Simply Sewing : a magazine review

I don’t usually buy magazines, sewing or otherwise, although I am lucky enough to get a subscription to Selvedge as a birthday present every year.

However, I am occasionally tempted by a nice cover or a free pattern and I recently spotted a sew along opportunity for a Lisa Comfort (from Sew Over It) skirt in Issue 5 of Simply Sewing magazine.  I really liked the shape of this tulip skirt and as there was also a free kit to make a zipped purse I decided to give it a try.

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I will almost certainly make the skirt, although I’m not sure my usual sewing impatience will allow me to wait until Issue 7 of the magazine to finish it off!  The instructions look really clear and detailed so the project would be ideal for a beginner.   The fabric used for the version in the magazine bears a strong resemblance to something I used for one of my Morsbags.  I’m pleased to see that nautical fabrics are popular given a recent addition to my wardrobe, previously blogged about here.

Onto the free purse kit.  This included fabric, zip, bias binding (for the zip pull and optional decoration) and embroidery thread (also optional).   I’ve never made a zipped purse with a lining before and the instructions were really easy to follow.  There was no mention of using a zipper foot but I used mine anyway.  I didn’t time myself but it can’t have taken much more than half an hour to make.  I traced off the pattern using my fancy new tracing paper which is really nice and crisp and will definitely be useful for non-sewing projects as well.

I’m not a great one for embellishments so I didn’t bother with the suggested embroidery and bias binding flowers.

I realised I had several zips of a similar length which will never get used for dressmaking so I thought I’d make a few more bags.  The second one took a bit longer because I decided to use two different fabrics for each bag piece but it was still a quick make, despite sewing the final seam without realising there was no thread on the bobbin for about 50% of the way round!  I have three more zips and plenty of fabric scraps to use up.

Having singed my fingers a couple of times ironing the pleats in these bags I’ve decided I will be investing in some of those silicone finger guards I mentioned in my last post despite their odd appearance!

The magazine has several other useful projects including some lovely stripy beach-inspired items – deckchair, windbreak and duffel bag, instructions on how to make your own bias binding and articles by Tilly Walnes and Claire-Louise Hardie of The Thrifty Stitcher (and resident expert behind the scenes at The Great British Sewing Bee).  There is also a rather cute toy monkey to make which would make a nice gift.  If I do make the skirt then Simply Sewing will probably have been a good investment and I’ll be recycling it by passing it on to my mother when I’ve finished with it.  NB : These views are entirely my own and I’ve not been commissioned by Simply Sewing to review the magazine!

For a final weekend project I re-covered my vintage sleeve board.  I can’t believe I’ve not been using this more regularly as it really does make ironing sleeves a doddle.  No more creases where you don’t want them.  I used this tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons which was really helpful.  I left the original heat reflecting cover in place because it was very well secured and was holding the padding in place.  I stuck with the instruction to make the cover fabric 5 cms larger than the board itself even though I was working on a smaller scale because the sleeve board is actually pretty much the same depth as my large board.  I used some stripy fabric that I’ve had for a while and seems to be never ending.  It has already been used to make several bags, an apron and re-cover my mother’s wheat bag.

The application of the bias binding was slightly tricky round the curves on the reverse of the fabric and I was worried that the channel would be restricted but the cord I used was quite fine and it went through without any trouble.

I think the outcome was pretty successful and a great improvement on the rather stained original.  I’m not sure I want to tackle a full size board for now although a lovely fabric might make ironing more pleasurable.

Keep cool in this week’s heatwave if you are in the UK!

 

Sewing Conundrums

Does anyone else :

  • Sew faster when the thread is running low in the hope that this will make it last until the end of the seam?
  • Hold their breath when sewing something tricky?

I’ve definitely been doing the latter when trying to sew the curved finish to the hem band on this top!  I have already the shorter version from this pattern in a stretch shirting.

It is a favourite top which I have worn a lot and the Cost Per Wear (something W is very keen on and for many of his garments can be calculated down to an infinitesimal figure) must be pretty low. I then attempted to make the longer version in white linen but abandoned the hem band because I just couldn’t work out how to attach it at the sides. It was unfortunate that the white version never got worn because it made me look like a dentist or something similarly medical!

I had seen a Marni denim top on Net-a-Porter which I really liked but not at £250. I see it is now reduced to £175 in the sale. A bargain!   I thought it bore a resemblance to the above Simplicity top so ordered this Robert Kaufman fabric from M is for Make (very efficient service) on the recommendation of Flossie Teacakes for attempt number three.  She is right – it is a lovely fabric and a perfect colour.

I had got to the point of sewing the shoulder seams when I began to think the top was going to end up too small to actually get into because of the non-stretchy nature of the fabric (there are no fastenings) but in fact that is not a problem and the end result is actually quite roomy.

Back to those curves ….. I still couldn’t get my head round the instructions in the pattern and there was much talking to myself followed by unpicking – as well as the breath holding – until I realised that I had missed one vital point which involved clipping the seam allowance on the main part of the garment to free up the curve for stitching. It still took a couple of goes and some freehand curve drawing with a disappearing ink pen before I was reasonably satisfied, although I think it could be improved. I wasn’t sure about the way the hem facing is fixed to the inside and then turned to the outside and topstitched but I think it makes quite a nice feature.

The final outcome is so much better than I anticipated. At about the time I was worrying about the finished size I was writing a blog post in my head saying how disappointed I was with the make but I’ve completely changed my mind. The fabric irons beautifully and I’m definitely with Lauren from Guthrie & Ghani whose latest blog post extolls the importance of ironing to ensure that handmade garments looks as good as they possibly can.  Lauren has reviewed three ironing accessories including these Silicone Finger Guards which look slightly weird but could be very useful, especially when pressing anything very small or detailed. I hate day-to-day ironing but there is something very satisfying about the final ironing of a me-made garment.

This morning I decided to mount a search for my sleeve board, which I think originally belonged to my grandmother, to make sure I got a good finish on the sleeve seams and hems.  It really does make life easier – although it could do with a new cover.  There’s a project for the weekend, much easier than making a cover for a proper ironing board!

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What do you think? The designer version is on the far left (obviously!).  I’m going to road test it this evening with this striped linen skirt.

Happy weekend.

 

I Made Shoes!

Well, actually I made espadrilles rather than real shoes and I certainly don’t think I’m going to be the next Emma Hope but I’m really pleased with the result.

One of my favourite Ladybird books as a child was The Elves & The Shoemaker and, having made the first espadrille, I rather wished the elves would come and finish off the second one overnight!

I really just wanted an excuse to mention the book because these were fun to make and it was quite exciting to see the shoe shape coming together.

I ordered the soles from Guthrie & Ghani and followed the instructions available online here.  You know how people say “make sure you read the question/recipe/pattern. properly before you start”.  Well I didn’t and so failed to notice the sentence that said “Important: Mirror-invert the front section for the other shoe”.  I didn’t do that but to be honest I don’t think it made too much of a difference in the end.

I also wish I’d read through Lauren’s blog more diligently and noted the reference to inserting elastic at the back.  More about that later.

I used the fabric already mentioned in a previous post and 20cms of each was more than enough.

The paper pattern supplied with the soles only goes down to a Size 3 (36) so I added in an additional line (in red) for the next size down.  If I make another pair I think I will grade down a bit further as they could do with being slightly tighter.

Both fabrics were quite sturdy so I didn’t bother with interfacing but I think I will probably do this next time as it would result in a sturdier finish.

Sewing the pieces together and pinning them to the sole is very straightforward.  I never use these pins for dressmaking but they are ideal for this purpose as they are much easier to push in.  Take Lauren’s advice and make sure the pins go right into the sole and don’t stick out the other side or they will jab you in the hand when you are sewing!

I spent some time identifying a needle that would be strong and sharp enough to go through the sole and the fabric easily.  Lauren recommended a leather needle but the ones I found looked rather small so in the end I bought this set of five craft needles.  I used the one on the far right which I believe is a sail needle and it did the job very well, although I do have slightly sore fingers today from pushing it through.  I didn’t want the blanket stitching to be too obvious so I used an extra strong thread in a light colour rather than the thicker, yarn-like thread that was used in the instructions.

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Everything went together really easily.  I tried the first one on several times during construction and I did have to overlap the front and the back sections more than the 1.5 cms mentioned in the instructions to get a good fit, hence the plan to cut the two sections slightly smaller next time.

Having finished the first espadrille I realised that the insertion of some elastic between the two fabrics at the back would have made all the difference in terms of keeping it on your foot!  In her blog post Lauren inserted this right at the beginning with the sewing machine but I made life difficult for myself by having to unpick the top of the back section after it had already been sewn to the sole and inserting it by hand.  Not a particular neat finish but I knew I would never wear them if they kept falling off .  I used the 9 mm wide elastic shown above.  It was slightly easier for the second espadrille as I added the elastic before I sewed the back to the sole but still after the outer and inner fabrics had already been stitched together.

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And here is the final result!

I’m pretty pleased with these although I don’t think I’d want to walk too far in them.  The third picture looks like I am levitating off the ground but actually I was sitting down with my legs sticking out to get a better view of them!

W thought he might like a pair but I really don’t want to be sewing all the way round the soles for feet that fit a boot this size!

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I’m thinking stripes for the next pair.

A Delphine Skirt

I’ve had Tilly’s book, Love at First Stitch, for some time but I have to admit that I am a bit lazy and tend to stick to the same well-used patterns. The thought of having to trace off the pattern had held me back from my desire to make the Delphine skirt.

My efforts to buy a suitable material with which to achieve effective pattern tracing have not been particularly successful to date.  The large sheets of white pattern paper I bought from C & H Fabrics were too thick to see the lines through, although I did manage to use them for my initial attempts at a self-drafted vest top.

After all the excitement of finding the Lucienne Day fabric vastly reduced in Peter Jones last weekend I thought I had spotted a product called Pattern Tracing Sheets.  I was sans spectacles at the time and obviously didn’t look closely enough.  When I came to open the packet I discovered it said Plastic Tracing Sheets which is not really what you want to be working with on a warm evening!  Not to be deterred I taped a sheet over the paper pattern and started to trace.  The pen supplied does NOT work!  At least it didn’t for me.  I resorted to a Sharpie but they do not respond well to a ruler – smudged ink everywhere – so I had to do it freehand.  I got there in the end but they were not the neatest reproductions.  I didn’t worry too much as I knew I would have to produce something more acceptable in the future if the pattern turned out OK.  I now have a big roll of proper tracing paper which I ordered from Amazon and which arrived in less than 24 hours.

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I decided to cut out the size 5 despite kyrie_in_kalamityland telling me that would be too big!  I made up a toile in the leftover denim from a previous skirt which I then took apart and cut it out as a size 4!  She was right! I really wasn’t sure the Delphine would be a good shape on me and I’m not 100% convinced but I am wearing it today so I’ll see how it goes.  I think I need to take the waist in very slightly as it has a tendency to stick out at the sides.  The back seems to sit a bit high so I feel like I have to keep pulling it down but generally I’m quite pleased with it.

Quite a lot has already been written about this pattern online so I probably don’t have anything useful to add.  It is a great, simple pattern which goes together really well.  What I am VERY impressed with is Tilly’s tutorial on lining this skirt.  I can’t believe I’ve never lined a skirt this way before!  I have always hand sewn linings into skirts and not been completely satisfied with the results.  I thought I’d try Tilly’s method with this practice version of the skirt and it worked like a dream.  It is so neat and tidy.  I’ve not yet stitched in the ditch to secure the waistband to the facing as I was sewing the hem first thing this morning so I could wear it today!   I also needed something to take my mind off W cycling 25 miles to work, having cycled home last night leaving his his car at the office.  He took one of his famous short cuts this morning so it took longer than expected!  I’ll finish off the skirt properly over the weekend.  I might also be adjusting the hem slightly – I’m not sure whether it is the dodgy mirror in our ladies’ loo or my rushed sewing that is making the hem look wonky!  Further inspection in a different mirror has confirmed that the hem is level but that the stiff nature of this fabric has developed an annoying sticking out area on the hem where I’ve been sitting on it.  Hopefully this will not be the case with a different fabric.  I might have to wear it at standing up occasions only.

The pictures of the lining are awful because the colour has completely bleached out but they do show the lovely neat finish which can be achieved with minimal effort.  No more hand sewing for me!  I did find stitching the lining to the zip tape a bit tricky but I think this will improve with practice.  I expect everyone else has been doing this for ever but, if not, definitely give it a try.  If I make another Delphine it will be in this fabric which I originally purchased for this purpose.

Another thing I’ve never done before is download a pattern which then has to be assembled.  In her last post trishstitched pointed me in the direction of the Mandy Boat Tee from Tessuti Fabrics which is a free pattern.  It is now printed out, stuck together and awaiting some fabric.  It wasn’t as much of a faff as I thought it would be.

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The espadrille soles arrived.  I had ordered the size 3 and they were TOO BIG!   My feet are TOO SMALL!  I’m going to keep them (I mean the soles, obviously I’m keeping my feet despite their ridiculously small size) but the smaller (child like) size arrived in the post this morning and I think they will be OK.  The picture is actually of the larger size.  The flowers were for my birthday and I thought they went together rather well.

My final purchase in London at the weekend was from Muji and was made to resolve the problem of storing all the accessories for my sewing machine.  After having to borrow a spare post thingy from Kay at Clothkits for the extra reel of thread when using a twin needle I embarked on a clear out and not only did I find the post that had been supplied with my machine originally but I also retrieved the triangular tool for unscrewing the foot plate (I had recently resorted to a knife for this purpose), the button hole foot and the darning foot for machine embroidery.

I now have this on my sewing table.  Three little plastic drawers with everything visible and accessible.

Have a good weekend.

Cake Obligations

Like many offices, there is a requirement here to provide cake on or around your birthday. They don’t have to be homemade but I do like an excuse to bake. I stuck with the cupcake theme and although I used the Hummingbird Bakery’s absolutely foolproof recipe for the cakes themselves I did get creative with the flavourings.  I’ve realised the raspberry ones look exactly the same as the last ones, they just taste a bit fancier. These are not a low calorie option but everyone ate more than one, including me!  I went to our kitchen in the afternoon to get some better photographs and they had all gone.

Both recipes are sufficient to fill and decorate 12 cupcakes.

Blueberry and Limoncello Cupcakes

For the filling :

  • 36 blueberries (or thereabouts)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Limoncello liqueur

Place the blueberries in a small pan with the water and caster sugar. Bring just to the boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved and then simmer until the syrup starts to thicken. Remove from the heat, stir in the Limoncello, transfer to a small dish, cover and chill.

For the candied lemon peel :

  • 1 unwaxed lemon, washed
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 200 ml cold water

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon in large pieces, avoiding as much of the pith as possible. Slice into very small strips with a sharp knife and put in a small pan with the sugar and water. Bring just to the boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved and then simmer until the peel is translucent. Remove lemon strips from the pan with a fork and place on a sheet of baking parchment in one layer and leave to cool. Yes, this probably was all a bit unnecessary but it did make a nice garnish.

For the mascarpone cream :

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 125g custard – I cheated and used ready made (as I have done before)

Blend together until smooth. Easier said than done because the mascarpone has a tendency to go lumpy.

 To decorate :

  • 36 blueberries
  • Candied lemon peel (see above)

Raspberry and Amaretti Cupcakes

For the filling :

  • 12 raspberries (again approximate)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons raspberry jam (just because I had some left from the last batch of cupcakes – you could use sugar instead as with the blueberries)
  • 2 tablespoons Framboise liqueur (or kirsch, or you could leave it out altogether but better not to!)

Follow the same method as for the blueberry filling.

For the white chocolate ganache :

  • 200 ml double cream
  • 200g white chocolate, broken into small pieces

Place the double cream in a small saucepan and bring just to the boil. Place the white chocolate in a bowl and pour over the cream. Stir until the chocolate has melted.   Allow to cool and chill. Before using, whisk with an electric whisk to fluff it up – at this stage I decided it was a bit too solid to spread easily so I added a little more whipped cream to loosen it.

To decorate :

  • 12 raspberries
  • Flaked almonds

To assemble cupcakes :

  • Use a small cutter approximately 2.5 cm in diameter to remove a section from the top of each cupcake. I also remove a small amount of additional crumb to ensure there is enough space for the filling. There is usually someone on hand to eat this!
  • For the raspberry cupcakes sprinkle in one teaspoon of crushed ratafia or amaretti biscuits.
  • For both cupcakes, spoon in one teaspoon of the fruit filling followed by a further teaspoon of the mascarpone or ganache mixture.  I was thinking of piping at this stage which is why they look so pretty but I moved on from that plan.
  • Press a sponge circle back onto the top of each cake.
  • Spread the mascarpone cream over each blueberry cake and decorate with three blueberries and the candied lemon peel.
  • Spread the white chocolate ganache over the raspberry cakes and decorate with one raspberry and the flaked almonds. I found using a knife dipped in warm water help to ensure a smoother finish on the ganache.

I finished filling and icing these at 6.30 am and the kitchen was left in a very messy state to clear up later! W refused to eat a cupcake for breakfast to check they were OK. Not like him at all!

 

Birthday Treats

I’ve just had one of the best birthday weekends ever! W and I went to London and he and his lovely girls had planned everything. We ….

Stayed at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green where they have retained many of the features of the original building.  Our room had decorative windows and a tiled fireplace with a photograph on the wall showing how the room had looked before the renovation. I should point out this was our second room.  I never unpack straightaway because on the fairly rare occasions we stay in a hotel W always finds a reason for us to have to move and this time he was right because we ended up with an enormous bath in our bedroom which was lovely.  There was also a kitchen and a washing machine but I went nowhere near either of them!

Went to supper with J at the Japanese Canteen in Bethnal Green on Friday night. J and I had the hot stone bibimbap with tofu. It was really good but possibly not the best choice on the most humid evening of the year so far. The hot stone dish, in which the cooking is finished at the table, was almost incandescent and hadn’t even cooled down enough to touch by the end of the meal!

All met up in Covent Garden for coffee and then brunch at The Delaunay in The Strand on Saturday morning. Beautiful place, scrumptious pancakes with blueberries and crème fraîche.

imageWent to see High Society at The Old Vic on Saturday afternoon. A complete surprise arranged by the girls (goodness knows how W managed to keep it a secret for weeks!). Fabulous.

Had drinks and supper at the Young Vic.

Made a quick visit to the Museum of Childhood on Sunday for breakfast and a look at the dolls house exhibition.  It was a two minute walk from our hotel  There was also The Alice Look display with its beautiful dress by Josie Smith using fabric printed with the book’s text. The website link includes a paper doll to print out.

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Lunched at Rabbit on the Kings Road on Sunday. Really delicious, beautifully presented food and definitely worth a visit. This is not supposed to be a restaurant review blog so I won’t go into too much detail but there are some photographs below. The three brothers who own Rabbit, as well as The Shed in Notting Hill, have a farm at Nutbourne which is very near us so perhaps one day they will open in Chichester.

Shopped for fabric (well I did, W sat on a sofa).  This involved the haberdashery department at Peter Jones as so many fabric shops in London are closed on a Sunday. I’m hoping the espadrille soles will arrive from Guthrie & Ghani today so here’s the fabric I chose to make them from, floral for the outside and spotty inside. Or possibly the other way round.  Just 20cms of each so if the espadrilles are successful they will certainly work out cheaper than shop-bought.

I have always loved Lucienne Day’s fabric designs and several of them have been reprinted for John Lewis as dressmaking fabrics. At £22 a metre they were quite pricey but – hurrah – they are now reduced to £5.50. I bought two metres each of these.  There were other choices and I’m now wishing I’d bought more.

The predominantly pink one is called Symphony and the other is Sequence. They were both originally designed in 1954 for Cavendish Textiles. I think to do them justice they will need to be made into quite full skirts, although not too flouncy as I am a bit short for anything really big. Perhaps Tilly’s Clémence skirt from Love at First Stitch?  Or a proper vintage-style frock.

Back to reality today sadly but it was a weekend to remember.

Self-drafted top and today’s lunchbox

I love this top!  So much so that I have worn it two days running.  After a previous post when I reported that it wasn’t quite right I decided to bite the bullet and take the shoulder seams in by just over an inch.  This definitely did the trick.   I wouldn’t want to show the interior workings as I had to be a bit creative when finishing it off after the alterations but no-one will see that.

The pattern was self-drafted and based on an existing top that I’ve had for years and a couple of patterns I already had but with necklines I didn’t like or shoulder that were too narrow.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing (hence the very basic brown paper pattern pieces) and I really think I should enrol on this Craftsy course to learn how to make a bodice sloper so that I can perfect my technique.  I have to confess that reading Hila’s Saturday Night Stitch post about the skirt sloper course was the first time I’d ever heard the term ‘sloper’.

My main criteria for clothing is that is comfortable and I hardly know I am wearing this top.  It goes perfectly with a cardigan (I am a big cardigan fan) and the only thing wrong with it is that it make my eyes go a bit funny if I look down at the stripes  So the answer is – don’t look down!  This striped jersey fabric from Clothkits is really lovely.  Comfortable, really easy to work with and with enough body to give the top structure.  It is not the cheapest but as I could probably make this top from 70cms I think I can live with that.  I’m tempted by the red and grey stripe but in the meantime I’ve nearly finished a plain version in the black cotton interlock from Tissu Fabrics.  It doesn’t hang as well but it is very reasonably priced.  I wished I’d noticed that they do a jet black version which I think I would have preferred.  I nearly forgot to mention that I used a twin needle for the first time to finish the hem.  It was brilliant and the space between the needles was exactly the width of a stripe so I was just about able to conceal the navy stitching on a navy stripe.

On to today’s packed lunch.  Anyone who knows us will be aware that W is pretty keen on his food and his daily lunch box is very important!  Last night I realised the fridge was looking a bit bare so I decided I would have to rustle up something with what was left.  I’ve noticed a few crustless quiches in the supermarket recently so I created these Crustless Mediterranean Mini Quiches.  The recipe is fairly basic but could be adapted to use up all sorts of ingredients and one of the advantages is that the lack of pastry makes them  gluten free.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 large mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small red pepper, chopped
  • 75g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 12 black olives, chopped
  • 6 free-range eggs
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and saute the mushrooms and red pepper until soft.  Stir in the feta cheese and olives being careful not to break up the cheese too much.

Whisk the eggs with seasoning.

Divide the vegetable mixed between 12 muffin tins.  I lined mine with some individual silicone muffin cases which are brilliant.  They are so non-stick the contents are practically climbing out of the cases by themselves once they are cooked.

Pour over the egg mixture so each case is about two-thirds full.

Cook in the pre-heated over for 20 – 25 minutes.  Mine took 22 minutes.  Don’t overcook them or they will become rubbery.

These would make a lovely starter eaten warm with salad but they did make an excellent lunch box item.

I packed a couple for my own lunch which I decided to serve on a plate rather than eat straight from the plastic box.  The salad dressing is a combination of red pesto and olive oil.  An definite improvement on shop-bought sandwiches.