A Fond Farewell

This is my first blog post of 2017 and has nothing to do with sewing.  I lost my darling daddy on 19th January.  Readers of this blog will know that he had to go into a nursing home last year after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.  I say ‘battle’ but that sounds dramatic and it never was.  He never made a fuss and with some support he coped incredibly well for many years.  He kept his sense of humour all the way through and, thankfully, was still able to recognise us right up until the last few days of his life.

I am missing him so much and  just wanted to take this opportunity to write down some of my special memories of him, so I hope you will bear with me!

He was an only child who grew up in Wimbledon but at the start of the Second World War, at the age of nine, he was evacuated for almost its entire duration.  I think this made him very self-reliant.  When he told us tales of his National Service in the RAF at the age of 18 he always expressed amazement that some of the other lads used to cry for their mums at night!

Here he is in his younger days.  He was a handsome chap, no wonder my mum fell for him.

One of the most impressive things about him was his ability to make or fix just about anything.  When we were very young he built an extension on our house pretty much single-handedly and his DIY skills were second to none.  In their current home he built the kitchen and all the wardrobes from scratch.  He also had a life-long interest in model engineering and spent many hours in his workshop building model boats which were then sailed on the ponds at Wimbledon Common.  My sister and I always had our hearts in our mouths as the boats set out across the water in case they sank (which they sometimes did!).

We never had someone in to mend things – he just rolled up his sleeves and fixed it.  A friend of mine always remembers us breaking down in her old Mini when we were about 18.  We rang my dad and he appeared in his overalls and got us back on the road.

I always say that I spent the first 20 or so years of my life thinking that all blokes could do this stuff and was rather disappointed to discover that they couldn’t!

He was probably the most even tempered person I’ve ever known.  My sister have obviously been talking about him a lot recently and agreeing that he almost never told us off.  The only time you needed to watch it was if you noticed his jaw clenching when he was driving – probably because we were mucking around in the back of the car!  We spent many childhood holidays in Swanage and he used to get home from work on a Friday, load up the back of the Morris 1000 Traveller and off we’d go.  The loading up of the car included my sister and I being settled in the back to sleep on the way down there.  On my sister’s third birthday there was also a tricycle hidden under a blanket next to us and unbelievably we didn’t even notice it!

He was brilliant at reading stories to us and while we were looking through photographs recently I found this one.  I think I was about three at the time and I’m fairly sure that is a Mabel Lucie Atwell book that belonged to my mother.

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As we got older we joined a book club and one of the many books he read out loud was The Borrowers.   I was obsessed with Arrietty and he started writing me tiny little letters in miniature envelopes which I would find by the fireplace in the morning and honestly believed were from her.  How I wish I still had those treasures.  I always imagine that one day I’ll be clearing out a box at my parents’ house and one of them will appear.

His calm nature came into its own when we were teenagers when he could always be relied upon to turn out at all hours of the night to pick us up from parties, sometimes in remote locations.  He never batted an eyelid as groups of our friends staggered out to get a lift home and I remember one occasion when one of the boys was sick out of the car window and my dad just carried on driving.  He always remembered collecting me from a party that had turned out to be in a field and he suddenly spotted a group of us emerging through a hole in the hedge!

Obviously he wasn’t perfect – he was a master of the tactless comment when you were just about to go out for the evening thinking you looked great.  I wore fuschia coloured tights to his funeral as a reminder of the time I went downstairs in some maroon tights and he remarked “did you know all the blood has rushed to your legs?”.  He made dreadful puns at the drop of a hat and continued to make these right up to the end of his life – some of them were so obscure that you wondered how his dear old brain came up with them when he could barely do anything else.  He also remembered all the poems and songs he’d learned as a child and we sat and recited and sang them with him all the time.  And he was still always smiling.

I think we did him proud when we said a final farewell to him last Thursday.  We read poems, sang and one of Mr Jane Makes’ lovely daughters played “Moon River” on the flute, one of his favourite tunes.  My mother was an absolute star and read her poem without faltering (unlike me and my sister) and Mr Jane Makes read the eulogy so beautifully.   We finished with these words of comfort from Winnie-the-Pooh.

If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. I’ll always be with you.

I now need to get on with my sewing, he wouldn’t have wanted me to sit around idle.

 

#StitchingSanta 2016

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Having signed up for Sewchet‘s #stitchingsanta again this year I was determined to be organised and plan my sewing well in advance. However ……. despite the early good intentions I still ended up finishing everything off at the last minute so I’m relieved to know that my parcel has arrived.

Wrapping everything up focused my mind on this year’s gift wrapping theme.  Yes, I always have a theme!  I really LOVE wrapping presents even if I do end up ‘cutting and sticking’ into the early hours.  I try to use up supplies I already have – and always use plain brown paper for the basic wrapping.  This year I wanted to include black and white stripes but, believe me, there was no black and white striped wrapping paper to be had around here apart from some tissue paper from Paperchase which I decided would have to do.   I’ve also bought a few lengths of ribbon and some pink tissue.

I never seem to be in my house during daylight hours at the moment so these photos are rather poor but I think the black, white and pink theme is pretty obvious!

There was only a tiny length of that butterfly trim left from a previous project so my recipient is very lucky!  Stamping shapes out of paper is SO satisfying.  I just wish I’d found the gadget given to me as a present years ago which corrugates paper and card before I wrapped these up.  It’s brilliant and I’m corrugating everything now!

The purchased gifts were scissor-related so I printed a gift tag to match.

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I hope everything is well received.  It’s quite nerve-racking sewing for people who sew!

This will be my last post in 2106 so thank you for all your likes, comments and encouragement.  I hope everyone has a Very Happy Christmas and here’s to a creative 2017.

Time for a Maritime

I sew lots of skirts and dresses but as the cold weather set in  I realised how short of tops I am. During the winter I tend to wear jersey tops, cardigans and the occasional warm jumper (sadly not hand knitted!).

Some while ago I bought the Liesel + Co Maritime top from The Eternal Maker and two pieces of jersey.  They joined the ever increasing pile in the sewing room, possibly to await the unlikely day when I decide that using my overlocker would be a positive experience!  More recently I spotted a remnant of striped cotton jersey in C & H Fabrics which I think was £4.  It’s a lovely quality and really soft and smooth.  It also washed beautifully and there was no battle to get it back into shape afterwards.

The perfect fabric for a Maritime top.

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Based on the measurements on the pack I went for the size 2 which turned out to be the right choice.  The top has three-quarter length sleeves, which is always my preference, and side vents.  It also has a faced neckline which I’ve never done on a jersey top before.  I was slightly dubious but it gives a really neat finish.  The neckline is finished with topstitching but for a smarter top I might try just securing it at the shoulder seams.

I had some iron-on jersey interfacing I bought ages ago to use for the Grainline Morris Blazer (still waiting to be made – I’m using the excuse that I’ve never found exactly the right fabric).  I thought it would be tricky to use because it is very floppy but it ironed on beautifully.  I’m reserving judgement until the first time the top goes through the wash but at the moment I’m very happy with its performance!

This is a very quick top to make (all sewn on my regular machine) and the pattern goes together really well.  I did make a slight muck up sewing the side seams/sleeves at the underarm point but how many people inspect your underarms during the course of the day?  Hopefully not too many.

I particularly liked the sleeves because they are cut exactly the same so there’s no wondering which one is which (something I often get in a muddle with regardless of notches) and I liked the way the vents are finished.  You machine baste the vent closed while you sew round it and then remove the basting stitches.  It gives a really neat and even finish.

Although my fabric was pretty stable I also used a strip of the jersey interfacing on the sleeve and shirt hems – for another really neat finish.  I was rushing to finish the top to wear it to work and couldn’t be bothered to break out the twin needle so just hemmed everything with a straight stitch.  The vents mean that the shirt hem doesn’t really need to stretch and the sleeve hems are quite loose on me so again don’t need to stretch.

I LOVE this top!  I wore it to work two days running which is not something I do very often.  When I’ve got my #stitchingsanta sewing finished, I’ll be making another one (or two).

On the jersey front, I’ve also made the Toaster Sweater by Sew House Seven.  I’d spotted several versions on IG and then linked up with @sewing_in_spain and @doobis71 for a Toaster sewing challenge!  Stupidly I hadn’t realised there were two versions so only bought #1.  I really like #2 so may buy that one as well, although I would have saved myself some money if I’d paid more attention to what I was doing.  @doobis71 and I both made #1 and @sewing_in_spain #2.  Check out their versions on IG.

This is another great pattern which is really quick to sew.  I used some jersey from Ditto which is a lovely blue.  I decided to cut the medium which was a mistake as it is a bit too spacious so I’ll size down next time.  I will also reduce the length of the sleeves.  It has a nice cuff feature but I have to fold them back on mine.  It’s essential with #1 to use a jersey that can hold its shape otherwise the funnel neck won’t stand up.  Mine is just about OK but having had success with the jersey interfacing I may well try using some in the neck of the next Toaster.  It’s certainly a cosy sweater and would be lovely in a fleece type fabric.  The pattern recommends fabric with a 20% stretch but I know there are people out there throwing caution to the wind and ignoring this!

It was a perfect top for a recent weekend in Lyme Regis.

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You can see how long the sleeves are in this photo.  I need Twizzle’s arms!

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A Fine Sewmance

Earlier in the year I popped over to Brighton for the first Sewmance event.  It was well attended but I found the venue a bit claustrophobic.  It didn’t matter though because I met up with some sewing friends which is always a good thing.

Stacie from Brighton Sewing Bee found a new venue for the winter event on 12 November and St George’s Church in Kemptown was a great improvement.  Stacie & Co had worked so hard to get the space ready for the day.  When @vintage_charity and I arrived around lunchtime the church, bedecked with beautiful quilts, was heaving!  We bumped straight into Louise, who we’d planned to meet up with,  and then into Zoe with her absolutely adorable new baby – a lovely surprise.  That baby got a LOT of cuddles!

We had a stroll round to see what was on offer, listened to Josie/Fabric Godmother’s Sewing Story and then decided we needed a snack.  I think Stacie and her helpers had prepared all the food – she seems to have boundless energy as well as being lovely.

I spotted someone buying the gold spot/stag fabric I’ve just used for a skirt from Anna at The Eternal Maker – and the same gold zip!  We  had a quick conversation about using gold thread for sewing the zip.  Whoever she was we will be skirt twins.

I also recognised and introduced myself to another Louise from Not Sew Simple whose blog I’ve followed for a while.

Overall we were pretty restrained (although The Fabric Godmother had some very tempting fabrics) and I came away with just two purchases.  The fabric kit for a baby make from The Eternal Maker as mentioned in my last post and these bangles made from knitting needles from Yellow Bear Wares which are very satisfying to wear.  Mostly though we sat – or walked – around and chatted to fellow sewers – which was just perfect.  All the workshops were very busy – especially the ones where you could make your own floral headdress – and there were plenty of these on show.

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It was a real shame the weather was so awful on the day but it didn’t seem to put people off.  Stacie is planning a summer Sewmance, possibly at the same venue, so look out for details of that.

Obviously there were lots of me-made clothes on show in the room.  I decided I wanted something new to wear but with almost no time I went for another Annie A-line Skirt (definitely a TNT) using a really nice remnant picked up in C & H Fabrics a few weeks ago.  I’m hopeless at identifying fabrics but this was a lovely weight with a bit of stretch and the print is a kind of faux tweed.  I love this pattern, it comes together so quickly, although I did decide to add a lining because I thought the fabric might be a bit clingy with tights.

I was pretty happy with my concealed zip and I love the bias bound finish on the waist facing.  I must mention and recommend the iron-on interfacing I bought at The Eternal Maker.  It is woven to replicate fabric and I much prefer the finish to the stuff I usually use which often rucks up at the edges or creases when it’s ironed.

We did find our trip to the loo in the church quite entertaining.  We’d rather hoped it would be through the door marked Alleluia but instead it was quite a route march up and down stairways and through multiple doors, dodging a mop and bucket in the middle of a puddle (of water).  We wondered whether we’d ever find our way back!

Thank you to the amazing Stacie for all her hard work to put this event together.  There was talk of a fabric buying/pattern swapping/sewing chat event in Chichester in the not too distant future.  If anyone would be interested, let me know and we’ll see what we can do.

 

Exciting News!

Well, we think it’s exciting!  This year hasn’t been the best what with my darling dad having to move into a nursing home and poor old Mr Jane Makes having a heart attack but my dad is being well cared for and is as settled as he can be and Mr J-M is a new (and much thinner) chap!

Onto the exciting bit … I have two really lovely step-daughters who I have known since they were little girls and they mean a great deal to me.  I know they read this blog but I’m not just saying that!  They are both grown up now and living in London.  On a recent visit J told us that she and P are having a baby!  Mr J-M is going to be a grandad and I’m going to be …. I’ve not quite decided what yet apart from very pleased!

I’m now planning some tiny sewing but, as this blog is not secret, I won’t necessarily be revealing too much here.  I probably won’t be knitting as I’m far from an expert but when it comes to baby-related fabrics I’m quite beside myself!

My first purchase was a kit at Sewmance in Brighton on Saturday.  I’ll probably do a separate post on that event but here’s a sneak preview of the fabric.  I’ve looked at the instructions and have no idea how I’m going to deal with something so weeny but I’ll give it a go.

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The new arrival is due at the end of March but, given the way time flies, that day will be here before we know it!

 

Secret Sewing 2016

I don’t usually like to mention Christmas before the beginning of December at the very earliest but the very talented (and incredibly productive) Sheila from Sewchet is once again organised #stitchingsanta and, having had fun taking part last year, I signed up again.

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We’ve now received details of who we’ll be buying/sewing for (there’s also a knitting/crochet option) and I’ve been checking out my recipient’s blog so I can plan what to make.  I’d already had a couple of ideas that could be tweaked to suit specific interests so all I need to do now is get on with it! The maximum spend on a gift is £10 but there seems to be no limit on what you can make/sew/knit from stuff you already own.  Looking back over the last three years –  if you are Sheila’s recipient you’re in for a treat!

The idea is that we give a few sneak previews before Christmas without giving the game away so once I get started I’ll be doing that either on here or IG.   The full story will be reported in the New Year.

My recipient last year was Sharon from Creativity and Family and I really enjoyed making presents for her.  My gifts came from Beth at After Dark Sewing.  Since then both of them have become Etsy entrepreneurs!  Here’s a selection of the gifts we gave each other.  I use the little zipped purse all the time – although it obviously no longer has the chocolate coins in it – and I loved Beth’s fabric gift wrapping.  The fabric itself became pocket linings in a pink dress.

I’m off to Sewmance in Brighton on Saturday with @vintage_charity so I’m hoping I’ll get some more inspiration there.  I’m also looking forward to meeting up with some other sewing friends, including Louise from Seams Odd, Louise and @lois.h.

 

#SewDots

Congratulations to Rosie from DIY Couture for exceeding her fundraising target for RNIB’s Wear Dots Raise Lots campaign.  For those of you who didn’t noticed the profusion of spots on IG recently, Rosie set her own challenge for sewists to make something dotty, donate to the campaign and post a picture on social media during October.

I hadn’t even thought about taking part but, as previously mentioned, I bought this fabric from The Eternal Maker on my day out with Vintage Rock Chick.  Gold spots and stags heads for a party skirt!  I already had the sparkly gold zip but had never before found the right project to use it on.

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I’d had Simplicity 1109 for a while and thought it might work.  A quick bedsheet toile later and I realised that I really loved this pattern.

I made a size 12 toile but sized down to a 10 for the final version.  The advantage of this pattern is that you really only need to toile the waistband and, if that works, the rest should be fine.  However, I toiled the whole thing to (a) see exactly how the pleats worked and (b) practice the exposed zip insertion.  The pleats are actually pretty straightforward as long as you mark them up carefully to make sure you know which direction you’re pleating in.  I did have a dimwitted moment when I thought I’d cut the waistband incorrectly until I realised I was trying to match up the side seam of the waistband with the side seam of the skirt section.   Once you’ve made the pleats the original side seam is no longer at the side – which is why there are notches to match up!  Concentrate Jane!

Onto the final version.  Early on I realised the fabric was not wide enough to accommodate the considerable width of the front section of the skirt.  There was going to be a Plan B with another fabric but I REALLY wanted to use those gold spots.  A couple of helpful people on IG suggested hiding a join in a pleat and that’s what I did.

I cut out the two back pieces then cut the remaining fabric into two strips and carefully pattern matched them (as carefully as I ever pattern match anything).  Rather than cut the fabric on the fold, I traced out a duplicate pattern piece and joined them together so that I could move the whole front section around on the fabric to so that the join hit just the right point of a pleat to ensure it was hidden as well as it could be.

I’d been pretty gung-ho with a marker pen when I was making the toile to show when the pleats went but I was obviously more cautious with the real thing.  I used lots of tailor tacks and bits of post-it note instead.  Once you join the front and the back pieces together you are left with a fairly substantial piece of fabric to attach to the waistband!

I decided to add a lining to make sure I achieved maximum fullness from this skirt.  I’d set my heart on a purple swishy lining fabric but couldn’t find anything locally. I had to go up to London last week and it so happened I had a few minutes to spare before my work appointment so I went one stop in the ‘wrong’ direction on the tube to Sloane Square and found exactly what I wanted in Peter Jones for £3 a metre.

I cut the lining fabric to exactly the same size as the skirt but rather than pleat the top I gathered it and attached it to the waistband facing which worked OK.  My only slight reservation is that I should have cut the lining slightly longer, particularly as I ended up using a smaller hem on the skirt than I’d originally intended so there’s more of a gap between the bottom of the lining and the hem of the skirt than I would have liked but who is going to notice!

I’ve tried what I would call a semi-exposed zip before and not liked it but this one is completely exposed and given its very sparkly nature it really needed to be on show.  I think it was a success.  The only thing I did differently from the pattern instruction was to hand stitch the bottom of the zip before flipping it up because my machine wasn’t happy sewing past the rather chunky zip stop.  I used a gold thread to stitch the zip which worked well.  Thank goodness I didn’t need to unpick it because the stitches disappeared into the zip completely!  A tip for using metallic thread on the sewing machine – which may be obvious but wasn’t to me straightaway – use a plain thread for the bobbin.  My first attempt resulted in split thread and machine unhappiness.

I then got completely carried away with the whole metallic theme and bought gold bias binding to finish the hem!  It was quite stiff which has had the effect of making the skirt really swirly and “sticky-outy” which is exactly what I wanted!  I also used the metallic thread to hand sew the bias binding to the main fabric.  Another tip – go very slowly when hand sewing with this thread, it snarls up/splits very easily.

I love this skirt.  I don’t know what else to say other than that I can really recommend this pattern, I think it would work with all sorts of fabrics.  I’m planning a denim one too.  Or maybe another sparkly one.