Monthly Archives: April 2013

Stash busting fish and beach huts – Laurels 1and 2


I am ashamed to say that after all my best stash busting intentions at the beginning of the year I now have much more fabric now than I did when I made those pledges.

So what went wrong?  Mostly the London Sewing Meet Up.  I took quite a bit of fabric to swap and got rid of all but one piece.  I also brought loads more back. From the swap, plus my freebie from Abakhan, plus the stuff I bought.  The look on Mr T’s face when I wheeled my over flowing shopping trolley through the door was enough to make me realise that I had some serious stash busting to do this week.

Of course I already had the perfect pattern. Colette’s Laurel, with the added incentive of a competition.  Having seen all the wonderful versions already out there I don’t for one second think I will win anything.  Check out the pictures on Flickr.  I love Rachel’s, and Scruffy Badger’s,  and Kim has made four!  It did however help me make the decision to use that pattern and make whatever fabric I had work, rather than dithering for ages about which pattern, which fabric, etc etc etc…

So first up- I pulled out a scrap left over from our hall curtains. Beach huts! I live by the sea, we have beach huts.  And yes, I am that cliche – a Londoner who moves to the coast and decorates their house with seaside stuff.  Remembering Marie’s gorgeous beach hut skirt, I decided that it was something I could use.  Probably less than a metre though, so I’d need something else to match it with.  My blue sparkly denim from the meet up caught my eye.  It’s a very subtle sparkle, not in your face glitzy. Sparkly like the sea (sort of?)  And the red twill from the same place. Yep, I had a plan.

It came together amazingly easily.  I cut a size 4 at the shoulders, 6 everywhere else, and ended taking a bit more off the shoulders to narrow them. I would like to say I was scientific about my customising  but actually I just printed out the pattern, stuck it together then chopped it up making sure I lined up the different sections on the front and back and remembered to add a seam allowance.  I made the sleeves shorter and wider and the skirt a little more A-line for no better reason than I wanted to. I found that I needed to take in a couple of inches all the way down the centre back seam and was still able to get away with no zip.  So here it is, Laurel no. 1:


Beach hut Laurel 3

Beach hut Laurel 2


For Laurel no.2 I used a metre long piece of Michael Miller Goldfish cotton I got ages ago from SewBox when inspired by this corset on Burdastyle. It has been sitting in my stash for over a year and needed to be used.  I decided to pair it with some black cotton left over from my Macaron dress.  Again I just printed the pattern then cut it up and added seam allowances. Then I sewed it all together.  Again no zip needed.  This time I decided to get a bit fancy. First I added the ric rac, again from the stash. Doesn’t it remind you a little bit of fish scales? (Get her,  trying to make like she thought it all through 🙂  )  It still needed a little something so I cut a couple of fish from the remaining scraps, interfaced the backs and stitched them on the back shoulder, just above the hem and then on the front.  A while back I found this amazing clear thread, I think it was in a box of stuff from my grandmother, an obsessive quilter.  It looks a bit like fishing line,( how appropriate!) and meant I could sew them on invisibly. I did the same thing to try and hide where I’d blatantly failed to pattern match on the back seam. Why didn’t I just cut it from one piece of fabric? Duh- I already knew I wouldn’t need a zip. Finally my daughter decided it needed sequins so we destroyed a belt of hers that no longer fitted and after sticking them on with wonder tape to get the right positions I stitched them on with the same invisible thread to look like bubbles.  This is what we ended up with:

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A little OTT compared with my usual stuff but we had fun and I will definitely wear it. It was nice coming out of my comfort zone and trying techniques like applique and sequins and it has definitely encouraged me to make more effort with embellishments .

I love this pattern.  It’s so easy to chuck together and I have plans for more including at least two tops.  I may even get another dress finished before the competition deadline tonight.  The most difficult bit of these projects was getting photos. My camera is still out of action so apologies for the crappy iphone pics.  The pattern itself is a breeze, and now I’ve figured out the basic adjustments I needed to make it fit me the possibilities are infinite.

As I was sorting out my pictures for this post I remembered a really interesting post by Debi of My Happy Sewing Place on sewalongs and contests that made me think about my own motivation.  I don’t seriously expect to win, I have only been taking my sewing seriously for a short while and there are loads more deserving sewists out there who have made fabulous interpretations of this pattern. I’m still going to post my pics though, in the spirit of sharing ideas. (And you never know 🙂 ) However without the contest it would undoubtedly have taken me a lot longer to discover this fabulous pattern. Actually I don’t know if I would have bothered at all as it’s not a style I normally go for. Now though I can see myself making loads.  It has also motivated me to just get on with sewing instead of faffing about making endless plans, and encouraged me to start seriously attacking my ever growing stash. And best of all is seeing what everyone else comes up with and discovering fabulous new and inspiring  sewists.


‘The’ London meet up

zHwGr0UCA9yjUfA-hkFIpewhxu_f1bu0OpMkdKHgSQIYes, I was there!  That’s me, the one in the stripey Elisalex and the stupid grin, not quite able to believe how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many cool people. And what can I say that hasn’t already been said by most of the other 40 or 50 sewists who attended? I could report that despite appearances I have conclusive evidence that certain sewing bloggers actually stamp on puppies, steal ice creams from children, torture kittens, shop lift from charity shops and elbow old ladies off the pavement into oncoming traffic. I’d be lying though. Sewists really are as lovely as everyone says.

There were so many great moments – being complimented on my new stripey Elisalex by Elisalex herself and Charlotte from By Hand London! Chatting to people I felt I’d known for years like I really had known them for years, despite having never spoken to them except via our comments boxes.  Lizzy’s dopey koala story.  The food.  I could go on and on and on. Despite nerves I had possibly the most fun you can have sober and fully clothed. To be honest I would have been happy just to sit back and people watch. Everyone looked so fabulous in their me made clothes.  It would probably seem a bit sad to anyone else but I found myself getting ridiculously excited at being able to identify Roisin’s (But it can’t be from Dolly Clackett…) Elisalex,  Amy’s (Sylkotwist)  Simplicity 2444 and Alison’s (Another little crafty creation) Cambie. And anyone who thinks that sewing is the domain of granny types should just check out the photos:

Dw9DVvaL4oLRtRbpwJjrbhtBL7yQR7c-9GTTJKLnTBcAmy (Almond Rock), Sally (Charity Shop Chic), Katy (Sleek Silhouette), and me.

xNsBZj51q3j6gXtirl-5Q-1SkoQPTB-ulG8u9fzDjjwKaty, Karen (Did You Make That), Sally, Amy and Jane (Handmade Jane)

ceT-ksjwEEP38nmu-heBOV_oQOwnPMyHnYU5aY7ji8EGuest of honour Lizzy (Sew Busy Lizzy) and our wonderful organiser Rachel (House of Pinheiro)

v-zlAHy6OtklYoZgdLge_q3RQCANVvS_78qx6-89krcitpEtWbVmz4AnmkeBhl3ikWTNsPJNdQ1X38adeeK2yYThank god for Digpal Singh, the amazing photographer organised by Rachel who took all of the above. There are more here. I did take some pictures but when I got home I found my SD card was playing up – I lost half of them and I can’t transfer the others on to my computer so I only have a couple from my iphone.

Goldhawk Road was amazing but I was a bit overwhelmed and bought a lot less than I thought I would. Which was probably for the best.  A few metres of black cotton lacey stuff. Eyelet? I am still a bit crap at identifying fabrics. I also got some sparkly denim (I know, but there is method in my madness).  A couple of metres of red twill for a blatant copycat Miette skirt and some turquoise and black wool suiting that Emma (Vintage Ink Fairy)  spotted in the remnant bin. We both got enough for a pencil skirt for a  fiver each!  I was almost tempted when I saw Katy’s  prints, and Amy found actually found horses.  I managed to hold back but only because it was chiffon which I am not quite ready to tackle.

We completely took over the Cedar Village  and the food was was fabulous. I love Lebanese and totally stuffed my face with bread, dips and the most fabulous salad.  It took me by surprise when we were then asked if we were ready for the next course!  Next course?!  I have no idea where I put it all, but it would have been criminal to waste it.



After lunch was the swap. I couldn’t believe how much people brought – I got several bits of fabric and a whole bunch of patterns and even as I left I was still being encouraged to take

This lot is just a sample of what I came away with. I’ve been after the Gertie Butterick one for ages and after seeing this version by Tanit Isis I am desperate to try it. I’ve also seen some great versions of the Lisette dress, and the vintage pattern is gorgeous.  A big thank you to whoever donated these patterns, you have made me very happy. The denim with the gingham trim and cherries is from the lovely Nicole (Nicole’s Needles) and I love it. At the moment I’m thinking Cambie, but I may change my mind.  The blue is from Amy (Almond Rock) – definitely a skirt.  Anyway thank you to both of you. The green wavy stripe stuff was actually in my goodie bag from Abakhan along with a selection of pretty blue buttons.  A maxi dress, maybe? They and Minerva crafts   very generously provided a whole load of freebies. I already get a lot of stuff from both of them so the goodie bags were much appreciated.

So thank you to Rachel and Janene (Oobop) for organising and being as lovely in real life as I’d hoped, and everyone else I met for being charming, friendly, interesting, stylish and generally all round fabulous. I met a whole bunch of amazing, talented people, had a damn good laugh, ate fantastic food, swapped some stuff and came away with some excellent goodies. Now I just need to sign up for the next one.

Meet Up, Mad Men and Me Made May

First up – the London meet up. How cool was that?!  To be honest I am still coming down and when I do I will post about it properly but  I just wanted to say that you were all right. I had no reason to be nervous. Every single person I met was friendly, interesting, lovely and totally cool!  Aren’t sewists just the best? And a big thank you to the fabulous Rachel for her fantastic organisation, she really is a star. Can’t wait until the next one.

Right, next – the Mad Men challenge. I finished my dress – Yay!  But now my camera is refusing to let me see the photos. So I had to bribe my eight year old to take some with my iphone. And she does love a crazy camera angle, so these are the best of the bunch.  My inspiration came from this blue floral number worn by Betty in series four:


(picture from Tom and Lorenzo)

Mainly because I already had fabric and a pattern in my stash – Butterick 9269 from the early 60’s, that I have already made up once before so I wouldn’t need to do a muslin.


Okay, this is where I confess that I have only ever seen about five episodes of Mad Men. I can appreciate that it is good television and I did enjoy the episodes I watched.  I just prefer my TV viewing to have a few more murders. Or aliens. Or both.  I do love the clothes but that was not enough to hold my interest.  Maybe I should have persevered?

Anyway, in theory this should have been easy, and apart having to juggle sewing with small ill child (better now, yay!) it was.  The fabric was a bit of a pain. It is something called ‘microfibre’ which I now know means ‘slippery as feck and frays like a bastard’.  It was also quite thin and see through so I lined it with a white cotton sheet.  I took the side seams in a bit as my last attempt had a bit too much ease. I also tried to be clever and do a low back, which ended up making the whole neck gape. I fixed it with a couple of pleats in the front neckline. When I was researching what to make I noticed that a few of Joan’s outfits had this detail so I figured I could get away with it. The pattern is quite interesting in that there are little gathers at the sides of the front and back bodice instead of darts, which I quite liked. And the bit that looks like a waistband is actually a belt but I didn’t have a buckle so I used hooks and eyes for now.

Well here it is:

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photo (2)I’m so graceful (NOT)

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It was interesting making up this pattern again because it did allow me to see just how far I’ve come with my sewing.  I still have a lot to learn but it’s nice to be able to look back and see how much progress I’ve made. I think I’m getting there.

Finally –

‘I, Jo, of The Amazing Adventures of Taracat, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’13. I endeavour to wear at least one self made garment each day for the duration of May 2013, but I am allowing myself one day a week off if I need it.’

Looking for horses and pre-meet up nerves.

Check out this dress:


How gorgeous is that? Peter pan collar, tucks, and best of all – horses! It made me think a bit of Gertie and her love of My Little Ponies.



Unfortunately it isn’t mine.  My daughter got it for her birthday.  It is from Tesco’s, of all places. I actually went as far as looking in there to see if I could squeeze into one of the larger sizes before coming to my senses. Yes, back in my hard core kick boxing days (I wasn’t much good, but I was very toned) I was small enough to fit into larger children’s clothes, but those days are long gone. And anyway, isn’t there something slightly creepy about wearing the same clothes as you eight year old daughter?

However it has made me realise that I need horse print fabric. And I mean NEED.  I’m thinking horses and Miz Mozelle, or maybe the new Deere and Doe Reglisse or their Belladone, both of which have just dropped through my letter box after Ginger Makes convinced me that I needed them – check out her gorgeous lace Belladone. Now I know I could use Spoonflower to make my own fabric. I actually found some likely candidates already on there

http://Horses a Galloping - Salmon and Blue http://Wind Horses in Blue






but I am trying to sew on a budget (and stash bust, but I’m on track with that so I think I can allow myself this purchase). Spoonflower prices plus shipping are a bit more than I can justify at the moment. So this is one of the things that I will be hunting for on the Sewing Meet Up and Goldhawk Road pilgrimage on Saturday.

Anyone else going by the way?  It will be my first and I am so excited, but also a bit nervous. I mean, I feel like I know lots of the people going, but only through the interweb, and interweb is not real life. I am an introvert, or maybe it is just my natural British stand-offishness but I always feel when I interact with someone online that there is a fine line between friendly banter and coming across like a crazy stalker, which probably does make me hold back a little.  And obviously I will be wearing something that I have made. Not a problem in real life, people don’t tend to notice all the little errors and bodge jobs or they are too polite to say – but real life sewists? They are the experts, so they will easily be able to spot all my fudging. You can choose not to show all the dodgy bits on your blog, but in real life it’s a different matter.

Oh well – No Fear No Shame.  I’m going, and I’m going to have a bloody great time. My excitement is definitely stronger than my nerves and I can’t wait to meet all of you. I’ll be the one with the wonky top stitching, loose threads and the weird nervous grin if anyone wants to talk to me.

And first I’d like to thank…


Katy! For giving me a Liebster Award! The perfect antidote to being stuck in the plague house.  I am especially honored to receive this from Katy as her blog, Sleek Silhouette, is one of those that I always click on as soon as it appear in my blog reader. Katy is one of those people who really makes me want to up my game.  She has only been sewing a matter of months and is already producing work of amazing quality – check out her bombshell dress. She is a natural.


I had to look up the rules to the Liebster Award. The idea is to pass it on to blogs with less than 200 followers to raise awareness and get us seen. The other rules seem to vary but I am going to continue in the spirit it was awarded – answer ten questions, then award it to ten other blogs and ask them ten questions.

Here are the questions that Katy asked me, and my answers:

1. How did you get into sewing in the first place? I chose textiles as one of my options at school. Sadly, due to a personality clash with the teacher (sorry Mrs R, I admit I was a horrible attention seeking brat) I spent most lessons sitting in the corridor. Then in 2011 I bought a sewing machine on a whim and the obsession took hold.

2. What is your favourite part of sewing?  The beginning, when I have the idea and pick the fabric. Then those moments when you look up and realise hours have passed and you have been totally absorbed in what you are making. I’ve surprised myself by getting really into pressing. I don’t iron in real life but pressing is when what you are making starts to take on the shape and appearance of a real garment. And reading sewing blogs – does that count?

3. Have you tried designing your own clothes, is this something you’d like to try in the future? I think we all do this to a certain extent when we choose fabric, embellishments, adapt patterns, etc.. unless you are copying a real garment. As far as pattern drafting and the like, it is all a bit scary.  Katy has inspired me to have another go at making a block though.

4. What has been your favourite moment since starting your blog? Can I pick two? I actually started this blog a year or so ago when I first started sewing along with the Sew Weekly. I think I had been sewing for a couple of months. Then it stalled until I restarted this year, but getting my first followers back then totally blew my mind.  I still get a buzz when someone follows me or comments – someone out there is actually interested in what I have to say!  Secondly when I got my first Mathilde blouse featured in Tilly’s Makers Gallery. I had followed her blog since I started sewing, so she was like a sewing celebrity. Then she asked me for comments on it for this blog post. Tilly! Wanted my comments! God I sound really sad don’t I…

5. Is there anything challenging that you haven’t made yet but would like to ? I have a half-finished Anise jacket that I’m working up to finishing so  I think I will be investing in Karen’s new e-book on bound buttonholes to help me do them properly. I also want to do Gertie’s Butterick coat for next winter, and one day I will return to my bombshell dress.

6. What make are you most proud of? My blue geometric maxi dress, which was as close to self drafted as I have got.  My first Mathilde, because I get so many compliments when I wear it. Also my spotty Elisalex because I made the effort to do hand stitching for the first time and it was totally worth it.

blue b

7. What make are you most embarrassed by? Me and my mate Wanger have a saying that goes way back to our flat sharing days in our Rock Palace in South East London in our early 20’s – No Fear No Shame . I try to approach my sewing with the same attitude. I have learnt something from every project, even if it was a fail. Having said that, there is a particularly dodgy attempt at a green chiffon kaftan shoved at the back of my wardrobe awaiting refashioning.

8. What is the nicest compliment you’ve received for something you’ve made? I am always amazed when people ask me where I got something I made myself.  The biggie for me was when I was wearing my first Mathilde blouse in Harvey Nichols and was asked if I’d got it there. I realise they could have been being sarcastic, but I don’t care.

9. Do you have any aspirations for taking your sewing further, such as starting up a pattern label, opening a shop? I would love to be able to make a living out of this but I have no real plans.  However what I would really love to do is have a gin distillery and sell my own brand of Seamstress Gin.

10. Are you a perfectionist or a ‘get it done’ sewist?  I start out with the best intentions, but rapidly become a ‘get it done’ sewist.  There is just so much fabric out there to be used, so many patterns and so little time, especially when juggling work and children with sewing.  I really do want to try harder on making my insides presentable though. (Just think about how that sentence would sound to a non-sewist 🙂 )

Okay, now for my nominees.  This is really difficult, firstly because there are so many wonderful blogs to choose from.  I feel so fortunate to have discovered the online sewing community – who would have thought that so many kind, generous and interesting people are just a couple of clicks away? Secondly, which set of numbers do I use to calculate followers? I know that the number of followers I have on Bloglovin is different to the number that comes up on my WordPress dashboard. Does that mean it is just people who are following on Bloglovin?  And what about Twitter followers, or email subscribers.  I find it really hard to look at statistics without over analysing.  And I find it really hard to believe that some of the blogs I am nominating have less than 200 followers (you can stop yawning now). Anyway, based on Bloglovin’s statistics as they were the only ones I could find, I would like to nominate the following blogs, (who may or may not qualify or have already been nominated, so if you have received it before then feel free to do which ever part of the award suits) –

  1. Lynne at Ozzy Blackbeard- she has made some of my favourite versions of the Mathilde blouse, not to mention her fabulous green polka dot wrap dress.
    Next up is Good Purl Gone Bad – not just sewing, knitting too! I have recently started knitting again and she is an inspiration. And she is absolutely lovely.
    I am certain Kat has already had this award for her blog, Modern Vintage cupcakes, and probably has too many followers, but she totally deserves it so here it is again. Kat makes the most gorgeous wearable vintage-y clothes and has not let having a newborn knock her off her stride.
    Next is Loran at Loran’s World. Every week on the Sew Weekly I was totally blown away by her amazing creations. She is still at it, check out her Bowie inspired jacket.
    Kim-ing   never fails to entertain.  she is one of those people who can take a pattern that I wouldn’t necessarily look twice at and turn it into something stunning. Check out her amazing sparkly Deere and Doe coat,  and her Laurels 1 and 2.  I can’t wait to see 3 and 4.
    Another Brighton blogger, I have been reading Beebee’s Vintage Dress since I started sewing. Stevie has organised real life meet ups and sewalongs as well as documenting her own sewing.
    I forget how I discovered Miss Parayim but I love her writing and can identify with a lot of what she says. And check out this dress!
    My Spanish is mostly picked up from Dora the Explorer so I read Isa’s blog, Only Lola through google translate. Check out her own designs and patterns.
    Cuckoo Chanel’s blog always makes me smile. She is such fun and I love everything she does.
    And finally Marguerite Designs.   The super talented Diane is one of the first sewing bloggers I checked out after seeing her creations on the Sew Weekly community forum.  She also made supportive comments on my early attempts at clothes making, and provided the fabric for my second Mathilde blouse.

My questions, some of which I’ve nicked from Katy and others, and which my chosen bloggers are under no pressure to answer, are as follows:

1. What made you start sewing?
2. What is your favourite make?
3. ..and your least favourite make?
4. Which of your projects has taught you the most, and what did you learn?
5. What proportion of your garments actually get worn in real life?
6. What do you do with your sewing fails? Bin? Recycle? Refashion?
7. Do you have a tried and tested pattern that you keep coming back to?
8. What garment made by another sewing blogger do you wish that you’d made?
9. What would you be doing in your spare time if you weren’t sewing?
10.  What has been your favourite moment since starting your blog?

Phew! That was a long post. I apologise if I was rambling – we are averaging three hours sleep a night here while waiting for the youngest’s pox to clear, so the fact that I have managed to string a sentence together at all is a minor miracle. Thank you for your patience.

From millionaire’s playground to plague house…

I must have picked up something nasty in the desert because I have had the flu for most of the time since I got back.  Then this evening I discovered spots on Daughter No. 2’s back that look suspiciously like chicken pox. At least it explains her mood swings over the last couple of days.  And Daughter No. 1 is convinced it’s all a conspiracy to ruin her birthday at the end of the week so needs lots of attention to convince her otherwise.

I did manage to make a start on my Mad Men 2 dress before I took to my bed but it has been strewn over the ironing board for days. Whether it will be finished in time remains to be seen.  And I had such great plans for the Laurel competition as well. I think I’ll just have to go with the flow and see what happens.  Right, apologies for such a miserable post but I’m going back to bed.

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