Friday, 5 December 2014

Christmas Decorations Swap

Hello!  I'm not even going to attempt to make excuses for why I haven't blogged in over 2 weeks.
Today I have some cute Christmas decorations to share with you.  A while back I signed up to join the Christmas Decorations Swap that Marilla Walker was hosting on her blog.
I was paired with Jo, who doesn't blog herself but does all sorts of crafty things, and strangely enough lives in the road I worked on a few years ago!  It's a small world!
It took me ages to decide what I was going to make for Jo, but I eventually settled on something that used the free motion embroidery I love doing.   I made a sweet little holly garland for her.
The base is some of that lovely pompom trim that I'm always admiring and can never normally find a use for.  I found the perfect use for it here.
I drew and cut out pairs holly leaves, stitching them onto burlap so they looked nice from the back too. 
Once cut out I added red sequins for berries, and a little bit of sparkle, then stitched the leaves onto the pompom trim.
A few days after I posted my package to Jo, one arrived from her.  I was very intrigued to find out what it was as she'd dropped several hints about it being something she'd had to go somewhere special to make and she'd had to wait a while to pick it up.
A very carefully wrapped package was received and I opened it with equal care, not knowing what was inside. 
Not one, but two gorgeous handmade decorations greeted me, with this one obviously being the one that had been made somewhere special.
Isn't it lovely? 
Jo had also included this pretty hand beaded decoration along with the handmade glass one. 

I'm not sure exactly where I'm going to hang them yet, but the decorations are going up this weekend, so I will make sure to find them somewhere special.
Thank you so much Jo for your beautiful decorations, and of course, thanks to Marilla too for organising such a fun swap. 
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Friday, 21 November 2014

Free Motion Fun

Earlier this week I had the great pleasure of teaching a free motion embroidery class at Fabric HQ, in their amazing classroom at their equally amazing shop. 
This was only my second time teaching free motion embroidery - the first time was a one to one workshop I gave at my house.  Fabric HQ was a much better location, they have more room and more fabric - not to mention cake!  It's a beautifully inspiring location for both teacher and student. 
I had 6 students for the evening, which kicked off with a very brief overview of free motion embroidery followed by a chance to doodle on a piece of fabric to get used to the technique.  It's a bit of a strange sensation at first, because you need to lower the feed dogs to move the fabric in any direction you want.  Instead of the machine taking the fabric through by itself, you have total control.  I was very pleasantly surprised how quickly everyone got the hang of it, and started producing lovely swirly designs on their scrap fabrics.
Next we went on to choose a design for the "real thing".  I took several templates with me, ranging from a sewing machine, to a cup and saucer and a very lovely high heeled shoe.  The sewing machine was pretty popular - as you'd expect - and one student chose to draw her own design instead of using one that I'd brought along.  She ended up with a totally unique and amazing chicken.
Choosing fabrics was the next fun step, accompanied by tea and cake.  We spent quite a bit of time rummaging through the large box of scraps provided by Fabric HQ, matching colours and choosing prints that coordinated well. 
By the end of the evening everyone had a completed picture to take home with them.  Some decided to mount them up there and then, others took them away unmounted as they already had plans for them. 
Sadly I wasn't able to get a photo of all 6, but here are some of the finished projects.  I love how the two sewing machines look so different sewn in different fabrics. 
I'm teaching another 2 free motion embroidery classes at Fabric HQ early next year, on Tuesday 14th January and Saturday 14th February .  If you're local and are interested, check out the details here
Thanks so much to the lovely Rae at Fabric HQ for asking me to teach these classes.  I had such fun, I only hope my students enjoyed it as much as I did!

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Minerva Blogger Network - Purple Ponte Dress

Another month, another Minerva project.  It only seems 5 minutes since I told you about the last one, where does the time go?
This month’s project is a cosy ponte knit dress.   I ordered the fabric with full intentions of it being a dress, I just wasn’t 100% which pattern I would use.  I had a couple in mind, then when I had my hair cut a few weeks ago neither of them seemed right any more. 

After a bit of browsing around the internet and through my Pinterest boards I settled on the Ludivine dress by Republique du Chiffon.  It’s a free downloadable pdf, but unfortunately the instructions are only in French.  Luckily it’s simple enough and the pictures that go along with the instructions are good enough that I was able to make it without any difficulty.
The hardest part was the mitred corners joining the centre front and back to the side panels, but the pattern shows you pictures of exactly what you need to do here and they went together pretty smoothly.

I debated topstitching these seams, then decided against it in case the fabric decided to wrinkle as I sewed. 
I picked two fabrics, and had a metre of each.  The patterned fabric is this Purple Embossed Floral Ponte Roma
and the plain purple is a morgan crepe.
I ended up using the wrong side of the morgan crepe as colour wise it was a slightly better match to the ponte fabric.  With hindsight, I would have got 2 metres of the ponte and used the reverse side of that (which has a tweedy appearance) as the contrast side panels. 
The pattern is designed for woven fabrics and comes up quite loose.  I added a little shaping to the back panels and ended up taking the side seams in about 5/8” each side once I’d tried it on.  The other change I made was to omit the pockets, as they would have been exactly on my widest point. 
One change that I wish I’d made but didn’t was to the neckline.  It is very wide, the back in particular.  I solved this once I realised by adding small darts into the back neckline.   The patterned fabric hides these really well!
Neckline, sleeves and hem were just turned under and stitched down using a 3-step zigzag stitch.  I used nice deep 2” hems on the bottom of the dress and the sleeves.
I only made this dress a week ago and already I’ve worn it 3 times – I call that a win!

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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Beginners Guide to Dressmaking

I got a new sewing book the other day and I really like it, so I thought I'd do a little review for you.
The book is The Beginners Guide to Dressmaking by Wendy Ward.

I first became aware of this book before it was released when I chanced upon Wendy's stand - MiY Collection - at the Knitting and Stitching Show last month.   As soon as I knew it had been released, I ordered myself a copy.  
I don't wish to blow my own trumpet but I'm not a beginner dressmaker, so technique wise there's not much in this book I didn't already know. 
However if you ARE a beginner, Wendy takes you through everything you would need to know to complete the 6 projects in this book, including working with fabric, taking measurements and sewing machine basics before going onto sewing seams, hems, inserting zips etc.. 
There are several things I really like about the book.  Firstly, the projects it contains.  I find the projects in a lot of dressmaking books a bit too twee for my tastes, but the projects Wendy has chosen to include are all simple and stylish shapes.  There is a great looking T-shirt, a maxi dress/skirt with a jersey foldover waistband, trousers with the same waistband as the skirt, a fishtail skirt, a zipped jacket and a shift dress.  Each garment can be made "as is" or customised with a number of variations.
After a short introduction section, the projects section comes next, with the techniques following on.
I really like having the book structured in this way - if you're flicking through you get to see what you can make almost straight away, rather than having to read through all the techniques before you can find out what you're going to use them for.
The section for each project is laid out in the same way, the first double page gives you an overview of the garment, the techniques that will be used, and the types of fabric you can use.

The next double page gives measurements and information on cutting out the fabric. 
Cutting plans come next, and depending on the complexity of the garment and the number of options, these might have their own pages.  
The "Putting it all Together" section comes next, giving good instructions on how to construct the garment and telling you when you need to look in the Techniques section further on in the book.
Finally there is a "Make it Your Own" section, showing some of the customisation options you might consider.
At the back of the book Wendy has included a double page glossary, the first page describing types of fabrics, and the second sewing terms. 
The patterns themselves are printed on tear out sheets at the front and back of the book.  They're overlapped and double sided, so you'll need to trace them off, although this seems to be the norm in sewing books these days. 
I think this book would make a great purchase for a beginner dressmaker who likes a simpler, more modern style of clothes, or for a more experienced sewer looking for some good basic patterns to customise.
I personally can't wait to get started on the zip jacket - I think the grey one above with the orange bias trim looks fabulous!  In fact, I'd like that whole outfit.
Have you got this book, or are thinking of getting it?  Are the projects your style?

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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A Decision Has Been Made!

Thank you all for your comments on my last post - both on my new haircut and on which coat I should make. 
After much consideration, I've made a start on the first coat, which is the one I spotted last year and bought all the supplies for.   

I think as a "main" winter coat this one will go with more things, whereas I think the cocoon coat needs to be worn with skinny jeans/trousers and heels.  And lets be honest, skinny jeans and heels are not something I do or even can wear every day.
I've actually got it cut out and the bodice and sleeve pieces underlined with flannel, ready to start sewing.  I got some gorgeous lining fabric yesterday too. 
I still love the other coat, and may possibly follow Libby from Truly Myrtle's suggestion that I make both.  The lady I bought the navy fabric from last year has the same fabric in a camel colour, so I could end up with both coats looking exactly like they do in the Burda photos (or nearly as good anyway!).
Once again, thanks for all your comments and suggestions, each one was helpful in the decision making process!  
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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Project Procrastination

There hasn't been huge amounts of sewing going on around these parts over the last couple of weeks.  I've been suffering from project procrastination.  There are too many things I want or need to make, and I don't know where to start.
Plus I had a dramatic change of hairstyle last week, and while I'm really happy I did it, it somehow makes all my clothes feel wrong!  If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen a photo of my haircut, if not, here's the Instagram pic.
As you can see, it's quite a change!  I feel like I need a wardrobe change to match!  I'm not feeling the love for my dresses quite as much now my hair is shorter and want either some new "cooler" dresses, or some stylish separates. 
Am I the only one who feels the need of a change of style when I get a new haircut?
So, to compound my project procrastination, I'm trying to fit a pair of trousers, with limited success. After having made a couple of muslins, I've worked out I have excess fabric in the back of the thigh.  Pinning out a vertical double ended dart in the back of the leg solved the problem, but I'm not sure how to transfer that onto the pattern.  I've actually ordered a copy of Pants for Real People today, and I'll wait until that arrives before continuing.
I'm also having second thoughts about my coat.  I was planning on making this one:
I've actually muslined this, and have all my fabrics and notions.  I'm having second thoughts though and am now thinking of this one:
They're both Burdastyle patterns, and if I decide to go with the second choice, it will be navy, as that's what fabric I have.  The second one is actually a plus size pattern, but I think if I make the smallest size with slightly larger seam allowances it wouldn't need to much in the way of grading.  I would also very likely omit the collar, as I always wear a scarf when it's cold anyway. 
So, please give me your coat related opinions!  Which one would you make?  Why?
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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Where I Live

Wow, this is my 200th post!  In honour of this, I thought I'd write about something a little bit different today.  Earlier this week Gail from Today's Agenda posted on her blog inviting readers to ask her questions.  If you asked her a question, she would ask one in return.
I posted a question for her, and the one she asked me was "What are your favourite and least favourite things about the place you live?"
So, today I'm going to tell you a bit about where I live, and what I love about it.
I live in a small town called Berkhamsted, in West Hertfordshire, about 25 miles North-West of London. 
Berkhamsted dates back to Roman times, the current High Street is where the ancient Roman Akeman Street ran from St Albans to Cirencester. Berkhamsted first featured in history in 1066 after the Battle of Hastings, when William the Conqueror received the surrender of the Anglo-Saxon English in the town.
The town has ruins of a medieval castle which was host to many medieval kings and queens. 

In more recent history the author Graham Greene lived in the town, and attended the Boys School, where his father was headmaster.
The High Street features many independent shops and varied architecture, along with numerous restaurants, pubs and bars. 
Top left in the above picture is the old town hall, where we held our wedding reception.
Berkhamsted is a lovely place to visit on a weekend morning for breakfast or coffee and cake.  We live about 15 minutes walk from the centre of the town, so in nice weather we will often walk into the town for just this purpose.  We did so this morning.
The Grand Union Canal runs through the town, and it's a lovely alternative to walk into town along the tow path in good weather - it can get very muddy! 
One of my favourite things is to walk this way in the winter - if it's really cold the canal freezes over.
Berkhamsted is also home to The Rex cinema, which was named by the BBC as "possibly Britain's most beautiful cinema".  The cinema first opened in 1938 and closed 50 years later.  After being left derelict for 16 years, it was completely refurbished in it's original art deco style and reopened in 2004. 
Once you've visited the Rex, you don't want the multiplex experience!
As I was writing this post, I kept thinking about Gail's original question, and I find I can't really answer it fully.  I love everything about this town, from it's location set in the Chiltern Hills - we can be in the countryside in a matter of minutes - to the fact that whenever you walk along the High Street you're almost guaranteed to meet someone you know.   And I can't actually think of anything I don't like about it at all.
I hope you've enjoyed my little tour around my town.  I've lived here for 17 years, and couldn't imagine living anywhere else.  

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