Monthly Archives: June 2013

My Miette, and more twunting about on the beach…

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It’s about time I blogged the skirt that I wore to the Brummie Meet up.  It is Miette, Tilly’s second pattern and it has been in my ‘to make’ queue for a long time, ever since I saw Marie’s gorgeous versions, as well as all the ones in Tilly’s makers gallery.  It took a while to find the right fabric so when I saw this embroidered denim in my local fabric shop a couple of weeks ago I persuaded myself I had to have it.  It has anchors! As you know I am a sucker for anything nautical and ended up paying a bit more than I usually would, but this turned out to be a good thing because it meant that I took a bit more care over this skirt.

Making Miette also coincided with the discovery of this little gadget in the box of bits that came with my second hand Bernina:

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I believe it is supposed to be a blindstitch foot but it doesn’t half make topstitching easier.  Actually I got a bit carried away and top stitched almost everything – ignore the hole for the tie, it looks a bit crap close up but it’s not noticeable when worn.  I added ric rac because I could:

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And check out these seam finishes:

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Bloody gorgeous!

There is very little to add about the construction that hasn’t already been said. I did consult Tilly’s detailed photo instructions but even without them this skirt is piece of pish to put together.  No fastenings to faff about with, I think the most time consuming part was turning the ties right way out.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this to any beginners or a more experienced sewist looking for a quick satisying project.

So that’s the construction, but how does it stand up to being worn?  I was a bit concerned about the wrapping over. Would it stay wrapped, especially on a windy English beach?  I did not fancy prancing about in public thinking I look great only to find out that I had been flashing my kegs at all and sundry.  Well there was only one way to find out, and fingers crossed there weren’t too many people around to witness my twunting about with a camera and any possible wardrobe malfunctions.

As well as my camera and gorilla pod I also armed myself with Rachel House of Pinheiro’s top tips on posing.  This is me completely ignoring her advice to breathe. Note the slightly constipated expression.

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….and exhale

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From behind, with legs facing to the side to slim my torso.  But not my arse, apparently…

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See, nothing to see here, folks.  I don’t seem to be flashing anyone yet, but there is only one way to really test it….

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Ooops! I appear to have dropped something!

Conclusive proof that this garment is completely safe.  Despite being a wrap skirt you cannot see my buttocks even when bending over. (And I’m really looking forward to seeing the search terms that come up on my stats now 🙂 )

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Time for a rest, and another of Rachel’s tips – position the slimmest or smallest parts of your body closer to the camera and the larger parts further away. My feet are very small, size three and a half, while my head is disproportionately large. But from this picture you would never guess.

So there you have it, my Miette Skirt. I love it. It has anchors, huge pockets, ric rac and no complicated fastenings. It held up well on the beach, kept me going through a drenching and a fabric scrum in Brum and has been worn quite a few times since then. And I also survived the photo shoot.  Thank you Rachel for your wonderful tips, I totally recommend them to all of you, especially if you make a bit more effort with them than I did.  I had a laugh but I think it may take a bit more work before I manage to look as gorgeous as Rachel does in photos.

I got a Space!

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Emmie has been asking people over on her blog to show off their stash and their sewing spaces, but up until now I didn’t see much point. Above is what my stash looked like two months after I started sewing. I would need a wide angle lens to get it all in one picture now.

As for sewing space, well I have made no secret of my yearning for a room of my own, or at least a dedicated space to sew.  Actually my kitchen table is perfect for my needs. However I have been mostly relegated to a small wobbly desk in the corner of the kitchen because the other members of my family are under the misguided impression that this table is for homework, painting, play dough and of course eating.  Which is very inconvenient because they are messy eaters. There is nothing more annoying than cutting something out and starting to sew only to find that whoever was supposed to wipe the table missed a large glob of ketchup that is now well and truly ironed into your fabric. Annoyed? Oh yes….

It was this incident that prompted me to call our local builder to get a quote for a loft extension. Which in turn finally got the message through to my darling husband.  So last weekend he asked me for a list of what I needed to get my stuff organised and headed off to Ikea.  At this point I would just like to say that I am not some feeble little woman who needs permission to buy storage units, and I am more than capable of getting them myself but the idea of doing it with children in tow is my idea of Hell and Ikea only deliver at times when I am at work, so I have been putting it off.

While he was out I roped in some help to clear out the corner that I have been using.

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Child labour? Moi….?

I am lucky that Mr Taracat is a carpenter. Those flat packs are not as simple to put together as you would expect. There was swearing.

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He got me the Micke Workstation,  which is the perfect size for the space and just big enough for my sewing machine and overlocker.  It has a cupboard for my patterns, a big drawer where I store my work in progress and shelves and another little drawer for thread, notions, scissors, etc…  He also got me a load of Kassett boxes to keep fabric and haberdashery in.

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It still looks a bit messy here as I was so keen to try it all out that I forgot to take photos before I started using it. He also got me a proper swivel chair which has given my girls hours of amusement spinning round on it at high speed until they are really dizzy and then trying to walk. And yes, I did join in.

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The notice board at the back is magnetic, so perfect for pinning up instructions as well as other lovely sewing related stuff.  And the ledge on the top is wide enough and sturdy enough for me to balance all the boxes on. I am ashamed to say that they are all full of fabric, notions and patterns.

So there you have it – my new sewing space.  I need to say a really big thank you to my wonderful husband for making it happen.  He is currently at Glastonbury, where he will be ‘working’ for the next week, so I will hopefully get to make the most of the time on my own and get some serious stitching done.

Adventures in Brum.

If you’d told me a couple of years ago that I would be setting my alarm for 5.30 am on a Saturday morning to catch a train to Birmingham and hang out a bunch of women who sew I would have told you to feck right orf.  How times change…

Despite the early start it was a very relaxing journey. I rarely get time to myself so I sat in the quiet carriage and made the most of it, reading my book and practising my knitting. Word of advice though – painting your toe nails while travelling at 125mph is not the greatest idea. You get strange looks and you may well end up in the toilets scrubbing your hands like Lady Macbeth. Just in case you were considering it…..
I arrived at Birmingham New street just after 10.30 am, where I found the rest of them.

It was great to see some familiar faces – Marie, who organised along with Claire and Kat, who presented us all with these gorgeous rosettes. I immediately pinned mine on and wore it with pride.IMG_2123I had to go over straight away and say hello to Amy, who I met at the London Meet Up , because I was totally blown away by her amazing aeroplane dress .  Go and have a look at it on her blog.  Emmie was also there, and Claire, and Lara, and so many other people I recognised.  Actually it is really difficult when you read a lot of blogs to remember who you have met in real life and who you only know from the interweb.  No worries though, within seconds it felt like we were all best mates.

First stop was Barry’s. My jaw dropped as we walked in.

IMG_2036There is nothing like this near me and I was a little overwhelmed. I only came away with one thing – a couple of metres of ponti knit in a greeny teal-ey colour. I couldn’t really not buy it after I enlisted several of the others to help me wrestle it from the bottom of the pile. I also had to explain to Marie that no, I wasn’t bleeding, it was nail varnish all over my hands after the toe painting shenanigans on the train up. I can totally see why she thought I might have sustained an injury if she saw the frenzied way I was attacking the piles of fabric though.

IMG_2039The heavens opened as we left Barry’s so we hurried to Cafe Soya for some food.

IMG_2042As you can see we once again managed to take over a restaurant, I think there was about thirty of us.  I found myself sitting with my Sewing Swap partner, Louise, aka Tabatha Tweedie from Thread Carefully so I was able to thank her in person. It turns out that Louise is a woman after my own heart – not only did she join me in a cider (correct pronunciation – COYDERRRRRRRR!)  to wash down the delicious food but she stuck a straw in hers-

IMG_2052Sorry Louise, I couldn’t resist 🙂  I would like to say that Ms Tabatha Tweedie is actually incredibly classy and the straw in the cider (COYDERRRRRR!) was purely for the photos. For the rest of the meet up she was drinking tea from a bone china tea cup with her little finger curving delicately outwards. Okay, not quite, but she did actually drink her cider (COYDERRRRRR!) from a glass.

I was also sitting with Zora from Read All About It who I met at the Brighton Meet, Alana from Lazy Stitching, Caroline (no blog but wearing the most amazing flamingo print alma) and her lovely daughter Phoebe,  and Louise’s friend Carys.  The only thing that stopped us chatting was the food and occasional ogling of a very young Mel Gibson in very short shorts on the TV. Well it would be rude not to…

IMG_2053After lunch was the swap.

IMG_2054IMG_2056IMG_2058Look at us circling like very charming, well dressed vultures as we wait for Claire’s signal to get stuck in.

I was remarkably restrained and for the first time took less than I brought.

IMG_2066The swimming ladies came from Marie, the Alexander Henry Lorenza stripes from Louise, the buttons from Caroline in the Flamingos and I’m not sure who the green, blue and white leaf print is from but thank you whoever you are. I have plans for all of it.  And this has to be my favourite pattern of the day:

IMG_2059I wish I’d grabbed it and I would love to know who did take it home and if they are going to use it.

Next we hit the rag Market. Again I was pretty gobsmacked, especially by the prices.  One pound a metre! Two pounds fifty!  The most I paid was five pounds a metre for a seaside print cotton.  In fact I was so gobsmacked I only got one picture.

IMG_2060This is what I came away with:

IMG_2063Again I do have plans for all of it, so hopefully it won’t be in the stash for too long.

I had to go and catch my train before we got to the Fancy Silk place, and I didn’t get to thank Claire properly for organising (and apparently missed out on cookies and brownies as well – gutted).  So a big, massive epic thank you Claire, and also Kat and Marie, for all your hard work. It was such a fabulous day! If anyone has any doubts about whether to attend a meet up please go along, you will have an amazing time.  The next one is in London, details here. I don’t know if I can make it but if I can then I’ll see you all there.

Spring Sewing Swap – Look what I got!

IMG_2024I can’t remember if I mentioned that I was taking part in the Spring Sewing Swap organised by Kestrel Makes. I had to sign up, I mean, who doesn’t love getting parcels of lovely sewing-ness in the post?

I was paired with the lovely Louise aka Tabatha Tweedie of Thread Carefully, and my God she did so well!  She totally got my tastes and I couldn’t have asked for a better parcel.

First up, as a bonus it was wrapped in a lovely piece of stripey fabric from her stash that I can easily get a top out of.  Next was this gorgeous card. It’s a bit out of focus I’m afraid.  Actually I was so excited I almost forgot to take pictures.

IMG_2027I’m not quite the Lady of a Hundred Dresses but I’m working on it.

And look at all the goodies I found when I unwrapped it!

IMG_2028Firstly a decent length of navy and white gingham. I have plans for this. Too many, actually so I need to get decisive.  My first thought was Cambie.  Then I remembered Louise’s own gorgeous renditions of Gertie’s Shirtwaist dress from her book. I absolutely love them but I think it might be a bit too creepy to make myself a looky-likey one. 

 I also love the various gingham Colette Macaron’s that I have seen about, especially the ones that have the yoke and waistband cut on the bias for contrast, like this one. And then there is this Vivienne Westwood Red Label dress that I pinned ages ago. Time to try again with the Gertie bombshell dress and make my own version of this?

Also included was some beautiful navy lace, gorgeous red and white gingham bias binding and tracing paper – how on earth did she know that I have just run out?  And my absolute favourite childhood sweet – Lovehearts!

And to top it all off look at these buttons – how gorgeous?!

IMG_2032I really need to find something special to use these on. My first though was another Mathilde, but then they’d be on the back so I wouldn’t be able to see them. Any ideas?

I love everything here and best of all I got to thank Louise in person at the Birmingham Meet up, which I’ll have to tell you about in my next post. So thank you again Louise, and thank you ever so much Kerry for organising.  You are both stars.

Rooibos Rescue

sewing and ursulas heels 031I made this  Colette Rooibos when I started sewing, along with my other one here:IMG_1824

I was sewing along with the Sew Weekly challenges. They weren’t quite the first dresses I’d made, but they were pretty amateurish. On the blue one I completely cocked up the piping at the neckline (my first attempt at piping) and ended up chopping it off along with the collar and bodging a join at the front.  And there are a lot of other faults. I hadn’t yet figured out that you are given grainline markings for a reason. Pressing seemed like an unnecessary interruption to the fun stuff, and I didn’t see the need for extra steps like adding interfacing.  I do like looking back at these early efforts to see how far I’ve come.
Despite the errors I do like these dresses.  Rooibos is a fantastic pattern and I keep meaning to make it again.  I thought I would wear the blue and white one the most but I found that while I wear the grey one at least once a fortnight in the winter I have only worn the blue one a couple times. I think the fabric and colours are just that little bit less forgiving than the other one, because the faults seem much more obvious.  However I put a lot of effort into it and didn’t want to bin it and it was way too badly made to pass on to a charity shop, so it remained scrunched up in a bag in the bottom of my wardrobe for the last year.

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MMM13 me realise that I need more separates, particularly skirts, ideally with pockets. It also motivated me to go through my me mades and look at the ones that I don’t wear, to try and decide which could be rescued and which were beyond help. I decided to cut off the bodice of my blue rooibos and try it as a skirt. Originally I intended to keep the curved waistband but it soon became clear that it wasn’t going to work.  The wonky grainlines and lack of interfacing, meant that in the end I decided it would make more sense just to fold it inside as a facing then top stitch to keep it in place. I swapped the long zip for a short one, and voila, a new skirt!

P1210510P1210521No dancing I’m afraid, I had approximately 30 seconds to do these photos before I had to be out of the house. You do get a big cheesey grin though.  And weird under boob gathering on my cardi. No idea what’s going on there.

I have already worn this skirt twice, once to work and I’m wearing it again today for the school run and general pottering.  That is as many times as I wore it as a dress in two years, so I think it’s a keeper.

On a different note – anyone else going to Claire and Marie’s  Birmingham Meet Up tomorrow? I am so excited!  What’s on your shopping list? I am on a mission for swimsuit fabric and elastic, pants elastic, something totally frivolous for sundresses and some buttons and bias binding for a couple of projects I have in mind.  I will probably forget what I am there for and come back with loads more lovely random stuff, but even if I don’t get anything it’s worth the journey to hang out with everyone and chat.
Hopefully see you all there!

Brighton Belladone – my new favourite dress from my new favourite pattern maker

P1210468I have a new favourite pattern company. I suspected I was falling for Deer and Doe when I was making my Reglisse. Everything was so straight forward and I loved the results. I bought Belladone at the same time – well if you have to pay postage you may as well buy more to save, if that makes sense?  Anyway, after seeing Sonja from Ginger Makes’ lace Belladone I knew I had done the right thing in getting this pattern and it rocketed to the top of my ‘to make’ queue.

It was not until the Brighton meet up and swap  however that I found the right fabric.  I almost didn’t pick this floral cotton that Zora brought.  It didn’t immediately jump out at me but the seeds of an idea began to grow in my tiny brain and at the last minute Zora and  Stevie convinced me to take it. I’m so glad I did, thank you both.  I chucked it straight in the wash when I got home. With the label still on, which disintegrated and left little brown fibres all over everything so it all had to be washed again – duh.

The pattern was a little daunting at first, mainly because there were so many pieces. However the instructions are so clear that it came together really easily. Like my Reglisse I cut a 36 at the shoulders and upper back grading to a 38 everywhere else.  I think I could have possibly gone down a size at the shoulders and back but it still fits brilliantly. This dress is drafted for a C cup, which means no faffing around with FBAs (not that I usually bother, but I know I should) and it fits almost perfectly straight out of the packet.  I did add a couple of inches to the length after my Reglisse turned out so short. This is just a personal preference and I’m glad I did.  It now comes to just below my knees and I am only 5ft 2 inches tall.  Oh, and I couldn’t be bothered with skirt facings so I just did a narrow machined hem.
Time for some pics:

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P1210486No, I have not finally mastered the invisible zip. The instructions call for basting the back together before you insert the zip. I did this and was pleased to find that the fabric had enough stretch to enable me to get into it with minimal wriggling, so I stitched it up without adding the zip.

P1210493I am not completely happy with the binding at the neck and I could have done with pinching out maybe an inch from the front neckline as well as narrowing the shoulders but it doesn’t bother me enough to stop me loving this dress.

Speaking of binding, let me tell you how not to approach the bias binding on a project like this.  I made my own binding from a bit of the dark blue shiney stuff I got from Claire at the swap.  It took me a while to decide whether the background on this print was very dark blue or black and I’m still not sure but I’m glad I went with the blue.  Anyway after cutting the strips and stitching them together I could not for the life of me find my bias binding maker so I had to make do without. Then after I had added the binding to the neck I decided that it also needed binding on the back pieces to make the cut out section stand out. The correct time to add binding to these pieces is right at the beginning, after making darts but before stitching anything together. It is not a good idea to decide to add it after the whole bodice has been stitched together and the bias binding has been put around the neckline. I was not about to take it all apart again so I added the binding on the back pieces afterwards, but before adding the skirt pieces.  I have just about managed to make it look tidy but there was some very creative swearing involved.

It was all totally worth it though. I think the pink floral would have been a bit too girly for me without the contrasting binding. Now it feels just right.  And all the materials I used were either from the swap or stuff I already had, so I’m counting it as a freebie.  I can’t explain how much I love this dress.  I love the fit, the cut out at the back, the ease with which it goes together, the fabric and all the compliments I have had while wearing it. And I loved sewing and wearing both the Deer and Doe patterns I have made so far.  I also have Bleuet and I am seriously tempted by the Chardon skirt after seeing Scruffy Badgers’ here  and here.  Luckily it just so happens that The Curious Kiwi and  Kat at Modern Vintage Cupcakes have designated June Indie Patterns Month.  Pop over and sign up to join in the fun if you are planning on sewing anything from an independent pattern designer this month. It think it might be the excuse I need to get a couple more Deer and Doe patterns.

Anyway, as I had so much fun doing my last photos, I think it’s time for a dance.  This time I have mostly been listening to Transvision Vamp :

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Me Made May – So how did I do?

me made mayNot bad actually.  I won’t pretend I’m not relieved it’s over but I’m pretty proud of myself.  I have learnt a lot about what I actually wear and what I need, I made some items that are getting worn a lot already and in terms of wearing me made items I actually  managed to do better than I pledged to do.  My original pledge was as follows:

‘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.’

I only had one day in May when I wasn’t wearing something that I’d made, or two if you don’t count the shop bought shirt that I’d dyed blue. I also managed to get a photograph every day I wore me made except one, when I cheated and used a picture of me in my Beach Hut Laurel that I took the previous month. Getting photos was a pain in the arse and cost me a fortune in bribes to my daughter but I’m glad I did it.

Rather than doing daily or weekly posts I set up a new page, here. So how does it break down?

What I wore:  IMG_1920

Spotty Tiramisu   x3
Stripey Laurel    x3
Blue Lekala skirt    x2
Nautical Cambie    x2
Blue maxi dress    x2
Dixie DIY summer concert tee   x2
Mathilde no 1   x2
Marguerite Mathilde   x2
Leopard pencil skirt    x2
Floral Tiramisu    x1
Lace print Tiramisu    x1
IMG_1765Dragons and Koi print dress   x1
Beach hut Laurel   x1
New floral dress   x1
Stripey cotton shirt   x1
Blue faces t shirt   x1
Deckchair Elisalex  x1
Burdastyle Jenny skirt x1
Rooibos  x1

IMG_1946Most worn patterns:

Tiramisu  x5
Mathilde x4
Laurel  x4

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What I’ve learnt:

  • I already wear dresses to work most days but at weekends the weather in this country does not want to cooperate most of the time. I need to make tops, skirts and (dare I say it?) trousers that will work when running around with kids, messing about on the beach, etc…
  • I also need more me made knit maxi dresses for the rare occasions when the sun does shine. When they fit properly and provide enough coverage they are the most practical garment for my lifestyle when I am not at work and it is sunny.
  • I need better bras. This is one of the revelations of taking crappy photos every day. when you take picture for a blog post you take loads and pick the ones that show you and the clothes the best. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be about the garments, but I’m sure I’m not the only person that tries to avoid posting the really hideously unflattering pictures of myself, even if they are the ones where the dress looks nicest.  It has been difficult to admit to myself but these hastily grabbed shots this month are probably a truer snapshot of what I look like in real life. And my norks need help. Shop bought bras just don’t seem up to the job, and trust me I have tried everything from high street to high end, with a variety of fittings.  I am therefore going to try my hand at making a bra. Not necessarily straight away, I think I may need to work up to it. Shall we say before Christmas?
  • I still need to work on fitting, and I am much pickier than I used to be. I can now see all the faults in garments that I was really proud of when I made them. However I think a lot of them can be rescued, and when I was wearing garments that I made only a year ago my main thought was how far I’ve come since then.  I’m getting definitely getting there.

I am actually amazed that I didn’t find it more difficult, even though I did end up sewing myself a couple of things out of desperation for something new – my as yet unblogged Dixie DIY summer concert tee and my stripey Laurel top.  I have found out a lot about what I wear, what I need and what I really don’t need.  I have also found myself automatically looking at my me made things first when I am picking out what to wear in the mornings. That’s got to be a good thing, hasn’t it.  Anyway, a big thank you is due to Zoe.  This month has been one of the most valuable sewing related experiences ever.