A Quiet Christmas

Hello there!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas however you spent the time, and got lots of lovely presents. 

We had a very quiet Christmas here, just me, hubby and my parents.  We should have been joined by my sister and her husband, but unfortunately on Christmas Eve they phoned to say they were unable to spend the day with us.   I still seemed to spend most of the day cooking food, serving food, or clearing away food.  By the time my parents left just before 10pm all I could do was flop on the sofa with a(nother) glass of wine.

Present wise, I got a couple of small crafty gifts from hubby, both of which I’d put on my list for him.  The first was a set of French curves and the second was a 1 metre ruler.  Apparently he had terrible trouble finding this!  Who knew that 1 metre rulers were so hard to find. 
Our local art/craft shop offered to order one for him, but said it wouldn’t be in until the New Year, and would cost £28.  £28 for a piece of metal?  I don’t think so!  In desperation he tried the funny little DIY place at the end of our road.  It’s the kind of shop that sells EVERYTHING, and you can never find anything without a member of staff helping you.  Well, they had one in stock, but it’s bent!  It doesn’t lay flat on the table without being pressed down.  But hey, it does the job, and it was only £5.  Much more reasonable, and more money left for other gifts.  Hee hee! 

Sadly that was it in the way of crafty gifts from other people, but luckily I’ve recently treated myself to a couple of patterns that I’ve seen other bloggers talk about.

The first is McCalls 5972 that Lauren over at Lladybird showed recently.  I love her vintage looking version with the collar, and I’d been searching for the perfect shift dress pattern.  When I saw the collared version of this one I knew I’d found it.

Not sure about the ruffles!
The second is a vintage pattern, Simplicity 8498. 

This pattern was published the year I was born!

Tasia at Sewaholic showed this as "a less than perfect project" recently, although I loved what she’d made.  I think part of the reason that she’d classed it as less than perfect was because the patterned fabric she used hid the lovely seam detail on the front.  

This one hasn’t arrived yet, but I can’t wait to try it in a plain fabric when it does pop through my letterbox. 

Yesterday I treated myself to the Maria Denmark Day to Night Drape Top pattern,  after seeing Winnie’s lovely butterfly version, and some jersey fabric to make my own.  I spent yesterday afternoon sewing and ended up with a lovely top, which I’ll share with you very soon.

That was my Christmas, I’d love to hear about yours.  Did you get lots of lovely crafty gifts?




5 Things I've Learned This Year

That making a muslin really is worth it.  Before I took up sewing again I had never made a muslin, in fact I’d never even heard of a muslin.  Maybe that’s why I had so many sewing fails in the past. 

I’m not so good that I now make muslins for every garment I sew, but those that I have definitely fit better than those that I didn’t bother for.  I’ve also got to muslin stage in a couple of garments and realised they wouldn’t suit me at all, saving me from wasting pretty fabric.
My Tigerlily dress (from the Burdastyle Danielle pattern) fits perfectly, thanks to the muslin I made.
Having said that, I still find making a muslin very boring when all I want to do is sew the pretty stuff. 


That bound button holes aren’t “impossible”.    OK, I’m sure some people would look at the bound button holes on my coat and find plenty of faults, but I’m pretty pleased with them. 
They took time and patience, but weren’t actually anywhere near as difficult as I thought they were going to be. 


That I often like the process of knitting more than the finished garment.  Wow, it’s taken a lot for me to admit that.  I do love the rhythmic, sometimes almost hypnotic process of knitting a garment, but I’m beginning to realise that many of the things I’ve knitted aren’t actually worn that often.  I’ve got a beautiful shawl I made 2 years ago that is yet to be worn and sits folded nicely in a drawer. 
A gorgeous shawl thats never been worn!
Several cardigans have had very little wear, while a couple of others I sling on all the time.  One of my goals for next year is to try and knit more things I really want to wear.


That simple is often better.  As I mentioned in my post What I learned from Valentino the garments/outfits I loved the most in the Valentino Master of Couture exhibition were the simplest designs. 

That blogging is much, much harder than I thought it would be.  I’m in total awe of those bloggers with beautifully photographed finished projects and eloquently written posts.  Definitely something else I need to work on next year.
Thank you so much to everyone that's taken the time to read and comment since I started blogging earlier this year.  I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and receive lots of lovely crafty goodies.
I'll be back after Christmas with some stitching goals for next year.  

Stitching Highs and Lows

Ha ha!  That title makes me think of the A-Ha song “Hunting High and Low” and Morten Harkett’s extremely high voice!  Am I showing my age?

Dottie Doodle has recently posted her sewing highs and lows, inspired by Crafting a Rainbow, which I thought was an excellent idea, so here are mine.



I think my real high this year has to be making my coat. 

I’m really pleased with how it turned out, the whole process was very long and both easier and harder than I thought it would be.  It’s not perfect, but I learned some new techniques and I’m already thinking about another coat for next year (and I have a pattern in mind!)


The machine embroidery and appliqué workshop I attended with Katie Essam. 

It was a fabulous day, I learned a great new craft thanks to Katie’s excellent teaching and I’ve been able to put the skills I learnt into practice making several Christmas gifts.


One of the first dresses I blogged about making – my Burdastyle Danielle dress. 

I wore it often over the summer – well as often as the rubbish summer weather allowed.  It fits really well, I love the deep neckline and the gorgeous fabric.


Stripes and Flowers crochet tunic. 

A total experiment, I didn’t actually know if it was going to work until it was finished.  Thankfully it did!  It also brings back great memories of the Olympics, as it was made during the Games. 


Colette Meringue skirt. 

I should wear this more often, but I don’t have that many tops that go with it.  I love the vibrant red and the scalloped hem.  I definitely need another one of these!


Bias cut Sorbetto blouse. 

I want to love this, I really do, but I don’t.  I think I’ve only worn it once, although I’ve had it on and off quite a few times.  The fabric is lovely and soft, the colour is gorgeous, but it looks like a maternity smock.  I’m debating taking it apart and remaking it with the pleat sewn in all the way down the front.  Alternatively I do have a bit of the fabric left, I’m wondering if it’s enough to cut a new front completely.


Chelsea knitted skirt.  So awful that I actually unravelled it almost the moment it was finished.  Great idea, but knitted skirts DO NOT suit my body shape.   So awful I don't even have a photo!


Failed Satsuma Stripes sweater. 

This is what it SHOULD have looked like, mine was/is awful!

I made the mistake of knitting far too much of this before I tried it on, only to discover that it was absolutely enormous across the shoulders and chest.  Unfortunately as it is knitted top down in one piece altering it means starting from scratch.  It’s currently in a ball in the cupboard!


Burda 7301 dress. 

I don’t hate it, but it’s just a bit “meh”.  The body is nice, but the fabric is too stiff for the wider sleeve style.  I actually intended to make it with the fabric I used for my bias cut Sorbetto blouse, and I think I really should have done. 


Denim tulip skirt (Simplicity 2263). 

Another one I’d love to love but don’t.  I don’t hate it like I do the Sorbetto blouse.  The denim went all streaky when it was washed and the seam at the bottom of the zip has split.  The split I can fix, the streaky denim I can do nothing about.  Shame, because I do like the style.  Maybe another one should be made, I have a couple of suitable fabrics in my stash.

Looking back my highs and lows, it seems as though I need to consider my fabric choices more carefully, certainly in how I match them to patterns.  It's one thing I'm not that good at, I tend to see a fabric I like and decide I'll make it work with whatever pattern I choose.   Usually it's pretty successful, but as you can see, not always.

I also need to consider the style of the garment I'm intending to make.  Because I'm not that tall and quite curvy, I need to make sure whatever I wear doesn't hide my waist, or the part of my torso between my boobs and my waist.  This is my thinnest part, so if that's covered by huge amounts of loose fabric, of course it's going to make me look bigger than I am. 

I have recently purchased a couple of vintage patterns for more fitted dresses, so I'm looking forward to making those up.

Thanks for listening, and thanks very much to Crafting a Rainbow for this idea! 

Christmas is coming...

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please to put a penny in the old man's hat;
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,
If you haven't got a ha'penny then God bless you!
I've been busily stitching away at more embroidered pictures for Christmas gifts over the last few days, and I thoroughly intented to photograph them to share with you.
However, I spent this afternoon decorating my Christmas tree and wrapping presents, only to wrap the embroideries without photographing them!
You'll therefore have to accept photos of my Christmas tree instead.
I love our tree.  It's a really nice narrow one, so you can put it in the corner of the room and still be able to walk through the doors and see the TV etc, rather than having to push past or peer through the branches. 
I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas decorations, I like red and gold.  A few years ago I did purple and copper which was lovely, and I might return to that in the future, but as you can see, red and gold suits the decor in our lounge well. 
I have a few "feature" decorations among the standard round baubles, this is one of my favourites, a little metal bird. 
I have three of these, from good old Marks and Spencer last year.  I do like things in odd numbers, which is why I'm a little disappointed to only have 2 of these tree baubles. 
They were from Ikea, also last year, and sold in boxes of 2.  I didn't want too many, but I'd have liked one more!  
How do you decorate your tree?  Traditional or modern?  The same every year?  I'd love to know! 

What I Learned From Valentino

In my last post I talked about my recent visit to the Valentino, Master of Couture exhibition at Somerset House and shared some of my favourite outfits on display there.

As well as being a visual feast, the garments on show got me thinking about sewing in general, the things I might choose to make and how I might change those decisions in the future.  I was expecting to along and ooh and aah at all the gorgeousness, but I think I actually learned quite a lot from Mr Valentino Garavani in the short time I spent in the presence of his creations.

Simple, classic shapes never look dated
Last time I told you that this dress was my favourite of all the 130+ outfits on show.  It was designed in 1959, but to my eye the design doesn’t look more than 50 years old.

This gorgeous red evening dress is a creation from 1965, but this wouldn't look out of place on the red carpet today.
Conversely, this dress from 1987 couldn’t be from any other period!  I couldn’t imagine anyone wearing a dress like this now.

Lesson learned: While it’s nice to make fun, “trendy” garments, if you want to make something that will last, make a classic design.

Plain fabrics look classier
The vast majority of the outfits on display were plain colours, often a single colour throughout the whole outfit.  White, black, red and pink featured heavily and even very bright or strong colours generally looked classier and more expensive than patterned or multicoloured ones.

Lesson learned: don’t instantly dismiss plain as boring.  Pattern can be wonderful, but you can have too much of a good thing.  Clothes made from plain fabrics are easier to mix and match as well!

 A small detail can make a big impact
Jacq and I both fell in love with a cream silk blouse that featured small neat bows on the cuffs instead of buttons.  The bows were fixed, and from what we could see, slipped through a buttonhole in the same way a button would.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a picture of it to share with you.

Lesson learned: don’t always go for the ordinary, explore alternative fastenings and finishes that will result in a totally unique garment.

“Perfection” is not always perfect
This dress, from 1967, has its hem finished with bias binding. 

I was amazed to find that the diagonal seam on the bias strip was directly at the front of the dress.  If using a similar hem finish myself I would have tried my hardest to hide the seam at the centre back.

There were also a couple of long coats, I think from the 1970’s, that weren’t lined.  While it was nice to see what seam and hem finishes had been used, I was very surprised that a couture coat wasn’t lined. 
Lesson learned: Don’t be too hard on yourself when it comes to finishing.  Of course, we all want our finished garments to look as professional as possible, but as you can see sometimes the professionals aren’t “perfect”.  Is anyone else going to notice where the seams in your bias strips are?  If not, then perhaps you shouldn’t worry too much.
On another, but still Valentino related, note I have been very naughty.  I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't a(n affordable) book or catalogue available for purchase at Somerset House.  The little exhibition shop did have some books, in a glass case and priced in excess of £200 - possibly even in excess of £300!  
Don't worry, I haven't gone totally mad and bought one, but I have bought a copy of Valentino: Themes and Variations from Amazon.  I can't wait for it to arrive.
OK, I think I'm Valentino'd out for now.  I'll try and make my next post about something else.   

Very Valentino

I had a wonderful day yesterday for 2 reasons.  Firstly it was my first ever blogger meet-up, and secondly the venue for the meet was the Valentino, Master of Couture exhibition at Somerset House.

I met Jacq of A Good Talking To outside the Strand entrance to Somerset House yesterday morning.  Luckily we recognised each other straight away, helped a little I think by the fact I was wearing my recently completed Vogue coat, which being very bright certainly marked me out in the crowd!

I was a little nervous, I’m actually quite shy, but Jacq is as lovely as she seems on her blog and very easy to talk to.  Within minutes – seconds probably – we were chatting away as easily as if we’d known each other for ages. 

We walked through the courtyard in the centre of the buildings, which is currently taken up by the ice rink, and after negotiating several lots of stairs and lifts we found the entrance to the exhibition 0 right by the Embankment entrance on the opposite side of the building to where we met!

The exhibition is split into three separate sections, each beautifully laid out.

The first section gives a brief timeline of Valentino’s career and accompanying this is a display of personal photographs and correspondence, including letters from other designers and various stars in the film and fashion world.  These are displayed in white glass topped cabinets supported on the type of elegant chairs you would find on the front row of a couture fashion show.

A glass staircase then takes you up to the second – probably what you would call the “main” section – of the exhibition.  This is a display of over 130 of Valentino’s designs, modelled by elegant colour coded mannequins, their colour denoting the decade in which the outfit was designed.  The mannequins are set either side of a “catwalk” sitting on or standing by the same chairs that support the cabinets in the first section.  The visitor walks down the centre as the models would in a catwalk show.  The displays are roped off from the catwalk, but you can get very close to some of them, close enough to see the seam in a bias cut strip finishing a hem on one dress is in the centre front, and that some of the coats are not lined. 


We spent quite a bit of time peering at various outfits to see if we could work out how different things had been done!

What I loved about this section is that the outfits are grouped by themes, rather than in chronological order.  There are sections featuring elegant black dresses, white outfits, animal print, pastels, among others.  Having the outfits displayed in this way also made it easier and more enjoyable to pick out recurring themes in Valentino’s designs, with often the same detail being used several decades apart.

The very first outfit on display was one of my favourites, a simple and stunning navy wool cocktail dress from 1959. 

This to me is the epitome of timeless design.  You could wear this to a smart event today without looking like you were wearing a vintage “costume”.  I love the curved seam under the bust and the soft pleats either side.  This dress, as many within the collection did, had the bodice and sleeve cut in one piece, with the shoulder seam extending along the upper arm. 

If I could own one dress from this amazing collection it would be this one.

Funnily enough, this morning I realised I had Valentino’s original sketch of this dress on one of my Pinterest boards. 


This crepe georgette cocktail dress from 1960 was another of my favourites.  Again, I don't think it looks at all dated.  

Both Jacq and I seemed to prefer the earlier designs from the 1960’s.  Their simplicity gave an elegance which seemed lacking in some of the designs from the 1980’s and early 90’s when it seemed that more was more.  Very few of the earlier designs appeared dated, whereas some of the 80’s ones were very much of their time and would look very out of place today.

This red evening gown was worn by Anne Hathaway at the 2011 Oscar ceremony.  It was unbelievably tiny!  I think I’d have needed 2 of them to fit me. 

When we had walked the catwalk another set of stairs led us down to the final section of the exhibition, which gives an insight into some of the couture techniques used in the construction of the garments, some of which are unique to Valentino.

A sample of each technique is displayed in a glass topped inset to the large padded, canvas covered display table, and with video screens showing seamstresses demonstrating some of them. 

A “Rose di Volant” panel created from bias cut silk georgette which formed the waist panel on a stunning evening dress.

This stunning evening cape is created using a technique called “Pagine”, in which circles of silk georgette are sewn like pages of a book against the backing fabric.

This evening dress features “Budellini” – tubes of bias cut silk filled with loops of wool and finished with a beaded tassel.  I can only imagine how amazing they would look swaying gently as you walked in this dress. 

Jacq and I spent 3 hours in the exhibition and it passed in a flash.  It was a wonderful experience that I would have enjoyed had I visited alone, however it was made all the better for visiting with someone I could discuss the minute detail of each garment with.

If you’re interested in fashion and sewing I would highly recommend a visit to this amazing exhibition. 


After boredom comes fun

In my last post I moaned about the pile of alterations I had to do for other people, and the good news is, that 2/3rd's of them are now done!

I forced myself to shorten my dad's 2 pairs of trousers on Sunday evening, and let out 3 pairs of trousers for a friend on Monday.

I still have hubby's coat sleeves to shorten, I need to work myself up to that having "finished" them once already. 

To reward myself for tackling the boring jobs, I've been working on a machine embroidered picture for my sisters Christmas present.  I can safely share it here, as she doesn't read this.  In fact she doesn't even know this blog exists!

I came up with the idea of this picture after spotting a handprinted scarf on Etsy featuring a cat peeping through some brambles.   I'll do things a little back to front now and show you the finished embroidery first, then some of the stages I went through to get there.

I started off with composing the picture by tracing the cat face from one photograph and various leaves and berries from another, angling the leaves and berries around the central image. 

Once I was happy with the result I made 2 tracings of it, one of the full image and one of the only the cats face to use as my sewing guides.  These were traced onto pieces of pattern tracing paper.  Fabric shapes for the eyes and nose were then cut from appropriate fabrics in my stash and ironed onto the backing fabric with Bondaweb. 

To get the positioning correct I pinned the pattern tracing paper onto the backing fabric and slid the eyes and nose into position before ironing.   Using my tracing as a guide I stitched the features then tore away the tracing paper once I thought I'd stitched enough.

I then cut up my original drawing (which is why I can't show you a photo of it!) to use as a template for the leaves and berries.  The leaves and berries were cut out from quilting fabrics I found that were printed with leaves and berries, and ironed in place with Bondaweb, using the tracing of the full image as a guide.

I used the outlines and some of the detail of the leaves to start my stitching.

Once I'd got all the outlines stitched I again carefully tore off the tissue paper, and spent the rest of the evening picking tiny slivers of the paper from between the stitches using tweezers!  That took almost as long as all the stitching did.

I'd initially thought that would be it, but when I removed the paper and all the little pieces I wasn't totally happy with what I was seeing, so I cut more berries and added them and also went over the initial black embroidery lines with some colour to give a bit more definition.

The picture below shows the reverse of the embroidery.

I really hope my sister likes it! 

I'm now going to start 2 more slightly smaller and simpler embroideries for Christmas gifts for 2 of my aunties.

Are you crafting for Christmas gifts this year?  If so, I'd love to know what you're making and who it's for.

Is it just me...

... or do you hate doing alterations too?

I've currently got 2 pairs of trousers to shorten for my dad (that I've had 2 weeks and haven't come out of the bag yet!), several pairs of trousers to let out at the waist for a friend and the sleeves of hubby's new coat to shorten (for the second time!) and I really don't want to do any of them!

I did the sleeves of hubby's new coat yesterday afternoon - to the length he specified - and he's now decided that actually, they're still too long. 

The only thing worse than doing alterations in the first place can be having to re-do them!

What I'd really like to do is curl up on the sofa under a blanket and start knitting this cardigan from Kim Hargreaves new book, Enchanted.

This model is scaring me slightly - she looks possessed!

So please tell me I'm not alone in hating doing alterations - especially for other people!

It not only looks like a coat... It actually IS a coat!

Oh my goodness, I can't believe it, but I have finished my coat!!

Here it is in all it's glory modelled by the lovely Rosie.

I finished sewing the buttons on about 5.30 yesterday afternoon and wore it to go out yesterday evening.  Sadly only in the car, with about a 10 yard walk into a restaurant, so it wasn't seen by many people!

As you probably know, the pattern is Vogue 8548, which was out of print by the time I decided I wanted to make it.  Luckily I managed to track a copy down on Ebay.

I made view C, with the narrower neckline, as although I loved the look of the wider neck I knew it would drive me mad.  I'm glad I made that decision, as I had some major issues with the interfacing and my solution would have ruined the wider neck.  I'll come to that in a minute.

I made a few changes to the construction.  Firstly the addition of bound buttonholes instead of button loops, as mentioned in my last post.  They're not perfect but for a first attempt I'm pretty pleased with them, and to be honest, when the coat is buttoned you can't see them anyway.

I wasn't totally happy with the way the skirt was finished, with the lining coming right up to the front edges, so I altered this to include a strip of the shell fabric along each front edge.  Unfortunately I messed up on my calculations and didn't cut this quite wide enough!  Consequently the seam between the facings and the lining has the smallest seam allowance imaginable, and the front facings don't quite meet up at the waist seam, as you can see near the top of the photo below.

As also mentioned in my last post, I constructed the outer shell of the coat and then the lining completely, rather than the rather convoluted way Vogue wanted it done. I then sewed the outer shell and lining together along the front edges and neckline.

This meant that the sleeves and skirt hems weren't finished in the way Vogue instructed, so I made faced hems for both the sleeves and the skirt.  The skirt hem facing is finished with bias tape and handstitched to the interlining with blind catchstitch - courtesy of instructions in the Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.

This book proved invaluable in assisting me with various aspects of sewing my coat.  I used it for several steps I've described above, and also to assist with insertion of shoulder pads and sleeve heads.  The shoulder pads were purchased and the sleeve heads made from small pieces of polyester fleece fabric. 

The only real problem I had was when I'd put the coat together the collar wrinkled terribly.  I couldn't work out what was wrong, then I realised that the interfacing I'd used was too stiff and was also coming away from the shell fabric!  Eeeek!!!  I did a bit of online research and spent most of Tuesday evening steaming the interfacing off the coat fabric.  It's made the collar sit a lot better, but of course there is now no interfacing at all so it's a little floppy.  I think it's OK as I've made the narrower neckline, but I'm going to add a press stud above the top button just to keep things in place a little more.

It's freezing cold here this morning, but I've braved the garden and taken a couple of outdoor modelled shots with the self timer. 

Can you tell how cold it is?

I'm really pleased with how this has turned out, and it's been a total learning experience for me. 

I've used the following techniques for the first time, and none of them were as scary as I thought they'd be!

Bound buttonholes.
Interlining a garment.
Insertion of shoulder pads and sleeve heads.
Faced hems.

Although it's quite a destinctive style, I would consider making this coat again, as a lightweight spring/summer coat.