Saturday, 4 March 2017

Winter Wonderland

I thought I'd share my most recent make - a denim dungaree dress, courtesy of  the Tilly and the Buttons Cleo pattern

I've fancied one of these dungaree dresses for ages, and so I was delighted to see the Cleo pattern.  I know it's not particularly 'age-appropriate' but since when did that ever stop me?  I'd already got some medium weight denim in my stash, so I washed it and was ready to go.
Tilly's patterns are always easy to follow, with the bonus of an online tutorial if you need it and this went together really quickly.
This was partly due to the fact that I am now lucky enough to have the benefit of a big sewing room, and several machines, so I was able to have one machine set up for normal sewing, and one for top stitching, which meant I didn't have to keep swapping needles and threads.
At first I thought I'd use buttonholes and buttons, but I happened to be in a fabric shop (however did that happen?) and saw some dungaree clips, so I went for those instead.
I made the knee length version in a Size 5 - and I didn't make any alterations to the pattern at all.
I have to say, I am really ridiculously pleased with it - and I've worn it three times already.  There will definitely be more Cleos - maybe in a patterned corduroy?
Excuse the creases - I'd been wearing it for an hour or so before I remembered to get my niece to take photos.  
She was under strict instructions to make me look about 28 and a Size 10.  
She failed miserably.

Oh, and the post title relates to where I went last weekend - I met up with some friends at Anglesey Abbey to see the snowdrops.  I've not been there before but what a fantastic winter garden - so many colours and textures and delightful scents - and the silver birches look like a magical film set.
I recommend a visit if you are in the Cambridgeshire area.

Winter Wonderland - The Courteeners

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Valentine's Day

Possibly inspired by Gina's 'year of new experiences' I spent the 14th Feb doing something I've never done before.
Don't get too excited - it involved buckets of cold water and mackerel guts - yes, I've been crabbing.
My friend Fiona and her family were in Norfolk for a couple of days, and I musseled muscled in on their break and joined them on the quayside at Wells.
We tried on Monday, but that first attempt was less than successful. It was as bitterly cold as a very cold plaice place, not helped by the fact that in my rush to get out that morning, I had inadvertently forgotten to take my coat. Plus the tide was out, so, other that a few little shrimps, it was pretty much a non starter.
We ended up going to Hunstanton and feeding money into the 2p machines, where for about a tenner, we managed to win a couple of plastic keyrings.  Bargain!

Anyway, not to be defeated, we went back early yesterday morning and to help with the process, I donned my lucky 'crabbing hat'
Anyway, whether it was the tide, or the hat, or the sunshine, or the fact that crabs hadn't already had their breakfast, it were much more successful trip and the boys were catching them at a rate of knots
So successful, in fact, that we had to go and invest in a bigger bucket ...
(I know there are only two in this bucket, but the water was a bit murky in the others.)

So, just one question - do you think my stylish dress sense has anything to do with my lack of valentine's post this year?
Valentine's Day - ABC

Friday, 13 January 2017


I've just had my first 'staying' visitor in my new house!  It was slightly daunting as it was my friend Gina who is an ace cook and baker, and as you know, my culinary skills are somewhat limited.  Plus, she is currently following a healthy eating regime which meant I couldn't just take her out and make sure she filled up on cake.  I suggested I find some healthy recipes, and buy the ingredients and she could supervise the cooking. 
Before we did any cooking though, I thought we'd go for a long walk, on the basis that she might be so hungry that she'd eat anything.
The weather was better than predicted, so we went to Wells for a walk along the beach.  It was very bright and sunny, but just a tad windy!
But, if you're wrapped up warm ....
Anyway, the cooking lark worked - under Gina's expert guidance, I made fishcakes with stir fried spring greens and broccoli, (get that! me eating green veg!?!?!?) served with a curry mayonnaise sauce, which made the broccoli slightly more palatable.
I even made soda bread ....

Don't worry - this IS NOT turning into a cooking blog.  No doubt by the end of the week, normal service will have resumed and I'll have given up the veg and gone back to Maltesers.

As I've had such a long blogging break, I thought I'd catch up with some of my makes.  This is a dress I made for Grace as part of her Christmas present, although she didn't actually get it until a week later.  It's a little on the big side, but that's fine, and she seems to grow so quickly it'll soon be perfect.

It's and Oliver and S Playtime Dress that I bought as a PDF - I'm usually reluctant to use PDF patterns because of all the cutting and sticking - but with kids clothes its not so bad, and this was really easy to put together. I'm afraid I can't remember where I got the cherry print jersey from, I'd had it for a while and I had thought it was destined for an Agnes top for me, but I am determined to try and use up some of my fabric mountain so it became a little dress.  It feels really good quality, very soft and drapey, but with a nice weight.

The dress was quick to make and the only reason it wasn't ready for Christmas is I run out of time, and because I faffed about for ages finding the prefect buttons for the back, again from my enormous supply.  I loved these heart buttons, but only had two of each size, so I used three different sizes, and made it easier for myself and for Grace's mum by using poppers to fasten it, rather than making three different sized buttonholes.
Hayley and Bethany got new dresses too - AND in time for Christmas, but I forgot to photograph those, so I'll have to organise a little baby photoshoot later when they are all together in their frocks.

WINDSWEPT - Bryan Ferry

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

It's Been A Long Long Time

I bet you thought I'd gone for good?  I was beginning to wonder the same myself.  But, I though I'd make my NY resolution to post on here at least once a month.  Make it achievable, I say.
I have been busy doing other things -  sewing frocks, knitting socks, and just generally pottering.
Oh, and moving house - I've unexpectedly moved to Norfolk!  If you'd have asked me this time last year, I wouldn't have had an inkling - I was happy in my little flat in Hertford and thought I'd be there for ever.  But then a seed was planted in my tiny brain, where it grew - and after a few months house-hunting, and waiting, and finally a pretty stress-free move in September, here I am, and I couldn't be happier.  I love my village, and I love my house (you get a lot for your money up here) and I love the fact that my family are all nearby.  Christmas was great - I'm haven't usually been at home for Christmas, so I haven't bothered with decorations, but this year I had a tree and lots of fairy lights and other bits and pieces.  
I even cooked my first Christmas dinner for about 20years - who'd have thought it!

I'm also a great aunt x 3 now - you may remember Grace - she's a big girl now, does drawing and everything......
In September, she was joined by her gorgeous cousin Hayley, and then in September she got a beautiful baby sister, Bethany
They all had Christmas outfits - 
That was MY headband, but she took a liking to it, and I don't see me getting it back anytime soon. Its probably more appropriate for her age group than mine, if I'm honest
I love this picture - it was my Christmas card, and it makes me smile whevever I see it, 
and finally ....
with her very proud Mum
I feel so lucky to be up here now so I can be a bigger part of their lives than just an occasional visitor.

I will be posting about the various things I've stitched and knitted while I've been away, but for now, flushed with the success of my festive dinner, I thought I'd share my recipe for the delicious soup I made this evening.......

Heat a glug or two of olive oil in a big pan.  Leave over the heat for several mins whilst looking through my cupboards for stock cubes and seasonings.  When smoke alarm starts sounding, stop looking for stock cubes and turn off the heat, and remove the pan.  Add the ready chopped onions, ignoring the fact that most of them immediately turn black, it'll probably add to the flavour.

Meanwhile, attempt to stop the smoke alarm by flapping a tea towel underneath it.  When this doesn't work, go away and find some steps to reach the re-set button - press repeatedly until silence reigns,

Make your way through the steam filled kitchen, and put the pan back on the heat, adding chopped parsnips, carrots and red pepper.  Add a pint or two of vegetable stock - I used an OXO cube, but you could always make your own, if you don't have a life.  
Discover some forgotten dried crushed chillies in the cupboard and add a good shake to the pan.  I'm not sure of the exact quantity, but I suggest you use a LOT less than I did.

Stand by the cooker, watching and stirring to ensure that there are no more smoke alarm alerts (it's VERY loud, and there wasn'treally going to be enough soup to feed the entire crew of a fire tender).
Test the veg and decide they need another five minutes. 

Pop upstairs to my sewing room, and get engrossed in sorting things.  Half an hour later, come back down and find that there is no longer any liquid left,  and that the vegetables seem to have welded themselves to the bottom of the pan. Add some more water from the kettle, and scape the bulk of the veg from the pan bottom.  Whizz it up with a whizzer and serve.

Actually, it was surprisingly tasty, albeit quite (spicey) hot.  I can't tell you how many calories it contained, but you don't need to worry, you'll easily burn those off scrubbing the pan with a scourer for half an hour.

Don't say I never give you anythng.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Selfless Stitches

The last couple of weeks has seen an uncharacteristic period of selfless sewing and knitting.  Firstly, I was going up to Birmingham to celebrate my friend Sherri's birthday.  I wasn't sure what to get her, then I remembered she has a love of all things 'seaside' (maybe because she lives just about as far away from the sea as you can get on this little island?).  So, I decided to make another version of the bag I made with Jane which you can see a picture of HERE.  I found the perfect fabric - a canvas weight with seaside images 
I also found seaside-related pressies to go in the bag too.  No, not a bucket an spade - although I considered it - but a slightly more sophisticated choice of a scented candle and some caramel and seasalt choccies.
We had a great celebration party, organised by her lovely nephew Adam,
who, incidentally, I knew when he looked like this .. ..... (and that's me - with short hair!)

I admit though, that the celebrations couldn't commence until after I had dragged Sherri to another fabric emporium - well, she only lives a few miles away from Guthrie & Ghani, so it would have been rude not to!  I got some lovely fabric, including this brilliant typewriter fabric.  
True, I already have ONE typewriter dress, but you can always use another one.
Anyway, back to the selfless stitches, last week I suddenly remembered that I had sent in an application to enter an exhibit in the Eastern Region Embroiderer's Guild Festival of Stitch and owing to other events, if I didn't do it last week, it wouldn't get done.  So I did it!  Can't show you the finished piece yet, but its listed as a 'tattoo cushion' and includes this
I've also done a bit of selfless-knitting, for the worldwide Knit in Public Day event at the Creative Sanctuary in Hertford, making squares to be made into a blanket which will be auctioned for Alzheimers Society.  I did finished one square on the day
and I've made several more since (I even got my Mum to do a bit of knitting - first time for years)
I continued with the Knitting in Public theme and knitted on the train going up to Stratford to help out with the second batch of alterations of the Paralympic kit - Kym and I were joined by Jane too this time - the building we were working in isn't finished yet so we still had to wear the protective gear
We worked hard, for two days, in a huge warehouse with no windows - Jane said she felt like an extra from the Hunger Games, and when an alarm sounded we thought maybe the building had been infiltrated by aliens - but still we stitched ...
We did get out safely though, and the world was still there - and so was the best helter skelter ever -
Bit more selfless sewing to go, then, no doubt, I'll revert to type and it'll all be about me.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Olympic Stitching

A few months ago Kym and I were working together at the Creative Sanctuary in Hertford, when a lady came in and asked if we knew anyone who might like to volunteer to alter kit for Paralympians, due to compete at Rio 2016.  
Now, as a rule, Kym and I both run a mile - albeit not quickly enough to qualify for Rio ourselves - when anyone mentions the word 'alterations'.  Not only that, but by her own admission, Kym avoids sewing anything stretchy or slippy, so I was quite surprised to hear myself say "Oh yes, we'll do it!"
Consequently today saw us getting the early train to Stratford and wandering through the Westfield Shopping Centre (the shops were closed or it might have taken considerably longer) and over to a warehouse where the kit was being sorted.  The warehouse was still under construction, which meant that before we entered the building we had to be given Hi-Vis vests, steel toe capped boots, hard hats and goggles.  
I'm glad to say we didn't have to keep the Health and Safety gear on all the time we were sewing, only whilst making our way through the building
We haven't by any means done all the kit - only a small proportion of the competitors have been selected so far, so we will be going back to do more in a few weeks time. 
I'm wondering - does this mean we can say we've worked on Stella McCartney's latest collection?
Anyway, having finished all the measuring and pinning, stitching and cutting that could be done today, we had to put the same protective gear back on to make our way out again to go home.
Mmm, I don't think Stella McCartney designed THIS.  But it's a look that could catch on.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

MMM 2016 - Days 26 27 28 29 30 and 31

So much for daily posting then.
I spent most of Thursday (26th) working in the garden in a very old T shirt, but when I came in and got showered I did change into this Camber top for a couple of hours sewing, finishing off my new Navy and White striped Coco tunic, just in time to wear it the next day when I drove back up to Sunny Norfolk again.  
Grace looks cute but the photos don't show much of the dress

so I cheated over the weekend and put it on to take another shot in the garden
Saturday was a visit to a garden nursery, followed by more planting in Mum and Dad's garden, wearing the B&W Coco top
Sunday - a bit more plant buying and gardening in an old T shirt and my me-made Rowan denim cardigan - no photo but you've seen it countless times, and on Monday I drove home in a super loud scuba Maker's Atelier Shell top.
And finally, Day 31 - a me-made Grainline Linden sweatshirt 
in a grey marl sweatshirting from Backstitch, still available HERE.  
My Dad refused to believe I'd made this, saying it look like 'shop-bought', which I think was meant to be a compliment.
I had to show him where I'd stitched a little bit of Liberty fabric into the neck to convince him
Yes, I know you could buy a plain grey marl sweatshirt anywhere, but why would I?  And the reason I chose plain grey was that it felt lovely and was a great price, and I wanted to try the pattern out before I went mad and bought the Liberty print sweatshirting HERE
Oh, and I also wore Me-Made socks, being as how it feels like November again.

So that's it, another Me Made May done and dusted.  A few repeats, but not too many, and its getting easier every year, as more and more of my wardrobe is handmade.  I went a whole year (2015) without buying any new clothes, and I've only bought a couple of bits this year, and frankly, I no longer get the buzz from clothes shopping that I used to.  Put me in a fabric shop, and that's a whole different story though.  In an ideal world I would make all of my own clothes - coats, jackets, jeans, underwear - but that's probably optimistic and a long way off.  Plus, I've got more than enough of the aforementioned to last me a while so there's little point in making things I don't need. 

I've made lots of fancy frocks, and stuff that screams "I made this!" - but now I intersperse those with more sensible makes.  My last me-made garment - the plain grey sweatshirt - is probably significant. A really wearable garment that I can throw on over a pair of jeans for everyday, and not be too precious about.
Now if I can just pluck up the courage to make those jeans.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm off for a bit of Olympic sewing ........