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Friday, 17 February 2017

Geometric Brocade Megan

I have fallen out of the habit of writing about all the things I sew. But, as I like this dress a lot, and, the inspiration for it came from reading one of my favourite blogs, I thought I'd do a post.

It has been a pretty disappointing half term in this house - a sick bug worked its way though the house.  The low point of the week was when, after a couple of days clear of illness, I was woken to the news someone had been sick again. And worse still, in their bed. Changing beds in the middle of the night is pretty hideous, and, whilst I can now laugh at the comedy of desperately asking another child to run downstairs and fetch a sick bowl so I could empty the large pool of vomit I was trying to hold on the duvet before it spilled all over of the top bunk mattress I was crouched on, it was not funny at 5 am.

Although it has been frustrating to lose time off we'd all been looking forward to, it hasn't been all bad. Thank goodness for the washing machine is my mantra. In the first phase of the house of poorly people, there was a period of 24 hours or so where myself and the eldest girl were the well ones, and everyone else was a bit floppy. We felt bad saying it, but it was nice and quiet, and we had a nice day just the two of us. We hacked back some things in the garden (I have always found balancing on a step ladder and pruning things exhilarating), we played games, and, when popping out to get supplies for the poorly people, we even sneaked in a cafe trip. I think my new necklace must have arrived in the post the day before, because, I also talked the big girl into taking a couple of snaps of me in my new dress.

I am super pleased with this latest Megan dress, perhaps because the brocade is so different to anything else I have. I am not one bit embarrassed about how many versions of the pattern I have in my wardrobe now. There might be tons of other patterns out there, but sometimes it is good to return to old favourites, as you have cracked the fit and wear them lots.

I bought this lovely brocade on our latest Bedford girls hit Goldhawk Road fabric shopping trip - as did a couple of other people with me. Several shops had it - sadly I overpaid a little, but at £4 a metre, who cares. The sparkle in the dress makes it look expensive, but knowing I have only spent a smallish amount on this, I won't hesitate to wear it to school. Sewing for me is about seeing a beautiful fabric and picturing it as something you'd love to wear. I don't keep things for best, because I get much more pleasure out of wearing things on an everyday basis - I feel happy and proud wearing something I have made. Failing unexpected snow, this is what I'll be wearing for my first day back at school.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Fancy Purse Workshops

Fancy Purse Workshop, Friday 24th February

I've named these purses after my favourite cake shop, Fancy, where I live in Bedford. When it's cold and grey outside, I need cake in my life even more than normal.

When I sneak off for a big fat slice of cake at Fancy, these little purses are the perfect size to fit in the essentials, and slip into my coat pocket. No phone, just a book under my arm, and off I go for a little bit of sanity time. Who am I kidding - the book is generally for appearances - I am a very slow reader and barely get any reading done whilst in a cafe by myself, because I am too busy stuffing my face with cake and ear wigging other people's conversations.

I made this batch up purses with my next workshops in mind - it took me ages to choose which Liberty prints to use, but the sewing was pretty easy. It's fun to make something little like this that comes together quickly, to give a gratifying "I made that!" boost to your day.

And, by the way, I'm declaring it an unlimited tea and cake affair for this round of workshops. It is winter, and we need it. Regulars know that I'm always open to requests, so feel free to tell me yours if you book a place.

The workshops will be on Friday 24th February, and there's an afternoon and an evening one happening.

Now my problem is limiting myself to just one purse. Maybe I should randomly give them to friends as little unexpected gifts to perk up February. I do not need anymore Liberty prints in my life. Really. Maybe a couple or so.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Hooray for Friday!

As I type, I am still rather snuffly with a cold. But, I feel pretty jubilant for having got to Friday without a day off work, and, a smile on my face. The prospect of pizza, wine and chocolate in a few hours is also helping.

My students at school were surprisingly nice when greeted with a teacher who could barely speak above a whisper. Teenagers can muster up sympathy, it turns out.

Last Saturday, I had my six monthly jolly down to Goldhawk Road and Liberty. After buying some pretty lawns for Granville shirts and some bright wool blends for Arielle skirts, I thought I was doing well at keeping to budget - until I stumbled into Misan fabrics and saw the mustard wool in the middle of the above photo. It had to come home with me.

On my dining room table, ready to be made into a Megan dress once my girls are in bed later, is some gorgeous sparkly brocade. I thought I'd got myself a bargain when the guy in Classic Textiles said he would let me have it for £4 instead of £4.50 a metre - only to find it in another shop across the road for a bit less. Still, with lining, and a zip, I'm not too disappointed with the prospect of a nice new spring dress for around a tenner. 

Also cut and ready to go is this birdie Granville. This cotton was another Classic Textiles bargain, at £4.50 a metre. Now I have made the pattern several times over, I know I can get a shirt out of just a metre and a half. I'll be sewing this alongside my current Granville Shirt Course gang. I can't decide over buttons - whether to tie myself into colour, or, whether to go neutral with the glass ones. Thoughts?

Once those two makes are finished, next up will be a summer dress. I splurged and bought myself this Betsy print just before Christmas - I just about got away with getting it dried on the washing line today before the sky clouded over. Enough of winter now, I say - I'd like weather for dresses and bare legs, please.


I've been enjoying teaching my sewing courses. With the kettle on, cake out and plenty of chat as the sewing happens, the time always seems to fly by. Last week saw the end of another Complete Beginners' Course and another bunch of lovely ladies looking chuffed with their new skills. I don't think I'll ever tire of teaching people to sew something for the first time - it is so satisfying to share something that you enjoy doing, and to watch others make something they are proud of. I count myself lucky to be doing this - I sometimes find myself wondering whether it would be possible to make a jump and try and grow this side of my life into something a bit bigger. We'll see...

I'm planning a couple of one off `Hooray for Friday!' sewing workshops - the popular knicker workshop is back, and also cute little framed purses. For the first time, I'm going to try and see if people fancy a spot of daytime sewing with me. All the details are here if you want to check them out. And, for one day only, because it's the weekend, well, here's a fiver off... 


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...