April in Paris dress

April-in-paris-dress_sewingblog

From the moment I laid eyes on this fabric I just knew I had to have it, and it had to be a dress. Elegant 50s fashionistas promenading past Parisian landmarks with a rich cobalt blue and fierce pink vibe on soft cream. Mmmm. I even like the shots of apple green. Delicious. I’d recently whizzed up a ‘teapot’ dress from McCalls Fashion Star M6554 and decided it was the perfect summer dress to make again in another quirky cotton print.

This time round I changed things up a little, making the neckline a gentle curve rather than square and adding a couple of inches to the bodice length so it sat near my natural waist rather than the empire line of the original. Things I love most about this pattern include the inset piece at the front of the skirt and the perfect pockets … I get really grumpy if I have a skirt with no pockets nowadays! It was a pretty quick make and this time I didn’t even bother lining the skirt, although I was good and did handstitch the hem. I finished it just in time to shove it in my suitcase as we headed off to Arts Week in a little seaside town in Kent.

After rummaging around in the wardrobe I came up with the perfect pink belt, one of my favourite jackets from Next (so much love for this shape and style that I have it in black, cream and navy!) and some polka dot pink shoes from Moshulu. Finishing touch was this lovely pink shell necklance that I borrowed from my Mum (I did return it and then went to buy the very same one from Matalan).

So there we are, April in Paris, now translated to July in Deal.

Afterword:
I have actually experienced April in Paris, and let’s just say it wasn’t as lovely as my dress! I went with an ex who was obsessed with The Doors, and more specifically Jim Morrison. I managed to develop full blown flu somewhere in the middle of the Channel Tunnel, and my lasting memory of the whole Paris trip was sitting in my kettle-less hotel room trying to swirl lukewarm tap water at the right speed to mix my Lemsip before downing in one. That and standing in the freezing cold at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in the pouring rain searching for Jim Morrison’s grave. Yes, I think romance was very dead that day!

Gone Fishin’ hat

Aidens_fishing_hat

Here’s cheeky Aiden modelling a fishy sunhat as he tries to catch a wee fish for himself in our pond! Although the fabric is great and he’s rocking the whole look … let’s be honest, it’s a bit on the tight side. As my Gramp would have said, “Like a pea on a drum” … the moral of the story is never trust a parent to measure a child’s head. When I enquired as to how the measurement could have gone so astray I was told that there had been some improvisational technique with a metal and wooden ruler when a fabric tape measure couldn’t be found before they texted me the size. *sigh*. We practically had to lever this onto poor Aiden’s head for the shots, so the hat itself is now destined for a new home for a younger (smaller headed) wannabe fisherman. Not to worry, I have plenty of the fish fabric left so Fish Hat Mark 2 (size L) is now on the project list!

Just after Aiden finishing his fishing expedition I started clearing the remaining leaves from the pond with my newly acquired net. To my astonishment, as I leant over the bridge to poke my net underneath to pick out the odd errant leaf, one of the most stubborn ones turned around and looked at me before swimming away!! We have newts!! Not only that, but after further investigation it turns out they are of the Great Crested variety. How exciting!

Miss Evie’s Sunhat

Here’s the gorgeous Miss Evie in her brand new sunhat, courtesy of some lovely fabric from Lady Sew ‘n’ Sew and a cute little Butterick pattern. Evie has two parents who are just mad about their allotment, so this is the perfect thing for afternoons spent wandering amongst the cabbage patch, or feeding the chickens. The cute pocket on the side is ideal for stashing sweeties or treasure (hmmm, secret pockets in clothes for sweets, why don’t all patterns have them?!)

Princess_Evie_Sun_Hat

This was amazingly fiddly for just a hat and had oodles of hand stitching again. Love the fabric though with little birds and leaves and flowers and a beautiful buttercup yellow lining. Next up is the boy’s version modelled by curly-haired rebel Aiden … perfect for fishing!

The A is for Architect shirt

*Fanfare*

I had been looking forward to some serious sewing this last weekend. So, on Friday night as I skipped in through the door from work I pondered out loud the choices ahead … there was a stack of fabric as tall as me awaiting a decision in the sewing room. “Hmmm, I’m just deciding what to do next …” I told my bloke as I chopped up carrots for dinner. Then he did THAT face … you know the one, the I’m slightly disappointed but not going to show it face, before he said quietly, “Well, there’s always  – well, I mean, you could just finish my shirt?”

Too_sexy_for_my_shirt_dressmaking__mens_shirt

Ah, yes, the matter of the unfinished shirt that had been languishing sans buttonholes for a good two weeks now. You know, he had a good point. Such is my horror at having to do twelve buttonholes (12!!! Seriously, who needs that many buttonholes in one garment?! Sadly there was one in the collar, seven down the front, two cuffs and then the bloody tabs that enable you to roll up your sleeves and fasten them in place.) that I had completely abandoned the shirt in order to do stuff that was just, well, to be honest, just more FUN! Sometimes though, you just have to do what’s gotta be done. And anyway, this was the fabric from the warehouse sale that just begged to be bought, perfect for a semi-retired architect and eccentric enough to suit his tastes … it deserved to be finished.

I had a large glass of wine (this may or may not have helped in the end, I think I need to do further controlled experiments to see whether a glass of wine takes the edge off buttonhole fear or instead adds to the difficulty level – so far the jury is out). The thing is with buttonholes is that they can go really horribly wrong. I had spent a lot of time on this shirt, perfect seams and pressing and enough handstitching to see me to the moon and back, and I was not prepared to screw it up. Buttons in one hand and courage in another I sat down at my machine, attached the buttonhole foot and just got going.

The first one was a world of bad. For some reason, having not done a buttonhole for a while I had forgotten that although the foot looks like it should be centred, if you centre it on your button band you get one completely off-centre button. Reach for the stitch ripper, sigh and take it all out. Take 2: Remark where the buttonhole has to be and start again … not so shoddy and just as I’m about to down the homeward right hand side of my auto buttonhole I run out of thread … Noooooooo! Pick up stitich ripper again (wondering if you shouldn’t have it permanently grafted to your right hand like some kind of sewing mishap terminator) and undo. Wind new bobbin and insert. Take 3: losing the will to live, never mind sew by this point, I start again on the first of 12 (yes, there were still 12) buttonholes. Amazingly, this one was okay. In an effort not to overthink it, I launched into one after the other on the front. Seven down and four to go …

Miraculously, there were all pretty darn good. I clapped with delight (I’m aware it’s a bit uncool to applaud yourself but hey, there was no-one else there and it can be our secret, okay?) After some button sewing we were done! I pressed everything once more for luck and then it was back up to the house to show A his new shirt! Not only does he love it but he’s wearing it next weekend at his big “do” in Manchester.

So, without further ado, ladeeeze and gentlemens … I present to you Mr Chinnor Shirt, modelling this seasons’s must have – the Architect Shirt, complete with couture touches (mismatched buttons from my grand button stash).

A_is_for_architect_shirt

The London Bag

It’s finished! Yay! I LOVE this bag. This would have been a lovely, easy to sew bag project had it not been for the French instructions, and my desire to make two colour handles (I know, I just do it to myself), but overall I’m really pleased with the end result.

Finished_London_Bag-1

Although I wasn’t sure til I put them on right at the end I’m also delighted with my idea to add large self covered buttons under the straps in the contrasting colour, just to give the whole thing a bit more va va voom. When you open up the bag to pop something inside it’s even nicer! Why? Because it’s lined with cheery black and white polka dots.

London_four_fabric_bag

This is one of those accessories that immediately sets my active imagination into overdrive. CUT to summer’s evening on the Embankment … as the camera swoops in over the Thames you see (in the glow from the enchanting Victorian lampposts) a woman walking alone. As we pan in closer we can see her retro skirt, an artfully chosen modern twinset with a ittle neckerchief jauntily tied around her neck and feet encased in patent scarlet ballet slippers. She swings her bag as she walks … smiling and nodding at passers by … Funny, isn’t it, how I magically transmogrify into Audrey Tautou in my daydreams?! I am hardly the ingenue type, yet wouldn’t it be lovely to have that effortless, innocent, artless appeal?

I feel a scarlet 50s skirt coming on, just so I can swoosh my way down the street with this bag over my shoulder. The Embankment, here I come!

Parlez vous Franglaise?

This lovely iconic fabric from Makower (London) just begged to be turned into something fun and cheery. I wanted something a little different where I could mix four of the pattern fabrics into the design. After much searching I came up with this lovely pattern courtesy of Marie Claire. Trouble is, it’s in French! *sigh*

London_by_Makower

As if sewing wasn’t tricky enough, I now find the only pattern I want to make in this gorgeous fabric is written in a foreign language. “Ah, it can’t be that hard though”, I thought to myself.

Wrong! Oh, how Madame Coutts, my old French teacher would be laughing at me now! All thouse lectures about how I should apply myself a little harder, “Concentrate, as one day you will need some ‘real French’, mark my words young lady.” All those verb tables I ignored, dialogue homework that I decoded on the jiggly bus ride into school … the tuts and sighs as I struggled my way through the classes with my dodgy accent, accompanied by the idea that a beret was as much Frenchness as I needed thank you very much. Who’d have thought she’d turn out to be right?

Still, this is the age of technology surely Google would hold the answer? Hmmm, seems like Google translator does fine on most french words, just not on those peculiar to sewing! Some of the translated instructions had me sniggering like a schoolboy, they wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a dirty book … Prick into the gap etc … In the end I just kind of cobbled it together as best I could. And you know, it’s starting to make sense! Just have to figure out the straps now and do the facing and we’ll be good to go. I think the fabric combination is really working, in fact it even garnered unsolicited comments from my bloke so it must be good. I’m also toying with the idea of something really decorative to go with this which I think will really add to the piece (reaching for the wool felt as I type!).

Rarrrggghh! The fearsome beastie tote bag

Fearsome_beastie_book_bag

Oooh … scary huh? Well, alright, not so scary but definitely schweeet. This awesome monster was inspired by this post on pinterest about customising a ready made tote with a monster appliqué – but when I saw the newsprint fabric at the fabric store I knew I had to make a bag for it to go on too.

This was my project for our Saturday Sew In, and unbelievably it took me all day! My bloke always tells me I have an amazing capacity to underestimate how long it will take me to do things, but in this case I surpassed myself. We had 7 clear hours of crafting time in the session, so I took along fabric for the bag, fabric to make a pair of camoflage shorts and fabric to make a handbag (well, you know, I didn’t want to end up with idle hands at any stage of the afternoon). Ha! I think only the Doctor (ooh, Matt Smith, gorgeous in a freakishly geeky way) could have a better grasp on redefining the laws of space and time than me. I obviously believe I am some kind of Time Lord, because when it boiled down to it, in my seven hours of crafting time I didn’t even finish the bag!

What happened? Well, it took me a while to decide on the perfect size for the tote – big enough for an A4 book and some bits and bobs, but not so huge that it would be like carrying my house on my shoulder. Then there was the problem with relating this information to the amount of fabric I bought for the bag (why on earth did I only buy half a metre of the stripe, what was I thinking?!). Would I have enough for straps? How big should I make the gusset? Did I have enough to match the stripes? Where should I start the monster in relation to the bottom, so that when the body folded under the gusset it left a two-thirds, one-third proportion? Wahh! So I did what every good sewer with a conundrum of this magnitude does … I stopped and drank tea.

Two cups in and the ideas finally started to take shape. (It’s worth noting that an hour and a half had passed by at this point.) I sketched, traced onto Bondaweb and ironed on my appliqué before finally heading to the machine. Chrissy Sue (thanks lovely) had the brilliant idea of echoing the outer machine stitch with some hand embellished running stitch in embroidery silks (silks … damn, cross off another twenty minutes as I dash across the street to home, rummage frantically in the art room for some coral embroidery thread and race back.) A word of advice here … never try to stitch through Bondaweb with a slightly blunt needle. It’s a really bad idea.

Anywaaaay … hand embellishment started, but what’s that terrible roaring noise? Doh! It’s my stomach. Somehow it’s now lunchtime, and I look down and my untouched bag construction and barely started hand finishing with complete astonishment. How can three whole hours have gone already? Time for lunch with the ladies though, so we troop to the coffee shop for some sustenance. Forward 40 minutes and we return to the crafting zone. I eye my injured finger and sigh as I realise I still have two eyes, a nose and a mouth to attach along with a chain stitch mouth to embroider. Shit.

Mustering the good ole Blitz spirit I persevere and finally finish the hand stitching. Yay! I have never been so relieved to turn to the sewing machine. Thundering along the seams I finally sew the outer bag together and construct the inner lining. It’s starting to look like a bag. I’m just about to put the inner and outer together and then realise I have a problem … I want to use buttons for eyes but I don’t have my button stash with me. If I construct it all now then I will have to stitch the buttons on through the bag and the lining, not good. I pick up a tiny bit of the lining material and start making bows … maybe my monster should be a girl. I show my Mum, “No, it’s too much” she says wisely. I reluctantly conceed, peek at the clock and realise it is now ten to five. Ten to ******* five! Realising that the time gods are really messing with me I decide to accept momentary defeat and start packing up for the afternoon.

Once we’ve said our goodbyes, I head home and straight to the button stash and find two perfect buttons. Then it’s on to the lining and straps. Yippee, it’s almost there. As the last strap gets its top stitching, it’s starting to turn dark, but finally it is finished. I love it. A simple tote bag. Surely to goodness this shouldn’t take a reasonably accomplished sewer a whole day?! Yet, it did. Ah well. Thank you to Carole, Chrissy Sue, Lucy, Yvonne and my poor long-suffering Mum for a fabulous day of crafting goodness. And yes, that it a bow you spy on my monster’s head. “Too much” is my middle name you know!

Fearsome_beastie_book_bag_final-1

Bright lights, big city shirt

Bright_light_shirt

A sneak peek at my latest UFO. I loved this fabric from the moment I saw it in a warehouse sale … and it’s perfect for my bloke (he used to be an architect). I thought I could really funk it up by using a contrast turquoise sketch blender for some detail and then different coloured buttons. But four days in and I’m still sewing!!! Argh! Now known as the Shirt o’Doom, I can’t even tell you how many times I have picked and unpicked seams, sighed endlessly over the sleeve insertion (when I rule the world it will be illegal to add more than half an inch of ease to the sleeve cap of any sewing pattern), and just generally it’s been a pain in the arse.

To make matters worse there are metres of hand sewing involved. The yoke … all handsewn, the cuffs … handsewn, even the bands at the front of the shirt … you guessed it … handsewn!  I hate it. Still, on the up side it is looking lovely. I am going to try a last minute bid to finish this tomorrow night, but I still have the collar stand and collar and all the buttonholes to do. It could be a very late night!

Dream in colour

Last night I dreamt in hues – cobalt, scarlet, primrose, emerald, amethyst, umber, celadon … a kaleidoscope of pattern, texture and colour, colour, COLOUR!

kaffe_fassett_autobiography

You see I have a new crush … and it’s on an older man. Kaffe Fassett (pronounced to rhyme with safe asset as I found out last night) was running a colour inspiration lecture at Lady Sew n Sew in Henley. For those of you who have not yet explored this emporium of fabricy loveliness, I suggest you immediately make a date in your dairy to do so. It is huge and literally lined with fabric of every description. If you can’t find something you like here then you should go home and take up woodwork instead! Anyhow, I digress …

It’s no secret, I’m not much of a quilter – I find all that cutting and piecing and perfect alignment and pressing a bit much. I have made three quilts in my life and they have all been something of an ordeal. I think it is because they take such an extraordinary amount of time to make and I am a big Miss Impatient Pants. When I was given the details of the lecture I was a bit worried that it would be all about the quilting, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I am so glad I did. I am so INSPIRED (there are going to be a lot of caps in this post, I can tell already). I hung off the man’s every word and drooled at the avalanche of colour in his source photos.

Kaffe_Fassett_a_life_in_colour_book

I loved his approach … the idea that the finish wasn’t so important, that it was the emotion of the colours and the “glow” that was the point of the piece. I have always had an instinctive reaction to colours and how I put them together, and it is this gut feeling that Kaffe has in abundance. The partnership he has with Brandon Mably is so suffused with a joint love of colour, texture and pattern that you find yourself just wanting to be part of their club. I came away so infused with new ideas that I couldn’t sleep a wink, my creative brain was in total overdrive.

One last thing he said that may be love him even more … that to be creative you had to be messy! (Whoops of joy from me as I now think I’m going to have this made up into a huge sign to put on my art room wall and maybe even a bumper sticker! Take that neat freaks of the world.)

The other thing I brought home with me after last night’s colour adventure was fabric … yes, even more fabric. Here’s a pic of the haul.

Oooh – I have such wonderful things planned for this little lot! It’s craft day on Saturday with the local stitch ‘n’ bitch group so I will be sewing all day. Watch this space …

(More) new shoes

I have an unnatural love for shoes, especially high heels. I own well over 100 pairs of shoes (that’s just heels and doesn’t include summer wedges, sandals and winter boots). My other half and I reached a shoes armistice when we realised that should I buy any more shoes (at all) we may just have to build a whole new house (probably out of shoes) to store them all in. We live in a little old cottage so there is only so much space for everything. Although I dream of walk in wardrobes with pullout drawers of shoes arranged by colour the truth is mine have to be racky-stacked in a massive cupboard over the stairs in the spare room and they don’t all quite fit in there! So I was sensible, and I quit … mostly! But sometimes there are still a pair that I can’t resist … that sing to me in that certain tone and that I know I absolutely MUST own.

The other day I had one of those moments. I don’t exactly what it was about this particular pair of shoes. Was is the fact that they are covered in felt with hand stitching or the union jack or the hearts … whatever spell they wove it was the most lethal of combinations. All I know is that I loved them at first sight (aren’t all the best things that way, from dresses to men!). And now I have them in my hands (hurrah for internet shopping). They are the perfect mix of minx and kookiness I adore. I know that when I slip them on I shall transform into retro styled vixen (that bit may be just in my head) and saunter alluringly for the rest of the day.

Shoes. I love them (I think I may have mentioned that bit earlier!).