Trying New Things

Its very easy to find something to sew sometimes. You revert to the same old pattern that you can complete without the instructions, or opt for a quick sew like a zip pouch or maybe even a simple quilt block but after a while its time to try something new.

I have never had a sewing lesson, but sewing was one of those things that happened in our house growing up. If there was a big family event than it was pretty much a given that Mum would make outfits for my sisters and me and also herself. I remember fabric shopping (not so interesting at the time) and tracing patterns onto newspaper. The sewing machine was always up and we were each taught how to use it when we were old enough to be interested. Most of my early sewing knowledge came from Mum, the basics of how to thread a machine, using straight line and zigzag stitches and so on. Mum is always there when I have a sewing or fabric question and now that she runs a patchwork and quilting business she is also great at enabling my fabric addiction from time to time! With the help of google and youtube I think you can learn almost any skill these day and sewing is certainly no exception. From ‘how to put in a zipper’ to intricate specialist techniques there is something for every level of expertise and through this I have been working on my own skills.

I often think that the smallest of detail can really make the difference to a piece of sewing, be it home furnishing or clothing or almost anything. Adding contrast piping to a cushion adds instant wow factor and a few pin tucks on a blouse can really smarten up the most casual of styles. With these two tricks in mind I pulled together a few supplies recently. Firstly was a Janome piping foot (prices vary but I found the cheapest here). I watched a couple of youtube videos and gave it a try. I expected a few wobbles to start but it worked like a dream so after just one practice run I got to work on another EveryDay Top adding the pipping between the yoke and skirt. This shirt is perfect for these wet and raining days and I think the pink adds just the right amount of pop!

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Next up was to try to add to my patchwork skills and try paper piecing. I have long admired the amazing quilt designs that can be achieved using this technique but had always put off trying it. So I had a little look online for a simple Flying Geese block, grabbed some fabric scraps and got to it. It took a while to get the hang of it, making sure the fabric pieces were the right size, constantly pressing and trimming, a little unpicking here and there but I got there in the end and was quite pleased with the result! I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if I love or hate paper piecing but after seeing a few  #uglysweaterblocks on Instagram I knew I had to give it another go so I hunted down the pattern and jumped straight in. For my second attempt I was thrilled for this block to come together so well. Yes, a few of the points are a smidge out but its pretty close and the reindeer is just the cutest!

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And finally, another technique I’ve wanted to try was pin tucking. I’ve had a pin tuck foot for a while and managed to get the right twin needle on eBay and was ready to go. I think this simple detail can transform a garment when added to a neckline or the front of a blouse.  I’m still working on this one, I haven’t quite found the right tension on the sewing machine to really make it stand out but it was easier than I thought and with little more tinkering  I might get there.

 

So I remain a student of sewing. I can’t imagine a time when there won’t be anything new for me to learn and with so much inspiration out there my to do list grows almost daily! Some weeks I sew every day, other times it can be almost a month between my visits to my machines but there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think about fabric, think about the next thing I’ll be sewing or the next pattern I’ll buy. The majority of my inspiration comes from Instagram and last week I happened to come across a little hashtag doing the rounds and I instantly wanted to get involved. I am not sure where this originated (if you know please send me the details so I can give credit where due!) but all over the world people were gifting each other fabric after posting their ‘quiltywish’. Some were very specific wishing for particular fabric collections or patterns, some were looking for scraps for hexie making, other wanting to add to their stash or pick up bits of a collection that they had missed. It is truly wonderful to see people gifting things to others for nothing in return. I was able to grant a few wishes myself and have been lucky enough to have a couple of people grant my wish in return. I have sent several packages to the US, some to Germany, Slovenia, Australia and a few more in the UK and am hopeful that there might be one or two more parcels somewhere in the mailing service headed my way. If you have the time do check out #getyourquiltywishesgranted2 and if you have fabric to spare grant a wish or two!

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Catching Up Again!

So it’s been a little while since my last post but be assured I haven’t stopped sewing! Being a big fan of Made by Rae and the fantastic Geranium pattern I knew I wanted to make up some more shirts and dresses for my girl. I adore this pattern and all the variations but with the changing seasons and the festive period approaching I knew I wanted something with sleeves to keep her toasty so not being brave enough to try drafting them for myself I went on the hunt for another pattern.

Having made quite a number of pinafores with the A Line Dress pattern from Tie Die Diva Patterns I went back to see if there was anything to fit the bill and I was not disappointed. The Everyday Top PDF pattern was quickly purchased and printed and I grabbed some fabric from the stash and got going. This pattern is great with many options for different necklines, cuffs and collars but I went for a simple version on my first attempt.

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This squirrel fabric is adorable and I remember buying it at a local store on sale for £4/m! Bargain! I’m really happy with this one, the square neck is a nice change and it fits my girl very well and will wear well into the winter with a little vest underneath and a pair of jeans. Needless to say I grabbed some more fabric and quickly made another!

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I haven’t tried any of the collar or the cuff options yet but I’m sure it won’t be long before I do. I have plans to lengthen the pattern to dress length and get started on a party dress for my lady too. With her birthday and Christmas only days apart she may need quite a few additions to her wardrobe to get her through the party season.

As I mentioned in my last post I was very lucky to win some fab prizes in the Gingham sew-a-long and my loot has all arrived! With a voucher to use at Sew Over It I quickly settled on the arrow jersey which I am hoping to make into a long sleeve t-shirt (pattern to be determined!) and there may be enough for a mini version too. And then there’s some lovely gingham fabric and a bundle of  bias binding to add to my ever growing stash!

Now that I’m sewing so often I am frequently on the look out for ways to keep tidy and organised and its fair to say my thread box was beginning to overflow. And just at the right time I spotted the perfect solution. I snapped up two of these little wooden houses which are just the right size for reels of Gutermann thread. I think these would look great painted but whether or not I’ll get round to that is another matter! Do you have any space saving tips or tricks to keep your sewing space tidy?

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My Wooden Thread House

 

 

 

 

Lucky Streak!

I needed a bit of a sewing break after speeding through all my sewing for the Gingham-a-long so I closed the door on my little sewing space and waited for the creative urge to grab me again. Everyone who took part in Did You Make That’s sew-a-long really did a fantastic job and there were some brilliant creations, most definitely a world away from the school uniform that gingham is always so closely associated with.

On Thursday Karen posted a little video of her drawing the winner from all the names in a hat and through some crazy streak of luck it was little old me! Having already won the fabulous fabric in the giveaway at the start this was a real surprise. Now to put any curious minds at rest Karen and I do not know each other and this was in no way a fix but I knew I wanted to share the winning goodies with the other entrants and quickly jotted down the list of prizes, splitting them up and Karen hastily drew another winner.

I’m not someone who finds a lot of luck comes her way. I work hard as a single mum of two but the sewing community is an inclusive and friendly one and to share such brilliant prizes was the best thing to do.

So what next? Well Autumn is definitely here so warmer, snuggly clothing is high on the agenda. I’m thinking of soft jersey, warm pyjamas and cosy scarves. I still have a second Scout tee on my table to finish and then will be making up a little denim pinafore for my girl. After those I’m thinking of long tunics and tights so will be hunting out a pattern for something for casual and everyday wear. Perhaps the Esme tunic from Lotta Jansdotter’s Everyday Style?fullsizerender

And now my boy is in full time school I should find myself with a little more time on my hands and have been thinking about how best to use it. There are billions of planners and day books out there for helping to organise your time and be more productive but most cost a pretty penny too so with a little research perhaps I can come up with something that will work for me and my two. I already have a printed monthly calendar pinned to my fridge (free printable from landeelu.com) but that doesn’t cover the day to day. I want to make sure J gets some one on one time to look at his school reading books or practice his writing and I’m thinking about maybe a swimming class for me and B. So maybe I need a plan to factor in all the things that need doing each week, cleaning, laundry, food shopping etc and finding the time to sew or connect with anyone out there reading this. What would be on your weekly list? Do you use a planner?

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Finally, September has been the month of #SewPhotoHop, a creative daily picture challenge over on Instagram. Hosted by House of Pinheiro, there is a theme each day and you can get involved as much or as little as you want. At first glance I picked out 5 themes to join in with but have found myself joining in more and more as the month has gone on. There is so much to see and learn from this fantastically inspiring community so I really would recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.

Anyone for Ice Cream?

According to reports this is the hottest September on record for quite some time and here in the South East we are certainly feeling it. With the temperature hovering around 31 degrees here when collecting my son from school today we headed to the closest McDonalds and all had a McFlurry to cool down! I certainly can’t remember it being this warm in mid September for a few years and while we generally love to be outdoors it is all a bit much!

So, if I’m going to be indoors I might as well be sewing right? I had the Oliver and S Ice Cream dress cut out last week but had yet to get started so having picked up some matching thread I got cracking! It’s a beautiful pattern with lined yoke, a little cut out neckline and front patch pockets. Having sewn so much gingham lately I did want to get it made up before my eyes went square so I omitted the notch in the neckline and skipped the pockets but I’m really happy with it.

I love that almost all the seams are enclosed which leaves you with a dress almost as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. Trying it for the first time it took a while to sew and being honest I had to grab the stitch ripper a couple of times but would be much faster a second time around! I love the Cotton and Steel Checkers fabric in this and it is beautifully matched with some Kona Sage.

So that’s my third entry into the Ginghamalong. I’m really pleased that I pushed myself a bit to try out new patterns with the fabric I won and it’s added to both mine and my little lady’s handmade wardrobe! I still have a little of this Story Blue check left but I think I’ll just hold on to it until I find another pattern to inspire me.

Despite the hot weather my inbox has been pinging away with emails from here and there beginning to show off Christmas fabrics and the collections this year are lovely. I already have my eye on these two! Maybe I’ll make up some matching Christmas jim jams for the kids and with my girl being a Christmas baby (December 23rd!!!) she will no doubt need a birthday outfit as well as something for Christmas day. Have you started your Christmas sewing yet? Any favourite patterns to share?

 

Anyway, enough about Christmas – anyone for iced tea?

Gingham-a-long!

I am now about half way into my planned makes for the #Ginghamalong started by Karen over at Did you Make That.

My first was a Scout Tee (pattern from Grainline Studios). After a few less than perfect first tries with other patterns I did make a muslin first and it fit perfectly so I rushed right in and cut it out of the Cotton and Steele Gingham. This fabric is divine, almost has the feel of a flannel and you just know it will get softer and softer with each wear. I’m so happy with this shirt and have no doubt it will be one of my staple pieces going into Autumn.  I have another two planned so once I’m finished gingham-ing I’ll be getting straight to them.
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With a bit of thinking and careful cutting I managed to get a second top from my two metres of the blue gingham. I made up another Gemma Tank (from Made by Rae). This is another straightforward pattern but again I made a muslin first and was glad that I had. After switching to a bigger size and moving the bust dart a little I am much happier with the fit. I can certainly see this as another staple but the best weather is likely behind us now so I’ll save it until next year. It’s very similar to the Willow tank pattern but with thinner straps and an option of necklines along with a shirttail hem. I’m really pleased with the bottom hem on this one. I’ve struggled with curved hems so I sewed a quarter inch guideline and used that to turn the hem. It is given me a much neater and even hem so I’ll definitely try that again in future.

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On the sewing desk now is another dress for my girl. I am using the Story Blue gingham to make her a dress. It’s all cut out and ready to go and with my boy now in school each morning I should be able to start sewing it up in the next few days. The Ice Cream Dress pattern is a lovely one from Oliver and S. The pattern is a little more on the pricey side but with sizes up to age 4 I think i’ll get my use from it. Hope it turns out as nice as it looks in my head.

You’d think with all these gingham pieces I’d be seeing squares by now, but being lucky enough to win the fabric I feel I should make best use of it so I have one or two accessories planned to finish things off. Fingers crossed I can get them all sewn up before the #ginghamalong ends on 13th September.

 

I’m a Winner!

Like many sewers I follow quite a few sewing blogs and often check what others are sewing through Instagram. I can get lost for hours browsing fabrics, patterns and other sewer’s makes. I love how different choices of fabric can result in vastly different pieces of clothing even when the same pattern is being used. So many interpretations or hacks, there is so much to see and learn from!

So it was while browsing I stumbled across the brilliant idea of a #ginghamalong from Karen of Did You Make That. A challenge to sew something, anything from Gingham! Well sounded like fun to me, even better Karen was offering two lucky blog readers the chance to win some gingham to get sewing with. It’s not a fabric I would usually buy, but when I saw the amazing new Checkers range from Cotton and Steel I was sold, I added my comment and by some stroke of luck I won! 3 fabulous meters! It made my day! And with 3m I’m hoping that with a bit of careful planning I’ll be able to make something for myself as well as J & B.  So I’m thinking a nice simple tshirt for myself – I wasn’t thrilled with the Lou Box Top pattern, it didn’t fit well on me so this time I’m going for the Scout Tee from Grainline Studios.  For B I have 3 different dresses in mind, so it might be a pinafore, another Geranium or maybe an Ice Cream Dress. I find sewing for boys more tricky so for J it might be a simple pair of shorts or pj trousers for the winter time.

Since winning I have been sewing up a storm. I have pulled out some of my favourite fabrics and got to work! In the last few days I have made B two tunics and a pinafore dress, I have cut out a mini project which will be a gift for a friend, and I have downloaded a few new patterns which I will be taking to the copy shop tomorrow to have printed up. I love that you can buy a pattern and have it printed locally full size and get straight to work – ah the possibilities are endless!

Of course this is also helping me to improve my skills and I am beginning to wonder if I might actually be able to make a living from my sewing once the kids are in full time school. It’s certainly worth exploring in a bit more depth. But for now, I will get my gingham on and sew up a storm. Why not check back and see what I manage to create!

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Lets try this again!

So long time – no post! I have to admit to completely losing track and trying to do far too much with lots being left unfinished or not done well. I’ve been through phases of baking/cooking, sewing and gardening all while trying to keep my two monkeys occupied but now it’s time to get a bit more organised and start planning and using my time better.

So with my boy starting school in a couple of weeks its time to get myself in gear.  I will try to do some catch up posts of what I’ve been doing but I’ll highlight just a few bits here.

On the sewing front, my favourite make for me has been the Willow Tank from Grainline Studios. A quick and simple make, well suited to beginners and ideal for summer. I played around with the fit a little and made three of them and they have been comfortable and light, perfect for those warm days. After the success of the shorts I made for J last year he has had another three pairs this year, again using the pattern from MADE Everyday There are numerous ways to customise this pattern on Dana’s blog so you do get a lot for your money with this one! B has also had a few home sewn bits with my favourite being a little summer dress made using the Geranium Dress pattern from Made by Rae. Again a brilliant pattern with lots of options so you never have to make the same one twice.

The garden has taken up a lot of my time over the summer. I threw myself into planting and growing with hopes of lots of healthy produce right outside the back door. There have been some successes and some poor results but overall quite happy with what we achieved and with the growing season not over yet we should still be eating from the garden here and there for another few months. Another addition to the garden was a sandpit for the kids, made from an old tractor tyre I managed to acquire. Not sure what I’ll do with it as winter approaches but no doubt I’ll think of something!

So thats me for now, and I’ll try to keep up this time! Over the next couple of weeks I have to get my boy ready for starting school. He’s super excited so you’ll find me uniform shopping and fixing name tags and maybe having a couple of practice runs getting us all ready in the mornings! Once school starts I should have a little more time on my hands however with my little lady growing up so quickly and being ever more demanding who knows!! You can always pop over to my Instagram to see the latest!

 

 

Where did February go?

Following my last post in early February I got lost in the day (and night) job of motherhood. A very cranky little lady with a mouth infection,  also teething with some enormous molars cutting through saw me very much in demand and generally having to hold or carry my girl almost constantly. Of course, once one child is getting the majority of my attention the other starts to play up and before long most of the month was gone in a haze of attempting to calm and soothe them both and trying to administer medicine by sneaking it into the baby’s food.

IMG_1405So, did I manage to complete anything last month? Thankfully I did and the 12in12 is still on track. I completed the frame purse and while mostly pleased with it it’s not something I’m likely to try again. Fitting it to the frame was fiddly and I’m still not totally happy with it but I tried it and completed it so it’s ticked off the list.

 

Second project was to finish the new cover for the old family trunk which has been sitting in my son’s room since I had to make room for the crib. The crib is still lingering but I’m trying to sell it so I can bring the trunk to my room to sit at the end of my bed. I had almost finished the new cover when my overlocker broke a needle and jumped across the fabric cutting through the top. The only thing to do was a whole load of unpicking and start the top again. It is now complete but I didn’t have quite as much fabric as I would have liked so from some angles it does look a little short but it will do for now.

I also managed to work on my little rag dolly for my girl. The first attempt didn’t quite work out but the second was better. Sadly she hasn’t become the ‘go to’ comfort toy as I had hoped but now and then B picks her up, gives her a cuddle and carries her around by an arm or leg for a while, and I guess I’m happy with that. IMG_1404

As for the 12in12, as the month was flying by and time was short I looked for the pattern I thought might be quickest and went with the Lou Box Top. It’s a very straight forward pattern and could easily be done in an hour or two without any interruptions. I was happy with the finish up until I tried it on. Sadly it’s about 6 inches too short in the body for me to be comfortable and I’m not thrilled with how it sits across my shoulders at the back. Some of this may be down to the fabric, I used a light cotton lawn but it doesn’t quite have enough drape to sit well. It also feels a little too boxy for me and I would slim down the sides if I attempt it again. The pattern may work better in a light jersey knit so I may come back to it again at a later date with a different fabric if I find myself with extra time on my hands. Still all is not lost, I have a feeling this version may yet turn into some lightweight summer harem pants for B!

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As for March, I think I will be choosing something from the Lotta Jansdotter book I bought. I have had all the pattern sheets copied now so can cut out the pattern pieces without having to trace each piece which makes things a whole lot easier and does save time significantly. I also hope to be getting out into the garden a little as the weather improves and have been cleaning up all my plant pots and tools ready to start sowing some seeds. I have high hopes for the garden this year as I am so much more prepared than last year. I have sown a few carrot seeds already and will soon be getting a few cucumber seeds started off. I have a mini greenhouse to build once we get a little closer to the end of the month and then things can really get going!

 

 

 

February Slow Down

After what seemed like a positive start to the year February feels slow. With kids that seem to catch one sickness bug after another and rushing around from nursery to home, to the supermarket and back and then to nursery again I am struggling to find the time to create. And it’s getting me down.

While I completely adore my two little rat bags I never imagined doing all this on my own. I would never change either of them but its so demanding and never having a minute where I can switch off from being Mummy is tough. To be able to nip out for 10 mins, or go for a little pampering session and get my hair done, or simply sit in a luxurious bath for an hour – these are all things I miss. I know – the time will fly and before long I’ll be moaning that they are always out with friends and they don’t need their Mama so much.

Meanwhile, in-between wiping dirty noses and dishing out antibiotics, my head is bursting with things I want to try. Patterns and fabrics are ready but quiet time free from little fingers eludes me and it won’t get any better with half term break next week!

I find myself browsing Instagram looking at so many creative people getting out there and making and I’m a bit envious although I know that a picture is just a snapshot and nowhere near a reflection of what goes on in a home or workplace, or the chaos just out of shot!

So instead of showing you what I’m working on I can just tell you what I hope I will be able to work on when time and kids allow. IMG_1043

A recent pattern release from Anna Graham of Noodle-Head is the Makers Tote. I don’t really have a specific use in mind for it but as soon as I saw it I wanted to make one and these Twist prints from Dashwood Studios will be perfect. Anna has a great blog and I’m a big fan of her work and have her recently released book Handmade Style on my wish list!

One book I have recently got my hands on is Lotta Jansdotter’s Everyday Style. I want to make just about everything in this book. From a simple blouse to a tunic to a long late summer coat the designs are simple and elegant and I’ve ordered a few fabrics that I hope will do these pieces justice. The book is beautiful, the pictures alone are so bright and inspiring – I am really looking forward to starting something from here!

Another project in my mind that is constantly evolving is making a cloth/rag doll. B is 13 months now and has never had a dolly of her own and I’m hoping to come up with something she will love. I would love for her to find that one toy that becomes her comfort toy, for nap time or bedtime or even just for poorly time but she hasn’t found anything yet so maybe something made by Mama will fit the bill for her. Here’s hoping.

 

January Round Up

I was quite happily blazing a trail towards the end of January and had hoped to have a few more bits finished before the end of the month but sadly Sunday did not go my way and broken sewing machine needles and thread that kept snapping brought me to a halt!

My January achievements were the batwing shirt and this cute lobster knit scarf which has been keeping my neck lovely and warm pretty much since the minute I finished it. The scarf took just 20 minutes and only half a metre of fabric, very reasonable at £5.75 (found here). Quick, easy and a bargain – Winner all round!

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To the items I didn’t quite finish – one a framed purse kit that was a Christmas gift. My first attempt didn’t go well but the second was better and it just needs a little hand stitching to finish. The second was a new cover for an old metal trunk which I’m moving from my son’s bedroom to mine. The trunk has a very special place in my heart as it was used by my Dad about 50 years ago when he used to come to England to go to boarding school. He was born out in Kenya and lived there throughout his childhood until his late teens. It is battered and marked and rusted in spots but I love it and will never part with it. Anyway, the cover was almost finished when my overlocker broke a needle and jumped over the fabric cutting right across one of the corners. So upsetting I almost cried. When I can bear to look at it again (in a week or so!) I’ll see what I can do to fix it.

Lastly, browsing through Instagram I came across this picture and immediately had to have the Makers Workbook by The Swedish Tracing Paper Shop. I thought I’d try my luck so put out an appeal on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to treat me and luckily enough my marvellous Mum responded in minutes and it was ordered within the hour! I can’t wait to use it to record my handmade wardrobe. I’m almost too nervous to write in it just yet so I am making my notes on some scrap paper ready to ‘write up’ when I’m sure of what I want to put. And now I have it I’m wondering why no-one else has done this before – such a brilliant idea! You can get yours here.