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Monday 10 March 2014

Makes for Children

Flashback Skinny Tee
Mum came up the weekend before last, and whilst she was here, I sat down and had a spot of over locker tuition from her. 

I have owned The Beast for a couple of years. I have pottered along, sporadically getting it out of its box and praying it didn't need rethreading whilst I was half way through making something, and being limited as to what I knew how to do with it. I decided that, in the safety of mum being nearby to help, it was time. I got the instruction book out, and had a play about and practise. 

And, while I was about it, fished out some impressively old WIPs and finished them. I am not sure if cutting out t shirt pieces (I used Rae's Skinny Flashback) and abandoning them into a box for two years even counts as a WIP, given no sewing had taken place. But still, last weekend was their time to get made. And, for me to discover they were now not only too small for the original recipients, but, almost too small for the next children down the line as well. That explains why I added the band at the bottom of the smaller t shirt. 

Fabric from Kitschy Coo
In the space of an evening, I managed to sew up five t shirts. It makes me wonder why I had left the first (pre cut) three makes unfinished for so long.

I gave in at midnight and went to bed. The next morning, the dining room was still a mess of threads and scraps EVERYWHERE. Like the sewing equivalent of the aftermath of a drunken house party party with lots of gate crashers. The middle girl wasted no time in getting creative with this little smiley face.

I didn't stop at the ready cut t shirts. I took the scissors to a few of my own old tops and made a couple of new things for the girls. I was particularly pleased with this (super early) birthday t shirt for the middle girl. She likes it, too - and it is now neatly folded in her drawer, ready for the big day. Maybe I should have had the self control not to let her see it until then, but I can't resist a spot of instant gratification when it comes to sharing my makes with people. And this way, she gets to feel excited about her birthday every time she opens her drawer to get dressed in the mornings.

Laura's Jolly Giraffe (made on the current course)
I am so enjoying teaching my groups - I have two on the go at the moment, and I get a real buzz from helping people new to sewing overcome their initial fear of using a machine. I like to watch as their confidence goes up as they successfully finished their first simple projects, and then listen in as the conversation amongst the group moves on to talking about what they'd like to make next. One of my current beginners says he wants to be able to sew his own cycling kit. Another one of my beginners didn't wait until the end of the course to get started - her daughter wanted to go to school on World Book Day dressed as Wendy from Peter Pan. She left last week's lesson (her second) telling me this, and today turned up with the outfit to show us. Awesome!

Nicola and the `Wendy' dress she made for her daughter
I say it to them all - there is nothing to worry about with sewing. Just go for it - the worst that happens is you end up unpicking something, and learning from that anyway. (Actually, in my case, the worst that happens is you burn your fabric with the iron, plod on making the project anyway in the vain hope the burn might not be too obvious, make more mistakes, and then the whole sorry project ends up in the bin. But that, dear friends, is another story.)

On a non sewing note, a really nice (and quite cute) development in the littlest big girl over the last week has been she has joined her big sister as an unstoppable force in making stuff with Sellotape. She made her own adjustments to her existing Wellies, so that they were in keeping for her own World Book Day costume of a dinosaur. She added the buttons so that she would be able to tell which way round her boots go on.

Finally, I have some cunning plans and clever tricks in store for the cupboard under the stairs. The process has now started, but here is a picture of how it looked just as I emptied everything out of it.

Thursday 6 March 2014

My First Coco

I really should be doing housework.

But, I could not wait a second longer to share my latest make.


I'll keep this post short and to the point. It is an instant `I like this dress a lot' hit for me. I feel good wearing it - and, after a long deliberation over which colour tights to wear with it (which nearly made us all late for school), I have worn it out in public less than twelve hours after finishing it.

The pattern is Tilly's Coco. If you have been living on the moon or not looked at any sewing blogs recently, you may not have picked up on it yet. But go and order yourself one right now, you hear me? Despite being made in the dreaded jersey, this dress was a dream to sew.  I managed the entire cutting out and sewing process in an evening, and that was with a deliberate take it slow and careful approach so as not to muck up this make. I used my ordinary machine, switching between a ball point needle for the seams and a twin needle for all the top stitching. Tilly's instructions are so clear that even a beginner could take the plunge into DIY clothing and come out with a good result. Plus, there are plenty of extra tips on her blog.

So, what did I enjoy most? Probably making a funnel neckline and the twin stitching turning out to be easier than anticipated. (I'll be honest and tell you that I wasn't entirely sure what a funnel neckline was until opening up the pattern, but now that I've got one, by golly I quite like it.)

As for the wearing, well, dilemma over tights aside, it is fast to slip on and get out of the house in the morning, and, it is the most comfortable dress I've come across. Perfect for chasing around after four children, then. And, as I have just had loads of compliments from my other mummy mates on the school run, I think I will be a bit braver over my clothes from now on. With red lippy, too (get me, eh?). I'll wear a bit more of my home made wardrobe on a day to day basis, instead of my jeans and t shirt uniform, and keeping the nice stuff for best.

Talking of which, I have just looked down and noticed a smear of something (snot?) on my cuff, that a small child has kindly left me as a parting gift, lest I get carried away in my funky new dress and forget who I really am. Just as well I have a couple more versions planned, then, ready for when this one goes in the wash (a smear of something doesn't warrant a wash yet, in case you were wondering).

As for my plans for the stripy one. Well now. Thanks so much for all the comments. I took them all on board, and sat down to order the fabric, only to discover both the favourites (A and C) had sold out! I guess I should have figured that might happen the week after Tilly recommended some places to buy some good quality jersey. D'oh. Still, on the bright side, I have gone for Something Completely Different instead. The stuff of fabric dreams, I tell you. More of that another time.

Have any of you made a Coco yet, or have one planned for this weekend's sewing? I'd love to hear from you if so.

The winners of my Fondant Fancy Kits are Sarah Stephenson, who said she loved the measuring tape fabric, and (I thought I'd go for two in the end) Gemma, who said she liked Fabric A the best. Ladies, please email me your details, and I will post your goodies out to you.

Now, where's that hoover?

[Update - I forgot to include the details of the fabric on the original post, and a number of people have asked about it. I bought mine from TissuFabrics - and it was a bargain at £3.99 per metre. I have also hacked back the sleeves to 3/4 length (as per the pattern, I realise!) and put cuffs back on them, and like the dress even more now.]

Thursday 27 February 2014

Win a Fondant Fancy Purse Kit

During yesterday's wardrobe clear out, I briefly opened up my sewing cupboard (also in my bedroom) and momentarily thought about having a tidy up of that, too. Out fell the remaining bobble purse frames, which I had bought in the run up to Christmas. In a bid not to become a future participant on Britain's Worst Hoarders (or whatever the programme is called), I thought it might be nice to do a little give away here on my blog.

I toyed with making another purse to give away. And then had a reality check on how much spare time I actually have (rather than triple accounting the amount of spare time I think I have). Besides, I am guessing most of my readers can probably sew, right?! So... here is what is up for grabs to you, my lovely readers - one fabric and frame combo like this...

...or another like this. Just let me know which one you like the best!

I used Lisa Lam's instructions when making my own Fondant Fancy purses - and you can find them here if you want to make your own. And readers of Mollie Makes will know you can get 10% off her shop with the code MD10 (I'm sure no one will mind me cheekily passing that information on, hee hee).

To be in with a chance, just leave a comment here.

To be in with a second chance, pop over to my last post and help me decide over my stripy dilemma, and I will enter your name twice.

And, to have a super duper third time lucky entry, share this post on Facebook or Twitter, link back to me, and I will enter you (yet) again. Woohoo. Hope you're feeling lucky!

Can't decide which fabric for my Coco - please help!

favourite shoes, skirt and purse
Good morning, my lovely readers.

The sun is shining here in Bedford, today, and so it has bought with it an optimistic feeling about my wardrobe. By this, I mean I am imagining myself skipping off for the school run (okay, power walking whilst encouraging my girls to scooter faster so we aren't late) without a coat on.

Coco pattern from Tilly and the Buttons
And, when it is warm enough to do that, I want to be wearing a stripy Coco dress. I am thinking blue and white, as the shoes I love wearing most are red. And, I would like some pockets on it - a bit like the mustard ones Tilly has used, only the pockets on the dress I am dreaming up are going to be green - because, that is my favourite and my best and so of course they will be that colour (you know you have spent too much time reading/watching Charlie and Lola when your own inner monologue starts to speak like Lola).

Yesterday, I spent the quiet morning slot (whilst only have the baby around) riffling through my wardrobe and all the various black sacks I had stuffed clothes into during the moving house and being pregnant months. Half way through this major sort out, I looked at my bedroom floor and the landing, and realised it reminded me of that old advert for Yellow Pages, where the girl comes into the boy's flat and sees the mess and assumes he has been burgled.

FIRM FAVOURITES: Amy Butlet Lotus Tunics, a couple of infinity scarves, a Ginger Skirt, (another) Lisette 2211 and two Kelly Skirts
I sorted my clothes into piles - those that are hand made and those that are not. Not because one is necessarily better than the other - but more for me to see them all laid out in one place again, and, in the case of the hand made things, appreciate quite how much I had ended up with.
MEDIOCRE PILE (Gosh, I got my money's worth out of that Lisette 2211 pattern!)
After that, I sorted each of the two piles (hand made and shop bought) into sub piles. Those I liked and fitted; those I liked and would need to breathe in a lot and accept a certain amount of bulge if I was to wear them right now; those I had made but in all honesty didn't love enough to wear that much; and those that were out and out rejects and were not likely to see the light of day any time soon.

Lisette 2211 made with gorgeous red wool from Nottingham
In the first category, came a few happy rediscoveries - such as my red woollen skirt (Lisette 2211) - where I had just got lazy in my jeans, t shirt and cardigan habit and forgotten to wear. What I noticed, is that skirts tend to be the big success stories in my hand made wardrobe so far. The Kelly Skirts would both join the red skirt in this category. The two Amy Butler dresses (Lotus Tunic) also fell into the hand made and love wearing category, but these get less wear mainly because they are not stretchy and are therefore not massively comfortable for chasing around and bending down looking after children. I do still feel wonderful wearing them for special occasions.

RARELY WORN: Jasmine tops (x3); Liberty Tunic (another version of Lisette 2211 with Peter Pan collar added), skirts with flounces I no longer like, and my gorgeous polka dot silk maternity dress/tent (this will be refashioned)
The final (failure) category was made up of a variety of things - some that I had just leapt in without enough thought over fabric and had therefore sewn something that I don't love wearing; some that I have fallen out of love with the style; and, some that I think could be chopped up and made into something new. More of that clever and cunning plan in a future post (if I ever fulfil the plan, of course!).

But, back to the wardrobe, and the purpose of this post.

I am glad I bothered to empty my clothes all over the floor yesterday, because I think it has given me a bit more clarity over what I like and what I don't when it comes to my clothes. It has also given me a better sense of where the genuine gaps are, too. I have a bad habit of impulse buying some fabric on a whim, only to realise too late that I have made myself a garment that doesn't really go with anything else I wear, and therefore becomes redundant.

Some running needs to happen before these look decent!
I like stripes. I like stretchy clothing. I am confident the Coco is going to become a wardrobe staple for me. A firm favourite that will make me feel good when I put it on.

Well worn but faded
And this is where I'd like your help deciding. Tilly's blog is full of inspiration and useful advice, including where to buy fabrics for Coco. I have been looking. But, without breaking the bank and ordering all the ones I like, I need to make a choice. 

Fabric A
Fabric B

Fabric C
Fabric D
And the criteria (so I avoid making another thing that doesn't work with the wardrobe I have) is that it will be the dress version of Coco with green pockets, and will be worn with red shoes (and black leggings on cooler (for that read `haven't shaved my legs for quite a while') days.

Please can you comment - either below or on the Facebook or Twitter feed, and I'll hold off ordering until after the weekend when I have hopefully had a few replies and a firm favourite is coming through. I have a little treat I plan to gift to one lucky reader who comments - more about that in the next post (need to snap a picture first). Thanks, everyone - and feel free to comment away!

Tuesday 25 February 2014

My Fun Skirt

Pattern from Sew Serendipity by Kate Wyatt
It was a beautiful morning yesterday. I have a little tree in my front garden, and the blossom on it looked so stunning against the blue sky that I couldn't resist taking a picture or two with the intention of including it in this post.

This one little act was clearly the kiss of death. The weather gods have noticed, and even overheard my optimistic murmurings about spring being on its way, and punished us all with torrential rain and grey skies. Local readers, for this, I am truly sorry. If it makes up for it, I am sporting the drowned rat look with spectacularly bedraggled looking fringe and rain all over spectacles.

Ready for the obligatory awkward looking self timer picture?

This skirt has taken me about three times longer to make than it should have done. And it took me back to being fourteen, when, my poor mother made me a dress for a very special occasion. Back then, no amount of persuading would convince me that the right side of the satiny fabric I had chosen was in fact the right side, and, it being the right side, the side that the finished garment would look best showing. My mum finished the entire thing, only for me to look at her and tell her I would rather she had made it on the shiny side after all. It was (like this skirt) made up of panels. How she did not murder me on the spot I will never know. As I remember it, she smiled (no doubt through gritted teeth) and said, `Okay', before unpicking the whole lot and making it the way she had tried to tell me it should have been in the first place.

The story of this skirt, and why it needed to be unpicked and made again, was that I finished it (all bar the ruffle at the bottom) and decided I didn't like one of the fabrics I had chosen for two of the four side panels.

Only once I could see the skirt looking wrong did I get a sudden clarity over how it would look right.

Much, much, much unpicking was needed. An entire evening of it. Because, I had well and truly finished off every raw edge in sight with that super over locker of mine. And while I was about it, I unpicked and re did the zip, too. This time, having bought a dark zip that matched the purple fabric, instead of the pale pink one I tried to convince myself wouldn't show. Silly girl.

The fabrics I used were all from Fabric Rehab, and were as follows:

Foxtrot Purple and Urbanista Glasses, both by Michael Miller, and, Vintage Rulers (not sure of the designer), Bella Solids in Eggplant and Dove.

I made the pocket detailing with some applique - the template came from Mollie Makes, so I didn't even need to come up with one myself.

And now, well, I do rather like my skirt. It is completely unique (there are probably not many skirts for grown ups with squirrels and foxes on the front), it has fabrics in it that I love and make me smile. I feel good wearing it. All that unpicking was worth it.

Sunday 23 February 2014

Um, so what exactly have I done this week...?

The middle girl's finished pony 
It is Sunday night, and the girls go back to school tomorrow. I have managed to find all the bits of PE kit, have made some oat and raisin cookies with Smarties on top for their lunch boxes (and, let's be honest, for me to help myself to as well), have failed to remember to remind them to do the homework they were meant to do (some do as a family hands on junk modelling torture related to their topics)... but have no idea where the time has gone.

There were (burnt) pancakes for breakfast to celebrate the start of half term. There is nothing like the dash from the kitchen to half way up the stairs to switch the smoke alarm off to get you going first thing in the morning.

There was a distinct moment - about half an hour into Tuesday morning - when I remember thinking that an old fashioned nanny would be an excellent thing. I'd been baking with the girls - and we had got everything into the oven, and it wasn't even half past ten. I thought to myself - look at all this mess, and (then as I looked at the clock) how many hours until bedtime?!

The littlest big girl has taken to requesting porridge oats for her pony. I indulged her with this for a couple of days, until she scattered them everywhere, at which point grumpy mummy took over, and the pony went hungry for the rest of the week.

We got the pasta machine out and had some success at making our own fresh pasta. I must admit, I bought this machine for the hubby over a decade ago, and we have used it less times than the number of children we now have. But now, having used it twice in as many weeks, I have discovered this to be a good way to fill an hour or so on a wet weekend - the girls absolutely loved doing the winding.

The middle girl finally put some hair on her pony. And then gave it a trim. The less said about this the better. She is not happy. It puts me in mind of my own Barbie hair cutting trauma some thirty years ago.

She has gone through a worrying development of late of describing many of the things she does (that are not perfect in her eyes) as `rubbish'. The pony now falls into that category, and she will not play with it.

One day in the week (I cannot remember which!) the biggest girl noticed a rainbow out of the window. We raced upstairs to the attic, and enjoyed a great view of it.

After the total sewing failure of Tuesday night (it still hurts to think about it), I had a triumph over the beast moment. Rethreading the over locker. Enough said. Okay, so it took the best part of an hour, but who cares. I did it!

And now, I am about to go and finish off this skirt. Yes. This is a skirt. A bit crazy, but I am going to enjoy wearing it. I think...

There has been a lot of unpicking involved. And, if I stop and say much more about the full saga that has been this skirt right now, I will miss my opportunity to go and finish it before bed.

Hope you've had a good week!

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Out of the mouths of babes

There's a new cafe just opened round the corner from our house - a play cafe, no less. This, readers, has been a source of some excitement amongst the girls. Train sets, soft play, stools with pencils for legs - all this had been spied by the girls through the windows before the place was finished.

We went there as a family today - and, although the hubby was slightly delayed by an unfortunate wife-locked-keys-in-house incident - a good time was had by all. This appears to be a most excellent place in terms of increasing parents' chances of having a conversation together. 

The biggest girl came home and wrote a review (!). Daughter of teachers, I know... I may yet manage to persuade her to type it up and put it on here. But, here is a snippet I just had to share, purely for its `out of the mouths of babes' factor. It made us both laugh, anyhow.

"Gemma did not get nearly as cross as Mummy did when Rachael spilt her drink"
On other news, the Great British Sewing Bee started again last night. I did not watch it (am about to catch up now) because I was having a MAJOR SEWING FAILURE of my own round at my friend Annabel's house. I think it is quite possibly my most magnificent flop yet (we are talking chuck the whole darn thing in the bin due to multiple irredeemable errors) and the irony of this timing is not lost on me. If I can bring myself to, I will take pictures for your amusement. But, at least I have a response for the next time someone says to me I should apply for the next series. 

The producers contacted me (as they no doubt did a gazillion other sewing bloggers, before anyone reads anything into that) to ask me to pass the application details onto my readers. Here's the link and applications close on 16th March - go for it! I promise to cheer from the comfort of my sofa if you get on.

Anyhow, time for a wonderful hour of viewing pleasure - who knows, it might help my own sewing along - ready, steady, sew!