Wednesday, 2 October 2013

September Stashbusting

September… September? Oh, right the one between August and October when everything happens and there is no time to blog? I remember.
September 2013This month’s theme was sewing for kids, which frankly is what most of my sewing is anyway; unfortunately this month’s crop wasn’t very newsworthy…
We had a vast amount of label sewing (using up my label stash one by one… stretching a point too far? oh, alright then.) Combined of course with the annual sewing of the school trouser turn-ups.
Then there was the last minute swimming bag, which actually used stash material. I forgot until the night before his first session that Matthew didn’t actually have an appropriate bag. And I can’t even show a photo as I didn’t snap one earlier, and today is swimming day.
In fact the highlight seems to be Piper’s birthday hedgehogs.
My Mum and I have of course been making wedding clothes for all and sundry, including our four diminutive bridesmaids, but I can’t release photos of those in all their glory until next month. Sorry.
Ah, well, roll on October with it’s theme of Unselfish Sewing, into which 2 out of my 3 scheduled projects should fit.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Hedgehog Day

Also known as Piper’s birthday. Which, as she has been telling anyone who will listen over the last few weeks, means Bolognese and Hedgehog Cake for dinner.
At one point she had grand ideas of hedgehog decorations and hedgehog costumes for all the (adult) guests but we were able to manage her expectations back to just the hedgehog cake.
Hedgehog Cake Piper2013
As a special gift for her I used some of her beloved “slug scraps”* to make a little hedgehog brooch, now known as Hedgy. Not my greatest achievement, but after the third go I gave up trying to improve the shape, and besides which Piper seems to like him, which was the point really.
Hedgehog brooch
* A local (and online) shop called Love From Hetty & Dave makes these fantastic slugs, which Piper likes to go and visit. Last time we were there Zoe kindly gave Piper some tweed scraps from the slug she was making. Piper is quite attached to them. And has a postcard of one of the slugs on her bedroom wall.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Not a portal to Narnia*

141041301138_1We recently invested in a wardrobe for my son’s bedroom – but it had to be small enough to fit underneath his IKEA loft bed. And cost almost nothing. So Ebay it was. After three days of searching and bidding I then got the wardrobe I kind of wanted from the beginning (main criteria being size and price). It does need some love though. Aside from repositioning the hanging bar inside, we want to do something special with the outside.
We asked Matthew what he wanted and he responded “cogs and pulleys!” Robert’s response was “ooh, steampunk!” but I was a little more cautious in embracing this notion as:
a) Matthew is 7 and he hasn’t come across steampunk yet and
b) if it doesn’t contain bright colours he doesn’t want it; brass and sepia just don’t fit into this picture.
After a little more conversation I had a clearer picture of brightly coloured stencilled cogs connected by the occasional belt. A further search of Ebay, and a couple of hours later I had these:
Vintage Meccano Yellow Gear Wheels
Watch this space… possibly for a really long time, nothing happens fast around here.

* the actual portal to Narnia lives here. (no, honestly, just scroll down!)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Stopping by…

School holidays this month, so we have been very busy in not obviously productive ways. Apart from the sheer number of name tapes I have been sewing into school uniforms now that I have two in school from next month. Haven’t got around to checking the length of the new school trousers and sewing turn-ups yet. That can wait until the night before.
In addition I have half made a handful of dresses, but nothing to show as progress.
This month’s sewalong is aimed at the UFO – unfinished objects – but I’ve got a bit sidelined as I don’t really have any sewing UFOs, just DIY ones. Our biggest one is our lounge. We massively renovated it last summer, but  that left us with a bare room, which we managed to paint in time for Christmas. This year we took the floor up (again) to fix the wobbly bits we didn’t notice last year, and we have installed 2/3 of the skirting board. Now we just have to install the final 1/3 (which involves moving all the really big bits of furniture) and then paint 22 metres of board.
Progress 2013
We have also built three radiator covers (I say we, I mean Robert) and am in the process of painting those too. Another few weeks and most of everything should be finished.

Monday, 5 August 2013


Pirate PiperIn the midst of all my dress planning we had another birthday come up (every year!) This time my 4 year old niece who, I have been told, is into all things pirates (Arrr!).
So it was pirate costume time. Thanks again to Dana of MADE for her pirate waistcoat tutorial/pattern. It needed a little resizing because Cali is bigger than the paper pattern she provides, but with a my own 4 and 7 year olds to measure up I think I achieved the right size.
A quick rummage through my newly organised fabric stash and I had some purple velvety stuff for the waistcoat, some blue voile for the sash and some blue and white paisley-ish cotton print for the trim and headscarf. Also thanks to my Mum who provided the ugliest/most pirate treasure-y buckle for the sash (4 year olds and knots aren’t a great combination).
And the finished product (as modelled by Piper, just before it went in the post – and don’t worry, she hasn’t lost an arm in battle).

Friday, 2 August 2013

My Dress

I have a plan!
Dress Pattern V2902_2I have a pattern
and I have the fabricFabric Cropped
I even have the perfect occasion to wear it (smart Hen Lunch in London next month).
AND I have started making it!!
Bodice Toile Cropped
Rest assured this is NOT the final look. I do not wear yellow (even if it looks white), and it will have a skirt! This is however a toile (or the rough draft). I get to mark all the changes I need to make on it, try them out, try it on again, and assuming it fits properly then transfer the changes back to my original pattern pieces and do it for real in the actual fabric.
Watch this space for the completed item…

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Clothkits Peekaboo dress

Most mornings my elder daughter hops out bed and says something along the lines of “I want to wear this [insert description here] dress today”. Trouble is she keeps growing, so her selection of dresses is being whittled down to a very small number. So last week, instead of starting on my dress (no, NOT procrastinating) I reached for one of the Clothkits dresses that I was gifted from a friend, whose daughters had grown too big for them. 
It came together very nicely. My only real error was cutting it to fit Piper’s chest (age 4) and forgetting about her length (nearer age 5). So after realising that it sat too high in the neck and under the arm I spent the rest of the day unpicking everything that I had painstakingly sewn together.
Too Small
I used the remains of the visible markings to extend the neckline and armhole and sewed the whole thing back together. Then I just had to wrestle with the placket. A lot. May add an invisible zip next time instead…
I must admit, I cheated on the button holes, as I was sewing it up at Mum’s house, and rather than learn the process on her fancy computerised machine, I just worked out the spacing, marked their positions and let Mum work the machine. Next time buttons, next time.
(I feel like I made up for this though by being more creative with my button choices!)
Dress Front Dress Buttons Dress Profile
However Piper and I are both really happy with this – apart from the fact that it needs washing all the time – and it is already one of her go-to dresses.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

And some of the other stuff…

Aside from the birthday fun we had in June I have been kept quite busy on other projects.
One of the school mums seems to have fallen in love with the backpacks I have been making for children’s birthday presents, and has been spreading that love among her friends (thank you!) so I had another four bags to make last month – three Butterfly Backpacks and a Simply Stripy one.
Butterfly Bags Stripy Bag
And then our soon-to-be brother-in-law Skip had a birthday. Cathy is trying to train him in her use of all the different towels and cloths to be found in the kitchen, so a while back mentioned tea-towels as a useful present. And because the children have great memories of scoffing raspberries straight out of his garden that is what we put on them.
Raspberry Tea Towels
This was swiftly followed by an emergency birthday present make for one of Matthew’s friends as we received a belated invitation to her birthday party. She already had a butterfly bag (the first one!) so she was due a pencil case this year.
How does you garden grow pencil case
Carrier Bag HolderMy other sister also had a birthday, and she too is trying to get her house sorted out, so she got a carrier bag holder, a couple of lavender sachets (to match last year’s cushion) and a Beezer annual froLavender Sachetsm 1979 (her birth year).
And then of course there were the bean bags. *sigh*
I had made both bean bags on other occasions, but had slightly under-stuffed them so when the one my sister had commissioned came back I not only topped that one up, but also Matthew’s bean bag which was a little limp.
The (big) downside was that my house was full of small polystyrene beads AGAIN (I am still finding them lurking in corners that I thought I had already vacuumed). he plus point was that I finally got to photograph the other bean bag which I made back around Christmas and despatched so quickly that my camera never got near it.
Beanbag - purpleone very badly edited photo of the purple bean bag
On top of that I did LOTS of wedding related laundry – but no photos as they would be spoilers!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Tent for three

A few weeks ago we celebrated the all important third birthday of our little Robin tent & bunting(she has been looking forward to it for the last 9 months). Our dilemma was what to give her as a present when she already has everything the other two enjoyed when they were 3. After some trawling of the internet, and a chance comment from my Dad, I settled (and why not?) on a tent. And just in case it isn’t clear, there is also room for all three of them to fit inside.

My inspiration came from this reading nook tent I saw on Ana White’s blog, we just gave it our own take, especially as we wanted ours to be used in the garden. So a few lengths of timber and a couple of curtains from my stash later and we had something resembling a tent.

Not anything like pretty enough though, so I then spent some rather too much perfectly good sleeping time sewing up tapes to tie the canvas/curtains to the frame, and making bunting to wrap around it instead. This used up some more of two vintage sheets that I had already cut into for other projects.

Although I could make a case for this project meeting the June stash busting theme of “containment” – the tent has pockets in the side to hold books and toys - thanks to a quick redefinition I definitely get to submit this to the stashbusting challenge – and using up two curtains does make a nice hole in my stash! (well one box of stashness anyway).

Monday, 17 June 2013

Giraffes and Geraniums

One of my friends (after a really hard pregnancy and delivery) finally arrived home with her new little girl. Definitely worthy of a present, but more than that, her son, who is a school friend of Matthew, really needed something too having had a crazy few months in the build up.

While newbies don’t wear the same clothes for very long this one is so tiny that she will probably get more use out of her first clothes than mine did, so I decided to go with making her a dress. I used the Little Geranium dress pattern from Made-By-Rae. She has made the newborn size available for free, and if it wasn’t that my girls are nearly too old for the sizing I would probably buy the full pattern.


To tie in with big brother, who loves giraffes, I decided the dress – and a t-shirt for him – should have giraffes stencilled on them. This was by far the most fiddly part – cutting out freezer paper stencils for both items (and giraffes have lots of detail with their patterning). Then mixing the right giraffe colour and away we paint


. Happiness all around with the end result.

t-shirt and dress

Friday, 24 May 2013

Mmm… Coffee Cake

May has turned out to be such a productive month so far that I completely failed to blog about one of my projects! Way back at the start of the month was my Mum’s birthday. Which of course called for Coffee Cake (with capitals, given the amount of coffee I use!). My Mum likes her cake to REALLY taste of coffee, so I often triple the recommended amount, which has got even easier since discovering instant espresso powder, rather than trying to use ordinary instant coffee and failing to get it to dissolve properly in such tiny amounts of water.

Co4ffee CakeThe perceptive among you may notice that this is actually Robert’s belated birthday cake, but Mum’s (
apparently unphotographed) cake looked just like this, except for the sunshine.

However, cake on its own isn’t really a present (not when you’re known for making cake for much flimsier reasons than a birthday). So I ventured into screen printing, and converted a remnant of table cloth into a set of eight napkins (we’re a big family).

I used the “contact vinyl” technique described by Lil Blue Boo (as far as I can tell “sticky back plastic” in the UK) and an old screen I had in a card making kit and off I went…
Coffee Cake 1 Coffee Cake 2
Coffee Cake 3 Coffee Cake 4

A bit fiddly, and not all came out perfectly, but was much easier than hand stencilling the same design 8 times, and it all went down very nicely with Mum.

Especially the cake.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A change is as good as a holiday

Having had a tiring, but really good weekend away last week, I seem to have come back exhausted, but extra motivated.
This week I have mended a record 8 pairs of trousers (the other leg of most of the ones I fixed last month), and made 2 stash-busting skirts. I managed to use up the best part of a frantically floral single sheet.
Warning!! Photos of overly cute and delighted pink children coming up.
Piper & Robin
I made Piper’s wraparound skirt using this tutorial from Simple Simon & Co, and given free choice she picked the pink sheet. Piper
The next day I asked Robin what she would like and showed her a handful of other fabrics – the blue one, the green one, the spotty one…. But she was adamant that she wanted the same as Piper. So I made a different skirt – using Dana’s circle skirt tutorial – using the same very pink fabric.
Next time I’ll hide the pink stuff when I offer them choices.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The day I went to Walthamstow.

My sister has just got engaged, which means lots of fantastic outfits, all of which my Mum and I have volunteered to make. 1 bride, 4 bridesmaids, additional items for a few men, plus material for the dress I am going to make for myself all adds up to a lot of fabric, so we went shopping.

I had heard tell (on the internet) that Walthamstow Market was the place to go to for a massive range of very reasonably priced fabric, which was quite handy as Cathy lives 2 tube stops away. The reality was beyond my wildest expectations! It seemed that almost every fifth shop or stall sold fabric or notions or fantastic trim. And they have multiple charity shops too. It was wonderful.

Between the market and Goldhawk Road – which was equally amazing and abundant, but slightly more expensive – we bought everything we needed, and for a ridiculous price. Then we had to lug it all back to Dorset by train – 50 metres of assorted fabrics is quite heavy!

Walthamstow Fabric

Of course this is all I can show you, and most of that is the floral sheet I picked up in a charity shop and the blue floral cotton for practising my dress, but we don’t want to let too much out before the event. But it is all VERY EXCITING.

Thank you.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Gone Sailing

Quilt - ALL
In celebration of the imminent arrival of our new nephew I have been working on my first quilt. It was inspired by one I saw on the Land of Nod website. I had a great time practicing loads of different techniques – blanket stitch, chain stitch, back stitch, satin stitch seagulls and I got to crack out Little Brother to do some zigzagging. On top of that I was really able to go to town amongst my stash, finding all the most suitable bits of fabric to build up the picture. Conveniently, there are some good bright colours here which fit with April’s Stashbusting Sewalong Vibrant Colour Challenge.
Quilt - boat Quilt - sun
Quilt - seagull Quilt - mid
Just in case that all sounded too positive, let me assure you that while creating the picture went swimmingly, the actually quilting part was decidedly more challenging, and as for binding the edges…

Let’s just say it took some time and I have no skin left on my fingertips. (I know, I know, thimbles.) I also finished it at 1:30 the night before it was needed, away from home and completely forgot to take a tag to sew into it, so I had to improvise the next morning… Quilt - signature
However, despite all it’s flaws and character (or talking points) I am really happy with it.

The new small one has now arrived, and we are visiting, so the quilt has been handed over and I never have to do that again.

Unless I want to of course.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Better Late Than Never…

 …In oh, so many ways.

Firstly this is the belated completion of my March stash busting sew-along item which should have been completed by the end of March (although in my defence it was a “change of season” challenge, and the seasons haven’t changed yet). Skirt - nearly finishedNearly finished and all spread out on the ground so I could straighten the bottom.
Secondly I bought this fabric at the Knitting and Stitching Exhibition last October with the direct intention of making a skirt, and aside from crazy Christmas sewing the rest of the time has been largely spent mentally preparing for this project.
I think too much.

Thirdly and most especially I have now been sewing for 2 years and this is the first garment I have made for me (and frankly the only other clothing I have made has been simple gathered skirts for toddlers).  Now though I have not only scaled up a pattern but put darts into it (on account of cutting it with slightly too much room for comfort). Big learning curve.
Finished Skirt
The finished article, plus a little photo bomber.

In addition I feel like I suddenly understand the real buzz of sewing my own clothes, and a renewed sense of confidence in how to dress given that since I finished working in an office seven years ago and had children I pretty much stopped wearing anything but jeans and t-shirts. Partly due to extra wobbly bits, and partly through practicality as it is easier to crawl around on the floor to play and clean up in trousers; but my youngest is nearly three so that requirement is on the wane. Here’s to the next garment…

Friday, 12 April 2013

Down for maintenance

The last few weeks have been less inspirational sewing and more maintenance sewing. By which I mean I have now patched almost every pair of trousers in my house.Trousers for mending
I have of course had a couple of other projects on the go, but one is for my new nephew who isn’t here yet, and interestingly neither is his present!
I have also seen some progress on one of my stashbusting projects, but more on that in a couple of days’ time.

It has also been the Easter holidays so I have had all three children home. All. The. Time. Plus we have had visitors, so my creativity has been in the cooking and cleaning departments. And also in the co-ordinating of Robert and myself to actually hanging some pictures and mirrors that have been decorating the floor rather than the walls for slightly too long.

On a footnote, I would also like to say thank you to Sally of for awarding me the One Lovely Blog Award and the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Expect a post shortly where I follow through and pass this accolade on to other lovely and inspiring bloggers.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Goodbye Mr Smith

And hello Brothers…

I have a bit of a problem with sewing machines. I have great difficulty resisting a really lovely piece of machinery, which is how I ended up with 4 sewing machines, 3 cabinets and an overlocker.
However, with the best will in the world I have neither the space nor the need for all of them, so I assured Robert that at least one of them would be moving on in due course. Which it has now done.

The sewing machine affectionately known as “A wooden leg named Smith” (due to an accident with a flight of stairs many years ago) was a lovely 1960’s machine with a zigzag stitch, but was superseded by a very similar machine but with a few more features (and a cabinet to house it). So it has now gone to another home, where it is already being used much more frequently.

I still have a 3/4 sized, 1958 Singer in the loft, with its cabinet being housed in the garage, that I have yet to rehome/find room for, but my current line up looks like this:
WP_000025 WP_000026
WP_000027 WP_000021
WP_001048 WP_001050
Mmmm. :-)

They are, in order, my trusty old Singer 201K, a Brother 929D overlocker (sharing a cabinet/table) and my “new” Brother 350, which has a note in the manual saying “Purchased – 8th Sept 1966”, which came with its own Horn cabinet for the bargain price of £25!! (most Horn cabinets go on Ebay for £200+). I know this little Brother looks much like Smith, but it comes with a set of cams to control the stitch formation, which is a step further than the simple zigzag function of the other machine. Not that I’ve used it yet, but I have the perfect project coming up!

(You may have noticed the lack of actual sewing in this post, but I have been doing a hand sewing course this month, so results are slower than usual! More on that next month).