Sewing Inspiration

I’ve reported here about the sewing group – Chi Stitch – I run with Karen from The Draper’s Daughter.  We now have a lovely group of regulars who come along with a myriad of sewing and crafting projects and I find the whole experience inspiring – even if I don’t always get a lot of sewing done!

This has set me off thinking about my sewing inspiration generally.   I know both my grandmothers sewed and knitted, although I really only remember seeing my paternal grandmother in action.  She was Scottish and knitted very fast on long needles tucked under her arms.  During the Second World War I know that she knitted socks, gloves and balaclavas for soldiers.

My mother has always sewed, knitted, crocheted and generally made stuff  – and still does.   My dad was also an inveterate maker of things.  He made model boats with working steam engines, built furniture and kitchen units, made wooden toys.  He could turn his hand to just about anything.   I’m ashamed to say that I never really took the opportunity when I was younger to benefit as much as I could have done from their skills and knowledge.  There were other things that seemed of much more interest to me!  That’s not to say that we didn’t make things.  We were deprived of television for many years “for the good of our education” so we had to fill the time somehow when we weren’t sloping off to our friends’ houses to watch TV there.  Amongst other things we made rudimentary dolls’ clothes, knitted yards of woollen ‘tubes’ with the Knitting Nancy and made a mess with papier mâché.

At  secondary school I did needlework for the first three years.  Our teacher was sadly not inspirational.  We were taught the basics and I remember making a striped apron with a patchwork embellished pocket and a really hideous dress that I never wore.  Despite the lack of inspiration, I was quite good at sewing and remember one test when I had to pass my very neat seam finish samples to my friend behind me to copy because she had no idea what she was doing! Another friend and I always recall the time when she was sewing the pocket to her apron and it ended up attached to her skirt!

Of much more importance to me was my Food & Nutrition (aka Cookery) teacher who I have never forgotten.  She was a tiny and very feisty Welsh lady called Mrs Jones who I really liked – and she really liked me because I paid attention.  Not something I was necessarily well known for in some other lessons.  She taught me pretty much everything I needed to know and a few things I didn’t.  I honestly don’t think I’ll ever make my own flaky pastry – but I could if I wanted to.  I certainly won’t be stuffing a heart or sousing a herring!  Here’s Mrs Jones in the centre of the photograph.

Fast forward a number of years and after various forays into assorted crafts I decided I wanted a sewing machine.  I acquired a basic Singer and started making bags.  I also used it for sewing paper which probably didn’t do it the world of good, although it’s still working as my colleague now has it and is using it to make a new set of seat cushions for his boat!

Having decided I would like to try making clothes I popped into The Eternal Maker to ask Anna if they were planning to offer dressmaking classes.  She said they would if they could find someone to teach them.  I put her in touch with a friend of a friend and I started a six week course of lessons with Cath.  I made a skirt which turned out surprisingly well and we moved on to a second six week course.  After that we set up a little sewing group which met in the conference room at my office for a few months and I was on the road to a sewing obsession!

Back to Chi Stitch and I was so pleased last month when Cath came along for the first time! Without her I probably would have carried on sewing bags and paper decorations and never met all my lovely sewing friends.  Here she is with her knitting on the table reserved for Catherines – @cathysewsstuff is next to her and Catherine opposite her!  Karen is also there – her name does start with the right sound!

I can’t believe this picture was taken a month ago.  The next Chi Stitch is tonight at St George’s Church Hall in Cleveland Road, Chichester from 7.00 – 9.00 pm.  Everyone is welcome.

Just going back to school needlework teachers.  My sister, who can sew but doesn’t, had a sewing teacher whose response to anyone referring to “material” was “fabric dears, fabric”.  It’s an entrenched phrase in my family which we often repeat automatically when someone says “material” and then have to offer an explanation!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Chi Stitch #3

Despite torrential rain – and the fact that some people were enjoying a holiday somewhere warmer and drier – Karen and I were really pleased with another great turn out for the third meeting of the Chichester sewing group.

What I really enjoy, apart from the opportunity to chat to like-minded people, is seeing the range of activities that people bring along to work on.  This month I managed to get a shot of Cathy’s amazing denim circles quilt and she also made a fabric belt to match the vintage dress she’s making to wear to Revival at Goodwood.  We also had cushion making, shirt making, a baby quilt, jean alterations and someone mending the school production’s angel costumes!  Karen and I were working on current projects – mine yet another Esme dress (#1 in my Desert Island Patterns) which now just needs hemming. UPDATE : I started this post immediately after the meet-up but failed to finish it.  The dress is still waiting to be hemmed!

There was cake and thanks are due to What Corrine Did Next for her flapjack and Nutella Brownie recipes.  The flapjack recipe mentions butterscotch golden syrup which I wasn’t able to find but they were delicious nonetheless.  UPDATE : Corinne messaged me on IG to tell me she’d tracked it down on special offer in the Co-op!  I doubled the quantities to achieve the depth of mixture I needed for my tin.   There were also some salted caramel and chocolate cookies but I forgot to photograph them!  I’m very happy to be baking again.  I stopped after Mr Jane Makes’ heart attack but as he now runs about a million miles a week he’s allowed to have some treats!

I’m going to be helping Karen out on her stand for one day at The Great British Sewing Bee Live next month and I’m planning a dress in one of her fabrics so I can be the best possible ambassador for her wares.  I also want to look my best in case I meet Patrick Grant! She brought along a sample of the fabric and I’m really looking forward to using it.  UPDATE : I now have the fabric and am ready to start cutting out.

The next meeting of Chi Stitch will be on Wednesday 13 September at St George’s Church Hall, Cleveland Road, Chichester from 7.00 – 9.00 pm.  Hope you can join us.

 

 

Taking Stock #3

Here’s the ‘final’ post on how I’m approaching my current sewing plans.  I have done a little bit of shopping since I sorted everything out so there is more planning to be done!

This is a much more subdued selection of fabric, although it was coincidental that the piles ended up as they did!

  • Up first are two plain jerseys in cream and mid-blue which both came from The Eternal Maker.  They are lovely and soft and I’m going to make two Gable tops.  This is my current all-time favourite basic top pattern.
  • I’ve made McCall’s 3830 so many times over the years that the pattern has almost disintegrated.  I’ve now traced it off to preserve it for the future.  I’m going to make a plain denim skirt with a floral lining which will be smart enough for work.  The denim is from Ditto and a really great colour and quality.
  • The next fabric is a gorgeous colour and was original bought from The Eternal Maker to make this Simplicity top to go with my Christmas skirt.  I ran out of time but I’m still keen to make this.  It will be the third version of this pattern I’ve made and when I wore one of them the other day I realised the top would work better a little shorter so that’s an alteration I will make this time.
  • Next up is a real challenge for me!  I’ve had the Moss skirt pattern for ages and have always been put off by the thought of inserting a fly zip.  I’ve decided that now I have the sewing group to back me up I can finally tackle this.
  • The photograph of the final fabric looks very strange!  It’s a narrow striped stretch cotton from The Fabric Godmother but the stripes look more like wood grain here! I’m going to make another Top 64 by Merchant & Mills.  I’ve worn the first version a lot and the pockets are brilliant!

Since the last post I’ve cut out the New Look pattern and I took it with me to last night’s sewing group.  Despite a lot of chatting I made quite good progress.  Here I am at the sewing machine wearing the sleeveless Esme dress I made VERY quickly after buying the fabric last weekend at Ditto!  Thank you to @cathysewsstuff for the photograph as I failed to take a single picture!  There will be more about the sewing group in another post.

I’ve realised there was no mention of Mr Jane Makes in my last post. He’s now signed up for the Chichester half marathon in October having been donated an entry by a friend who is now doing a half marathon in London that day!  He has embarked on his training programme, part of which involved polishing off quite a few of the cookies I baked for the sewing group last night!

Salted caramel and chocolate cookies.  They were pretty good even if I say so myself!

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.

 

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.

 

The Great Reduction – update

I’m sure I’m not the only person who can’t believe we’ve reached the end of August already!  Where has the time gone?  I really don’t feel like I’ve achieved very much this year for various reasons, certainly not in terms of sewing projects that’s for sure.

There will have to be a concentrated effort to produce some autumn and winter wear as the new eating regime introduced for Mr Jane Makes continues to have an impact on my waistline and some of my clothes are decidedly loose.   While I’m happy to take in seams on dresses and tops where necessary, I’m not sure I can face all the unpicking of my previous hard work to adjust waistbands and linings on skirts.  There may be more tucking in of tops than usual to fill the space!   It’s also a good opportunity to start from scratch with some lovely new or re-purposed fabric from charity shop finds (which I don’t mind pulling apart).  I’ve already got quite a bit ‘in stock’ which was acquired last winter and never got as far as the sewing machine.

Back to the main event.  Mr J-M has shown a dedication to his diet that has surpassed anything I was expecting, even allowing for the fact that he had the major fright of a heart attack to motivate him.  Those of you who know him will be aware that he had an impressive appetite and was never known to refuse food!

He’s still working towards his self-imposed target but the current statistics (as at last Sunday) are as follows :

  • Total inches lost (waist) : 5
  • Total weight lost : 15.1 kilos

I could also include number of miles cycled (on his new bike) but I don’t have that information to hand.

Whilst much of his wardrobe is now falling off him there are several things which have always been somewhat snug which are experiencing a revival.  I’m planning a BEFORE and AFTER photograph once the target is reach, which is anticipated within the next month.

One thing I do love about this time of year is the opportunity to pick blackberries.  There are lots of brambles along our walking routes (I’m trying to achieve at least 10,000 steps a day) and we’ve had a few foraging trips.  The first thing that springs to mind when I’ve got a bowl of blackberries in the kitchen is a crumble but as all added sugar is now being avoided I had to come up with a revised version.

Blackberry Crumble

I’ve noticed that fruit does taste sweeter when you’ve eliminated chocolate etc. from your diet so I decided not to mess around with the blackberries for the filling.  I added a couple of nectarines and a pear that were going a bit squishy in the fruit bowl and sprinkled over a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

For the crumble element I used :

  • 50g spelt flour
  • 50g oats
  • 50g ground almonds (I ground these myself in the blender)
  • 75g chopped dates
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

The dates were pre-chopped as this was all the local supermarket had in stock when I discovered the jar was empty.  The pieces are coated in rice flour to prevent them sticking so I blended them and then rubbed the resulting sticky wodge into the dry ingredients.  I stirred in the olive oil and pressed the mixture on top of the fruit.

The crumble was cooked for 35 minutes on 170° and here it is.

image

Next time I will add more oil to the crumble mix as it didn’t hold together very well and wasn’t especially crumbly but it tasted pretty good and was even better cold.  There was no custard obviously (sad face) and I’m still thinking about possible alternatives.  There is an oat milk cream which looks quite interesting so I might give that a go.

We have an enormous fig tree in our garden which started life as a tiny plant in a pot.  The figs are just stating to ripen and with the next haul of blackberries I added some figs and made an approximation of a cobbler with the same ingredients but this time I cooked the dates in a cup of water and added all the liquid so that the mixture could be made into patties.  Not quite as good as the crumble but it all got eaten!

There were also some breakfast pancakes with grated apple which tasted fine but were very messy and certainly not photogenic.  More work required.

It will be September tomorrow so here’s to autumn sewing plans but hopefully there are still some warm sunny days ahead before we have to abandon summer clothes.

 

 

 

Experimental Baking #2

There has been very little sewing going on here (more of that later) as in my current role as post-heart attack nutritionist I am primarily working in the kitchen!  The new regime has had an impact on my sewing in another way in that I too have lost some weight so my current wardrobe needs reviewing.

On the food front, our meals are generally looking quite green!  I’m not really following any specific recipes, although I did order a very good book entitled Eat Your Way to Lower Cholesterol which has some really good recipes.  W’s daughter also sent him a helpful book on recovering from a heart attack so we are becoming experts.

I’ve also discovered that I quite like beetroot when I’ve always thought I hated it.  I think this goes back to school lunches when the vinegar soaked beetroot was always next to the hard boiled egg in our salads.  I have a major aversion to eggs unless the white and yolk are really well combined and there was something about a rubbery egg white turned pink by the beetroot that was the final straw.

I’ve been roasting beetroot as well as using it raw and in a new baking experiment I used it in some sugar, egg and fat free brownies.  The first attempt was passable, not spit out disgusting anyway, and W thought they were OK but rather bland.  I had used raw cacao powder as chocolate and beetroot do work well in ‘normal’ cakes and he thought that some chilli in the background might help.  The second version was a great improvement and they really do look like cake.  I would point out that I don’t have a napkin embroidered with every possible vegetable but it just so happens that I do have one with what appears to be a beetroot on it.

This is the recipe I’ve arrived at so far.  I’m really not suggesting anyone tries it because they are definitely not a sweet treat and are an acquired taste but W likes them and they are a better option than biscuits or chocolate.  I just thought you might be interested to see how my mind is working!

Beetroot ‘Brownies’

  • 1¼ cups dates, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 red chilli, cut in half and seeds removed
  • 2 medium sized beetroot, cooked.  I peel, quarter and roast mine in a cast iron casserole in the oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour.  I did a whole bunch in one go and used the rest in salads
  • ⅓ cup raw cacao powder
  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 medium sized apples, grated (mine were Braeburns)
  • ¼ cup fluid (I used oat milk as there was a carton open but you could use water or apple juice)

Preheat oven to 175° (fan).  Line an 8″ (or thereabouts) square cake tin with baking parchment.

Place the chopped dates in a pan with the water and chilli and bring to the boil.  Simmer for five minutes, remove and discard the chilli and allow to cool.  Once cool, place the dates in a food processor with the beetroot and cacao powder and blend until smooth.

Mix the flour with the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a mixing bowl and stir in beetroot mixture followed by the chopped walnuts and grated apple.  Mix well and add the ¼ cup of milk/juice/water.  Spoon the mixture into the the cake tin.  It is quite an alarming colour at this stage so I’ve not included a photograph.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until firm and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cut into squares when cool.

If you are planning any sugar/fat free baking bear in mind that things don’t keep well, although I thought they tasted better the day after baking.  The first batch of these went mouldy very quickly so the second lot are in the freezer.  Interestingly, I have genuinely found that you lose the sugar craving very quickly and I have refused chocolate offered to me on more than one occasion.

Onto some sewing.  I’m a big fan of the Colette Laurel dress and have already made three versions.  I’d been invited to the races at Goodwood through work.  I’d never been before, it really isn’t my thing, but obviously needed something to wear!  I’d bought some very pretty Liberty fabric at a special event at Clothkits a while ago and thought this would be just the thing.

image

My original version of the Laurel was a size 6.  I had subsequently cut the size 4, mainly because I didn’t have quite enough fabric on that occasion, and it was slightly skimpy.   As I have now shrunk slightly I went for the 4 again this time.  I underlined the fabric as it is quite delicate and slightly see-through.  I tried on the almost finished dress and W looked dubious – “it’s a bit sack like” he said.  He was right.  At this point I didn’t have time to do anything about it so decided to wear something different to the races and put the Laurel to one side.  A couple of days later I went back to it and took the side seams in by a maximum of an inch or so each side and that did the trick.

What I especially love about the Laurel is the cuff option which I’ve now used three times.  The dress did get worn quite soon afterwards as I was also invited to a cricket match.  I don’t know much more about cricket than I do about horse racing but it was a lovely sunny afternoon.  The photo of me wearing it isn’t great but the cuff looks nice!

The only other recent sewing for me has been a refashion of a charity shop frock.  It was a size 18 sundress (I forgot to take a before photo) with lots of lovely fabric in the skirt.  I wanted to keep the fullness so I just chopped off the bodice, added some in-seam pockets, gathered the waist and added some elastic for the waistband.  I couldn’t find a blue to match so went for pink!  I’ve worn this several times and have another dress lined up for similar treatment.  Who else is following the daily posts from Portia on this year’s The Refashioners?  Some great inspiration and I do have two pairs of jeans awaiting attention for the Community Challenge.

For any of you following W’s progress, the statistics are now :

Total inches lost (waist) : 3.5

Total weight lost : 10.7 kilos