Clippety clop – it’s a procession of Ponies

Falling in love (again)

It’s happened over the years – I become completely obsessed with a new to me thang. From when I first discovered they made sea salt chocolate (Greene & Blacks, surely the finest chocolate in the world?) to when I became addicted to high thread count cotton bedding (blame a fancy schmancy New York hotel for that infatuation) – as for men? Well, that’s probably best left alone. Anyway, I have to admit, my sewing is similarly whim-led.

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So it is with a new pattern release. I’ve discovered that Instagram is normally my downfall – I’ll be merrily scrolling through my feed and then see that someone has made a fabulous new to me pattern. If it’s totally gorgeous I find it very hard to turn away and sometimes within moments I find myself clicking through to another site, and then the deal is sealed as I check out via PayPal. Oops. Never mind that I have umpteen million uncut patterns in my sewing shed … no, for this is A New Pattern (cue dramatic lighting & drumroll) and therefore must be made immediately.

These ‘bought on a whim’ patterns are a heady distraction I quickly realise, as I scoop planned sewing projects off my desk and onto the floor to make way for their delicious newness. Such is their power they also seem to defy the boundaries of the space time continuum, as even in the weeks I have absolutely no time to sew, I somehow manage to squeeze in taping together the pattern and chopping it all out while working late, doing housework and cooking dinner, leaving a little trail of fabric scraps and pasta shapes in my wake.

I admit, I often have low expectations of a new to me pattern, so if I make the muslin/toile version and it fits and looks nice, I feel like a small child on a fairground ride … again, again, AGAIN! This is exactly what happened with the Pony Tank pattern from Chalk and Notch. I loved the first version I made in the butterfly print, and within a matter of days I had two more versions cut out and ready to go. And then, well I snuck another one in too!

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These are such a quick and easy sew and so wearable despite the changing summer weather. You can pop them on with a cardi or a little jacket and look perfectly well dressed, but the top is equally at home with cropped jeans, shorts and sneakers for a more casual look.

The low-down

Crazy horses – Take 1

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Version 1 is in a horse print. Because, well, you know, when I’m on a pony theme, why not have ALL THE PONIES! Now this fabric I picked up at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace two years ago. While I love the print, the fabric is veeeery thin and mind-blowingly impossible to sew – as it wiggles and stretches and misbehaves on the machine. Cue a sailor load of inappropriate swear words. After I topstitched the neck band down it was so wibbly wobbly I had to unpick it and try again. To my horror the unpicking took several hours. Ugh! This one sailed close to going in the bin at every step. Picking knit seams when you’ve matched your thread so perfectly you can’t tell what’s a stitch or a fabric loop is utter torture! I have a feeling this one will get a few wears and then either disintegrate with loads of holes or shrink in the wash, so although I love it, I’m trying not to get too attached.

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You don’t bring me flowers – Take 2

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Version 2 is a beautiful watercolour floral print which I bought online from myfabrics a couple of years back. It’s the same jersey print as the Mabel skirt I made, but in an alternate colourway. Jersey from Germany is generally a revelation, although definitely pricier, it has a lovely weight and drape to it and sews like a dream, with just enough lycra in the mix to give great stretch when needed. I love this version and it’s already had loads of wear. It also has a truckload of cobalt blue in its heady splooshy colour mix – always a winner with me.

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Grafitti (with a pinch of Elvis) – Take 3

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Lastly, this crazy who knows what it is thin knit fabric, again with atrocious stretch recovery made an alternative hacked version. Another fabric find at Ally Pally, I had absolutely no idea what to make with it when I purchased it, but was smitten with the print. Now, let’s just take a closer look at that print shall we – does this character look like Elvis or is it me? I didn’t notice it when I first bought the fabric but now it’s all I can see!

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Anyway, last Saturday I was heading to a 50th birthday party and the weather was fairly grim, so my original plan to wear a lovely summer dress with sandals was scuppered. (It was like autumn in August, complete with gales and rain, so trousers and boots were on the cards.) I had a brainwave to hack the top section of the Pony Tank into a long asymmetric tunic top, which I thought would look suitably dramatic with my black skinny jeans and knee boots. I decided this at half past two in the afternoon. The party was at seven! #lastminutelarry

I say this is a pattern hack, but really, is lengthening something and then chopping a bit off the bottom in an odd direction a ‘hack’? Let’s call it a pattern ack instead, as it’s a minimal effort of new direction. Anyway, here’s the gory deets – after giving the fabric a very quick wash and tumble dry, I cut out the top, narrowing the A line shape slightly over the hips and cutting the pieces as long as my fabric length would allow. Then I chopped it on an extreme angle from one side seam to the other, using my patchwork ruler as a rough guide and hit the serger with it. The lack of stretch recovery did cause me problems, however, and I ended up taking in almost an inch and a half on the side seams to make it fit properly. The hem was also to prove problematic … in the end I ran it through the serger and used that as the hem finish which actually gave the top a really contemporary feel. It’s a bit rough round the edges because of the fragile knit fabric, but it was dark and I thought it was just about passable. I popped it on with 30 minutes to spare then I danced the night away in it!

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If I’m brutal, this top, much though I love it, is the garment equivalent of a mayfly. I predict a short but glorious life, as already, just one wash out of the laundry, it is slightly misshapen and looks a bit the worse for wear. The neck has stretched and is resistant to ironing back into shape and the hem is already a bit tatty. Sad times, people, sad times. I fear it is the nature of the ethereal cloth in question. I am wondering if there is any chance of salvaging this, as the main bodice itself is still in good shape. I’m not sure I can bring myself to chuck Grafitti Elvis in the bin. Perhaps adding a black jersey neckband and armbands instead of the self fabric ones? But then what to do with the hem? All advice gratefully received.

So, I think I’ve finally reached the end of the run on this pattern for now, but it’s given my some lovely tops which are in constant daily rotation. I am still contemplating a Pony Dress in the near future, although as the weather turns increasingly autumnal I may have missed the boat on that idea this summer. Time for something new methinks!

Shout out also to the lovely Hannah and her little brother James, our next door neighbours when we go on our weekend camping adventures. They thought me doing a photoshoot in the middle of the children’s play area on our campsite was hilarious and came to help. Here’s Hannah and I giving our very best Cashmerette inspired twirls – it’s a wrap!

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Colour mad designer rampages gleefully through the world of plus size sewing! Oh, and there may be shoes … and cats.

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