The Great British Sewing Bee Live

I think I’m probably the only person who went to the Great British Sewing Bee Live, only took one photograph and didn’t buy a thing!  There was a good reason for this.  My lovely friend and co-sewing group organiser,  The Draper’s Daughter, had a stand at the show and I offered to be her assistant on the Friday.

Here’s Karen making sure everything is displayed perfectly.  She’s wearing a fabulous Camber/Inari dress hack she made up in one of her fabrics – which also features on the top shelf of the photo.

Karen had been on her own for the first day of the event which had been incredibly busy and she’d only manage to visit the loo thanks to the kindness of someone on another stand who also took her a cup of tea!  Friday was busy but not nearly as overwhelming.  The stand looked amazing.  The Merchant & Mills Top 64 pattern seemed to be the bestseller and I’m not surprised.  It’s a great pattern which I wrote about here and Karen had sewn a dress version for the sample rail which I’m definitely going to copy.

Talking of the sample rail … I offered to make up a pattern and went with the Merchant & Mills Trapeze Dress.  I love M & M patterns for their simplicity and style.  The Trapeze sewed up very quickly despite my decision to bind all the hems for extra neatness given that the whole world would be looking at it!  There are no darts or fastenings which makes life very easy.  The dress has three sleeve variations – sleeveless, short and long.  I went for the short sleeves.

I really like how the dress turned out but I’m not sure it’s ideal for someone as short as me (5′)!  The size 8 fitted perfectly at the top but I looked a bit overwhelmed in it.  I’ve seen some great versions out there and particularly like the short sleeve version styled with a long sleeve white shirt underneath.  Check out @sewingblue on IG for a good example.  If only I was a little bit taller!

I was planning to write a more detailed post about the Trapeze for Karen’s website but I’m not sure she’ll be too impressed by my lack of progress photographs.  I always forget to take them!

On the day I wore my new Cleo dress made up in one of Karen’s fabrics so I could be a good ambassador.  I’ll be writing about this one in a separate post dedicated to my new love of the dungaree dress.

Sadly I did NOT see Patrick in the flesh but I did spot Esme who was looking very stylish.  I caught up with lots of sewing friends – and met some IG friends IRL.  We also met sewing royalty in the form of Liesl Gibson of Liesl & Co and Oliver + S who visited the stand.

I really enjoyed spending the day with Karen but four days on the trot must have been so exhausting!  I see that the dates for 2018 have now been released, three days, 8 – 10 June.  Let’s hope that the huge crowds this year have shown the BBC that there’s a real passion for sewing in the UK and the Great British Sewing Bee will be back on our screens next year.

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Desert Island Patterns #4

A change from garments this time round for my desert island sewing.  Back in 2015 the lovely Zoe from So Zo, …. What do you know? put a call out for pattern testers for her new bag pattern, the Anya.  I’ve always liked making bags and thought this would be a challenge I could manage – I’m not sure I’d have the nerve to test a garment pattern!

This was my test version …..

I’d had the fabric for ages and was never sure what to do with it  but I think it worked well for a bag.  I have a confession to make.  Before I made this bag I’d never sewn a buttonhole on my machine!  It was a lot easier than I’d imagined.  I never wear shirts/shirtdresses because I don’t like collars (another of my odd garment phobias!) so my buttonhole making has pretty much been limited to bag making – and a pair of children’s dungarees from a vintage pattern.

The Anya is an excellent pattern – it’s quick to make but covers a number of techniques in addition to the buttonhole including pleats, inserting a lining and top stitching.  Perfect for a beginner.   It’s a great way of using up leftover fabric and makes a really nice gift.  If I’m stranded on a desert island for an extended period I’ll be able to come back with a stock of ready made presents!  It’s also pretty spacious and one of these days I’ll add an internal pocket to make it easier to locate small things like keys.

Talking of gifts – next up are Anya bags I’ve made as gifts with a close up of a nice neat buttonhole.

And finally two more made for me.

The first one is made from a Lucienne Day design fabric, Calyx.  This was originally designed for John Lewis in the 1950s but was reprinted a few years ago and I was given several pieces by my sister. I have enough to make a dress too.   The bag was made for a tea party at The Pallant House Gallery in Chichester in January, held to launch a series of events to mark what would have been Lucienne’s 100th birthday this year.  The other bag is made in a beautiful mustard/gold denim from The Fabric Godmother with a vintage fabric lining.  I have a new piece of this to make a skirt for the winter.

I don’t mention the festive season by name at this time of year but if you do sew gifts this pattern is definitely worth considering!

 

Desert Island Patterns #3

Although I wear jeans (usually from a charity shop) at the weekend and at home I don’t make trousers and never wear them to work.   Not only am I short but I have VERY short legs and I think I look more in proportion when I wear skirts and dresses.

I have a number of favourite skirt patterns but my most used is probably the Annie A-Line Skirt pattern from Sew This Pattern and is #3 in my Desert Island Patterns list.  I don’t really have the patience for complicated pdfs but this one is very quick to assemble and has the added bonus of being FREE!  Thank you Annie.

The instructions are excellent with lots of clear photographs and this would be the perfect pattern for a beginner.   One of my main reasons for liking it – and using it so much – is that it’s a great vehicle for a bold fabric!  I also really like the bias bound finish on the waistband facing which gives a lovely neat edge.  Unless a waistband is wide I find skirts with facings far more comfortable if I’m sitting at my desk all day.

I’m not sure there’s much more I can say about this pattern as it’s such a simple one but it’s well worth a try if you’re looking for a straightforward and very useful A-Line Skirt pattern which doesn’t use much fabric.  It doesn’t require much sewing time either so it’s a great opportunity to focus on a neat finish.

Annie has some other lovely patterns to try.   The Daphne Day Dress would make a nice party frock.  I wasn’t keen on the open back version but she has now added a pattern extension to fill in the gap.

Here’s a selection of the A-line skirt versions I’ve made so far.  I usually add a lining, although the stripe is the reverse of a denim from Cloth Kits.  The yellow and blue floral was a length of African print fabric I bought from Tinsmiths.  These are worth looking at as they work out at around £5 a metre.  I shared mine with two other people as I really didn’t need 5 metres!  The rest of the fabrics are curtain remnants from C & H Fabrics.

I currently have one more Annie lined up to make with some fine needlecord but there will definitely be more.  It was going to have a yellow cotton lining but as it’s now going to be worn in the cooler weather I will line it with something more slippery so it doesn’t catch on my tights.  Talking of tights … I succumbed to wearing them yesterday and I’ll be heading over to Gypsy Tights soon to order a new supply.  This is not a sponsored post – I just think they have a great selection!  I’m very tempted by some of the colours – especially Fig, Cyclamen and Gunmetal.  I also want the Warm Mustard ones but last time I bought Mustard tights I felt they made my legs look a bit like they were recovering from a bad bruise!

Stay tuned for further Desert Island Patterns!

 

Desert Island Patterns #2

My Desert Island Patterns theme seems to have gone down quite well.  A couple of people have already asked if it is OK to use the idea on their own blog/vlog so I’m very flattered.

Next up for my Desert Island sewing is the Jennifer Lauren Handmade Gable Top.  Until yesterday morning I hadn’t realised quite why this pattern appealed to me so much when I first saw it.   I was scrolling through Instagram and saw @judy.wiseman’s post about the new postage stamps featuring classic toys.  There was my Sindy doll wearing a Gable Top – the neckline is identical!

My Sindy was the brunette version, although I don’t remember her hair being quite so big and bouffant!  I’m sure I dealt with that quite quickly to bring it under control. I think I was fairly brutal with dolls’ hair.

Poor Sindy looks rather uncomfortable in this box with cardboard round her neck.  In fact mine had a serious neck/head-related incident, i.e. her head came off.  This may or may not have been my fault but I was bought a replacement exactly the same as the first.  Maybe she’s still up in the loft at my mother’s house along with some of the clothes she made for her.  If the loft ladder wasn’t so precarious I might venture up there for a look.

Back to the Gable Top.  I’ve already posted about my two versions so far here and here as well as my dislike of low cut necklines.  This is an excellent pattern which I can definitely recommend.  It comes together really quickly and the neckline can be altered to your preferred height and then stitched down.  There is no binding or neckband required which makes life very easy.  It is also a very flattering shape.

Sadly my first version had a disagreement with the iron and is due to be turned into a short sleeve version to eliminate the hole!  The other one is probably my most worn top this year.  It has been through the wash numerous times and still looks as good as new.  I particularly like wearing it with my denim Cleo.

 

The graphic fabric is a fabulous quality eco jersey from Ditto.  I’d love to use it again for a Gable Top to go with the new Cleo I’m making in a very dramatic black and white fabric to wear to the GBSB Live.  At the moment the jersey only seems to be available in blue or orange.  I’m not sure I’m an orange person.  In fact I’m pretty sure I’m not so I’m on the look out for an alternative.  A black version would be the most practical as I know I’d get a lot of wear out of it through the winter.

I also have two other fabrics lined up for the Gable – a neutral organic jersey and a mid-blue jersey as listed in a previous post following my recent fabric stocktake.

As there are several versions of the Gable I think it will be suitable for whatever the weather is like on the Desert Island I’m washed up on.  I’m hoping for tropical but knowing my luck it will be windswept, wet and chilly.  I just hope I don’t get marooned there before I get a chance to wear my new Cleo (and Gable) at the GBSB Live!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Desert Island Patterns

I can’t remember how old I was when my parents decided that television viewing was not a suitable activity for young children and the TV disappeared from the house. I must have been at infants school but I had already had the exciting experience of seeing my letter to Junior Points of View displayed and read out on the programme! I had put in a special request to “Make Sooty Longer”. This was in the days before special effects so the BBC’s response was to stretch out a drawing of Sooty which clearly wasn’t what I was after.  I do remember being quite pleased at the time mind you!  How I wish I could find this clip in the BBC archive!

The upshot of the disappearance of the TV was that my sister and I just spent more time at our friends’ houses than at home so that we didn’t miss all the important stuff … Blue Peter, Bewitched, Top of The Pops, Alias Smith & Jones etc.  I got fed up of being asked at school “did you see?” and having to reply “we don’t have television”. Thankfully the grown ups finally relented when I was about 14 and a TV graced the corner of the living room once again.

You may wonder where this is going. Well, the lack of television meant that we listened to the radio and my childhood was filled with The Archers, Down Your Way, Gardeners’ Question Time, Letter from America and – most importantly for the purposes of this post – Desert Island Discs.  I’ve remained a fan of the radio and still listen to some of these programmes.

Desert Island Discs always sets me thinking what music I would choose but that usually ends up making me emotional because the choices often remind me of my dad.  Even the theme music to the programme can bring tears to my eyes!

So, I thought I’d change the theme and go for Desert Island Patterns!  If I was marooned on a desert island what patterns would I pick that I would be happy to stick with for what might be a very long time?  Obviously I would need to have been washed up with a sewing machine and fabric but I’m happy to go with some artistic licence here.

When I mentioned this idea to Mr Jane-Makes he thought eight patterns was probably too many for an on-going blog series so I’ll see how I go.  He likes to think of himself as my editor.

Let’s start with #1 today, although the choices will be in no particular order.

This has to be the Esme Dress pattern which is included in the excellent and inspiring book by Lotta Jansdotter.

I received this book as a gift from my sister and although the Esme is the only pattern I’ve used so far I do enjoy flicking through it and I’m sure I’ll try some of the other patterns eventually.  To be absolutely honest I did try the Pilvi Jacket but I somehow traced the pattern off incorrectly and the toile ended up in the bin!  I will have another go.

I’ve made several versions of the dress and I’ve had so many compliments on the bright green one. I could probably live in the denim version.  The Esme is so comfortable and dresses make getting ready in the morning so much easier.

There isn’t a sleeveless version of the dress in the book but I’ve made two striped versions sans sleeves which were perfect in the June heatwave.  I just edged the armhole with bias binding.  There’s no zip or other fastenings to worry about and it’s a great pattern to show off a dramatic print. There’s a bust dart and a neck facing and that’s it.  The pattern comes with patch pockets and I’ve also added in-seam pockets as an alternative.

It works particularly well with the curtain remnants I like to pick up and my good friend @vintage_charity is gifting me a piece of this charity shop find which will be perfect.

There’s also a top version of the pattern. I’ve made one so far and have more planned, including a sleeveless one.

Three of these dresses were made last year and are currently in the alterations pile because they are now too big.  They may end up being refashioned into something else – or the charity shop may benefit.  Either way, they will be replaced by more Esmes and this pattern will definitely be in the lifeboat!

Going back to televisions for a moment … my grandparents were also television-free but succumbed to the small screen in their later years and were completely converted.  I couldn’t believe that my discerning grandfather could be found watching soap operas!  My mother is also a big fan of the TV these days and is currently working her way through Netflix!

Don’t forget it’s the next meeting of the Chi Stitch – the Chichester sewing group run by The Draper’s Daughter and me – this Wednesday, 9 August.  We’ll be at St George’s Church in Cleveland Road from 7.00 – 9.00 pm.  I’ll be baking tomorrow night and there might be Nutella involved!  I haven’t decided what I’ll be sewing but I might be finishing off yet another (curtain fabric) Esme which I started last night.  If not, I have another non-garment related sewing project in my head which I might make a start on.

 

How many mistakes …..

….. can one person make sewing one simple garment?  Quite a few apparently!

I decided my next project on the sewing plan would be a Cleo dress.  I know everyone else has already made this pattern but I don’t like to rush into things!

I was given this pattern for my birthday by one of Mr J-M’s lovely daughters so that side-stepped my current new pattern embargo. I’m a big fan of aprons and a dungaree dress is therefore right up my street.

My original plan in the fabric/pattern stocktake was to pair it with the grey denim shown above from Ditto but I was slightly concerned the fabric was a bit too heavyweight.  I wanted to check how much sewing through several layers the pattern would be required so I picked a lighter weight, looser weave blue denim for my first attempt.    I bought this denim from The Fabric Godmother on her recent open day.

I was unsure about sizing for this dress as I didn’t want it to be too baggy.  I made a quick toile in Size 2 but realised it would be a bit of a wiggle to get this over my btm.  My very sensible friend @vintage_charity then pointed out that it would go over my head so I stuck with the Size 2.

This fabric frayed, A LOT!  I finished all the cut edges before I did anything else. I used a small piece of some fabric kindly gifted to me by Sheila from Sewchet  for the facing.  So far so good.

This really is a simple and straightforward pattern and the instructions are excellent.  I wasn’t sure about the top-stitching – I thought about red but in the end went for grey to be on the safe side.  I didn’t have any top-stitching thread and had read somewhere about using the triple stitch to achieve a similar effect.  I may never do this again because it is a nightmare to unpick (see below)!  I did vary slightly from the pattern with the top-stitching on the front and back centre seams because I preferred it to be symmetrical on each side of the seam.

I decided to go for the pocket on the bib and two hip pockets on the back.  I sewed the front pocket on perfectly.  For some reason I sewed the first of the back pockets the wrong distance from the edge.  Mistake One.   This is where I discovered that unpicking triple stitch is a pain and during the process I made a hole in the fabric.  Mistake Two.  Thankfully this is hidden by the pocket and I did a repair on the inside to stop it fraying.

I chickened out a bit when sewing the side seams together and went for a smaller seam allowance to allow for wriggle room and the dress does go on over my rear.

This is where things started to go REALLY badly.  I should NOT have decided to attach the straps and facing at 10.00 pm when I was way too tired to do anything sensible.  I pinned the straps on, pinned the facing on and sewed it.  I then trimmed the seam.  At this point I discovered that I’d put the facing on the wrong side of the dress. Mistake Four.  I unpicked it and sewed it back on the right way following the original stitch line.  Here comes Mistake Five ….. I’d put the b****y straps on the wrong side of the back piece!  How did I manage that??  At this point I went to bed.  NB : one thing that did go well was that the straps turned through beautifully without any difficulty!

6.00 am the next morning and I unpicked the back of the facing, re-attached the straps and finally all was well.  Apart from a bit more unpicking of some of the final top-stitching.  I’m not counting that as another mistake.  Five is more than enough.  The inside of the dress is a tiny bit of a mess in places but most of it is hidden under the facing.

I thought the metal fixings would be difficult to install but the buttons went in really easily just by pushing them together.  It is quite difficult to unclip the buckles once they are fastened but I think they will loosen up with use.

The only alteration I made (apart from the reduced seam allowances on the side seams) was to add an inch to the length of the mini version as it is quite short – and I’m only 5′!

I wasn’t planning to wear this dress for work but I changed my mind at the last minute.  It’s really comfortable and went very well with my steel toe cap boots on site!  I’m planning to get my sister to take some photos at the weekend.  Here’s the result of the 30 second photo shoot with Mr Jane Makes when I got home from work – rather gloomy (him and the lighting)!

I’ve got two more sets of the buckles on their way to me from Tilly.  I think the grey denim will be find as apart from top stitching the pockets there is no heavy duty sewing required.  I’m tempted by a striped version too.