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Friday, 28 April 2017

Vintage Shirt Dress

Hurrah for Friday! Another busy week has passed, and I'm really happy that we've got a three day weekend ahead of us to enjoy. My girls are just about in bed, my husband is crashed out, too (having nobly survived a week in which he has in fact been terribly ill, but has soldiered on), and so I have a joyous evening of guilt free sewing in front of me. Tonight, for the first time in a decade, I went back to my old running club, and took part in a speed session. High on the fact I met my target of not being the slowest person there, and, having had a very good time in the process, I am going to try and hold off the biscuits this evening. (Perhaps limit it to single figures...)

A couple of annoying things happened last weekend. Daughter Number Two accidentally broke the prized Harry Potter wand belonging to Daughter Number One. And, our garage was raided, and my lovely mint green bike that I used for getting to work was among the things taken. Things are in perspective again now - the girls are just about back on good terms (until the next disaster), and, although an unwanted expense I could have done without, the new identical twin of the old bike is much shinier.

I've declared that sandals season has started. This means bare legs from now until the end of summer, and no random drops in temperature will hinder me. However chilly my toes may feel, I will not under any circumstances admit to that being the case. As ever, the small things in life delight me, such as a new bottle of nail polish in just the right shade of red, and, the wearing of a dress that has bicycles on it when riding a beautiful bicycle.

I made myself this dress a few weeks ago, on a rare morning at home on my own. It is Liberty lawn (again), fully lined with some cute white cotton with tiny pale blue and turquoise stars on it, to give it the structure I wanted. The main part of the making went smoothly, and I enjoyed my first time with this pattern. I like the way the front bodice is gathered at the shoulders, as I think this looks flattering on. The sizing is a bit generous in my opinion, and I'm glad I veered towards a smaller size than the measurements might have led me to. I went for the sleeveless option and hand finished the bias binding on the inside, and am very pleased with the result. I can definitely imagine making another, but with sleeves, and maybe out of a needlecord or something warmer, for the autumn.

With my time running out, I made the stupid mistake of rushing to finish, and made a couple of silly mistakes - namely, ripping through too far on a buttonhole, and also, I now realise (it took me a while!) that I put the buttons on the wrong side. I'm not that bothered by either - the button hole has been carefully hand stitched back up, and is now hidden by a button anyway, and no one else will notice or care about the buttons being on the wrong way. The dress itself strikes me as very fresh and summery with the white background. I might have a look for a nice red belt to go with it now.

My next dress is cut out and ready to sew, so I'll sign off now and make the most of some free time.

Fancy Bakery on Roff Avenue, Bedford
BOOK HERE for this coming Thursday, 7.30-10pm
If any readers are local to Bedford, you might be interested to know there's a second Sewing Club night happening this coming week at Fancy. It's a casual affair - sewing, cake and chat - you can follow us on Facebook for more updates.

Happy sewing, everyone.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Dress making season is here

Hello readers.

I snapped this picture a couple of weeks ago to capture a memory of a happy mood, as I set off on the train to Brighton, ready to take part in the marathon there with my friend, Gis. We seem to be a bit unlucky with our marathon weather, as, for the second year running, we found ourselves going the distance on the hottest day of the year so far. Yikes. Anyhow, we did it - thanks to sheer bloody-mindedness, and, the thought of posh cocktails at The Grand. 

I've been on a dress making spree over the last month or so, and I still have a couple more planned in my head. I know I'm not alone in associating the spring with a strong desire to sew dresses ready for the warmer weather that is about to follow. This Betty dress has become my favourite - I absolutely love the fabric. It is a border print that I bought from a stall at a sewing show with Mum - I had already spent the budget I had mentally allocated for the day, and then, well, this beauty caught my eye.

Term has started back again, and my spare time has vanished with it. But, I have a plan. With the announcement of another election, I think I have found the push I need to quit social media until after it is done. That should take away one distraction, and free up some time for dress making and other lovely stuff.

Happy weekend, one and all. I hope you manage to squeeze in some sewing time.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Liberty knicker making workshops

`I'd like a pair with dinosaurs on, please.' So said the youngest girl, as she watched me make these Liberty knickers. `Er, I'll see what I can do,' was my reply to my Pin Cushion Girl. She sits at my side sometimes, rearranging my pins into colour themed patterns.  

Two years have passed since I first started making my own undies, and I haven't looked back. I've tried various patterns, in jerseys and woven. The Liberty ones are my favourites - the fine tana lawn feels wonderful, and for me, the array of colour in the designs beats boring black pants any day of the week.

I made a couple of pairs this afternoon, and then realised what I was sewing coordinated quite nicely with the new dress I was wearing. Ha! I haven't photographed it yet, but it is my first go at a Sew Over It Betty Dress, using some to die for Japanese border print I bought with my mum a couple of weekends ago. Watch this space for more dresses, as the spring has got me right in the mood for sewing dresses.

I'll have to resist the temptation to put these latest knickers in my undies drawer just yet, as they are samples for my next workshops. This coming Friday is a double whammy for knicker making - I'm holding an afternoon session and an evening one. The evening has been full for a while now, but there are a couple of spaces left for the afternoon one, should you fancy some sewing escapism, with something pretty to wear for your efforts. And, as part of my campaign to banish boring pants, I'm putting on another set of knicker making workshops next month. They cost £25, and this includes all materials, and copious amounts of tea and cake. You can book here.


There's one more thing I'm excited to tell you about. Sewing Club!

I've been thinking about doing this for ages, and the first one is on Thursday 30th March. We'll be meeting at Fancy (otherwise known as the best place to enjoy cake in Bedford), and it's a turn up and sew and chat kind of thing. It'll be not for profit - a £5 to cover the cost of hiring the venue for the evening, and, anything leftover will in time go towards kitting out the club with useful little things like extension cables and irons. Places will need to be limited, so do book if you want to come.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Making a Harry Potter Robe

When I first started sewing, most of the things I made were either for my children, or, for other people's children. The balance of what I sew has shifted away from that, because I now get a lot of enjoyment from making clothes for myself. But, from time to time, I indulge my children and sew them something they have asked for. It is generally quite gratifying to do this (if you ignore the times when they change the design brief half way through me making it). Part of me hopes that directing my sewing super powers at them makes some amends for my super shouting ability that I direct at them on a regular basis. Time will tell!

When I made my 8 year old a Harry Potter robe for Christmas, it was so admired by my 10 year old, that I promised her I'd make her one too. Give the girl her due, she knows me well, and has been patient about waiting for me to come good on the robe. During that time, she and her sister have sort of bonded over all things Potter. This, I should say, has been a welcome change to normal. They usually drive me to distraction with their capacity for arguing and winding each other up by looking at each other the wrong way, or making stupid noises that are aimed at annoying the other one into an eruption resulting in trouble. Thank you JK Rowling - you seem to have caused a cease fire in this household. World Book day this Thursday seemed like a reasonable deadline for my eldest Harry Potter fan to be able to wear her long awaited robe.

 The robe came together in under a couple of hours - I am sure I could have made it a bit more perfect (such as including a hood), but, well, I take a `good enough' approach when it comes to sewing things like this. There are limits to my devotion.

One addition I made second time round, at the request of the 8 year old, was a wand pocket. She thought it should be on the left hand inside part of the robe, and so I duly obeyed. Adding her one after the robe was finished has meant it is literally just a patch pocket, and the stitching shows through on the right side, but, meh - since having the new pocket, she has been too busy grabbing her wand and thrusting it in her sisters' faces whilst yelling something in Latin to care about those details.

If you have a young Harry Potter fan in your life, that you feel inclined to indulge with a robe, it may be useful to know you can buy the house badges very easily from Ebay. I am hoping the postman will deliver my Ravenclaw one in time for the biggest girl's robe to be completed for Thursday.

Here is a rough outline of how I made the robes:

1. Start with 1.5 metres of 150 cm wide black drill, and also, the same amount of lining in whatever colour cotton is appropriate for the house you are making.
2. Cut across the width a length that is 110 cm (or whatever height you decide - I was making this for a 10 year old girl).
3. From that piece, cut two long strips each 40 cm for the fronts.
4. Pin them onto the remaining back piece, to make very basic shoulders.
5. Drape this over the shoulders of your Harry Potter fan, and start pinning the whole thing into pleats, until you are left with something that fits.

6. Shape the shoulders at angles, so they are less boxy.

7. With the remaining piece of fabric, make your sleeves. First measure how long they need to be, double over your fabric, and cut shapes that are angled into wizard like sleeves (see below).

8. Assemble the robe. The lining (if you decide to do one) is made by treating the outer and the lining as one, until you get to the point of inserting sleeves and doing side seams. So, pin the lining pleats with the outer ones. Baste them all into place, sew the shoulder seams, and then get on and insert the sleeves. I use a very simple method of inserting the sleeves as you would a t-shirt - sew the shoulder section and then sew the under arms. Once the sleeves are in, flap the lining back, and sew the sleeve under arm seams and go right down to the side seams. Then pull back the lining, and stitch those side seams, so that all the raw edges are hidden.

9. Finish all the edges! If you are putting in a wand pocket (and let's face it, the girls really like this part of their robes), it will look neater to put this in before folding the vertical outer front hems over the lining - hopefully that makes sense. Most of my edges are just finished a bit like curtains. I must admit, I machine stitched the second robe, as I couldn't be bothered to hand stitch everything second time round.

10. A hood? I have had requests for a hood, and may try and add this on. Not sure about the exact shape to get the right look, but I will share this method with you if I do it. The general impression is there without the hood, so perhaps I won't worry about it too much if I don't get round to it!

I hope that all made sense. Do you sew dressing up things for children? I'd love to hear about them.

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...