Tag Archives: cotton

Bad back, a new(ish) hobby and Me Made May ’14 week one.

Sewing is pretty impossible at the moment, I have done something painful to my back and all attempts to work at my machine have left me in agony so I have had to admit defeat until it sorts itself out. This is very annoying as I have a queue of projects including my nearly Dolly Clackett dress, another Emery and my Simplicity wrap dress.   However my sanity has been saved by the arrival of this gorgeous package:

photo 1

I am such a sucker for fancy packaging. We Are Knitters make knitting kits – you choose the pattern and the colours you want and they send you everything you need including needles and a cool label.  I found them when I clicked on an ad. on Facebook, which shows how strong these painkillers are because I absolutely hate ads on Facebook.  I know they are supposed to be targeted to your interests but you are not going to win me over by constantly flashing up ads for weight loss and wrinkle remedies, thank you very much. Show me gin, fabric and serial killer books and I might despise you a little less.

Anyway I found the website, quickly got sucked in and found myself ordering.  I needed cheering up and it made sense at the time- I can’t sew but I can knit.  Okay, I have knitted maybe four things in my life, hats, scarves and a very mis-shapen cardigan for my daughter. And the sensible people out there will ask why I didn’t just buy some cheap(er) yarn, needles and a free pattern from the internet.  However – knitting kit!  All in one bag! Cool packaging!

Now this is the point where I try to justify the cost, to myself as much as anything. I got the Vivian knit tee kit, which is forty eight euros. More than I should be spending, especially as I am a bit crap at knitting but it was ten euros less without needles.  And I can use the pattern again.  The yarn is the softest cotton and is really easy to use and the colours are amazing, I chose orange, natural and deep blue, which is a kind of deep teal-y turquoise:

photo 2This picture doesn’t do it justice, the colours are really vibrant.  The instructions are clear and there are video tutorials on the website if you don’t really know what you are doing, like me. It also comes together really quickly.  This is important. I usually prefer sewing over knitting because I am impatient. With sewing you can see a garment taking shape much more quickly than you do with knitting. I got the kit last week and I have half a top already:

photo 3Look, even a knitting novice like me can knock up half a top in a week! And you can knit anywhere. Okay, not quite anywhere but I can take it to work and knit in my lunch break, and in the park while I am ignoring my kids, and if I got the train I could do it on the train.  I may actually get to wear it for Me Made May.

On the subject of Me Made May I have been a bit crap at getting photos but I have managed to stick to my pledge. So far I have worn at least one handmade item a day every day except one , as follows:

Thursday 1st:  Day of the Dead print Simplicity 2444
Friday 2nd:  Black and leopard Deer and Doe plantain, still to be blogged, with shop bought jeans.Saturday 3rd: Floral Tilly Buttons Mathilde, with shop bought jeans.
Sunday 4th: Stripey Colette Laurel top (still unblogged although I made it last May) and shop bought jeans.
Monday 5th: All shop bought, but the jeans did come from the charity shop.
Tuesday 6th: Black eyelet Colette Laurel dress.
Wednesday 7th: Eiffel Tower print Simplicity 1610? Dolly Clackett dress.
Thursday 8th: Leopard pencil skirt, black top, shop bought but I have had it for over ten years. Must make another one actually.
Friday 9th: Leopard Laurel dress and shop bought leggings.

Thoughts so far (bear in mind I am on strong painkillers) – While I usually chuck on a me-made dress for work I do wear jeans a lot at the weekend.  And I have no interest in making jeans. I prefer making and wearing dresses but it all comes down to footwear.  Dresses can be practical but you do need the right shoes. Most of my ‘dress suitable’ shoes have heels. I live by the beach and spend a lot of time outside when the weather allows, and heels are not practical.  I do have a pair of espadrille type wedges that I can wear with dresses on the beach and I wish I had bought ten pairs but I can’t find any more at an acceptable (very cheap) price.  Maybe I need to learn how to make shoes?

Sewing related injuries and my Macaron UFO completed.

P1220232Last week I actually got some time to sew. I had to shift the cat off my sewing desk and untangle some cables before I could get started. The pedal cable had somehow managed to wind itself around the power cable, and the overlocker wires had also got tangled so I unplugged it all and crawled under the desk to sort it out.  I did think I was being careful but obviously not careful enough. In my efforts to separate the cables I must have I pulled something a little too hard and my forehead hit the floor as nine kilograms of overlocker dropped off the desk and slammed on to the back of my head.

I think I might have been out for a few seconds but I picked myself up, rubbed the egg sized lump that was growing on my head, swore a bit then inspected the damage to the machine. It looked okay, obviously my head took most of the impact, but wouldn’t switch on.  I was not going to be able to use it to make the knit dress I was planning and to be honest I wasn’t feeling much like sewing by now. However I have had so little time recently I was determined not to waste it so I turned to my UFO box.

I started this Colette Macaron last year, but it stalled when I realised that there was no way I was going to get the different fabrics along the left side to match up.  In my possibly concussed state I decided that didn’t really matter, I needed a dress for work and I would just have to remember not to raise my arms.

It didn’t need much work, just sewing up the side and hemming. The black cotton is left over from my other macaron, and the plaid is cream, black, and grey with fine threads of brown and silver. It was a remnant from my local fabric shop in Whitstable but I can’t remember how much it cost or how much I got, and I definitely can’t remember much about the construction.

P1220246As you can see I didn’t quite manage to match things up down this side.


IMG_2727Excuse the out of focus picture, I wanted to show you that I did actually manage to get the curve on the bodice piece, but in most of these photos it looks a bit pointy.


The fit is not great. I’m not sure whether that is down to my shape changing since I started it or just because I was crap at fitting back then. I suspect it’s a bit of both. I can dance in it though:

P1220259P1220236P1220262I am not in love with this dress but it is okay for work, probably with a cardi over. What I did enjoy about this project was seeing how far I’ve come in the last year.  The stuff I was making was wearable, but I now know enough to be able to see where I cut corners and how it could be improved. It remains to be seen whether it will stop me cutting corners, but at least I can see a difference and know better what I can and can’t get away with.

After I finished this dress I was feeling a bit ropey so I decided I had the perfect excuse to go back to bed with a large coffee and series one of Dexter, which I missed the first time round and have been saving until I could watch uninterrupted. And there is good news about my overlocker. My husband had a look at it when he got in and it worked perfectly. As he pointed out, these things generally work better when you plug them in ….

Starry Anna vs The Prince of Darkness

I really was going to wait until I got paid before buying anything sewing related. However that plan went completely tits up when I started seeing  By Hand London Anna dresses popping up all over the place. First Kim-ing’s, here and here.  Then Jane’s, Karen’s, Emmie’s, Alice’s,  Kathryn’s ….all gorgeous, all pushing me closer to pressing that order button.

It was Lizzy’s trio, Anna Rose, Anna Blue and especially Jungle Anna that finally broke my resolve and had me reaching for my credit card and by Tuesday afternoon I was holding the pattern in my grubby little hand.

I made the maxi length version with the thigh split and the V neck.  This was such a quick make despite there being a lot of pieces- seven just for the skirt! I started cutting it out at ten o’clock on Wednesday morning. By two it was all done except for the hemming. No issues, cock ups or problems. In fact the main hindrance to my progress was this:

IMG_2243Little G did not want me to sew.

I was helped massively by Karen’s post on constructing the Anna dress. Loads of useful tips about what kind of fabric and how much, as well as advice about the length and the width of the back. If I hadn’t read her post I wouldn’t have picked this fabric, a midnight blue cotton with tiny white stars that has been in my stash for ever, because I only had three metres. As it happened it was just enough, despite being less than 60 inches wide. I think it helped that I cut the skirt pieces at least a foot shorter than the pattern as I am only 5 foot 2.  I didn’t bother with any hand stitching, even on the thigh split, as this was meant to be wearable muslin and I wanted to wear it that evening so needed it quickly. Instead I folded the edge, stitched it then folded it again and top?/edge? stitched it:

PicMonkey CollageIt could have been neater but the stitching hardly shows in real life.

As far as fitting goes, as well as taking loads off the length I took the back in by about an inch and a half the way that Karen describes in her post. And that was it. To my delight I found after basting in my zip that I could actually get the dress on and off over my head without using it, so I took out the zip and sewed up the back.

I finished hemming the dress just in time to go out last night. I met Mr T down the pub. His first comment: Nice dress. You look like a wizard.

We grabbed some beers and walked along the beach to Tankerton Slopes to watch the open air screening of Dracula as part of the Whitstable Oyster Festival, starring Whitstable resident Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. I am seriously considering changing my name to Van Helsing, how cool would that be at work? I did manage to persuade the husband to take photos on the way there.

IMG_2260He is still not as good as my daughter but she’s on holiday with her grandparents so I had to make do.

IMG_2263The neck is only gaping because my bag is pulling it, it is fine in real life.


IMG_2268Showing a bit of leg. I did lower the split so i wasn’t showing too much – I was very aware that I didn’t want to be flashing fanjo,  but as soon as I sat down on the grass to watch the film the stitches ripped to where it should have been originally, so Anna clearly thought I needed to flash more thigh.


IMG_2282Waiting for the film to start.

IMG_2278IMG_2285I love Hammer Horror. It was great sitting outside by the sea watching a classic film as the sun went down with a few drinks and good company.  Once again I really  appreciated the fact that I live here.   Afterwards we decided to have a couple in the pub before walking back along the beach. Which is where it all started to go a bit wrong.

IMG_2290A bit of a dance…..

IMG_2294 - CopyYes, these are out of focus, but by this point in the evening so was I.


IMG_2301Scarey vampire moves…

IMG_2297Well no one can accuse me of not road testing my makes properly….

There are so many things I love about this dress. It is quick to make.  It is comfortable but doesn’t look it.  It makes me look like a wizard, meaning I can make all sorts of inappropriate comments about wizard’s sleeves.  It copes with sitting on grass, beer spillages, dancing, climbing, minor falls, vampire antics, menacing seagulls and blood stains hardly show.  As I said before this is a wearable muslin. I have the perfect fabric for my next one. Only problem, it’s silk (cue terrifying  vampire like scream….)

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:


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 :




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:

photo (7)

photo (9)

photo (4)

photo (5)

photo (2)

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.

Finished- my Marguerite Mathilde.

IMG_0785It took a lot longer than expected. Not because I had any problems, just because work etc. got a bit manic last week. Anyway, here it is. You may recognise the fabric – it is the stuff I won in Marguerite Designs giveaway.  As soon as I received it I was itching to make it into another Mathilde, and it has turned out just as lovely as I’d hoped. So thanks again Diane!

Please excuse the dodgy i-phone photos, (and the small clingy person who can’t understand why anyone would want to take photos without her in them, especially as she was so good getting her jabs earlier.)

IMG_0786IMG_0787As before this was a dream to sew. I made a couple of changes this time round. I lowered the neckline by about half an inch and added a couple of inches to the length. I should have graded it to allow for my big hips but with buttons it’s not a major issue, I just undo the bottom one. I moved the top button higher up to try and eliminate the problem I had with the top corner folding over and looking like the two sides were uneven. This meant that I needed eight buttons rather than the seven recommended in the pattern, although as it happens I could have left off the bottom one as I ended up unbuttoning it due to my aforementioned immense arse.



Orange buttons again!  These are the ones I was originally going to use on my first Mathilde, but they weren’t quite the right colour.  They are a perfect match for this fabric – see, everything happens for a reason.IMG_0789


And to finish here are couple of pictures of me and my Mathilde enjoying a lunchtime pint in one of my locals, the Duke of Cumberland. Just to prove that I do actually wear the stuff I make.IMG_0804