Friday, 15 January 2016

Oh! You Pretty Things

I've just got back from a few days in Birmingham, staying with a friend I'd lost touch with over 30 years ago, and, thanks to the magic of t'internet, managed to re-connect with last summer.
We had a great time (although with considerably less alcohol than we would have done 30 years ago).
We did lots of walking, eating, chatting, and, with total disregard of my NY resolution to reduce my fabric stash - fabric shopping!
I dragged poor Sherri (a non-stitcher) to the Fancy Silk Store, then to Barry's Fabric Superstore, round and round the Rag Market, before heading back to Barry's again.  Well, you have to check out everywhere before you make a decision.
And it really was a Fabric superstore ...

So difficult to choose - but in the end I restricted myself to four fabrics - a metre each of two neoprenes in a black and white gingham-type check, and a neon-floral on navy, plus two metres each of purple Ponte Roma, and a black embossed jersey.  
The embroidered and bead trims were from a VAST selection of trimmings and haberdashery at the Rag Market.
I have definite plans for all four pieces, and have cut out the black and white check already for another Makers Atelier shell top. Watch this space.
Whilst I'm on the subject of pretty things, and as I haven't posted a photo of gorgeous Gracie yet this year, here she is wearing one of the dresses I made her for Christmas.
It's Guess How Much I Love You fabric from the Creative Sanctuary - and I bought her the book of the same name for Christmas too.  (I think I'd like dresses to go with my books - is that a thing?)
And as a final pretty thing - how about this beautiful Love Heart cookie ...
I've included the 10p coin in the photo so you can see just how big this cookie is - if you're going to have one, have a big one. It was made by my friend Gina in her alter-ego of Apricot and Fig, her new baking business.
We met up for knitting today and she brought one each for us.  They look lovely and if anyone is thinking of sending me a Valentines card (as if!) I'd like one of these instead please.

Actually, I think it would make a brilliant alternative to internet dating. You could carry half a dozen of these about with you with your phone number on the back, and hand them out to would-be suitors.
Just saying.

Oh! You Pretty Things - David Bowie

Friday, 8 January 2016

Cape Fear

A belated Happy New Year.
You'll have worked out that this year's resolution was not "Blog daily!"

Talking of NY resolutions - you may or may not remember that this time last year I resolved not to buy any new clothes - initially for a month, and subsequently extended to two months.   In the end, I am pleased to say that I more or less stuck to it for the year.  Charity shop buys, and boots/shoes didn't count (oh come on, I'm only human) but basically the idea was to make clothes instead of buying them  and specifically, clothes that I'd actually wear day-to-day, as opposed to a succession of ridiculous frocks. 
Over the past 12 months I've bought a jacket and two shirts from charity shops for refashioning, but the only new things I bought were a pair of walking trousers, a zip-up running top, and a net petticoat.  I really don't feel too bad about those, because they are not things I could've/would've made, and anyway, it was my resolution and I made the rules.

I've made tops, t-shirts, skirts, dresses, trousers  - all of which I meant to blog about, but mostly I didn't, but I might one day - and I used a couple of fabrics I'd not tried before - Nani Iro (double gauze) which is lovely - like stitching into a cloud!  And now for the first time - neoprene.
I'd read about a few 'neoprene makes' on various blogs,  and I just wanted to try making something from it myself, to see what it was like.
So, while I was on a trip to Walthamstow market, I bought a metre of this 'less-than-subtle' floral, not really knowing what I was going to do with it -  then I saw the perfect pattern, The Makers Atelier shell dress and top which even listed neoprene in the fabric suggestions.
It was a lovely pattern to use, the only fiddly bit was the diamond shaped gusset that fits under the arm, but it wasn't too tricky, and means the top fits nicely over the shoulders and under the arms.  Any extra time taken to do this is offset by the fact that neoprene doesn't need finishing - so the neckline, sleeves and hem are all left unfinished.
I know the fabric is a bit loud, but I'm pleased with it and I will definitely be using the pattern, and (a more subdued version of) the fabric again, but I might make it a couple of inches longer next time.

My most recent make was on Wednesday when Gina and I had a lovely day sewing at Backstitch near Cambridge.  While Gina got on with making a dress, I started on the April Rhodes Popover Poncho.
It's not a pattern I would normally have considered - you say 'Poncho' and I think this ...

Fortunately there was a grey herringbone version made up in the shop, and when I tried it on I knew that I wanted one.  I used a wool mix coating, in black with a stitched check, for the main fabric, and a fuchsia pink cotton/linen blend for the cowl.  
I didn't get it completed on Wednesday, but I got a long way with it, and I finished it yesterday - and wore it today!
I'm really pleased with it - one of my favourite makes, and I'll definitely be using the pattern again.
But I'm still not happy referring to it as a poncho - I'm calling it a cape.

Cape Fear - Seth Lakeman

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Way to Bake (A Delicious Cake)

This is just a post to share a couple of unrelated photos - seemingly unconnected apart from the song title -
Starting with one of this cake ....
made by my friend Gina - one time machine embroiderer, and textile artist and tutor, NOW magnificent professional baker, under the name 'Apricot and Fig'. 
I'm slightly disappointed that she dismissed my suggestion for her business name - "Bake Well Tart" on the basis that it may attract the wrong kind of customer. (I just know that if I was cooking, I'd have to try anything to get people to buy MY cakes.)
Anyway, we had two cakes, one with icing, and one with just fruit and nuts, which we've just tried.
Firstly, can I say that she hasn't paid me to endorse her products, or given it to me as a bribe, or even said that she won't be my friend if I'm not nice about it, so this is my unbiased opinion - it was the loveliest fruit cake I've ever had, very moist and even the fruit had fruit, if you know what I mean.  My Dad - who is a fruit cake connoisseur - said he has never tasted better.  You can't say fairer than that, so thanks Gina.
And how could I NOT share these next photos .. 

Our very own Snow White.  
She's SO going to hate these pictures when she sixteen.

Happy Christmas everyone xx

The Way To Bake (a Delicious Cake) - by Snow White

Friday, 18 December 2015

China in Your Hand

Last week we had our Creative Sanctuary 'works Christmas outing'!
Angela kept it a secret about where we were going, and all we knew was that it was going to be a creative evening.  Anyway, it turned out that she had arranged for us to go to Elly Wall, a local potter with a studio in her garden,  to make Christmas decorations.  It was a great evening - first of all Elly explained that we needed to roll out the clay as if it was pastry (like I've ever made pastry - but I think I must have seen it done sometime, because I soon got the idea), and then we pressed different textures into the clay, and used cutters and letter blocks, before glazing the final pieces.  We all agreed that it had been a fun thing to do and we'd really enjoyed ourselves.
I'm afraid there are no photographs of the event as my hands were too mucky, but I got a text today to say that the pieces had been fired and were ready to collect from the shop - so here's mine
I'm really pleased with them, and I plan to book some classes next year, to see if I can manage to make a pot or a mug.  Maybe I'll apply to the Great British Throw Down - although I'd get fed with with that bloke bursting into tears all the time.

China in Your Hand - T'Pau

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Hostess with the Mostest

Wow - missed November altogether in a frenzy of stitching and knitting - and lolling about, if I'm honest.
Anyway, I'm here now to show you my Holiday Hostess frock - fab Michael Miller fabric with Doris Day lookalikes in festive poses.
I used my tried an tested Emery dress pattern

I don't have much of a waist (obviously, I don't mean it's tiny, I mean it doesn't seem to go in much) so I made the front waist darts a bit smaller, and did away with the back waist darts altogether.  I also wanted the skirt as 'puffy' as possible so I didn't bother with the skirt pattern pieces and used the whole width of the fabric - just in case it didn't look quite ridiculous enough as it is.
I'm not sure how much wear I'll get from such a season-specific frock, but so far I have got four occasions this year when I intend to wear it - fortunately with a different 'audience' each time, so that'll do me.
Anyway, it had it's first outing yesterday when I wore it to the Christmas lunch of the North Herts and Beds branch of the Embroiderers Guild.  Sounds very grand and boring, but actually its a bunch of about 70 women who like to paint/dye/bead/burn/stick/print/stencil/hand and machine stitch - in fact all things textile-y.  Some people even embroider! If you're reading this and fancy finding out more about the Guild, email me - we are always looking to attract new members, and, if you are not local,  there are branches all over the country.
Our speaker at yesterday's lunch was the most famous male cross-stitcher in the UK today - Jamie Chalmers aka Mr X Stitch - a really entertaining speaker who talked us through some incredibly inspirational works by textile artists.  
Anyway, that's me and my totally age-inappropriate frock.
Better 'mutton dressed as lamb', than 'mutton dressed as mutton' I say.

The Hostess With The Mostest - Frank Black

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Blue and Green

Gorgeous Gracie ....
will be spending her first Christmas in Ireland with her Daddy's family, so I thought I would make her something appropriate to wear - and what better than an emerald green Christmas frock.

I used the Spencer dress pattern from Minikrea which I got on a recent visit to Raystitch.  The link is for the older girls' pattern, but mine is for 6months to three years.
Sometimes I cut patterns and sometimes I trace, and as I thought I might make more of these as she gets older, I traced the smallest size.  I managed to squeeze it out of half of metre of a cotton linen mix and some 'Owl'  christmas fabric for the lining.

Sorry about the creasing and the tacking - I wanted to get it photographed before the light went, but I have hemmed it now.  
I wanted it to be reversible, so instead of buttonholes on the shoulders, I used a press stud, and then sewed on buttons 'for decoration only' - red shiny hearts on the blue owl fabric, and self-covered buttons in the owl fabric on the green.

Being two layers, it should be fairly warm, and I'm going to get her a T shirt to wear underneath - maybe blue and white stripes?
Anyway, hopefully she'll like it, she's a very happy girl
Well, all except when she's forced to watch football with Uncle Rob!
Look at that grumpy face!  I don't think she likes football.  

Blue and Green - Van Morrison (talking of grumpy faces!)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

It's Been Awhile

Blimey - over a month - no excuses, I just didn't get around to it.  I have a little bit of sewing though.  I made this dress ...
My second Merchant and Mills Factory dress.  As my last one was very much on the loose side, I decided to cut a size smaller.  It's still very loose, but that's the style and I don't think I'd be tempted to go any smaller - I just checked the pattern, and this is a size 12 - and to be honest, its a number of years, and even more pieces of Millionaire's Shortbread (other calorific cakes are available), since I would consider myself a size 12.

I made this version in a dark blue lightweight denim - not so light as to be a chambray, but lightish, and soft.  Its very comfy and easy to wear and will work in all seasons - cool in summer, and in the autumn and winter I'll still wear it but with long sleeve Tshirts underneath.
Anyway, I love it, and its probably my favourite 'what shall I wear today' dress.  I was therefore a bit miffed the other day when I caught the pocket on a door fitting and ripped it - not just the seam but the fabric itself.  Horror!  Fortunately, however,  as it was near the pocket, and due to the voluminous shape, I was able to take it in a smidge and the rip has disappeared inside.

I'm trying to think what else I've done - I've had my sofas recovered and while they were away I had the lounge decorated and the carpet cleaned.  Given the size of my flat, it meant that for ten days I was either busy in the garden during the day, or holed up in my bedroom in the evenings.  No tele - but I did watch DVDs and so I spent the week eating dinner whilst lying on my bed and catching up with Season 2 of Ripper Street.  Yes, I know, everyone else has done Season 3.
Mum and Dad have been down for a visit, so we met up with a few family and old friends, and did some more gardening.

Oh, and I've started running again, after many years of abstinence.  I suggested it to my friend Jill who I was sure would talk me out of it, but surprisingly, she was up for it too, so two or three times a week we get out and walk a bit/run a bit until we've had enough. Not sure my knees entirely approve, but we are taking it steady, and so far, both of us have made it back home again.

It's Been Awhile - Staind