You know your fabric stash is too big when …

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As you may have guessed, I am not usually one to hold back when something lovely catches my eye, and of late, what with the Knitting & Stitching Show at Ally Pally, a near religious first experience at London’s Goldhawk Road and a few choice selections from the t’internet … well, let’s just say that if there’s a war you are all welcome round at my house – I can pretty much clothe you all!

Anyhow, a couple of weekends ago I decided it was time to have a Big Organise of the fabric stash. At the time, all this delicious yardage was languishing in drawers, so I couldn’t actually see what I already had, something that was proving problemmatic on a couple of different levels. First up, I would constantly think I had nothing I needed to make any of the patterns that took my fancy, then, I would go and buy some more fabric that was pretty much identical to some I already owned! I decided to take affirmative action … and although it took me a whole day, I managed to sort and fold all of my fabric.

It was only then I realised there might be a little problem. There was a helluva lot of fabric … and I mean acres of the stuff. So much, that it wouldn’t fit into the eight hole Ikea unit I got for the express purposes of housing said fabric stash. Ooops. After a cup of tea and some furrowed brow time I decided I really needed to weed out any fabric I wasn’t totally in love with, along with stuff I knew I would just never make up (yes, glittery black knit from the market, I am talking about you). Eventually, I filled a big blue Ikea bag full of all the rejected stuff and loaded it into the car to donate to our local craft resource centre.

It was all immensely therapeutic and I loved that I could now see all the fabric in my stash. Of course, being the control freak that I am, I then reorganised the remainder into colour sets and fabric types. All in all it was a great job. Although I wondered how it was that I had manage to amass so much extra fabric in such a relatively short space of time. Surely there had been warning signs that things were getting out of hand? It was then I came up with the idea of this list. A list to help you recognise the signs I had missed, that maybe would have clued me up to the fact that my stash may be a little on the large size. So, here it is …

5 surefire signs your stash is getting out of control

1 – Your non fabric obsessed friends make a shock and awe face when they come face to face with your stash  

All my friends know that I sew, and at work various parcels turn up and we ooohh and ahhh over their lovely contents (I know they are humouring me but that’s fine). I often wear my handmade stuff to the office and we’ll chat about the fabric or pattern and other dressmaking shenanigans. They are very good at feigning interest! 🙂 They also know I am prone to buying fabric to add to my stash, especially in the sales. Anyway, after my massive fabric clear out I invited my business partner back to look at my newly organised stash. “Sure” she said, so we headed out for lunch and swung by my house on the way back to the office. I should point out that I have know Vonny for nearly twenty years. She is a feiry irish redhead, extremely chatty, practical and totally unflappable. Yet, put her in front of my fabric stash as she was strangely … well, quiet. In fact, she didn’t utter a single word, she just made a slightly shocked noise and then stared. Seriously, my fabric stash is so awesome in capacity that it moves an Irish woman to silence. (For those of you who haven’t realised, this is a SIGN).

2 – You develop obvious fabric ‘themes’ in your collection

Before I organised my stash into sections I had no idea that this was one of my issues. Now? Now I think I need to become a fully paid up member of polka dots anonymous. I have polka dot fabric in pretty much every colour of the rainbow, from tiny pinpoint random dots to full on penny sized polka dot goodness. Wowsers. Now I know I have always had a thing for Minnie mouse’s dresses and I drooled over the brown and white polka dot dress Julie Roberts sported in Pretty Woman for many years, but I think my 80s penchant for the dotty stuff hasn’t got any better. In fact, I think it is now a border line print addiction. I am really going to try not to buy any more. (I should probably point out that a week after sorting out my stash I spied some gorgous steel grey polka dot knit in A1 fabrics and somehow it made it home into the polka dot section. Personally, I think it was a stowaway). Apparently, polka dots are my biggest issue (there is also a penguin one brewing, but I’m going to start being strict with the bird prints).

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3 – You start to find random pieces of fabric in every room of your house

When I was doing my clear up I realised the only room in the house without its own minature fabric collection was the bathroom. I had wool felt and matching ribbon in a basket in the main bedroom, shelves with patchwork fabric in the spare bedroom, unpacked sale fabric on the bottom shelf of my wardrobe, toiles and WIPs on the side table in the living room and a stack of shirting fabric on the stool in the kitchen. What’s funnier still is that my official sewing space is down at the bottom of the garden. Looks like I have a slight case of overspill! I collected up every piece of cloth from all over the house and added it to my neat stash pile and ongoing project drawers in the sewing room. Feeling mightily pleased with my efforts I headed out to buy some groceries. Loading them into the back of the car on my return I noticed a large carrier bag in the foot well behind the driver’s seat. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be more fabric! (I’ve come to the conclusion that once you reach a certain accumulation of woven fibre, it starts to breed.)

4 – Small children who visit ask if they can go play in your ‘shop’

With grandchildren, godchildren, cousins and other small waifs and strays regularly descending on the cottage we are always pleased to provide crafting fun for the wee ones. But I was somewhat bemused recently when our young visitors asked if they could go and play in “Aunty Ts shop” … it slowly dawned on me what they were talking about. It seems I have such an accumulation of crafty goodness that the younger members of the family really do believe they are stepping into a fabric and crafting emporium once they enter the hallowed space of the sewing room. “Really?,” I thought, casting my eye over the mounds of fabric, drawers full of patterns, haberdashery, button jars, embroidery silks and shelves laden with dressmaking books, fastenings and tissues paper. Then I looked at it again. They are of course, right. All I need is a cash register and I’m set for business!

5 – You are close to reaching S.A.B.L.E.

S.A.B.L.E. is a word I first heard in the world of knitting. It’s an acronym … Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. Basically, it defines that wondrous state you reach when you have such a large stash that even if you were to sew all day and all night for the rest of your life you still wouldn’t be able to use up your stash. No way … was my first thought. But the more I thought about it the more I wondered if it could be true? Realistically, I normally make maybe one to two items a month. This allows for making toiles, fiddling with fit and all the bits I put off for a few days at the end of the process, like handstitching hems and making buttonholes. So, one to two garments every month gives you an average of eighteen items a year … and let’s say I sew til I’m eighty. That’s another 36 and a half years of garments. That’s approximately 657 more items to sew. Phew, even with my dodgy maths I can see that I am a long way off S.A.B.L.E. status, and for that I am very relieved!

What have I learnt from this whole process? A lot. That no one really needs 19 lots of polka dot cotton, that penguins are the next big thing and that sewing is a much safer and only slightly cheaper vice than Class A drugs. Oh, and that I love my stash.

When good sewing turns bad

I am having one of those phases at the moment. You know the ones, where pretty much everything you try to make turns to shit doesn’t quite turn out with the finesse you had in mind. I was thinking of what the right term for it is … and I suppose it’s the seamstress equivalent of writer’s block. I’m going to call it … stitcher’s ditch.

Stitcher’s ditch makes even imagining larger scale projects impossible – you daren’t touch any of the gorgeous fabrics in your stash for fear of “ruining” them. That applies to everything from basic cotton prints from the market, to that perfect piece of one off silk you bought by elbowing someone else out of the way at the John Lewis sale. All of it is far too nice to risk getting wrong, so instead you find yourself making everything initially from crappy sheeting you picked up at a car boot sale, yet even that doesn’t go well. It makes pattern choice a mensa style challenge, as you navigate your way around the piles of imperfect toiles in your wake, desperately searching for the “right” pattern.

My current bout of stitcher’s ditch started with my first Halloween skirt. The Skirt That Shall Not be Named was destroyed entirely by my own cocky sewing attitude, so I was hopeful that it was a one off and I could chalk it up to experience and move on. The offending garment is still balled up in the corner of shame in the sewing room (I really need to retrieve a perfectly nice invisible zipper from its evil clutches before I can truly lay it to rest, but still). Halloween skirt mark 2 was okay, but made in a horrible rush, so is definitely not fit for lengthy wear or inspection and is ruled out of consideration on those grounds.

Next up, we have a lovely cotton knit from Kitscy Coo. I LOVE this fabric, and I was hoping that as it was destined for a pair of camping themed PJs for my godson that the sewing gods would give me a break. Look how lovely the pattern and the fabric are.

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Ahhhh, cute! So, did the sewing gods smile on me and it all go incredbly smoothly? Nope. Here’s a photo of the sewing related disaster that ensued.

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I have to say that it all started pretty well. It did take me a whole Stitch ‘n’ Bitch meeting to trace of all the pattern pieces and cut it out and tailor tack, but then I was ready to sew. Sew the raglan seams … tick. Apply the binding to the neck … tick. Hmmm, maybe it should have a better finish than that? Zigzagging of the unfinished collar edge ensued, okay it was a bit wavy (think English Channel in a minor gale) but I could live with it. Read the next pattern instruction (see I was trying to learn from my past mistakes) … okay, now topstitch on the outside … Noooooooooo!

I am still unsure what happened here. I know it was basically a world of bad from my old sewing machine and yes, I probably should have used a walking foot or at least reduced the pressure on the presser foot. However, I ended up with streched fabric and topstitching so narrow you could barely see it … the stitches were like tiny pinpricks in the fabric. Not to be beaten I reached for my trusty seam ripper and very gingerly started to unpick the rubbish topstitching. And that’s when I made The Hole (please see exhibit A top right). A bloody hole, right on the neck line.

I tried not to poke out my own eyes with the aforementioned stitch ripper over react. After all, I still had plenty of spare fabric and I could save the sleeves and front and cut another neck band and back. So I reached for the pattern pieces again. I wanted to double check the markings I had made for the neck so I laid it over the original pattern piece. And then I noticed another mistake. The worst of all of them … I had very carefully traced off and cut out totally the wrong size. Unbelievable! Lesser women would have laid down and wept at this point. I slowly put down down my scissors, stepped away from the cutting table and quietly shut the door on the sewing room. Next stop the kitchen for a large glass of something very alcoholic.

I didn’t sew for a couple of days. My heart just wasn’t in it. But a few days later I felt inspired by looking at lovely makes on other sewer’s blogs (thanks everyone, I can think of no better cure for the sewing doldrums than checking out other people’s sewing triumphs). I’ve had four yards of the Michael Miller Norwegian Woods 2 Foxtrot print (this one) since October, and I dreamt of having a twirly autumn dress in it (with pockets, of course). I am so in love with the fabric and the wee foxes that I knew there would be have to be some serious toile action.

Cut to fitting of toile version 1: just awful, a poor fit, too tight sleeves, too big in the back and despite the pattern being sized for multi-cup sizes it was still about two inches too small on the bust. Pah! I laugh in the face of ill fitting busts and I started chopping the pattern pieces for my standard FBA. 12 hours pass. Cut to toile version 2. This one’s not so bad (or at least, I think it’s not so bad before I haul it along to the Stitch ‘n’ Bitchers for a second opinion). They don’t think it’s right. In fact, after much uhhming and ahhing, pulling up my bra straps to try and realign my errant bosom to match the dart shaping, and other pushing, pulling and pinning, we all reach the unanimous decision that this pattern is not for me.

And this is where I am right at this moment. Considering a different pattern for toile number 3. Something for autumn, with pockets. At times like this I need to remind myself that I really enjoy sewing, and that sewing shouldn’t be this hard. Sometimes though, it just is.

p.s. To all the newbie sewers, and all those seasoned sewers who join me in suffering from bouts of sewer’s ditch – hang on in there. Let’s share our disasters and laugh in the face of sewing adversity. It is a universal truth that not everything in life goes to plan, and sewing is certainly no exception.

The After Dark shirt

Halloween is one of my favourite times of the year. I have always loved the colours of autumn and crashing my way through drifts of crisp, freshly fallen leaves wherever I walk. Of course, it is also the time of year when you can bring out your knitted scarves, and let’s face it – what’s not to love about that? After the swishy cotton dresses of summer there’s something nice about the step change that autumn brings … and a wardrobe of tights, leggings, cardis and boots.

As you know, I love any excuse to dress up, so Halloween and Christmas rarely go by without an outfit sewn specially for the occasion. This year we had an early Halloween party to attend, so it was time to search for some spooky fabric that would fit the bill. This amazing Alexander Henry After Dark fabric was one of the first to catch my eye. It is a really intense salmony pink background covered in inky black gothic motifs – from crows to skulls. Just amazing. I ordered 4 metres from Fabric Yardand it plopped through the letterbox the very next morning. The plan was to make a lined A-line mini skirt for me and a short sleeve shirt for A. (I know, matchy matchy is a little bit ‘Howard & Hilda’, but I thought this was the exception to the rule).

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As usual, I underestimated the amount I would need to fiddle to get the pattern to match. After pinning and unpinning, cursing and tantrums, I had to conceed it was never gonna happen. I cut as judiciously as possible, but in the end I had to cut the sleeves out on the sideways rather than lengthways grain, just to get all the pattern pieces cut. Finally, I headed for the sewing machine.

*Pause*

What’s the pause for? That’s for the four hours I spent sewing lovely pockets in my A-line skirt, doing beautiful perfect french seams and topstitching, pressing and finishing. I had made the skirt from New Look 6106, the same pattern as the Fish Skirt, so it was a breeze. Well, until I tried it on. The moral of the story is don’t get cocky with your sewing. Why not? Because it will come and kick you in the arse!

For some reason, I decided that I didn’t need to look at the pattern. Why? Because it was pretty straightforward and I’d made it twice before. This was a MISTAKE. In my wisdom I had discarded the pattern pieces for the waistband facing on the skirt because I wouldn’t need them … after all, I was going to line it fully instead. Except that those pieces, as well as being the facings, were also a deep waistband feature on the skirt that I totally missed off. I tried on my new skirt … it fell off. I couldn’t understand what had gone wrong and grabbed the Fish Skirt from the wardrobe to compare, and then I noticed the missing waistband feature. Noooooo!

What’s even worse is that I had totally run out of fabric by this point, with nary a scrap of the print left. I got so pissed off I bundled up the skirt, threw it into the sewing graveyard (the place badly sewn garment go to die) and ordered some new fabric online.

*Moving on*

I started afresh with the shirt, and paid attention to the pattern, even though I made it before (it’s the same pattern as my Dad’s Seaside version). Actually, this McCalls pattern is growing on me as it’s so quick to run up and has a limited amount of handstitching (always a bonus). It came out really well in this print, despite the non matchyness on the fronts. I do love that I managed to feature the large spider motif on the back. The only contrast I used was to pick put the inner collar facing in a solid black. Hmm, such a lovely design feature (I had run out of the print by this point).

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So, here’s A in his new After Dark shirt, looking suitably Halloweeny next to the scary mausoleum. The ensemble went down really well at our early Halloween dinner party. As for me, I made myself a cutesy skirt from some lovely Stitchy Witchy fabric.

There’s one last reason I love Halloween week especially, and that’s because it was when I met my bloke. I was drawing trolls at the time (no, really), hundreds of the bloody things, for a children’s book. Once my hand had gripped a pencil for so many days in a row it had become a weird claw thing, I finally caved in and took an evening off to meet A for a drink. The rest, as they say, is history. On Halloween Eve it will be seven years since we first met. Here’s to you, bloke. We have been through some extraordinary things in the last seven years (a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, redundancy, new career, getting married, a new business, the accident, a new charity and lots & lots of hospitals) but it has been completely amazing. Can you even imagine what adventures we’ll have in the next seven? You are awesome.

The Michael Miller Teapot dress

I made this divine dress earlier this summer when I first saw the Tea Party print appear on the Frumble Fabrics website. It was another must have … I didn’t have a clue what I was going to make with it when I first bought it, and when I first showed my newly purchased fabric to my family and friends I think they thought I had totally lost the plot. “A dress … with teapots?!” was the refrain, accompanied by much eyeball rolling. (Pah – I am used to this kind of feedback from my more extreme dressmaking choices!)

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The pattern is the first incarnation of the McCalls 6554 Fashion Star sundress and features the original square neckline shown on the pattern. Later, I decided that both I and my errant bra straps prefer a more gently rounded scoop at the neck, so my subsequent versions, both my April in Paris dress and the Garden Party dress, have included this alteration.

As you know, I love a large scale print, but this was one helluva job to match up … I did manage it, even the spouts match on the centre back seam. For newbies to large scale pattern matching, beware, it did take four hours to cut out, cutting out each piece and rearranging to get exact matches while still managing to fit in all out of the one length of fabric … it’s like a textile Mensa test! However, matching mission accomplished. Because I knew I’d have trouble with the inset panel at the front and the large scale pattern (there’s no way on earth you could get that to match) I chose to use a Michael Miller polka dot (Ta Dot in Geranium) for the pleat inset itself.

For me, it’s what makes the dress. The polka dot inset really brings out the geranium red in the print, giving the whole ensemble a bit more va va voom. Having searched in vain for any kind of necklace that worked with the dress, in the end I made a little matching French style neck scarf in the polka dots too. I think it works without making the whole outfit too 1970s air hostess!

I really made the effort to finish this dress perfectly, it’s fully lined in a butter soft cotton poplin which gives the whole thing extra swishability (I am lazy and often don’t line stuff but it really does give a better finish) and it has a beautifully inserted invisible zipper and handstitched hems.

I wore the dress a lot in the summer with 50s style scarlet kitten heel slingbacks and a patent belt, in fact, I think it was my favourite make of the summer. Now we’re in autumn months I thought I’d have to consign the dress to the off-season side of my wardobe. I had a change of heart after I posted a comment on the Dolly Clackett blog. The lovely Roisin suggested I try to reinvent with tights and cardi combo to see me through the chillier seasons. What a genius idea … I love the look … and it’s really fun to wear.

As you already know, there is no “too much” in my fashion brain so for the photos I piled on more polka dots with my little 50s bow backed gloves and clutch bag. Safe to say I have a crazy brain when it comes to pattern.

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This dress makes me happy as soon as I put it on, although it may be a bit too much for the more sane seamstresses amongst you. Luckily, the older I get the less I care about how I need to conform and the more outlandish my choices. Who knows what I’ll be making in another few years! Tomorrow A and I are off in search of a Top Hat (I tried on my cousin’s yesterday and just fell head over heels for it). Then I’ll try to resist the urge to make a matching ringmaster’s outfit (although, I have the perfect steampunk jacket pattern with tails if I change my mind).

A teensy bit of fabric shopping

Let’s just start by saying I have a reasonable quantity of fabric. Well, actually, if we’re being honest, a LOT of fabric. In fact, if we are aiming for total editorial accuracy, AN UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNT OF FABRIC. (Yes, that statement has been verified by independent non-fabric loving humans and suffice to say, after the hysterical laughter, tutting and eyeball rolling, they all agree, it is A LOT).  *Ahem*  Well, I think we’ve cleared that up then.

With that in mind, you may ask yourself what I was thinking going to the fabric and knitting mecca that is the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace, London, last Friday. In my saner moments I asked myself that very same question. Trouble is, the annual trip with my Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group is a pilgrimage of sorts (alright, pilgrims don’t normally ply themselves with copious amounts of alchohol and cake on the way to their enlightments, but what can I say, it works for us.) I just couldn’t not go … it would be rude, right?

I was, for once, properly armed for the occasion. I made careful notes of the patterns I wanted to make in fabrics I don’t currently own, I even did little drawings in a notebook (together with fabric quantities scribbled next to them) so I would only buy with a specific garment in mind. What a marvellous plan, surely that would keep me safely on the path to minimum extra purchases. It all seemed to make sense … but what I came home with was this:

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OMG – Every time I look at that retro Michael Miller print fabric I feel like I need to quit my job, stay home and dedicate my life to making dresses. I totally abandoned the list and my plan and bought anything I loved. There was quite a lot! The handpainted silk (bottom left) is like a slice of the Caribbean. No idea in my head what I’ll make with it. I may just keep it in a darkened cupboard and take it out to stroke once in a while. I think the only thing that even slightly resembled a rational purchase was the cheap viscose print (middle left) bought with the sole purpose of running up a wearable toile of the By Hand London Anna dress. As for the rest – it was just love at first sight.

Talking of which, will you cast your peepers on this …

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*swoon* Penguins with newspaper print and sunshine yellow background by Kokka – about as near to fabric perfection as I think I’ll ever get. If only this was a dressmaking weight rather than a linen weight – otherwise these little fellas would be debuting in a dress rather than the bag I now have planned. At the moment this haul is “resting” in the kitchen before I find room for it relocate it to the sewing shed.

All in all we had a fantastic day. One of my favourite parts of the day is when we all head back to the coach at lunchtime and start to compare swag. It’s always brilliant to see what every else has scored in the morning and means you still have time to go back to something you may have missed out on later in the day.

The other highlight of my day was meeting Stuart from The Great British Sewing Bee (Season 1). He was charming and genuinely a lovely man and we had quite a chat about how The Sewing Bee should start to throw in challenges involving large scale prints and more challenging fabric choices. It reminded me of why he was my favourite in the series.

Then all too soon it was time to come home. Exhausted we all trooped back to our coach, now drenched but still smiling to do another quick show and tell on the way home. I did make one extra purchase on Friday. Ta da!

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Ooops … seems I bought a shiny new sewing machine. Sadly, I have to bide my time for it to arrive and am feeling very impatient about it. I have been sewing with my Elna now for around two years, but this year it had an unfortunate accident involving an impatient seamstress, a bunch of pins, a buckled needle and then a ruined machine. Basically, I tried to sew a zig zag stitch through a large metal solid invisible zipper foot. It didn’t end well. Although the machine spent several weeks in sewing machine intensive care and cost a small fortune to put right … it’s never been quite the same. Buttonholes are a serious issue nowadays (as if they weren’t bad enough before!).

I had been toying with the idea of a new machine for a while but hadn’t seen or tried one I felt was right for me. I tried all kinds at the show and had given up hope by lunchtime, but one of my sewing enthused Stitch ‘n’ Bitchers suggested I go back in the afternoon and give the Viking Husqvarna Opal a try. I loved it! What was even better was that the lovely sales ladies on the stand were all dedicated dressmakers, rather than quilters, so they showed me exactly how great all the features were for sewing garments. I feigned resistance until they demonstrated the perfectly balanced buttonhole feature. I knew in that moment I was a goner.

I did walk away to call my bloke, hoping for a dose of rationality or a sewing machine purchase intervention, but he just said,”Buy it babe.” So I did. Those of you who know me know, I always do what my husband tells me!

New shoes for Miss Nancy

Anyone who knows me even a little bit will tell you that I am not really “into” babies. Well, that’s probably slightly harsh. Let’s just say that if I was presented with a choice of a baby versus a basket of kittens … I’d be heading for the fluffy whiskered bundle before you had time to take breath! There is just one thing about the whole baby thing I think it’s tough to miss out on – cute baby clothes.

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Baby clothes are a sewer’s dream … they hardly use any fabric so you can splurge on something really expensive and it still costs relatively little – you can make almost anything for a baby from half a metre of cloth. Then there are the million and one gorgeous novelty fabrics for wee people. Don’t think I haven’t toyed with the idea of making myself a dress out of them, because I have … luckily a hard slap with the reality fish stopped me from running up a summer sundress in pastel pink with tiny dollies and teddies on it (deep inside a little part of me still believes it would look cool). Anyhow, I digress.

One of the best things about being an aunty/godmother/nanny (yes, I am someone’s grandmother – I know, surely that must be illegal) is being able to make clothes for wee people. I have gone to town over the years, from the cow dress (a baby needlecord dress in clotted cream and chocolate brown cow hide print) to fancy dresses, sunhats, waistcoats and jamas. The one thing I had never thought of making were shoes. That was until I caught a glimpse of the Cameron baby sneakers on Pinterest. It was sewing love at first sight.

The pattern (another lovely idea courtesy of the talented iThinkSew) looks so simple, with only two main parts to each shoe, I thought they would run up really easily. I was wrong.

The problem, I should point out, is not the pattern. Oh no, the pattern is drafted brilliantly with great diagrams and helpful hints … it was very easy to follow. The problem was my massive banana fingers. Seriously, just think on how small the pieces are for a shoes to fit a three month old baby … they are very small indeed. Then you have to line and turn the tiny torturous fabric footwear. My first attempt ended up in the bin. My hands, appendages I had previously considered to be very dextrous and able became a massive stumbling block. It was like trying to sew aided by robotic chipolatas. However, I persevered. And, it was definitely worth it.

So here they are in all their finished glory … shoes for the new kid on the block … Baby Nancy. Accompanied by some little lavender bags to nestle amongst her PJs and sleepsuits.

The Scarlet Woman bag

Oooh I love a bit of scarlet. Note: I am very fussy indeed about my red descriptors, and have often been heard ranting about why something can’t just be “red” … it could quite possibly be tomato or crimson, perhaps even vermillion, cardinal, flame, watermelon, brick or amaranth … never just plain old red. This was scarlet, my personal favourite.

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The fabric was something of an unlikely choice – folded into the bottom of the John Lewis remnant pile it was far too bright for most sane people and frayed energetically, as if running away from the scissors every time you put a blade anywhere close. Taking heed of neither of these failings, I bought it. (My nan was right, I obviously will never learn. Ha!) Then I found some lovely quilting cotton for the lining (I think it might be a Nel Whatmore print), a giant red button and I was all set.

The pattern (called Lindsay) was something of a revelation … I found it meandering through Pinterest one evening. It’s a downloadable pdf from the indie pattern designer Ithinksew. What’s great about this pattern is that it really does have a designer look to it, as the construction is so unusual. Basically, the handle is cut in one piece along with the top panel and then once sewn folds down to attach to the bag at the other end with a large decorative button sew on as a finishing touch. That’s a rubbish explanation, and happily the pattern does a much better job of explaining the process than I do. I managed to cut this out and sew it (with lining) in just a couple of hours. Brilliant.

The embellishment (the beautifully beaded felt heart) is my lovely mum’s handiwork (she is a whizz with the beads) and it’s secured to a pin that fastens under the strap, so it can be removed for a less full on look. Of course, with my dress style that never happens!

This bag has ellicited more comments than any other bag I have ever made – it really is fabulous. Its only tiny shortcoming is its size. I need a phone, a purse, lippy, tissues and keys in even the most low key situations (I guess I am just not a minimalist kind of gal!), and in this bag that’s a bit tight. I think next time I make it (and there will definitely be a next time) I will add a couple of inches to the depth.

Here’s another look at the scarlet beauty.

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The Garden Party dress

It was the colour on this print that first drew my eye – cobalt blue, emerald green and magenta rich purple combine to pack a big punch to the large hydrangea print. A Kaffe Fasset design for Rowan it was a bit on the pricey side but what the hell! I spotted this on a trip to Lady Sew n Sew’s warehouse in Henley and bought enough to make another Fashion Star sundress. When I got it home though I wasn’t quite as convinced. Yes, it was bright but it was a bit … well, normal! I decided to push my reservations aside and cut another McCalls 6554 (my current go to summer dress of choice). Although I rounded the neck, I completely forgot to add the extra few centimetres to the bodice length (doh!) so it’s still very much an empire style top. As a saving grace though, it does have roomy pockets (something that are becoming a bit of a fixture for me nowadays).

Garden_party_dress_mccalls_6554_0

It was a very quick sew as I’ve already made the pattern twice, and on this one I didn’t bother lining the skirt. Once all the seams were sewn I put it on and … hmmmm … It wasn’t very me really … it just lacked a certain ‘something’. Back to the sewing shed and rifle through umpteen yards of leftover fabric from other projects. After much ummming and ahhhing I found this tiny polka dot cotton – perfect for a pretty trim at the bottom of the skirt. What was even more fantastic about that idea was that I wouldn’t need to handstitch the hem (yay!).

It’s still quite a normal looking dress but I think the splash of purple at the bottom is just enough to lift it. I have had loads of comments on it this summer, especially after picking a couple of things in the sales … a lovely purple bolero cardi from M & Co and a pair of buttery soft shoes from Moshulu.

Garden_party_dress_mccalls_6554_2

Once again I’m always turning to my favourite bag purchase of the summer. I think it’s from the Old Bag Company. What’s not to love in polka dots! The dress is edging into the out of season end of my wardobe now as it’s not one I think lends itself to the tights and cardi treatment. Never mind, it’ll look gorgeous again when I get it out next Spring.

october-2013-blue-dot-handbag

The surprise seaside shirt

I first saw this fabric on a sale day at Lady Sew n Sew in Henley. Needless to say, true to style it was not actually IN the sale (as was nothing else that I bought that day) but I loved it on sight. I did look at all the fabrics in the sale but sadly none of them ‘sang’ to me and so I couldn’t resist buying non sale stuff. I think my genetic code veers towards expensive. Obviously my chromosomes have tastes waaay beyond my means. I am learning to live with it!

Anyway, I bought three metres of this lovely off white cotton with a print of tiny seaside houses and a lighthouse … as for once I knew immediately what it was destined to be.

After much deliberation on the pattern front (I am still desperately seeking the perfect men’s shirt without too much hand stitching but with a collar stand) I settled on McCalls 6044 … a pretty standard men’s shirt with stand collar but controversially no yoke! Hmm, I’m not sure I’d make this version again … the sleeve line is lovely but the collar for some reason was a total pain. There was a lot of swearing in the making process I can tell you.

By-the-seaside-shirt

Now, on to the recipient. It was Dad’s birthday this month and he loves being by the seaside so I thought this was the perfect thing. It will amaze you to know that my Dad is not normally at home in prints. A few years ago he would only ever wear white short sleeve shirts. Not even a colour!! I know, how can it be that I, queen of the novelty print, share DNA with someone who prefers a plain white shirt you ask?! Well, here’s the thing (having checked the milkman’s alibi … it was fine) I decided that Dad was just a bit reluctant, and that with a bit of gentle guidance he might begin to see the error of his colourless and patternless ways. So I started buying him coloured shirts. Just the odd one or two here and there for a birthday or Christmas or Father’s Day … but nothing to arouse suspicion.

When he seemed comfortable in blues or a cream or grey I started to buy them with a tiny pattern … nothing elaborate you understand (ooh, no, nothing to scare the horses) just some feint stripes or a tiny check. The odd eyebrow was raised, but he wore them, and started to get compliments on his shirts. A more major milestone occurred two years ago when I bought him a striped shirt for Father’s Day. A bold stripe in blues and greys and … pink!! He laughed when he saw it but wore it nontheless, and all the ladies at Church complimented him again on his choice and told him that “It really brought out his blue eyes…” (Thank you ladies, your assistance is appreciated). It became a mainstay of his weekend wardrobe.

So, when I saw this novelty print I knew it was destined for my Dad. A pinnacle of his colour and pattern shirt aversion therapy and something he would never have dreamed of wearing in the old plain white shirt days. I did have moments of panic during the making process “What was I thinking? Dad actually wearing a novelty print?!” but then convinced myself it was subtle enough to get away with it. I pinned, sewed, cursed and stabbed my finger a lot (yes, Dad, that is my actual blood in a tiny red dot on the inside button band of the shirt. Hopefully, it’ll come out in the wash!)

I pressed it and wrapped it in a big blue ribbon and took it to Dad’s house this weekend. He did laugh when he saw it (I think he thinks I am a little bit crazy.)

So, ladeeze and gentlemens, here, without further ado is my cool Dad, rocking it out in a novelty print shirt. My, how far you have come. *sniff* (wipes a tear). So very proud. 🙂

Dads_seaside_shirt_McCalls_6044

Projects past … the fish skirt

It’s no secret that I love a novelty print. Despite the fact that someone of my advancing age shouldn’t wear anything with creatures/cartoons/kitchenalia/foodstuffs (delete as applicable) on it I have chosen to buck the sensible trend. After all, what is the point in making something that doesn’t make some kind of statement? I just feel better wearing something with a bit of attitude. Earlier this summer I was whiling away the hours on my ipad checking out new fabrics when I spotted this lovely fish print from Michael Miller.

I love Michael Miller fabrics, to me he is the god of the novelty print. The designs are so graphic that I always love them! So, without further ado, here is the fish skirt.

Michael_Miller_Fishprint_skirt

I love this skirt … it’s from a New Look pattern and is a really flattering A line shape. I love the contrast detail on the pocket and the bottom band. It’s quite short but I decided that as a summer skirt I could get away with having a bit more of my pale and pasty flesh on show. The contrast fabric is a Kaffe Fasset cotton blend which was a bit on the thin side, so I used it double thickness on the band and pocket.

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of it by the garden pond. I think this skirt needs a trip to the beach!