Sunday, 26 June 2011


Woo hoo - all finished!  With a few squinty lines, a bit of a problem with the inside seams (I forgot to overlock the edges and the fabric started to fray a bit!), and some very slippery lining - I finally finished the laptop sleeve from Say Yes to Hoboken's free pattern on over at Grosgrain.  I'm sure for sewers with more experience than me it would be a quick job of a few hours as the instructions are very easy to follow and there aren't many pattern pieces.  However it took me a lot longer than that, partly because I decided to line it and quilt the lining, but I loved the whole process (ok there were a few sighs and sweary words at times but I still enjoyed it as I know I'm learning so much).  It's a bit squinty and I'm having problems with that - no matter how hard I try I just can't seem to cut straight lines! Any tips or advice on this?  I think the cashmere also changed shape slightly along the top seam  as I'm sure it was reasonably straight before I had to sew it down.  It is quite stretchy fabric, maybe I should have been using a thicker needle? So it doesn't look nearly as chic and neat as the one in the picture but hey, it's mine, I'm happy with it, and now I know I need way more practice at cutting, and sewing, in straight lines!

I did ask Oliver to take a photo of me holding the laptop case but I forgot to put suncream on my shoulders today when we were in the park so I have pale arms and red shoulders - not a good look.

The tester bit of quilting I did is just big enough to work as a camera case so that's what I'm going to do with it.  There's enough of the cashmere left too so I'm going to make it to match the laptop sleeve. Matching accessories - yay!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Progress on 'Use Fabric You Already Have'

This is what I'm currently working on - the laptop sleeve from Say Yes to Hoboken's free tutorial on Grosgrain. The cashmere mustardy yellow is form my stash - well actually it's from my mum's stash so it's been in a stash a loong time and is high time it got used up! I just bought the teal fabric from the scraps bx at John Lewis and I thought it was a great colour to line it with - not that you need to line a lap top sleeve, I just wanted some practice of lining, plus I like lots of colours together, one colour is never enough! Oh yes, and the mouse? Well the mouse is a pin cushion made by my mum, probably before I was born. I've always loved him with his wee hat, and I'm so glad I'm actually making use of him now.

So this teal fabric I bought to line it with? Well it sure is a lovely colour but it's also really slippery fabric which caused me lots of problems with my other part of the plan - quilting the lining.  First off I tried it on a scrap, which is what you can see in the photo below, and it seemed pretty easy.  I think because the scrap was quite small it was easy to hold, plus I didn't try and draw lines to keep it straight I just went for it.  I liked the effect so decided last night to get started on the lining itself.

Ha! This time it was a lot harder - the fabric is so slippery and I don't have a cutting mat so when I was trying to draw the lines on, on a polished slidey wooden table, the fabric kept moving about.  Then when I started sewing it the needle started pulling occasionally on threads in the opposite direction.  I'm not sure why this is happening? Am I using the wrong needle? Or maybe the needle is blunt?  Well I got half the lining done last night and will get on with the rest on Friday hopefully.  We've had friends staying earlier in the week and we're off out for dinner with them tonight - Mexican, yum.  I have to say - I really never thought I'd get this addicted to sewing! I can't stop thinking about it, is this normal?!!

And can anyone tell me what the above quilting technique is called? Is it just 'quilting'? I tried looking up 'effect of the outside of Barbour jacket' but couldn't get anything (I know for an archivist my subject term ability is embarrassingly poor outside of work). I couldn't find anything about it in my Reader's Digest guide either. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Brooch making workshop

I'm quite excited as I've just booked on my first craft workshop in London - yay!  I've signed up for an evening of fabric brooch making with Fabric Nation at the We Make Summer Boutique in Hampstead.  I've got a lovely fabric brooch that I got as a Christmas present from a friend, it looks very similar to the ones shown below. It'll be fun to know how to make them!

This is my first foray into jewellery making in some time, since a 'bead bender' with two of my best pals in Glasgow.  That was a super fun day that started off as a jewellery making class at The Bead Company in Partick, followed by lunch at The Shandon Belles and then many pints of Guinness at the Doublet.  This one in London is on a Tuesday night so hopefully not quite so raucous, plus I don't know anyone so I'd be a bit worried if I did end up in an old man's pub drinking Guinness on my own.

The blurb about the workshop is included below in case it is of interest to anyone else.  Maybe see you there!

5 July Fabric brooch making
We Make Summer Boutique, Oak Studios, 8 Perrins Court, London NW3 1QS
Delve into Fabric Nation’s stash of vintage, upcycled and contemporary fabrics to make several pretty styles of flower, all deceptively simple to sew. Use them to brighten clothes or bags, wear as a hair clip or brooch, or make them as gifts for lucky friends. Pair up flowery, polkadot or striped prints, 50s barkcloth and US quilting cottons with vintage buttons, trims and felts to create unique and colourful designs. These flower brooches and hair clips are deceptively simple to make, perfect for the beginner, and offer more experienced participants a chance to explore different techniques and work with a range of different materials.

Gillian will provide step-by-step tuition in different brooch making techniques and one-to-one help for those with little sewing experience. All materials are provided, including home baked cakes. To book a place and for more details visit the We Make Summer Boutique

Monday, 20 June 2011


I have two pieces of fabric in my stash that I was thinking of using for this part of the project.  This first one is a vintage Liberty print which I absolutely love, and which has very sentimental attachments for me.

I'm not sure when it's from but it's definitely been in my mum's stash since the early 80s, so maybe it's late 70s?  As I've mentioned before my mum was a textile artist/embroiderer and she did also make some of her own clothes - mostly trousers and tops in lots of lovely bright colours.  I remember asking her what she was going to do with this and she always said she didn't know, that it was 'too nice to use' unless she had something specific in mind.  It's an awkward shape I think, 90cm wide by just over 4metres long.  I'm not sure what to do with it so I'm not going to use it for this challenge.  I was thinking I could maybe make a blouse? or I could use a small section of it as a waistband on a skirt?  Does anyone have any pattern suggestions for this? Even if it's more difficult than beginners as I could put it aside for later.

So, I had to think of something else to do for Make&Mend 2011.  I have decided to make use of this beautiful brown/mustard yellow coloured cashmere - also from my mum's stash (it doesn't look as good in this photo, it's actually a lot brighter in real life).  I've got a gorgeous navy blue cashmere too that I think will make a skirt but there isn't so much of this mustard one and it's got big bits cut out of it so it seems perfect for the laptop sleeve.

Luckily during Grosgrain's free pattern month there was this great pattern tutorial for making a laptop sleeve from Say Yes to Hoboken.

I picked up a scrap of teal fabric from the  sale box at John Lewis and I'm planning to line it with the teal as teal and mustardy yellow is such a fantastic combination and a combination I can see me wearing a lot of come autumn/winter.  I'm also thinking of trying some quilting on the inside on the teal fabric, diagonal squares in the same colour of thread - I've never done any quilting before so I'll need to try it on some old scraps first! 

Of course in order to get on with this I need to stop reading Grosgrain and Say Yes to Hoboken but they're both filled with so much inspiring stuff and so much advice and teaching that it's hard not to get lost for hours!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

High living


That's us just back from our weekend in Glasgow. The wedding we were at was at Pollok House, a beautiful stately home in Pollok Park. I've been going to Pollok Park and the Burrell Collection since I was a child but before Saturday I had never been in Pollok House itself. What a spectacular setting for a wedding! The ceremony itself was in the library - the whole day was lovely. The bride looked so elegant and beautiful in the dress made for her by Toile and Trouble and the whole day was lovely. it was great to get to catch up with friends, get a good dance, and get a nosy round a lovely stately home.

I thought I'd include a photo of me enjoying wearing my newly re-fashioned dress.  I was so happy to get it finished in time and when I was packing on Thursday night I suddenly remembered about a lovely green bag I'd inherited from a Great Aunt which matched perfectly.

In other news I had a £20 book token which I received for being a mentor to a friend studying her Masters in Archives (though I feel a bit of a fraud as she really doesn't need my help at all - though I do enjoy talking about archives with her, well I enjoy talking about archives anyway!).  So I decided to use this book token to treat myself to the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing as I've been continually renewing the copy I got from Camden Library 2 months ago.  It's lovely to have my own copy and I'm sure it's going to come in very handy for the next stage of Make & Mend 2011 - I have 3 jackets to fix.  Thanks to Shelley's tutorial I now feel more confident about mending the tears in the lining.  The other fix on all three is putting back on buttons.  I've reattached buttons before only for them to fall off again within a month so I think I'll have a good read through the section in the book on buttons before I get started.  Of course if anyone has any personal tips on securing buttons properly I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Officially hooked on sewing!

As I sit at the window writing this it is pouring down with rain outside, there's just been a flash of lightning and the last thing I can imagine wearing is a flowery summery dress but oh well, there you go, that's British summer's for you. I'm just so incredibly pleased with myself that I managed to get my dress refashioned in time for the wedding on Saturday!

The first thing I did was change the hem from a full-on scalloped hem to a lovely straight hem.  I then laid it over the back off a chair and couldn't stop looking at it - that's how pleased I was with my handy-work.  I was very good the first few nights sewing and listened to music - I'm totally addicted to Alela Diane's new album at the moment, especially after seeing her live last month.  However last night Oliver was out which gave me a rare chance to watch some Five USA AKA Jerry Bruckheimer's TV Channel - yes I watched an episode of Numbers then 2 hours of CSI, I'm not ashamed of that, ok maybe just a little bit ashamed, but it's an addiction I can't seem to shake!

You can see all the before photos - the hem, the broken shirring, the ribbon straps - on my Flickr and in the great Flickr group set up for Make&Mend 2011. It took me one night to do the hem, another night to do the straps and last night to do the shirring.  I imagine all these things will get quicker as I learn more, I mean at the moment I still have to check my sewing machine manual every time I have to fill up the bobbin or change the stitch length!

The dress - BEFORE

You can see in the before photo how shapeless it was with all the broken elastic on the shirring, and I was just a bit bored by the scalloped hem and the straps as I've had this dress for years.   So all the time was worth it as I now feel I have a new dress and all it cost me was the price of some white thread and elastic thread.  I think I can safely say I am now officially hooked on sewing!

The Dress - AFTER!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

And at the top of the mending pile...

I just counted my jackets - bad idea. I have 13, yes, you heard right 13! Is that normal? It seems just slightly excessive to me, I mean really, who needs that many jackets?! Never mind that all but 5 of them are vintage/charity shop buys (see, already I'm trying to placate myself that I'm not really such a insatiable consumer). The thing is I do wear them all, in fact I wear them so much that 3 of them need mending all at once. You can see the repairs needed to this one. 

This is the middle of the back of the jacket - it's slightly too small for me hence it ripped when I leaned over in my office chair to pick up my bag - oops! However it was a bargain from a vintage shop on Great Western Road in Glasgow, it's a lovely bright blue wool and as the label says it does indeed 'Match any weather' so I'd like to fix it and I'll just need to take my jacket off before making any sudden movements!

The next mend is my pink coat (my saviour on this occasion so I want to do a good job of mending it).  I got it in Kinji, a vintage clothes shop in Tokyo so it's also got lots of happy memories attached to it of our trip to Japan.  Does anyone have any recommendations on the best way to fix these?  I'm thinking I'm going to have to put a scrap of material behind the tear and sew round the edges by hand.  Is this the best method? I looked in my sewing machine book and unfortunately I don't have the foot it says to use for darning so I think it'll need to be handsewing.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Timotei dress

I was planning on getting started on this tonight but then I discovered Make & Mend 2011 and have spent so long looking at this that I haven't started yet - oops, not the most auspicious start!

So, here's what I'm planning to start, tomorrow night! I love this dress, I got it years ago at Spitalfields Market in London. This summer I thought it was looking a bit odd, on a closer look I realised all the elastic stitching has stretched making it sit at the wrong place on the waist and longer that it should. The one thing I always wanted to change was the scalloped hem so here's the perfect opportunity! I'm also going to use the fabric I cut off the hem to make proper straps as I'm a bit fed up with the ribbons. What about redoing the broken elastic on the smocking? Would that be really difficult? Anyone know any good online tutorials on this subject?

I'm hoping to have this dress done in time for a wedding a week on Saturday - wish me luck?!

The scalloped hem I would like to make straight

The ribbon straps I'd like to replace
Broken elastic on the smocking

My first group sewing project!

I'm a little bit nervous.. ok I'll admit it I'm hugely nervous, what on earth have I done signing myself up for a sewing project when I'm such a complete novice! However I just couldn't resist the New Vintage Lady's Make and Mend 2011.

I have lots of fabric that I have inherited from my mum.  I remember there always being a big pile of gorgeous fabrics in the linen cupboard that were always going to be something - however my mum was an artist - textile and embroidery - and that always took precedence over making clothes.  When my mum passed away I just couldn't bear to throw it out, so along it all came with the sewing machine and threads.  It's only now, two and a half years later, that I'm starting to learn how to use this much-loved machine!  So I thought this would be the perfect project to start with -
  • use fabric you already have for a new project - I have a few ideas for this, one with a vintage liberty print, another with a small piece of mustard coloured cashmere
  • repair/mend 5 things from 'fix' pile - I've been doing lots of this already but still have plenty left!
  • repurpose at least 1 piece of fabric - I'm not sure if this counts but I have a lovely green/yellow/white flower print dress on which the elastic on the smocking has all stretched. It's not too long, sits funny and it only has ribbons for straps.  I'd like to take it up & re-hem it, use the material I've cut off the bottom to make proper straps, and (if this isn't ridiculously out of my depth, then redo some of the broken and stretched elastic).  Is this a re-purpose?
I've now signed up and joined the Flickr group - anyone else want to join in?!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

good intentions

Hello!  I've not been a very good sewer recently but it's all for a good reason - since coming back from Italy we've been away again - this time a lovely long weekend back in Scotland.  I went home on Thursday for my Granny's 87th Birthday and we had a lovely party at my Dad's house - 12 of us in total, covering 4 generations!  before heading out to my Gran's I popped up to see a friend Lisa who runs an amazing coffee shop 'C, C & T' in Glasgow - she roasts all the coffee on site, they hand-make chocolates on site, they have the best Moroccan Mint Tea leaves ever - if you're in Glasgow you have to stop by for a visit!  Then a night in Bridge of Allan staying with a good friend (where the sun shined all day, it was unbelievably hot!), followed by Saturday night at the Lake of Menteith Hotel.  This last night was a real luxury treat courtesy of two of my best pals who got us it as a wedding present - thanks Lisa and Kath!  All in all a wonderful long weekend away.  Now I'm back to the reality of work, and hopefully, plenty of time to get on with some sewing!

I was going to get started on the Sorbetto top (a free download from Grosgrain last month).  However after the problems with the sheerness of the yellow stripey top I decided to buy a white fabric to underline it - except I'm not going to properly line it, I'm just going to cut 2 layers, the print and the whit fabric and sew them together - will it work?! I'll let you know how it goes!  I got a white muslin in John Lewis, and then popped into Liberty to get some bias binding (the pattern says you can make your own but I thought I should have back up, just in case).

Of course a quick visit to Liberty rarely turns out like that and I came away with some gorgeous sale fabric.  It's called Durie B and it's by the children's illustrator Brian Wildsmith - whose illustrated version of 'Child's Garden of Verses' I used to love (alas I think it was culled in one of my many attempts to reduce a lifetime of books to a reasonable/moveable number).  I loved the colours of this fabric, the mixture of different pinks, red, and the very mustardy, yellow colour.  Plus the dark background means it'll go great with tights in the winter - I've still got to get over my fear of dark tights with light coloured fabric as I've seen it on lots of girls and it looks great.  It's one of those irrational decisions made early on, like my decision that black and brown or black and blue don't go - once again I've seen other people doing it and know it can work, but am too stubborn - old habits die hard!  I thought it would make a lovely winter dress - and going by my current standards of sewing productivity I think that's being a bit more realistic than starting on more summer clothes.

My new fabric beside another treat to myself, some Sweet Williams