Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Editor dress

Because it's black and white and red all over! Geddit? Geddit? Oh, and it's covered in typewriters. That might have something to do with it.
One of the perils (if you can call it that) of teaching at The Village Haberdashery is that I am in the shop all the time and consequently end up wanting everything. A few weeks ago there was just enough of this amazing typewriter fabric in the sale section to make a Deer and Doe Belladone dress. It was fate.
I added piping at the waistband and on the pocket edges to match the bias binding around the neck, back and armholes. Kona Rich Red was the perfect shade to set off the black and white. I finished the hem with bias binding instead of the facing called for in the pattern, just so I could add a little more red.
Pattern matching? What pattern matching?
My favourite feature is the keyhole back. I think it's so pretty, especially when bound. This is optional according to the pattern, but it really finishes things off so nicely and gives that extra bit of body to the fabric. Well worth the extra time, I think.
Look at that crochet loop!
All in all I am so happy with this dress. I'm definitely at that age where I can wear whatever the bloody hell I want without having to justify my fabric choices. Being in your 40s isn't so terrible after all. Also, I was more than a little inspired by the wonderful fashion stylings of Roisin (Dolly Clackett). One day I will have a handmade wardrobe just like hers.
And what would a dressmaking post be without the traditional action shot? In case you can't tell, I'm pretending to type, not waiting for my manicure to dry.

I'm entering this into the Sew Dolly Clackett challenge. If you have a minute, check out the other entries - they are amazing!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Bloody hell, a finished quilt!

My Migration quilt is finished! I'm so pleased with how it turned out and it didn't take long at all. Of course, that's what happens when the world's best bee mates make most of the blocks. I'm really liking this bee thing.
I whacked the blocks up on the design wall fairly randomly without thinking about it too much and tried to minimise the faddling about with rearranging that normally lasts at least a week. I'm really glad I did - over thinking these things can take a lot of the fun out of the process for me. As it was, I had this arranged, sewn together and quilted in about six hours. The binding took the rest of the evening (I just can't not hand finish a binding - it's a slight obsession).
It's backed in Ikea numbers, partly because I had eight metres of the stuff and I'm still on that fabric diet (update: still no quilting fabric purchases), but I really like it here anyway so it's not exactly a hardship. I quilted in wavy lines with a green/yellow variegated thread. I love the contrast between the sharp angles of the geese and the organic quilting.
All three kids individually called dibs on it once it was finished. Now that's what I call a success (as long as they don't start fighting over it, of course).

Friday, 11 April 2014


Rachel, it seems like five minutes since you turned thirteen. Please stop growing up so fast. Not only is it making me feel old, but your little-girlness is slipping away at an alarming rate. I dread the day when you no longer want me to wait "just a sec, just a sec" (spoiler alert - it never is just a sec) while you get ready for bed so that I can tuck you in. I feel it now, that cutting of the umbilical cord. Your perfectly natural and appropriate independence. But you are my baby, my first, my little girl. I remember the teenage years being hard to cope with as a teenager, but I never realised how hard it is as a parent. Next you'll develop an interest in dating, god help us all.
But how can I be afraid when I see the amazing person you are becoming. Kind, funny, beyond thoughtful - you work so hard to include everyone. You are doing well in school, both socially and academically. I love that you have such good friends.
Sweetheart, you keep growing up, ok? I'll get used to it.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

More dressmaking

I had an "aha" moment the other day when I realised why I've been doing so well on my no-quilting-fabric-but-dressmaking-fabric-is-totally-allowed plan: I have suddenly turned into the world's most prolific dressmaker. It's a veritable sweatshop here. And then there are all the totally quilt-worthy leftovers that don't count as fabric purchases because they are scraps. See? Genius!

This weekend was a whirlwind of pattern tracing, full bust adjustments (I can do them without looking at tutorials now) fabric cutting and frantic sewing together of garments. I've got another dress waiting in the wings and two others are yet to be photographed, but without further ado, I present to you:

1. The Victoria Blazer. What a fabulous pattern. I love this so much! I sewed a size 12 (UK) with no adjustments other than shortening it by three inches (the long was too long for me and the cropped was too cropped - this is the Goldilocks length). It's fully lined (including the sleeves) in Liberty lawn (oh my god, I love sewing with this stuff) and the outer is some unlabelled tiny pinstripe something-or-other I got on Berwick Street. It was a remnant, albeit a very generous one - four metres of the stuff for about £20. This jacket is going to get some serious wear this summer. And who can blame me, when it makes me feel this sexy:

And yet again, I delight in the modelling of clothing.

2. A(nother) Washi dress. This time with a lined bodice and collar (both from the new expansion pack). I made a size small with an FBA, and I really love the fit. I don't think I can have too many of these dresses - it's such a fantastic pattern. And it's perfect for a little light swinging.

That's what she said!

Thanks to Kelly for her marvellous photography skillz. Love you, Croydon.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Blah blah blah admin

Hey! I bought a domain name! It's very exciting (if you're me, otherwise feel free to fall asleep/tell me to calm down). It's all set up (using this rather marvellous tutorial) so that my old blogger address will automatically redirect to the new one, but it does mean that I have to do the annoying bloglovin thing again.

So please forgive me, but:

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

And here's a pretty picture of my new featherweight (a 222 free arm!) to make it up to you. I rpomise not to kill this one.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Small beginnings

I've been following Kristy's blog for a while (she of the amazing David Tennant pixellated masterpiece), and have really enjoyed reading about her early quilts. So in the spirit of shameless copying, I present several of mine:

1. First ever quilt. This teeny thing (i.e. too small to be of any use at all) was made in 2001, back when the only teach-yourself-to-quilt resources were depressingly old-fashioned books from the library. On the plus side, the piecing is pretty good (those logs finish at 3/4") and it's hand quilted. On the negative side, the polyester batting makes me want to cry. The kids love it though (in a that-was-the-first-blanket-you-made-me kind of way), so it can't be all bad.

2. First applique quilt, 2002. God help me. This is the only photo I have - the actual quilt went to charity a long time ago. Again with the super puffy polyester batting. One positive thing - this was the first quilt I made to my own design (even if that design turned out to be, ahem, less than what I had envisaged).

3. Ugliest quilt in the world, 2002 - never (no longer in my possession). OhmygodIcan'teven. Thinking about it, this might be where my dislike of scrappy comes from. I didn't take a photo of it before I chucked it, which is kind of a shame but believe me you should be grateful. It was a crazy patchwork nightmare made in all sorts of alarming pastels (left over from the applique quilt above). The one thing it had going for it was that I didn't use polyester batting. Unfortunately I used a nasty blanket instead. Sigh.

4. 2003 - 2005: an assortment of forgotten things.

5. The first quilt I was actually quite pleased with, 2006 (just don't look too closely at the badly matched seams). A strippy snowball with actual cotton batting. It's sized for a toddler bed, but never really got used because said toddler went straight into a big-boy bed. Pity.

6. A series of single bed quilts (one for each child), 2007. Daniel's (the starry one) is still in use, but the others have been replaced with slightly more grown-up alternatives. I love these quilts. They bring back so many memories of when the girls were little. They mean cosiness and love and comfort to me.

It's hard to see how making these quilts has led me to where I am now, aesthetically. I no longer (except occasionally) make quilts for beds. I make them for walls, for display. Sometimes one will happen to be big enough that it gets a bit of couch use (like the scrappy tripalong, and Sunrise), but that is definitely the exception not the rule. I think my early quilts helped me to overcome my fear of "getting it wrong" - after all, quilting is just cutting bits of fabric up and sewing them back together. I rarely follow a pattern now (unless I'm making a monster). These quilts gave me a knowledge of boring but essential stuff like construction and quilt maths, with the added bonus of fulfilling their traditional purpose - keeping people warm.

Now I've moved on to less traditional purposes. I like it here.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Ode to an 'E' cup

I've been sewing the clothes for Annie's shop window for a couple of months now, and this time round she suggested I might like to make something that I could wear once it's finished doing its duty. Together, we picked the Mortmain dress in teal squared elements with a big-ass metal zip. The Mortmain pattern is beautifully presented and very well written, so I couldn't wait to get to it.

Of course, the massiveness of the buzzoomz meant doing my first ever FBA. The interwebs is full of useful (but slightly conflicting) advice on how to do this, so after falling down the rabbit hole for several hours I finally settled on this tutorial, mainly because it made the most sense to me at the time. I can't overstate the importance of making a muslin of the new bodice at this point. Mainly because I didn't and then ended up having to faff about adjusting my actual bodice. Ahem. Additional massive bap related adjustments included lowering the neckline by about 1.5 inches and narrowing the shoulders by an inch. Again, this was all done using my actual bodice rather than a muslin. Genius. Luckily, the squared elements fabric is really crisp and has a lovely tight weave so there weren't any problems with repeated unpicking.

At this point, I feel I should emphasise that I was really flying by the seat of my pants, with no idea of how this was all going to work out in the end. Remember that, because it's important later.

Never one to make things easy for myself, I decided to fully line the dress so that I could get rid of the neck and armhole facings. I really don't like the way facings flap about - even if you stitch them down they keep trying to escape. I did feel much more confident with the lining process, having done it several times before. Basically, you make two dresses - one shell and one lining - and then use the lining in place of facings. The neck seams were sewn on the machine and I hand stitched the armholes.
The main design feature of this dress is the exposed zip on the back, but it was just a little too exposed for me so I sewed it onto the inside (hiding the zip tape) rather than the outside. I really like the look of just the brass zip teeth without the heavy black tape showing - it gives the dress just enough edginess. I am a woman of a certain age, after all.
And this is the point where I remind you that I have bugger all idea of what I'm doing when it comes to alterations. When I tried the dress on the neckline was way too baggy. I think it was a combination of being too short-waisted for this pattern and making it up as I went along. Luckily Lucy (the 11-year-old) was on hand to suggest a simple and adorable fix - a box pleat in the front of the bodice that echoes those on the skirt. That child is a genius. She clearly doesn't get it from me.
And if she inherits my ridiculous boobs, at least I can be comforted by knowing that she can figure out how to accommodate them.

The dress (and assorted adorable children's outfits which luckily didn't require any stupid adjustments) is now on show in the shop window. It's been filled out with one of my bras crammed with soft toy stuffing. I wish I had that level of pertness in real life.