Keeping Cool

Much as I love the sunshine, I work in a 1960s building which is made primarily of glass (with no air con) and on a sunny day my office is like the hothouse at Kew Gardens!  We’re also right in the middle of a one-way system so if the windows are open we have to contend with traffic noise and fumes.  There are compensations.  I have a lovely view of Chichester Cathedral and, provided you can cross the road without incident, we are minutes from the centre of the city.

My current wardrobe worked well through Me-Made-May but I’m seriously lacking in suitable clothes for higher temperatures.  My two favourite sleeveless dresses are now too big and possibly too much of a fiddle to alter as they are both lined (and I’m a bit lazy).  I’ve not decided what their final fate will be.

I needed to sew something new, and quickly.   I had originally bought some striped cotton fabric from Ditto Fabrics to make a skirt inspired by this one from Anthropologie.

Having realised what I actually need is more tops and dresses I decided to make a dress.  I have more than enough stripy tops.  At that point I was planning another Esme dress (from this book) but having laid out the fabric I quickly spotted there wasn’t enough for sleeves!  So the sleeveless Esme was born.

I had cut already cut this out to take along to the first meeting of the new Chichester sewing group in case Karen and I actually had time to sew.  We didn’t!  There were too many people to talk to.

However, when I came to start sewing on Friday evening the fact that it was already cut out, my sewing machine had been cleaned and a new needle fitted (so I didn’t show myself up in front of other sewists) meant this was a very speedy make.  The machine was even threaded up with the right thread and a full bobbin.  The only issue was the mess up I made binding the armholes with bias binding.  I’ve disguised the untidy join with another piece of binding and I’m sure no-one will be inspecting my underarms that closely.  I will get it right next time.

The fabric had a tendency to fray so I decided to do French seams which I love because they are so neat and tidy.  I also stays stitched the neckline as soon as I released the fabric from the pattern pieces as it felt like it could easily stretch out of shape.

I did reference the original inspiration by cutting the pockets so the stripes run horizontally and this also made life a lot easier because I didn’t have to match the stripes.

This is probably the most comfortable garment I own and I think I’ll be cutting out another one very soon before this beautiful weather disappears.  I know the reason I’ve rejected the dresses from last year is because they are too loose – and so is this dress!  I’m OK with that because (a) it fits at the neckline and shoulders and (b) it’s supposed to be like that!   I’m also happy that this fabric doesn’t crease as much as I thought it would.  I sat and melted in it all day and it still looked pretty fresh.

 

Sewing Group Success!

I am feeling quite inspired and the sewing machine has come out of the loft already.

Thanks for hosting – I enjoyed it so much.

It’s given me the sewing kickstart I needed.

Such a great evening.

A fab evening of chatting, sewing, tea and cake.  Met some really lovely people.

I absolutely loved it …. Can’t wait for the next one!

Karen The Draper’s Daughter and I thought we might be sitting by ourselves eating all the cake at the first meeting of the new Chichester sewing group, so Wednesday night’s turnout was nothing short of phenomenal!  Thank you to everyone who came along and made the evening such a success.  As you can see, the feedback we’ve had since has been really encouraging.

Apart from my recent blog post and a couple of posts on IG we had kept it fairly low key so were pretty overwhelmed when 20 people arrived at the church hall!  Sewists were arriving from about 6.30 – two people had driven over from Portsmouth – and they were still coming through the door with their sewing machines after 7.00 pm.

Karen and I kicked off with a quick introduction explaining the outline plans for the group but making it clear that the future direction will be guided by everyone.  Ideas were already flowing during the evening so I don’t think we’ll be stuck for activities.

Individual introductions took a while but I’m afraid it was all a bit of a blur …. I think Karen and I were in a state of shock!  There were several familiar faces, including old friends, as well as some virtual friends I only knew from IG.  It was so good to finally meet Cathy from @cathysewsstuff.  We’ve been following each other for ages and she was as lovely IRL as I knew she would be.

It was also great to see Anna and Dhurata from The Eternal Maker.  Anna will shortly be celebrating the 10th anniversary of her company and it was a dressmaking course there about seven years ago that encouraged me to start sewing my own clothes after years of only sewing bags, aprons and cushion covers.

We didn’t think that much actual sewing would get done the first night but we were wrong!  Once the introductions were over everyone got stuck in and the sewing machines were whirring.

It was great to see people helping each other.  My friend Sally received some expert advice from Cathy on altering a dress she’d brought along.  This was the first dress she’d ever made and the fit was not quite right.  By the end of the evening she’d unpicked the sleeves, put in some new darts and is already planning her next make. With a little help from her friends another new sewist started and nearly finished a pillowcase dress to take on holiday.    There were some lovely hand painted tea towels being hemmed for a gift, some people were cutting out new garments and there was also some crochet going on.

Karen and I did absolutely no sewing!  We had both cut something out to take along but we ended up speaking to everyone, making tea and cutting cake instead.  There was A LOT of chatting going on in the hall, the atmosphere was amazing!

I was very pleased that some of my ‘surplus to requirements’ fabric on the swap table found a good home, as did some patterns.  In exchange I acquired this New Look pattern which I’m very pleased with as it’s one I’ve thought about buying in the past.

There was also cake.   My kitchen has been like the Bake Off recently what with birthday cupcakes and the sewing group.  The beautiful Victoria Sandwich in the picture was made by Karen.

Here’s some photographs of the evening which hopefully show just how busy it was!

The next meet up will be on Wednesday 12 July, same time (7.00 – 9.00 pm) same place (St George’s Church Hall, Cleveland Road, Chichester).  We’d love to see everyone back – and any new faces too.  There will be a £5 charge each month to cover the cost of hiring the hall and refreshments and what’s left over will accumulate to pay for equipment, tutors, visits etc.  We already have some ideas in the pipeline.

If anyone would like more information just leave a comment below or DM Karen or me on IG – @thedrapersdaughter @janemakes

We will launch straight into sewing next time and Karen and I will definitely get something stitched.

Last but not least, a big thank you to Karen’s lovely daughter who came along to help.  She shifted furniture, made tea and washed up.  We couldn’t have managed without her.

 

Vintage + Vintage

I was really pleased with the style and fit of my grey denim twill version of this re-issued vintage pattern from the 1960s so had always had planned to use it again. Apologies for a second post about it so soon after the first but the new version is quite different.

When I spotted this piece of vintage fabric on The Eternal Maker’s de-stash I ignored my decision to forego fabric purchases in May. It was my only deviation from my no new fabric commitment.  As I’ve previously reported, when I picked up my purchase from Anna she told me her grandmother had made a dress for her aunt from the fabric in the 60s and this piece was what was left over.  Anna had also altered and worn the original dress herself many years later.

It’s not a style of fabric I would normally choose but I’m a sucker for vintage fabric and even more so when I know the story behind it.   I realised after I posted this photo originally that the left hand image shows the reverse of the fabric.   Apparently it’s a common practice to use the ‘wrong’ side of fabric with Hawaiian prints and my sister has a beautiful chaise upholstered using the reverse of a Sanderson fabric.  I was tempted to try it out but in the end, after much standing in front of the mirror swapping from one side to the other, I decided to stick with the ‘right’ one.

A 60s pattern paired with a 60s fabric. Hopefully a perfect combination! I have so many things on my summer sewing list but I went ahead regardless.  I made no changes this time other than not make a mess of the bottom of the invisible zip and have to unpick it three times!  I also didn’t bother finishing the neck facing with bias binding as I only had some scratchy black binding to hand.  Pattern matching across the back wasn’t possible as due to insufficient fabric but I do have a small amount left that I’m tempted to make some ruffled cuffs with.  I may go back and do that at some point.

I wore the top to the theatre on Friday night to see Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth”.  I wasn’t quite in line with the fashions of the era as the play was written in 1959 but not too far off!  I usually make ‘orphan’ skirts but to be honest this is a bit of an orphan top.  The only thing I had to go with it was some black trousers.  I rather fancy a pink skirt if I can find fabric in the right colour.

I hope I’ve done this fabric justice – I wonder if anyone in the 60s paired this fabric with this pattern?

NEWS FLASH!  Don’t forget that this Wednesday, 14 June, sees the first meeting of the new Chichester sewing group.  Click here for more details.

 

Birthday Cupcakes

Baking is only a occasional event in my kitchen since the decision to reduce sugar and fat consumption in our lives but I do like to rustle up a batch of cupcakes for birthday celebrations.

This is my go-to recipe for cupcakes which I thought I’d share because it is so quick and easy – no beating required, just stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients, spoon into cases and bake.  It was originally published in Good Food Magazine some years ago and I’ve used it many times.   The cakes are lovely and moist and keep well.  The white chocolate icing is also yummy and because it sets hard in the fridge there is less danger of it getting squashed during transportation.  I used to pipe icing, I rarely bother any more!

It was my mother’s birthday at the weekend so I made a batch on Saturday morning.  I added fresh raspberries to the mix which worked really well – I used a 150g pack minus the 12 I saved to decorate the tops.  I cut each one in half before stirring them in.  I made sure each cake had some raspberry in it, although I wasn’t as diligent as my grandmother who used to ensure that every little cake contained exactly the same number of chocolate chips to avoid any argument!  My sister and I sometimes picked them out to double check.

A strong warning was issued to Mr Jane Makes NOT to eat any of the reserved raspberries before I had a chance to put them on the cakes!

I also used freeze dried raspberry pieces on the top.  You can find these in the baking section of most supermarkets and, not surprisingly, they taste just like raspberries!

I might try fresh cherries next time – they would go well with the ground almonds in the cake mixture.  It’s my birthday in the not too distant future and disappointment/displeasure is expressed in the office if cakes are not provided by whoever happens to be celebrating.

 

Me-Made-May 2017 Part 2

This post is a bit late  but we were away last week.  Here’s what I wore for the second half of the month.

I think it’s safe to say I have plenty of skirts!  The one I’m wearing on Day 17 was altered after Day 4 and is now a much better fit.  Everything I’ve worn here will be staying in the wardrobe – even the Mandy Boat-T which seems have grown considerably  wider since I made it!  There were a few casualties that were tried on and rejected.   Some have made it to the alterations pile, others are heading for the charity shop. I’m determined to have a more streamlined wardrobe going forward.

Update from yesterday on something I thought about this morning …. One of the things I’m particularly sad about is that this Laurel Dress made in a lovely Liberty fabric now swamps me and I’m not sure I’ve got the time/patience to dismantle and alter it.  I also decided this morning that I still don’t have enough tops.

I think my favourites from the second half of the month have to be the blue and white fish skirt (a curtain fabric remnant), my two Gable tops from Days 29 and 31 (also worn on Day 17) and my Merchant and Mills Top 64 from Day 30 which I wore while we were camping at the Hay Festival.  The fabric doesn’t crease whatever you do – even when you fall asleep in your tent in the afternoon!

I was particularly pleased when I was packing for our trip on Day 27 to find my pile of ironing was almost exclusively made up of me-made and charity shop clothes.

Another great Me-Made-May which has once again focused my thoughts on what I make and wear. I’ve also really enjoyed seeing everyone else’s posts throughout the month. A big thank you to Zoe for this inspiring challenge.  I always feel a bit lost at the beginning of June without the focus of my daily photo!

Chichester Sewing Group – NEW!!

I’ve previously mentioned my friendship with Karen, founder of The Draper’s Daughter, which started on Instagram when we discovered we both lived in Chichester.  Over the last year or so, inspired by the amazing Stacie of Brighton Sewing Bee and Sewmance fame, we’ve been talking about the possibility of setting up a monthly sewing group here.  I’ve always been envious when I’ve seen photos on IG of what they get up to in Brighton but it is just a bit too far to go for an evening after work.

Life then got in the way and nothing happened for a while but we’ve now bitten the bullet and booked a venue for the inaugural session!

Like the Brighton Sewing Bee, the aim will be to give anyone interested in sewing the opportunity to meet up with like-minded people to make, sew, chat and eat some cake.  There will always be cake!

Photos courtesy of The Draper’s Daughter!

The sessions will be informal and open to everyone regardless of skill level.  We hope that the group will develop gradually to meet the needs of the members.  There won’t be a formal teacher but we intend to invite special guests to share their knowledge and experience and we will also build a skills bank based on members’ interests with the aim of persuading some of them to run sessions from time to time if they are so inclined.  There will be absolutely no obligation to do this!

In the longer term we may be able to provide a couple of sewing machines at the venue but in the meantime just bring your own along and we will arrange for extension cables so that everyone can plug in and sew.  You don’t have to sew on a machine, just bring along your embroidery, knitting, hand stitching or whatever else you are working on if you prefer.  If you have a sewing conundrum you need help with – the group may well be the perfect forum to find a solution.

There will also be a fabric and pattern swap table each month.  I’m sure we all have things in our stash that we know we will never use but could well be just what someone else is looking for.

The first meeting will take place on Wednesday 14 June at St George’s Church Hall from 7.00 – 9.00 pm.  Click here for the address and a map.  There is parking so you won’t have to carry your sewing machine very far.  There will be no charge for the first meeting – have this one on Karen and me.  After that we are proposing a ‘sub’ of £5.  This is definitely not a business enterprise and all funds will be used to cover the cost of hiring the hall, equipment and future activities.

The first meeting will give everyone a chance to introduce themselves and we’d really like to have a democratic process to help decide on a name for the group.  Come along with any suggestions and we can maybe put them to a vote!  We can also talk about everyone’s ideas for possible future activities, speakers, visits etc.

If you are interested in joining us please direct message Karen or me on IG – @janemakes or @thedrapersdaughter – or alternatively email me on janeybmakes@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

We’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

How to … wash a leather jacket

As you know, we’re big fans of charity shops but I am quite fussy about cleanliness (Ha ha, Mr Jane Makes would say, obsessional more like!).  Anyhoo, this does mean that I subject charity shop clothing purchases to a close inspection and sniff before I buy them and everything goes straight in the wash when we get home.  Mr J-M is less fussy and has been known to wear something immediately without sanitisation!

I’d been looking out for a black leather biker jacket for ages and when I spotted one in the Cancer Research shop I grabbed it straightaway, despite a slightly stale whiff.  When I took it to the dry cleaners the following day I discovered it would cost £50 to clean it.  I’m not that keen on dry cleaning at the best of times and I balked at spending that much with no guarantee of a good result.

I remembered I’d once had to handwash some leather gloves after they fell into a muddy puddle in a car park and weren’t discovered until I returned to the car several hours later!  I decided to throw caution to the wind and wash the jacket.  I found and ordered this product online.  It was cheaper on Amazon but seems to be currently out of stock.  It does say it can be used to wash leather in the washing machine but I decided that was a risk too far.

The bottle that arrived was a good deal smaller than I was anticipating and the instructions said to use between a third and half the contents for one wash.  I ignored that and just used a couple of generous squirts in a sink full of tepid water.  I swished the jacket around for a few minutes, giving the lining a good scrub.  The water turned a very murky shade but I think (hope) that was the colour coming out of the leather rather than dirt!

I gave it a couple of rinses in fresh water.  Again I ignored the instructions which said to rinse once to allow some of the conditioners in the shampoo stay in the leather.

Not surprisingly the jacket was soaking wet and impossible to wring out so I hung it on a plastic hanger in the garden overnight.  Once it had stopped dripping  I transferred it to a warm room for a day and finally popped it into the airing cupboard for a few hours.  The aim was to ensure that it dried slowly to avoid it turning crispy!

Once it was completely dry I put it on and performed a few contortions to stretch it back into shape.  The final step was to use some of this to feed and soften the leather.

We’ve been using this balsam on shoes for years.  It worked really successfully on the jacket.  The leather is lovely and soft and the smell has gone.

The shampoo was expensive but I’ve now passed it on to my sister who has three jackets to wash so the cost per wash will work out considerably cheaper than dry cleaning.  To be honest, now I know it is possible to wash leather successful I’d be inclined to use a gentle wool wash next time which would work out much cheaper.

I’ve also bought a new pot of balsam but the previous one lasted years so it’s pretty good value.