes, you made it.

My biggest reason to love making stuff is that you can imagine something in your head and turn it into a garment. I bought this Liberty lawn print about a year ago - it caught my eye and makes me smile when I look at it. It set me back the standard £50 - I have made a couple of pairs of undies (yes, really) and this shirt. Like an addict, I don't even flinch at the price now - it feels beautiful to the touch, and I know from experience that it will still be looking amazing after years of washing.

There is not much to say about the construction of this, my sixth Granville shirt. I used flat felled seams -I'd like to say this was because I took my mum's opinion in hand on the proper way to make shirts. It was actually because my overlocker is currently threaded with black, and I couldn't be bothered to switch to white. I'm pleased with my pattern matching, too. I may have already played in my mind the scene of Patrick and Esme (but mainly Patrick) fondling this fabric and commenting on how nicely those tigers are lined up on the button band. Shame on me.

With half term making the girls prone to sleeping in a bit, I got a couple of hours of blissful cutting out and prepping done, with nothing but Radio 4 and a mug of tea for company, before one by one the cherubs discovered my hiding place (I'd closed the kitchen door, in the hope of extending my alone time). The rest of the making was more of a multi tasking kind - playing Monopoly (my involvement, however slack, is essential for peace-keeping purposes) and occasional puzzle assistance to the youngest.

I'll enjoy wearing this new shirt for work later this week. By the way, I still hold to my opinion that being a parent is harder than being a teacher. You get to leave your worst class behind you at the end of the lesson, but those outnumbered dinner times when the gang are not on good form can drag you down precisely because you know they are yours forever. And don't get me started on Monopoly.

Oh, and, for those who have been kind enough to ask. Yes, there are some shiny new courses to accompany this post, now open for booking.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Apples for the Teacher - #Ginghamalong Granville

Hello..? Is anyone still reading this blog? The author hasn't bothered writing it in ages, that's for sure. It's been a while, hasn't it?! Life has moved on, I guess.

One way this has happened is that I have returned to the classroom. I can't begin to tell you how excited, proud (and blooming nervous) I am about teaching GCSE students for the first time in a decade.

A new job calls for new clothes - that means a perfect reason to sew. So, this weekend included some lesson planning, a long run, a huge roast, and, a pleasing bit of sewing pour moi while my girls got on with stuff (for that, read making a complete mess of the house - but when they are happily playing without fighting, I'm not complaining). 

This is my fifth Granville shirt. My choice of gingham was a shameful bit of bandwagon jumping on my part - I spotted Karen's Ginghamalong, and remembered I wanted to make a new shirt for work. 

My favourite thing about sewing is that you can customise your clothes to suit your own style, and something that's unique. If you spot some apple buttons you like, you can have them on your shirt. If you like the colours green and pink together, you can make something that reflects that. If you are a bit on the short side, you can adjust your shirt to be a couple of inches shorter, and so on. 

I enjoy making all the details in this pattern - the plackets and the collar are fun to get your head round. This time, I had the added challenge of seeing if it was possible to make the shirt out of a mere 1.5 metres of fabric, and still put a few details on the bias to show off the contrast of the gingham. Hurrah to cheating the back of the pattern envelope guidelines on how much to buy, I say - it means no sizeable scraps leftover for me to feel obliged to stash in case one day someone decides a teddy bear needs mint green pyjamas.

This shirt was made whilst listening to Helen's trial and tending to a Sunday roast. For me, it'll have associations with radio history, and, the start of a new chapter in my life. Did you listen yesterday?

Saturday, 16 July 2016

One metre party dresses

During our summer holiday, we'll be going to a wedding. Thinking back to my mum making me dresses to wear as a child, I offered to make each of my girls a dress to wear on the day. I had in mind to make classic party dresses, with full circle skirts and a bit of netting underneath for some fun twirling action.

Ever get that `why on earth did I offer to do this?' feeling? After the initial excitement of them choosing the fabrics, taking their measurements, and making a start on drafting simple bodice patterns, procrastination took hold. The first dress hung on the back of a door, half finished, for what seemed like months on end.

Eldest girl's choice
And then, just like being back at school or university, with an essay deadline looming, a couple of weeks ago, I pulled my finger out and finished all the dresses in under a week. Like so many things, once you get started, and you have a process to repeat, you speed up. I made them in age order, starting with the biggest girl, and ended up being really motivated by each of their reactions as I finished a dress. My middle girl had a friend over for tea the day after her dress had been made, and I overheard a very gratifying conversation as she proudly showed off her new frock that `Mummy made just for me' (obviously being her, this had to involve multiple knicker revealing spins, twirls and cartwheels around the house - god hope she doesn't do that at the wedding).

Who would guess a 2 year old would want bunnies on her dress?

Once I got going, I loved making these dresses. One of the most fun things about doing it was seeing each daughter expressing her own style in choices over fabrics and trims and so on. I kind of felt a bit mean for not making them party dresses before now, but, well, time and inclination and all that. 

Exposed chunky zip and neon pink ribbon to be worn in her hair for the middle girl

Here is how I made a party dress out of a metre of fabric:
  1. Take as many measurements as you think will be useful in drafting bodice and circle skirt - chest, waist, height from neck to waist and waist to knee. 
  2. I allowed about 3 cm for ease, and 1cm seam allowance when sketching my first bodice.
  3. As I was lining the bodices, I made the lining first and slipped it on the child to check fit and adjust neck line and so on, before continuing with rest of bodice. 
  4. As for how to sew a simple lined bodice, I'm sure Google can help you if you aren't sure - although I used the same method as Tilly talks about in Love at First Stitch.
  5. I did a simple zip at the back - I took a decision to keep the dresses as simple as possible, and not extend the zip into the skirt. This means the dress need to be put on over the head, and involves a little wriggling, but is fine (the youngest can do it).
  6. The circle skirt was easy maths to calculate, based on the C = 2 pi R formula. I started with the inner circumference (waist plus ease), and used that to work out the inner radius, so I could add that number to the outer radius (the length I wanted the skirt to be). On the littlest girl's skirt, I also needed to work out the outer circumference, as I needed to buy enough pom pom trim (isn't it flipping cute?!).
  7. Knowing time was not on my side, what with 4 dresses to make and all that, I didn't bother making a pattern for the skirts, and opted to fold the fabric I had into quarters. I took my measuring tape and scissors and just went for it.
  8. I used the outer circle fabric as a template for cutting two layers of netting. I then cut a circle out of the centre of all three layers (fabric and netting x2) and basted the three layers together.
  9. I pinned the skirt layers to the bodice, adding in the odd little pleat if necessary, and sewed everything together. 
  10. For the hemming, I made each girl stand on the dining room table, whilst I measured and pinned until I was happy with how it looked.
  11. The only troublesome hem was the first dress, which is made out of a kind of satin fabric that slipped all over the place. I sewed a 1 cm line all round the bottom, to make pressing it up easier. Once pressed, I sewed through two layers, with a 5 mm hem, before pressing up again, making sure the stitching was rolled up out of sight, and stitching final line of hem. It took ages to sew all those massive circles!
  12. I got the girls to tell me how much of the netting they wanted to poke out at the bottom, and carefully trimmed as advised (the customer is always right, no?). 
Voila! Now we just need to make sure we get to the wedding on time, and they behave themselves...

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Standing room only for Marigold as she goes to Goldhawk Road

Here is a sad story of sewing gone wrong.

You know how it is - you spot a pattern, soon after that, find some fabric you think will be perfect for it, you might even indulge in a impulse buy of some yellow sandals with which to accessorise the outfit you have created in your head. You wait and wait for time to sew. In my case, in a rare act of self-discipline, I prioritised reading books over sewing. And then, decision made, voting done, children in bed, husband out - sewing time. Hurrah! 

Oh, but no. I didn't get the jumpsuit made in one evening, but, I blame the distraction of election night coverage on in the background for the stupid error I made early on in the cutting out that set the fate of this poor version of Marigold. My bum is too big for her. 

So let this be a lesson to you. When making your own jumpsuits, don't underestimate the size of your derriere, and think you will be fine to size down instead of up. And, whilst you're at it, don't take any rash decisions about shortening the jumpsuit - read Tilly's advice first and don't make any big adjustments until the end on your first version. Knowing I needed my jumpsuit to be a couple of inches shorter, I set about adjusting the pattern, by taking some length from the crotch and some from the leg. In the cold light of day, I can see my mistake - of course it is daft to take any length out of the crotch without trying a standard version first, and worse so, when you have already been a bit mean on wriggle room by opting for a smallish size. If only I'd given it a bit more thought first - guess I was just too keen to get to the fun sewing bit. That and the amount I've eaten in the last month without doing all the miles of running I'd been putting in before the marathon. Oops.

So, after a few days for the dust to settle (and my sulk to subside), ruling out the ridiculous options (wearing the jumpsuit as it is but never bending over and/or cutting out cake and chips in order to shrink myself a bit) I am contemplating trying to fix Marigold. 

I am going to carefully unpick the trousers and turn them into harem pants for my biggest girl. She is delighted with the news, and has suggested a neon waistband. Very cool. The bodice fits perfectly, and so, with fabric remnant gods smiling on me, I have just about wangled enough for making shorts to go on the bottom. I will go easy on the seam allowance this time, and am taking inspiration from the Sew Over It Ultimate Shorts/Trousers for how to finish the bottom with a turn up. So that is the plan. Not a disaster anymore, and, as I am always telling other people, I have learnt an important lesson in the process.

This Saturday, I'm going fabric shopping with sewing friends, and I hope I'll find something lovely to make a second Marigold. Once we've finished with Goldhawk Road bargains, the plan is to head to Liberty for posh tea and cakes. It's always nice to make new friends in the sewing community, so please feel welcome to hop along and join in. If you're local to Bedford, we're meeting at the station at 9.30 am. If you'd like to meet us in London, we'll be at the Costa near Goldhawk Road tube at 11.30 am. 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Gold is the new black

There are no words to explain my choice of running kit for last weekend's Edinburgh Marathon. As it was to be my first marathon since getting into sewing, I thought I would make my own kit for the occasion, and things snowballed from there.

The idea for gold came to me when I was indulging in one of my favourite lazy parenting tactics, and watching this with my girls. I suppose I just thought, `F**k it. You're not going to make a habit of running a marathon, so you may as well make yourself an awesome piece of kit to wear while you're doing it.' Dress awesome, feel awesome, no?

Duathlon Shorts
I'd originally intended to just make a pair of Duathlon Shorts to wear alongside my charity vest. I bought the gold fabric, but then developed a weird superstition about cutting into it before I had completed a significant long run. I think this was because in February, I had had a few knee problems, and was still a bit uncertain of whether I'd manage to complete the training and run the marathon. 

Then, with a successful long run of 16 miles done, I spent a gleeful hour or so sewing golden leggings. My daughters were all horrified when I put them on. 

After wearing them on a 20 mile training run (to test they didn't chafe), it occurred to me that the green vest didn't go with the gold at all. In fact, I had nothing that would go with gold leggings (who knew?). There was only one thing for it, and that was to go all out gold on top and bottom, and, to slap my name across my chest, to guarantee myself some extra crowd support. 

Chafe test passed (the gold is surprisingly breathable), I ordered more fabric for a matching VNA top.  

I loved the process of making it - I channelled my increasing nerves about the looming marathon into a sewing project that turned out to be pure fun from start to finish. The way this top is constructed is really clever - it is like a jigsaw puzzle in which you end up a nicely shaped top that is super comfortable for exercising in. As with the Duathlon shorts, I found the instructions were easy to understand - most of the sewing came together quickly on my over locker, just using the ordinary machine for a bit of top stitching at the end. If you look at the neckline on mine, you can see it isn't quite perfect - I think I could have pulled it a bit tighter. I reckoned that on this particular version, a slightly gaping neckline wasn't going to matter. 

My daughters were once again horrified by the sight of me when I tried on my Kit of Bling. The Kit of Bling marks a peak in my potential to embarrass my children - I have used this weapon to my advantage, making regular threats to collect them from school, or, to accompany them to the school disco with it on. This has worked wonders in getting the middle girl to eat her dinner in under half an hour. 

Race day finally arrived. Before seeing me in the Kit of Bling, my running friend, Gis, had said I wasn't to laugh at her socks. Here we are, all fresh faced, posing outside the hotel before setting off to join the crowds for the race.

The course was a beautiful one. It takes you out of the city, and the bulk of it is run right next to the coast line, in a sort of out and back way. There was a depressing point at around mile 8, when I looked into the distance at miles and miles of runners still heading out before us, with the turning point to come back too far away to even see, and the penny dropped about what a long journey was still ahead. I'd say from that point onwards, the challenge was as much about telling my brain to keep running as it was about overcoming tired muscles. As running by the sea is one of my favourite things to do, (and, living where I do, something I don't get to do that often) and so I tried as much as possible to make the most of it and enjoy the experience. 

I expected mile 20 onwards to be tough, and it was. But, nothing hurt, beyond the obvious fatigue you'd expect to experience after three hours or so on the road, and I kept telling myself this was good and that I was lucky not to have picked up any kind of injury. Three things kept me going - the thought that walking or stopping would just mean it would take longer to reach the point I could lie down; my pride, and (having already attracted a lot of attention) the fact I knew I would look totally ridiculous giving up in such a conspicuous choice of kit. I could not let myself give up.

Finish line joy
The moments leading up to the finish line were just brilliant. The crowd shouting my name acted as rocket fuel for my knackered legs, and I romped home with a big grin on my face. 

A few days on, my legs have finally stopped aching, and I can walk down the stairs easily again. I feel so good about myself for having done it - both for the ongoing happier state of mind six months of training gave me, and, for the massive amount of fun I had on my 26 mile catwalk. I'd recommend it!

Soundtrack Shake it off by Taylor Swift

Monday, 23 May 2016

Painting the Roses Red Dress

Why, hello again. I've been having a run of dress making lately. I think the change in weather has bought out the desire to have bare legs and toes and wear summer dresses. 

This is my latest make - almost made from start to finish during an evening babysitting for my friend Emily's children. Luckily, they all slept, and I sewed like the wind, stopping only to put the kettle on and eat some of the nice orange cake she had left for me (it is kind of the unwritten rule that you leave something yummy for the babysitter to eat, no?). I hand stitched the hem on Saturday morning, whilst my own girls were busy making things out of junk from the recycling bin. Happy days. 

I've worn this dress the last two days since making it. I love it! The colours are very me, and it feels so summery and happy to wear. I keep on looking down at the print and admiring it. It reminds me of painting the roses red in Alice in Wonderland.

This is my third Lilou dress from Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes. The nice thing about a third make is that I could jump straight in and sew, having already made a toile before. I went for the scalloped edge on the neckline - takes a bit more time and effort, but I like the finished look of it with this print.

The fabric is a John Kaldor cotton from Sew Essential - it has a slight stretch to it, which I really like on the dress. I just used half a metre of black satin to line the bodice - the skirt is unlined, and hangs nicely as it is. As it is wide on the roll, a couple of metres was plenty for the dress. More importantly, there is a sale on - the fabric I used is down to £6 a metre, along with a lot of other pretty prints that would make lovely summer dresses. I am planning to wear this dress for a wedding in the summer, and, I am now sorely tempted to buy a selection of other prints in the same range and make a pretty dress for each of my girls to wear for the special occasion and see how well they all scrub up. We'll have to keep the littlest away from all chocolate/ice cream/food in general, for that look to last, obviously. 

All that is left is to thank my photographer. This time, it was my eldest daughter, Sophie. After hearing her little sister had been paid a fee of 50p of sweets from the shop in the Arcade, she had a sudden enthusiasm to volunteer this time round. The stupid pose with a mug of tea is becoming a thing.

Thanks to Lucy at Sew Essential for sending me this fabric to review - all opinions are my own.