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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Delphine Skirts (and matching toes!)


Are you like me, and keen to get the sandals on at the first glimmer of sunshine?

Delphine skirt worn with Tonic Tee
I made these Delphine skirts from Love at First Stitch almost a month ago now, and have been waiting for some weather warm enough to justify bare legs so that I could wear them.

 I really like the pattern - it is a flattering little number, that is perfect to show off some lovely prints and get you in the mood for summer. I've also got a warmer version planned, using the remnants of green cashmere wool I have leftover from making my coat - but, who wants to sew a winter skirt when spring is here and picnic season is beginning, eh? (Yep, that little project is all cut out and may only need a few short hours to be sewn, but it isn't going to see the light of day for a good six months now!)

Yippee for cake at Fancy
I made these skirts during a couple of delightful sewing nights round at friends' houses. I feel very lucky to have friends who sew (and I promise it's not just because of the yummy treats they normally have ready to be eaten during our sewing nights!). Although this was my first time making the pattern, the construction was pretty similar to other zipped skirts I have made, and so the Delphine lived up to my expectations as an ideal thing to sew and enable me to chat with friends. By total fluke, the pattern matching on the waist band and the skirt on looks pretty good to me - yay!

 I lined both skirts with some white cotton, and think this gives them a nice quality and structure.

I am such a fan of the Delphine that I have chosen it as the pattern for the next set of sewing classes round my kitchen table.

Two places have been snapped up already, leaving another three for whoever would like to join us. If you're a Bedford local and would like to learn how to make yourself a skirt, then I'd love to hear from you. As with all of my courses, the atmosphere will be relaxed and friendly, with plenty of tea and cake to fuel your sewing adventures. Here's where to find out more and book. 

I wore the green skirt when I went to my friend Liz's birthday get together at Fancy. I was the first to arrive - check out how fabulous Liz looked as she sat knitting, waiting for her friends to turn up. Liz had a little surprise up her sleeve - she decided to mark her birthday with carefully thought out `little acts of kindness' gifts for each of us. How lovely, huh? Needless to say, I was super excited to open up a large bag full of fabric. First to get turned into something will be the leopard print cotton. Think cropped Ultimate Trousers.

On that note... Bye bye for now!

Friday, 17 April 2015

All children are capable of extraordinary things

The Middle Girl is six years old. She is full of fun, and there is rarely a dull (or quiet) moment when she is around. She is an independent and strong minded little girl, who doesn't see the point in doing things just because someone has told her to do them. But, when it comes to a thing she has set her mind on doing, you'd do well to bet money on her succeeding at whatever it is.

You would be right to conclude that being the mother of such a person can be, well, kind of infuriating at times. Finding the right balance between making her comply and do the things she has to do, and not spending significant chunks of each day nagging her and feeling frustrated at her unwillingness to listen, is a challenge.

The other day, after being asked to brush her teeth a squillion times, I sat down and tried to reason with her.

Me: "You know, life would be a lot easier if you would just listen and do as you're told. Why don't you?"

Her: "You told me to ignore people when they annoy me."

Ha! How on earth do I respond to that?! I still can't work out if she was playing me or deadly serious. Either way, I don't want to go on about her faults. All of us have them, and, hopefully, in her case, she'll grow out of some of her annoying habits.

I am not one bit sorry if elements of what I write now just boil down to me being a proud parent shouting about something her child has done. This post is intended as a celebration of how fabulous my Middle Girl can be, and a reminder to us all that children of all shapes and sizes are capable of extraordinary things.

sewing in a dressing gown
The school holidays gave me a bit of slack in the system to come good on a promise I'd made to my older two girls to help them sew a garment. I'd planned to do this on a one to one basis, for an hour at a time in the 7 pm slot once the youngest two girls were in bed.

When offered the chance to make a skirt (which is what the eldest had made), the Middle Girl pulled a face and announced she wanted to make a t shirt. That's quite a challenge, are you sure, I asked her. Yes. And I want it to have an `R' (for Rachael) on it, too. Okay, I said (because it was immediately obvious that if I wanted to achieve my aim of some mother and daughter sewing time fun, I needed to give in and help her make the thing she wanted to make).

The choice of jersey remnants I had to offer was limited, so she quickly agreed on using the navy and white stripes I had leftover from my recent cowl. I pulled out my crumpled copy of Flashback Skinny Tee, guessed at a size that would fit. My dress making scissors are too big and heavy for her to use (she tried), so I cut out, while she designed the logo she wanted for the front. She was willing to tolerate this intrusion of hands on help, on the understanding the sewing would be her territory. (Now where does she get her independent streak, I wonder...)

sewing a sleeve
In our first session, we got as far as having the logo on and one sleeve in place (she was very keen to have a sleeve on and negotiated getting this done before going up to bed). The thing she enjoyed most was using the iron to apply Bondaweb for the logo, along with getting reaquainted with my sewing machine. My Janome has a fast and slow option switch on the foot pedal, and setting it to the later means that, with the help of a plastic step underneath the pedal to boost the height, it is pretty child friendly to use.

making the machine child friendly
She complained throughout about having to follow the 10 mm guideline on the machine, even though she understood why she had to, and proved to be pretty good at sticking to the seam allowance. I guess the girl is just a free spirit!

top stitching
The second day consisted of top stitching the logo. Strangely enough, because the tiny inside of the `R' was the last bit she did, it turned out to be her best bit, as she improved a lot with practise.

I strayed from the instructions on how to apply the neck band, because I thought getting her to sew it into a loop and then attach it to the t shirt would prove too fiddly. Instead, I unpicked one shoulder seam (this did not go unnoticed, and was another thing she complained about me doing) and then got her to pin the folded neck band to the neck edge, treating them both as one long sort of straight line.

This idea came from making a version of the excellent Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick Tonic Tee pattern. As an aside, I'd definitely recomment trying this free (woohoo!) pattern if you are wanting to make t shirts for yourselves in time for warmer weather.

learning how to change a needle
I pointed to the neck band of the t shirt I was wearing to show her what I meant and what the things she was being asked to do corresponded to. At this point, she asked how to get the two lines of stitching around the edge. Inwardly groaning, I explained how I'd used a twin needle for that bit. That, of course, is what she then wanted to use.

using the twin needle to top stitch the neck band
This is pretty much how the experience went on. I won't bore you with every detail of the make.

She was gleeful when she finished, and bounced around the house, leaping off furniture, showing off her new thing. Funnily enough, she has not worn the t shirt since, and I couldn't hazard a guess why. That is the Middle Girl for you!

just about standing still long enough for a photo

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Ultimate Trousers

Hello, campers. This week, the youngest two girls graduated up to bunk beds, like the ones their big sisters have. This has been quite an exciting event in their lives, and, the enormous boxes it all came in has provided them all with some fun, too. The latest thing the boxes have become is a rocket - after half an hour or so of effort from me with some Duck tape and a stanley knife, we had ourselves a tall and rather wonky rocket to play in. This has both made me popular (hurrah!), and, has bought me some peace and quiet, as there is now a lot of cardboard for them to liberally go on decorating as they wish now that the youngest one is in her bed having a nap. Hurrah to the sunshine being out, and all this activity going on in the garden. 

Talk of my frustrated ambitions to be a Blue Peter presenter aside... you guys - I made my first pair of trousers!

Bring on the daft and awkwardly posed pictures of me wearing them..!

You might think these trousers look a bit familiar - I was inspired to make a pair whilst watching Lorna make her version on the first episode of this year's Sewing Bee. Sew Over It were cannily selling the pattern at 20% off, and a week later, I spotted that Beales had the very same fabric on at half price, and so, my trouser making fate was sealed. 

I watched that episode of GBSB with my pal Christina, and we hatched a plan there and then to have our own sew off, and see if we could make our trousers in the same 3 hour time limit.

Our sewing night was a lot of fun - and, even with Christina blatantly trying to scupper my chances of finishing by hogging the iron (!), we both did it in the time, and were gleefully plastering selfies of ourselves posing in our makes all over social media before parting company.

I like this pattern a lot. I made a slight adjustment to the sizing based on my measurements, starting with a size 10 at the waist and going down to a size 8 from the hips. It worked, and I am happy with the fit.

It did feel a bit on the snug side on first wearing, but the cotton has stretched a little bit with wear, and so this worked out fine. I'm pleased to report that after a lot of bending down (repeatedly picking things up that Charlotte drops) and running around at the park, there have been no embarrassing trouser falling apart moments. Phew.

I'll definitely be making more Ultimate Trousers before too long. The instructions were simple and easy to follow. I liked finishing all the raw edges on my over locker, and I am pretty pleased with the finish. The only slight snag is that the waist facing keeps on rising up out of place - I will secure it down at the side seams (when I get round to it...).

I'm wearing my trousers with a new Coco top - I made a couple of these in an evening, using some super soft and lovely Roma Ponte I bought in a dreadful Instragram inspired impulse buying session from Sew Over It.

Grr. Those clever sewing shop owners, posting pictures of products to tempt weak willed people like me. At the same time, I also treated myself to the Tea Dress pattern, along with some pretty floral fabric to make it with, and, a couple of metres of light weight ivory jersey for making some staple tops for summer.

Spring is definitely in the air - and with it the motivation to make lots of lovely colourful clothes to enjoy wearing. Hurrah!

Happy making, everyone.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Sew Over It cowls meet Kelly

Yesterday, I had The Mother of All Clear Outs. A lot more housework than ever normally happens was done, cupboards were emptied and organised, and lots of things were ruthlessly culled whilst no one else was watching to object. I am telling you this, because this kind of behaviour doesn't happen that often. Don't go sharing this with anyone, but, once I got over the `oh, my goodness - the entire house looks a complete mess now, why did I ever start this process?' tidying hump, I found myself quite satisfied in the end.

Don't go worrying about me turning into a Proper Housewife (as opposed to the Slummy Housewife who flies by the seat of her pants that I really am). Sewing will still win over my affections when faced with a choice between it and housework. Having six people to keep in clean pants and provided with meals (to be complained about by at least one family member at any given time!) and everything else that goes with it takes an undeniable amount of effort. There are times when I have to admit that life would run a lot more smoothly if I devoted more effort to going beyond the basics of running the house as I do sewing. But. There has to be balance, doesn't there? And, I have long recognised in myself that sewing for pleasure is part of what makes me tick. Making time for this, over doing more regular clear outs etc, keeps me a lot more happier than if my house were perfectly organised and tidy.

In the spirit of balance, after The Mother of All Clear Outs yesterday, I felt that today deserved to contain a bit more, well, fun and frivolity. Mary Poppins I am not.

Today, the sun was out bright and early, so I decided my bare legs would be too. Time for a first proper outing of my newly made spring clothes - my Sew Over It cowl(s) and chambray Kelly Skirt with vintage buttons. Hurrah!

My friend Lucy took these pictures for me whilst we were at the park with another friend. Charlotte loves playing with my sunglasses, but helpfully trotted over and handed them to me - a blatant little photo bomber, huh?!

 I've made two versions of the Sew Over It cowl now - and love the pattern. As already mentioned, it spurred me on to get my overlocker out, clean out all the fluff that had built up, and spend time learning to thread it up properly.

When making the tops, I enjoyed taking my time to finish all the edges nicely on the overlocker, before switching back to my regular machine to twin stitch the hems. The pattern is so simple, that even with slowing down to aim for a really professional finish inside and out, I can still whip one up from start to finish in a short evening of sewing. After the mamouth effort of making a coat during the first part of the year, some quick projects are very gratifying.

I'd deliberately planned for these two tops to go with the Kelly skirt I had made as a sample for my current beginners' course. I'm pretty pleased with how it's all come together - the buttons being my favourite element, and, the discovery of just how iron dependent the skirt will insist on being being the only slight fly in the ointment. Still, you can't have everything. Maybe I'll turn over a new leaf and iron this as it comes out of the wash, and not leave it to get buried under the other clean washing awaiting attention in the airing cupboard...

The final photo is in the other version - I did a cheeky change in the loos of the Pavilion. If you are wondering why I am smiling, it is because I have just indulged in my favourite guilty secret relating to Bedford Park - a BLT in the cafe.

It occurred to me as I was thinking about writing this post, and also the fact I have fabric ready for another three cowls (!), that spring seems to be the time of year for me to make several of something. Last year, it was the Tilly and the Buttons Coco. I wonder what it will be next year, to pop along at just the right moment to inspire me into some sewing to refresh my wardrobe in time for the warmer months...?

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Matching mummy and daughter strikes again!

At the end of the summer, I made myself a Skater Dress. I'd got a couple of metres of lovely campan jersey for the dress, and still had some to spare once it was made. I spotted that Kitschycoo (who designed the pattern) had a free baby version on her blog. I printed it out and the cheap skate in me felt delighted that I had enough fabric to make a mini me version. Hurrah!

I cut it out. And then... well, decided it wasn't such an exciting prospect to make after all, and got distracted by other makes. And so the pieces of this little dress have sat, scrunched up in a ball in my sewing box, waiting to be made. 

My inspiration to finally make the thing came last week whilst watching the GBSB final.

There was a lovely piece to camera of the family of the contestant who went on to win, with his wife proudly telling the nation about the brilliant dresses her husband makes her, and, the occasional matching versions that get requested by their daughter. Ha. Not going to care about the possibility of it being twee any more, time to get sewing that little dress before she grows too big to wear it, I thought to myself.

So there. Not only has Matt flown the flag for blokes and sewing, made women up and down the country jealous of his wife and the clothes he lovingly sews her - he has also given us all his verdict that matching outfits are in fact magic and not tragic. Well done, that man!

So, I give you my latest mini me piece of sewing. The gorgeous little Charlotte - who is becoming cheekier by the day, and completely lights up my mornings by greeting me with "Cuggle, Mummy!" as she throws her arms around my body in a snotty embrace (I could do without the snot, to be perfectly honest, but she has a cold at the moment...).

Last weekend I got a couple of Sew Over It cowl tops made and got the vintage buttons onto my Kelly Skirt - I failed to get any pictures of them in action before they ended up in the washing basket. Let me just say that the vintage buttons are pretty special (am just hoping they don't require special hand washing attention on account of their elderly status).

The girls and me have been carrying out a spring clean of their drawers, working out what fits and what doesn't - negotiations over what can and cannot be handed down to siblings have begun, but aren't over yet. One incentive for the biggest girl has been the promise of a couple of new short sleeved t shirts, using - yes, you guessed it! - leftovers from my cowls. Lucky girl. Ha, ha. Aged eight, she still thinks it is magic and not tragic to have your mum sew your clothes, and, to occasionally have something that matches. I will make sure I get at least one photo of the pair of us together to stash away and bring out when her first boyfriend comes round (which, if her dad has any say in matter won't be until she is 21 - but that dear readers, is another story).

As there's no more Sewing Bee, I'm consoling myself by going to my local for Get Your Stitch On tonight. Think I'll probably take some crochet squares to work on while I gossip away with friends.

Here are the details, in case you happen to be local to Bedford and fancy coming:

Get Your Stitch On!
The Burnaby Arms, Stanley Street, Bedford
7.30 pm onwards

Friday, 13 March 2015

Oh hello, Spring - it's lovely to see you again

The arrival of Spring hits me like bumping into an old friend I haven't seen in ages and am delighted to see again. I don't know why I feel so taken aback and happy when it happens - it is not like it is a new thing on me - but I do. This last week, I have taken delight in lots of little things, like being able to hang washing out on the line, and enjoying spending time outside without wishing I was back inside, clutching a large mug of tea. Even the fact I only really had a couple of weeks of wearing my newly finished coat before the weather warmed up enough to leave the house without it cannot stop me loving this time of year when it shows up.

I was lucky enough to greet two groups of beginners to my classes this week.We're going to be moving on to making a beginner friendly skirt. I thought we'd spend a bit of time making a little something from my scraps before cutting into their actual skirt fabric - here are the little phone sleeping bags they'd made by the end of their first lesson. We had no pattern, just traced round their phones, leaving 1.5cm wriggle room, and sandwiched some contrasting outer and lining fabrics with some bamboo batting. This was an ideal little project that buoyed everyone up and enabled them to leave thinking that sewing is something they can do. Yay!

 We're going to start making our Kelly Skirts next week - I've made myself a new one to have on my dummy as a sample. I've had to be patient over finishing it - it took me a bit of trawling to find the right buttons. Who'd have guessed finding something to go on light blue chambray would be so tricky? In the end, after trawling my local shops and finding nothing pleasing - having no specific idea in mind is sometimes an impossible task - I tried searching `vintage buttons' on Ebay, and quickly found just the thing. I hope I still think the buttons are just the thing when they arrive...

This is my latest fabric to sew with. I've bought jersey from Dragonfly Fabrics before and liked it, so I felt confident ordering more from there for making the new SewOverIt cowl top.

Buying this pattern and fabric gave me just the motivation I needed to stop being a baby about my overlocker. Mum bought it for me as a surprise birthday present a couple of years ago - I've used it on and off, but have been known to sulkily put it back in its box for long periods of time whenever it has come unthreaded and Mum is not on hand to help. Last weekend, I finally got the instructions out and took the time to calmly rethread the whole thing. I think it helped that I set myself that as my goal, and nothing else - no sewing, just to conquer (well, sort of) The Beast, as I call it.

Hurrah. Yes, that is a threaded machine you see before you.

Hello, Gertie - we meet again. Ready for a spruce up?
So, here's my five happy things I am going to do for me this weekend:

1. Sew another top - and maybe the buttons on my skirt if they arrive in time

2. Spend time outside - hopefully a run (feeling well and winter lurgy free for first time in months - yippee!); head out somewhere with the girls, and, plant my five seed potatoes

3. Bake and eat bread - the white variety you can slice into great thick slices, in case you're wondering

4. Call a friend that I haven't spoken to in ages

5. Step away from social media

Have a lovely weekend, whatever you get up to!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Notebook winner

Hey friends.

The Middle Girl was up early today, so I got her on the case of organising the draw for the notebook competition.

All your choices of favourite cakes got me wishing I had some in front of me.

And the winner is...

Rachael's favourite cake was Lemon Meringue Pie (yes, technically a pie not a cake, but it's one of my favs too...) and she wanted to give the book to her pal Rebekah, who bakes legendary cakes.

Rachael, if you get in touch and let me know details about where to post your prize, I'll get it to you/your friend as soon as possible.

Happy Friday, everyone - hope you have a nice weekend!