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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Me Made May : The Final Round Up

It’s all over and this year’s Me Made May has been a really positive experience. Life is a bit difficult at the moment and the challenge of creating a daily outfit from my me-made wardrobe has been a great distraction!  I managed to wear at least one me-made item every day with minimal repeats and I enjoyed wearing all of them.  I have to confess that I failed on the second part of my pledge which was to try two new patterns during the month but that was largely due to the life being a bit difficult situation!

Here’s what I’ve worn since the last blog post.

Day 27 was a bit of a cheat because I wore my crazy new, pom-pom embellished Esme dress on the evening of Day 26 but as I had it on past midnight I decided it could count as that day’s outfit and I wanted to make sure it got included!  The fabric was from a vintage fair in Chichester and was allegedly French.  It cost me £10 and although it was a long length it was quite narrow so I only just managed to fit the dress onto it.  It frayed like mad and it has taken several goes with the hoover to pick up all the threads that have spread around the house.  Not sure why I decided on the pom-poms and I don’t know whether they will be a permanent feature – they are only sewn on by hand so easily removed if required.

The Day 30 skirt is a new make from a previously used pattern, Simplicity 2343, which has nice front tucks and pockets and is pretty much a perfect fit straight out of the packet – which is why I like it so much.  The fabric is a lovely unbleached organic cotton which I think I bought from The Village Haberdashery a couple of years ago.

Simplicity 2343

The striped top on Day 28 is also a new make from a Love Sewing magazine pattern (I’m reliably informed by their comment on IG that it was Issue 17). I’d lost the instructions but managed without them.  This top was a rescue from a striped disaster which I won’t go into, suffice to say that it had been thrown into a corner and abandoned.  I managed to cut some of the new pieces from it and had some fabric left over for the rest.

Day 29 was an alteration.  The original sailing-related skirt had in-seam pockets which made my hips look a funny shape so I sewed them up, cut them off and I’m much happier with it.  I made my boss some cushions with this fabric so I wouldn’t sit on his sofa whilst wearing the skirt!

I’ve also been giving some more of my handmade bags an outing.  The knitted ones are all from a pattern I bought from Laughing Hens. It came as a kit (Day 25’s version) and I then made two more.  They are all lined in fabric to prevent them losing their shape once filled with purse, phone, keys etc.  My favourite Anya Bag designed by Zoe, the creator of Me Made May, also made an appearance on Day 26, as did a shopping bag made from a huge piece of charity shop fabric.  I have enough of this to make about ten of these bags but there may be a skirt in due course.  The bag is from a pattern in Selvedge magazine about nine years ago.

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All in all I was very happy with the contents of my handmade wardrobe and the challenge did encourage/force me to wear some things that may otherwise have been ignored and they will now be in regular rotation.  I’ve certainly felt more confident about what I’ve worn as the month has gone on.  I may cut back on the stripes for a while – there do seem to be a lot of them – and might step up the florals as I’ve decided I rather like them.

What I do need to do is make more tops – which is why I bought another skirt pattern at the weekend!

A big thank you to the lovely Zoe for creating and continuing to run Me May May.  Long may it continue.

Me-Made-May Week Two

Another week of me-made outfits has passed and I’ve managed to keep going with only one top worn twice.

Day 9’s photograph came out even more gloomy than usual so I posted a second picture on IG of the lovely striped linen the skirt is made from just to show that it wasn’t as boring as it looked!

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Day 10’s skirt was made in short bursts over the previous weekend from the fabric I bought at the Posh Jumble Sale in Petworth.  I was visiting the town on a work-related matter but spotted the sign for the ‘jumble’ sale in the window of the town hall.  It was very far removed from the church jumble sale I attended a couple of days later in Chichester!  It was certainly posh and there were some lovely things for sale – but definitely not at jumble sale prices.  I spotted a small piece of fabric with a really interesting pattern – it was labelled as vintage 60s but I’ve no idea if that’s true. I forked out £5 because I really liked it.

I think it was probably part of a curtain because it was hemmed down each side and initially thought it would make a nice cushion cover.  I then decided to see if I could squeeze a skirt out of it.  I could – just!  The leftovers were so minimal they didn’t even make it to the scrap bag and I had to cut the facings out of a piece of calico I’d previously used for a toile.  I wasn’t going to bother with a lining but changed my mind at the last minute and used a piece of fabric from a pile cleared out by my mother a while back.  I’m glad I did as it hangs so much better with the lining.  The only other cost was an invisible zip which I bought for 20p last year when I was on holiday.  You do get what you pay for and it isn’t the greatest quality but as it’s invisible it doesn’t really matter!

So, a new skirt for £5.20 which isn’t bad – and using recycled and secondhand fabric.  As is often my way I was hand sewing the lining in just before I put it on to go to work and then couldn’t find anything that went with it until I remembered a yellow cardi which was lurking at the bottom of the ironing basket.  It was an almost perfect match and I felt very spring-like despite the fact the sun had disappeared.

Here’s a better photograph of the new skirt modelled by Doris which shows off the fabric design more effectively.

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With all the other stress in my life at the moment MMM is definitely helping keep me sane.  I love seeing everyone else’s posts on blogs and IG and I can focus on what to wear the next day when I wake up at 4.00 am rather than starting to worry about everything else.  One thing I’ve realised is that I don’t have enough me-made tops so that’s something I need to work on.

Looking forward to the first episode of GBSB tonight!

Rain Stops Play

My sewing activity has been somewhat curtailed due to the horrendous rain we had recently.  Our conservatory sprang a leak and before I realised it the long (and thankfully cheap and cheerful) table that I use for cutting out fabric was completely soaked.  It is now drying out but sadly the laminate finish is peeling off.   The table is currently lying on its side and there is a bucket in its place waiting for the next downpour.  Discussions are in hand as to where to go from here (I’m hoping major improvements!) but in the meantime the conservatory is a chilly, damp and slightly mouldy place that isn’t conducive to creative activities.  I’m not posting a photograph as it’s a rather depressing sight!

As a result I’ve been sticking to smaller projects that I can cut out on my sewing table without having to move everything off it.  I’d been wanting to make another Anya Bag, this time for me, with the leftovers from my mustard denim Brumby Skirt.  There was JUST enough fabric, although I had to adapt the straps slightly.  The instructions are to fold the fabric strip into the centre along the long edges and then fold in half again before stitching along each side.  I just folded in the edges about 1cm and then folded in half but the fabric is sufficiently robust for this not to be an issue.

I had hoped to line the bag with the lovely fabric that was part of my #stitchingsanta gift but there wasn’t quite enough.

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As an alternative I used some fabric my mother gave me during a recent clear out.  It was originally used years ago to make a dress for a rag doll and I think it works quite well here.  I love making this bag.

I was going to use the bag today but I decided that matching your bag to your skirt was probably going a bit too far!

I’ve recently started following Jen from My Make Do and Mend Life.  Jen’s journey began when she decided that she and her family would spend a year buying nothing new and she is now committed to lessening their impact on the planet.  Having recently watched Trust Me I’m a Doctor and heard about the scary chemicals that lurk in off-the-shelf cleaning products (including some eco ones) I’ve been researching the possibility of making my own and Jen is something of an expert.  She’s even made her own dishwasher tablets!  I’ve also been trying to further reduce waste in our house since watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programmes.  I was horrified to see what some people chuck out!

Where is this leading ….?   I’ve managed to avoid buying new RTW clothing for quite a while now but one thing I’ve missed is knitwear.  I can knit but I always struggle when it comes to following patterns, shaping and anything fiddly.  There is a half finished cardigan hidden in my sewing room that is testament to this.

I decided to combine two projects, reducing waste and kick-starting my knitting, by making a dishcloth!  I found a sweet pattern on Ericka Eckles blog and produced this.

I’ve now sewn the ends in and just have to bring myself to ditch the disposable blue cloths and actually use it!  I bought two balls of cotton yarn so I’m now working on another pattern I found here.

 

I’m really enjoying it and it is a lovely cosy thing to do on chilly evenings.  My mother is always horrified when she sees me knit because I don’t hold the needles properly and she is determined to change this.  Previous attempts have resulted in me wailing in despair because I just can’t get it right but perhaps now is the time to try a bit harder!

Associated with reducing waste I also did a spot of refashioning.  For several years I’ve had a favourite striped dress from a well-known online retailer which had gradually shrunk until it was no longer wearable!  I love the fabric so decided to chop off the restricting top half and turn it into a skirt with an elasticated waist.  I looked up various tutorials for adding the elastic but when I tried this I just couldn’t get this wide elastic to stretch as I sewed.  In the end I just joined the elastic in a loop, gathered the cut edge of the fabric using the dental floss trick and sewed the elastic on with the join at the back.  It was already hemmed so this was a very quick project.   I’ve worn it a couple of times and it seems to have worked.  It is SO comfortable!  Not sure what I can do with the leftover top half?

I will get that Moss Skirt cut out eventually but in the meantime at least I’m not sitting idle.  Mention of the Moss Skirt has reminded me that as a result of my following Jen on IG – @makeandmendlife – I connected with @vintage_charity and we met for lunch this week.  It was just lovely.  We had already discovered so much in common (including these shoes) and then she mentioned that her next sewing project was this very skirt!  At the rate I’m going I think she’ll get there first.

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Back in Time

W and I have just come back from a few days away, the majority of that time spent in an 18th Century stocking weaver’s home in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. The property is owned by the Landmark Trust and if you are not familiar with the work of the Trust, do check out their website.  We’ve had some great times in these historic buildings, one of the best was at Saddell House on the Mull of Kintyre where we spent a few days before Christmas with one of my school friends, her teenage boys (plus friends) and her partner.  She and I played at being Mrs Bridges and Ruby (from the original version of Upstairs Downstairs), rustling up vast quantities of food in the huge kitchen with no access to any shops once we’d arrived.  I like to think I was better qualified to be Mrs Bridges with my O Level in Food & Nutrition!  When they weren’t eating (or sleeping) the boys spent a good deal of their time running a table tennis tournament in the basement.  They were surprised to find that W was an expert who was determined to win (and did).

Back to the 18th Century stocking weavers.  Having read up on the history of the house they certainly didn’t enjoy an easy life, although those living in the houses in this row would have had a better time of things as they were part of a co-operative rather than working in a factory.  The house is on four floors with vertiginous stairways between each floor – to be treated with caution after a glass of wine or two in the evening!  If your preference is for modern luxury then the Landmark may not be the right choice but the opportunity to spend time surrounded by history is pretty special.

The weaving looms look pretty complicated – and large.  I think they must have either been assembled in situ or perhaps brought in through the large window on the first floor?

The houses are filled with furniture, books and pictures relevant to the area and period and these two embroideries were on one of the landings.  I wonder at what point Harriot Webb realised she wasn’t going to be able to fit the whole of the second line of verse in on the right hand sampler?

I stuck with the yarn theme while I was in the house by carrying on with my crocheted blanket which has been stuck at a lap blanket size for some time.  I think there are now enough new squares for a couple more rows to be added.

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Highlights of the week :

  • A visit to Ledbury and some shopping in Tinsmiths and Hus & Hem (described as a Smörgåsbord of Scandinavian design).  I was able to make a start on my Christmas shopping pledge to stick with buying from independent shops.  I did buy some fabric, more on that another time.
  • A trip on the GWR steam railway (W’s choice)
  • A visit to the Gordon Russell Design Museum in Broadway.  For anyone with an interest in furniture design this is a must and as it was a quiet morning I had a personal tour from one of the volunteers.  Broadway itself has to be one of the most immaculate villages in the country.  Even the fruit and veg display at the deli was perfect!
  • More shopping in Ludlow including a lovely shop called Black Bough and a great lunch at The Green Café.
  • Ludlow Castle in glorious September sunshine.
  • The Ludlow Period House Shop.  The complete opposite of Broadway – this was the most chaotic shop I have ever seen full of all manner of items for anyone restoring a period house.  It was absolutely fascinating.  We were very tempted by the Irish made grandfather and night shirts.

One thing I did reflect on while I was away was my dependence on my mobile phone and internet access.  There is no WiFi in Landmark properties – they don’t even have televisions – and 3/4G was intermittent.  I was concerned to realise just how grumpy I felt at not being able to access IG, Twitter, iPlayer Radio etc. when I wanted to.  There was one advantage – I had decided to limit my viewing of work emails while I was away and in the end I had no choice a lot of the time.

I’m not sure what the answer is because phones and tablets are now so omnipresent it is hard to remember or imagine life without them.  Hila at Saturday Night Stitch is currently without a mobile and this is her very interesting blog post on the subject.  I’m sure lots of you have a view on this subject!

My Sewing Space

We were busy at the weekend and the result of this was no sewing time.   I did manage to make another zipped purse on Monday night as a present for my sister because I can’t stay away from the sewing machine for too long.

I think this might be my favourite one so far,  but it is in the post so too late to keep it for myself.   Now the lined and zipped purse is on my list of achievements I’m thinking of making a large one for carrying round my new notebook/tablet on which I write this blog. I will incorporate some wadding for added protection.

Last night after sustaining a kitchen related injury which I blamed entirely on W at the time – although it wasn’t really all his fault – I decided to flounce upstairs and launch into a tidying-up operation in my sewing room!

I know I am really lucky to have my own room in which to create.  The room used to belong to one of W’s girls but now they are grown up they no longer need their own rooms at our house and so I claimed this one for myself.  It is fairly small but I also have the big table in the conservatory to use for cutting out, subject to the limitations previous referred to (extreme temperatures, bright sunlight in the middle of the day and piles of dead and toasted insects during the summer).  I also have a pile of Selvedge magazines in another room.  I’m beginning to understand why W thinks sewing is taking over the house!

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I am quite an organised person but sewing and craft stuff can very quickly get out of hand and I am inclined to keep all sorts of bits and pieces, including tiny scraps of fabric, just in case they might come in handy.  Yesterday evening anything that really wasn’t ever going to prove useful in the future was cleared away and I emerged with three large bagfuls of rubbish.  Everything is now where it should be and easy to find.  The very tidy pile of fabric on the shelf consists solely of large recently purchased and pristine pieces of fabric which have not yet been turned into garments.  There is a LOT more hidden away in baskets under the table and elsewhere.  The table is from IKEA and is just a top supported by two trestles which are great for providing extra storage.  It doesn’t usually look this clear on top!

Also under the table is a large basket containing knitting and crochet needles and a half-finished cardigan which I am fairly sure I don’t have enough yarn to complete (this was started YEARS ago and the yarn is no longer available).

The weather was quite gloomy first thing this morning so the pictures aren’t great but they give the general idea.

When it comes to yarn-related activities, I love crocheting squares and I have knitted quite a few bags in the past.  This strawberry one was my own design and when I look at it now I have absolutely no idea how I managed to do it!   However, larger knitting projects are really beyond my abilities and having adapted one of the cardigan sleeves to make it shorter I now have no recollection of what I did to it to enable me to repeat the process on the second sleeve.  I did spend some time last night untangling everything so perhaps I’ll have another look at it on a quiet evening.

Doris insisted on wearing her favourite skirt for her photo (have I mentioned my tendency to anthropomorphise?).  My Janome sewing machine is a relatively recent addition which I’m really pleased with and the storage baskets, tins and boxes have been accumulated over the years and are great for keeping things organised – and I’m determined to keep it this way.

I’ve still not finished the hem on the starfish skirt, although the lining is hemmed.  I’m having trouble getting it straight and turning it up the same amount all the way round leaves it dipping at the front.  W has agreed to help pin it up.  If that doesn’t work I’ll take it round to my mum at the weekend and stand on the coffee table!