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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Monday, 20 October 2014

Minerva Blogger Network - October Separates

 
When I ordered the fabric for this months Minerva Blogger Network project it was going to be a dress. 
 

 
 
However, as you can see, it isn't a dress!  When the weather started to cool down and I began to unearth my Autumn/Winter clothes I realised I was desperately in need of separates.  Particularly cosy tops that could be worn with jeans, or with a skirt for a smart casual day at work.  So my plans changed (as they often do - I'm fickle like that) and I decided on a top.
 
 
 
This top is actually rubbed off of one of my favourite sweaters.  I used this tutorial from A Fashionable Stitch and as the sweater I was using was a very simple raglan sleeved one with no shaping, it was as quick as anything! 
 
When I came to cut the fabric out I did add a little bit of waist shaping, as the "base" sweater was much thinner and more fluid than my fabric.  I also added cuffs to the sleeves and the foldover collar.  The collar was totally taken from the new pattern I bought last week at the Knitting and Stitching Show - the MiY pull on shift dress.  The pattern piece fitted my neckline perfectly, but it would have been just as easy to draft my own.
 
 
 
The fabric is gorgeous.  It's a ponte knit, and as well as this colourway, it also comes in grey with a black floral pattern.  It's the perfect weight for this top. 
 
I had 2 metres of the fabric, and once the top was finished I realised I had enough for a skirt as well.  Bonus!
 
 
 
I wanted a pull on skirt, and decided to use the pattern in my Alabama Studio Sewing and Design book, with an added self drafted waistband.  The skirt is cut with the stretch going round the body, and the waistband with the stretch going vertical.  This makes it a little bit of a wriggle to get into, but once on it fits perfectly. 
 
 
 
Both garments were made on my overlocker (which I'm beginning to wonder how I managed without) and hems were finished with the 3-step zigzag on my regular machine.  Because the fabric is nice and thick, the hem stitches sink in and you can barely see them.
 
Here's a shot of both garments worn together - I don't think I would actually wear them both at the same time, but it doesn't look as bad as I thought it might. 
 

 
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Friday, 10 October 2014

Knitting and Stitching Goodies

 
I had a sneaky day's leave from work today to go to The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace, London.  I've been going to this show on and off for well over 20 years.  I can remember going with my mum and a couple of her friends when I was in my early 20's and literally spending all day there. 
 
This year I went alone, got there for when it opened and left around lunchtime.  I prefer to go early as the first hour is normally much less crowded and you can see a lot before it get too busy. 
 
These are the goodies I came home with today.
 
 

 
 
Starting on the left, 5 balls of Sublime Luxury Tweed DK, to knit a little pullover top for myself, and of course the pattern book to go with it.   This colour will go well with my Winter wardrobe, and it should be quite a quick knit.
 
 

 
 
Next we have a dress pattern - the Easy Pull-on Shift Dress from MiY Collection.  Once I'd bought the pattern, of course I had to look for some fabric, and got 3 metres of grey flannel, but I can't remember which stall this was from!  My husband's comment when I showed him the pattern is that it looked shapeless, but the sample MiY had on their stand (made in denim - which looked lovely) was really nice, so I have high hopes for this one. It is a loose style, but didn't appear to be completely shapeless.  All being well, this will be worn with a long sleeved t-shirt underneath, thick tights and boots. 
 
 

 
 
More fabrics were then purchased.  1.5m of teal jersey and 1.5m of bird print poly/viscose (possibly?) from Simply Fabrics, and 1.5m of black crinkle burnout jersey from somewhere else.  The black jersey has a nice floral burnout pattern which I could not photograph.   The jerseys will both be simple long sleeved tops, the bird print I'm not sure about, but at only £3.00 a metre I couldn't leave it!
 
 

 
 
My other yarn purchase was some grey Drops Alpaca Boucle from Nest to knit a cardigan for my mum for Christmas.   I knitted myself a cardigan from this recently and my mum has been trying to steal it from me every time she sees it.  Just hope I can get it knitted in time (and possibly one for my sister too) otherwise it will be a birthday present!
 
Those were my purchases for the day.  I think I did quite well this time, everything I bought - except possibly the bird print fabric - I have a plan for.  No completely random purchases at all, which I admit I have sometimes succumbed to.   I find it's so easy to get carried away and buy things just because they look cute or pretty on the stall, only to wonder why you've spent all that money on it when you get home!
 
 
Oh, and I helped David from GBSB series 2 choose a sewing pattern! 
 
 
 
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Saturday, 4 October 2014

Better Late Than Never!

 
Believe it or not, this is my September Minerva Blogger network project!  I had the project made in plenty of time, but then totally ran out of time to photograph it and write my blog post before I went on holiday.  Vicki kindly said I could send her the post as and when I could...  I've finally managed it only 2 weeks late!
 
For this (or last!) months project I wanted to make some separates that would be suitable for the coming Autumn and Winter weather.   At the Minerva Meet-up in June I spent quite a bit of time choosing suitable fabrics and finally decided on some John Kaldor jersey in a pansy pattern for a top and some lovely ponte knit in a coordinating Forest colour for a skirt.  Both fabrics are gorgeous quality.



 
 
I spent a long time trying to decide which patterns to use, then came up with the idea of hacking my favourite By Hand London Anna dress pattern into separates. 
 
The skirt was straight forward.  I simply used the midi skirt panels and added a simple folded waistband to the top.  The back is closed by an invisible zip - which is navy because that's the closest colour match I could get - and I inserted the zip so that the top sits level with the top of the waistband.  I've seen this finish many times in ready to wear skirts and I much prefer it to a fastening in the waistband above the zip.
 
 
 
The top took a little more thinking about, and I'm actually planning on doing a tutorial (hopefully in the next couple of weeks).  What I did was firstly to use the tutorial on the By Hand London blog to lengthen the sleeves, then lengthened the bodice about 6 inches.  The back has fish eye darts now, where I lengthened the original darts down into the added on section and tapered them out to nothing a couple of inches above the hem. 
 
 
 
It's quite hard to see in the above photo, but the front pleats were lengthened and tapered out to nothing the same as the back darts, so they are now long darts with open tops. 
 
I wore the top during OWOP and have worn both the top and skirt to work since.  I think they'll fit really well into my Autumn and Winter wardrobe, as they're perfectly appropriate office wear, but still very comfortable.  Of course, both pieces will get worn with other items as well.
 
 

 
 
Apologies for the drag lines in the above photo, they're not there in real life, but the downside of taking your own photos means you can't always spot these things!
 
 
 
 
I think I've probably hacked the Anna pattern enough now, and it's time to move on to something else!
 
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Monday, 29 September 2014

I Made This: Papercut Patterns Clover Dress

 
Wow, I cannot believe I made this dress a month ago and today is the first time I've had the time to blog about it. 
 
 
 
This is/was my birthday dress and since my birthday at the beginning of the month it's been worn several times.  I totally love it!
 
The pattern is Papercut Patterns Clover dress, which I bought as soon as it was released.  I rarely buy a pattern immediately it is released, normally preferring to wait until there are a few reviews and finished projects I can check out, but I knew I wanted this as soon as I saw it.
 
It was a very easy project.  I received the pattern on a Saturday morning, by lunchtime had made a muslin, and had the dress finished to wear out to dinner on the Sunday evening.
 
 
 
 
 
Based on my measurements I cut a size small (do Papercut Patterns size larger than other companies, as I'm rarely a small!) and didn't need to make any fit alterations at all.  I did lengthen the skirt and also the sleeves, but that was purely to account for the fact that we're coming into Autumn and a I knew a short dress with short sleeves wouldn't get much wear.
 
To lengthen the sleeves, I literally just cut them longer, at the width the existing hem was, so that they were full length.  The cuffs - which I really should have taken a photo of as I'm so proud of them - were loosely pleated into a narrow band of pre-made bias tape. 
 


 
 
Initially I added 6 inches of length to the skirt, then at the hemming stage cut it into a high-low hem by removing 4 inches from the front.  If I get bored with the high-low look I'll just shorten the back to match the front.
 
I was really pleased with the way the pattern went together.  Every piece matched perfectly, even the lace inset pieces for the bodice.  I was really worried that I wasn't going to get them to line up nicely either side of the centre front seam, but my worries were needless.
 
For the lace inset panel I used some scraps from a lace collar I'd bought a couple of years ago.  I had just enough to cut the 2 pieces. 
 
 
 
You might recognise the fabric - it's the same as I used for my Polly top a couple of months ago.  I liked it so much I went back to the shop and bought some more.  It's a polyester georgette, but it's a lovely weight and only slightly sheer.  I have to wear a waist slip under it, but the fabric isn't so sheer that I need a full slip.  
 
I'll definitely make this pattern again - probably the blouse version next - and after seeing Tess Daly (on the right in the photo below) on Strictly Come Dancing, I'm wondering how I can hack the top into a jumpsuit. 
 

 
 
I also think a short sleeved maxi version would be lovely for next summer. 
 
 
 
 
 

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Holiday Snaps

 
Hello!
 
Sorry for the long absence, I was away on holiday last week and the week before that was manic, as this week is shaping up to be!  I haven't done any sewing for two whole weeks. 
 
As I've nothing to share with you on the sewing front, I thought I'd show you a few of my holiday snaps.
 
We spent the first four days of our holiday with friends in St Austell, Cornwall, in the little holiday cottage they have attached to their house.
 
Our cottage in the centre of the picture.  Our friends house is the stone building on the left.

 
We visited the Eden Project - which is only twenty minutes walk from the cottage - and spent some time in the tropical rainforest biome and the temperate Mediterranean biome.  Some of the plants in the rainforest biome in particular are stunning.
 

 
Look at the size of the leaf on this palm!
 
We spent the rest of our time in Cornwall visiting various small, pretty seaside towns; Fowey, St Mawes, Looe and Polperro.
 
St Mawes

Polperro

 
After Cornwall we headed east to Dorset and stayed for a couple of nights in Lyme Regis. 
 
 
 
The town isn't quite as pretty as the Cornish seaside resorts, but has lots of lovely little shops and restaurants.  It was perfect for a two night stay and we had a room in the most gorgeous little B&B. 
 
Our final night was spent in Bournemouth, where we had tickets to see Riverdance, which is celebrating it's 20th anniversary this year.  My hubby's family are Irish, and he's always wanted to see the show.  It was simply amazing!
 
I do have a couple of unblogged sewing projects that were completed before I went on holiday, so I'll hopefully have time to share those with you sooner rather than later. 
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Monday, 8 September 2014

Hopping Around

If you read as many sewing blogs as I do you've probably seen at least some of the Blog Hop posts that have been popping up over the last few weeks.
 
I've really enjoyed reading them and finding out a bit more about what makes my favourite sewing bloggers tick.  I was very flattered when I received an email from Claire at I Want to be a Turtle asking me if I would take part.
 
So here goes:
 
Why do I write?
 
Good question!  I really had to think about this, why do I write?  Is it to entertain, inform, keep a record, learn? 
 
Really a bit of each of those things.
 
When I started blogging in the summer of 2012 I'd been reading sewing blogs for a couple of years, commenting on a few sporadically and learning lots.  Slowly the thought came into my mind that if all these people out there in the world were sharing their sewing and other skills online, then why shouldn't I?  It seemed to me - rightly or wrongly - that if I wanted to learn more and improve my sewing then I needed to be able to take a more active roll in the online sewing community than merely commenting on other peoples blogs.
 
Like many others taking part in this blog hop have noted, my blog largely forms a place for me to keep records of what I've done, alterations I've made to patterns, things I'd like to try differently next time. 
 
I hope that my writing is entertaining or at least interesting.  I have to say that creative writing was never my strong point - I'm much more of a "why use 200 words when 20 will do" type of writer so I do worry sometimes that my posts are a bit abrupt, but then other times I can waffle on indefinitely.
 
My blog is mainly about sharing what I'm working on or what I've just finished, with a few tutorial type posts thrown in along the way.  I see some bloggers writing detailed and obviously well researched posts on social issues, but I have to say that's not my thing!  That's not to say that I'm not interested in these issues, just that I don't want to write about them.  I'd rather keep things more light hearted here.
 
 
 
 
What am I working on?
 
Well, like most people I normally have several projects on the go.  Currently I'm working on my Alabama Chanin skirt, which I posted about last week.  As that is handsewn it's taking time, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable project.
 
I'm also working on my next Minerva Crafts Network project, which I can't share with you right now, but will be revealed next week.
 
Towards the end of the month I'm planning on starting my big project of the year, a winter coat.  I'll be making this Burdastyle one, the pattern is cut out and ready to go as I intended to make it last year and never got round to it!
 
 
 
I'm also working my way through the Craftsy Pattern Making Basics - The Skirt Sloper course.  I've wanted to learn pattern making for ages and my lovely hubby got me this course, and the bodice sloper one for my birthday. 
 
 
How does your blog differ from others of it's genre?
 
My initial reaction to this question was "I don't know"!   I suppose to a certain extent most sewing blogs are the same, we all make things, we all share them with our readers.
 
I think where my blog differs from some others is that I don't really have a defined style.  There are a lot of bloggers out there that have a very defined style, be it vintage garments, certain colour schemes, prints, whatever.  I'm much more eclectic with my choices (and always have been with clothes) and tend to make whatever takes my fancy.  I do love dresses though...
 
 
 
 
... except shirt dresses.  The sewing blogger community seems to LOVE shirt dresses, and I definitely differ in that respect because I hate them!  (On me, that is.  I love a good shirt dress on other people!)  I won't say you'll never see a shirt dress on this blog, but it's highly unlikely.
 
 
How does your writing process work?
 
I tend to write a post and then publish it almost immediately, usually within a few days of finishing the item if I'm sharing a finished project.  As I mentioned earlier, creative writing was never my strong point and there's only so long I can fiddle with posts before I hit publish.   I'm lucky in that I work from home at least part of the week, so I can normally find time during the day to write a post if I want to.  I'm not as restricted as some bloggers in having to find time at weekends to write posts which will then go live during the week. 
 
Having said that, if I'm feeling particularly inspired I will occasionally write two or three posts in a day and schedule them over the course of a week.
 

 
 
I had to choose two bloggers to take over this blog hop from me, and I've nominated Maria from How Good is That?  and Lucie from Love, Lucie, both of whom who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Minerva Crafts meet up earlier this year. 
 
You can read their answers to these same questions next Monday 15th September.
 

 
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