Chi Stitch September

Apparently after our last meeting the vicar was on his hands and knees picking up pins so we were very careful to make sure we left no traces of ourselves after the September meeting of Chi Stitch!

There were fifteen of us last night and once again the hall was a hive of activity!  The buzz of conversation really is uplifting – I felt I wanted to record it!  I’m always amazed at how much gets done in spite of all the chatting and tea drinking and how organised some people are in preparing for the evening.

My preparation mostly consists of folding up the fabric neatly in the swap basket and checking through the swap patterns in case I missed something I might like left over from last time!  As a result I acquired this jersey skirt pattern.  It will probably be stored away until next summer but I love the striped version.

I added some fabric to the basket from my stash.  I really love it when other people decide it is just what they want and it heads off to a good home.

I also bake!  I forgot to take a picture of this month’s cake selection.  There were chocolate and pecan flapjacks, carrot muffins and salted caramel cookies.  We also provide a takeaway cake service!

Onto the sewing.  Here’s some photographs from the evening.

The swap baskets had ended up on the floor because we’d used up all the tables!  That embroidery was exquisite and I’ve acquired some of that striped fabric from @vintage_charity for another Cleo.  We just need to make sure we don’t wear our dresses at the same time!  She also gave me some jersey fabric for making t-shirts for Baby J and a piece of vintage curtain fabric which I shall use for a dress.  I think I came away with more than I’d donated!

I’d decided not to take my sewing machine this time and spent the evening pinning a pattern.   I’m helping Karen out on her stand at the GBSB Live on Thursday next week and I’ve volunteered to sew up one of her samples.  No pressure!  I’m making the Trapeze Dress in a Robert Kaufman Essex Linen.  I’m going for the short sleeves and I think it’s going to be lovely.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been making a special Cleo for the event and she’s now finished apart from securing the straps.  I just want to try it on once more to make sure I’ve got them at the right length.  I’ll be writing a separate post on this dress but here’s a picture in advance.

The next meeting of Chi Stitch will be on Wednesday 11 October at St George’s Church Hall, Cleveland Road, Chichester.

We’ll also be running a one day print workshop with Miesje Chafer on 28 October at the same venue.  Check out Miesje’s website here to see her work.  The day will give you a chance to design and print your own two-colour repeat design which I’m very excited about!

Places are limited to eight so if you are interested leave a comment below or DM me on IG – @janemakes – for more details.

A Fond Farewell

This is my first blog post of 2017 and has nothing to do with sewing.  I lost my darling daddy on 19th January.  Readers of this blog will know that he had to go into a nursing home last year after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.  I say ‘battle’ but that sounds dramatic and it never was.  He never made a fuss and with some support he coped incredibly well for many years.  He kept his sense of humour all the way through and, thankfully, was still able to recognise us right up until the last few days of his life.

I am missing him so much and  just wanted to take this opportunity to write down some of my special memories of him, so I hope you will bear with me!

He was an only child who grew up in Wimbledon but at the start of the Second World War, at the age of nine, he was evacuated for almost its entire duration.  I think this made him very self-reliant.  When he told us tales of his National Service in the RAF at the age of 18 he always expressed amazement that some of the other lads used to cry for their mums at night!

Here he is in his younger days.  He was a handsome chap, no wonder my mum fell for him.

One of the most impressive things about him was his ability to make or fix just about anything.  When we were very young he built an extension on our house pretty much single-handedly and his DIY skills were second to none.  In their current home he built the kitchen and all the wardrobes from scratch.  He also had a life-long interest in model engineering and spent many hours in his workshop building model boats which were then sailed on the ponds at Wimbledon Common.  My sister and I always had our hearts in our mouths as the boats set out across the water in case they sank (which they sometimes did!).

We never had someone in to mend things – he just rolled up his sleeves and fixed it.  A friend of mine always remembers us breaking down in her old Mini when we were about 18.  We rang my dad and he appeared in his overalls and got us back on the road.

I always say that I spent the first 20 or so years of my life thinking that all blokes could do this stuff and was rather disappointed to discover that they couldn’t!

He was probably the most even tempered person I’ve ever known.  My sister have obviously been talking about him a lot recently and agreeing that he almost never told us off.  The only time you needed to watch it was if you noticed his jaw clenching when he was driving – probably because we were mucking around in the back of the car!  We spent many childhood holidays in Swanage and he used to get home from work on a Friday, load up the back of the Morris 1000 Traveller and off we’d go.  The loading up of the car included my sister and I being settled in the back to sleep on the way down there.  On my sister’s third birthday there was also a tricycle hidden under a blanket next to us and unbelievably we didn’t even notice it!

He was brilliant at reading stories to us and while we were looking through photographs recently I found this one.  I think I was about three at the time and I’m fairly sure that is a Mabel Lucie Atwell book that belonged to my mother.

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As we got older we joined a book club and one of the many books he read out loud was The Borrowers.   I was obsessed with Arrietty and he started writing me tiny little letters in miniature envelopes which I would find by the fireplace in the morning and honestly believed were from her.  How I wish I still had those treasures.  I always imagine that one day I’ll be clearing out a box at my parents’ house and one of them will appear.

His calm nature came into its own when we were teenagers when he could always be relied upon to turn out at all hours of the night to pick us up from parties, sometimes in remote locations.  He never batted an eyelid as groups of our friends staggered out to get a lift home and I remember one occasion when one of the boys was sick out of the car window and my dad just carried on driving.  He always remembered collecting me from a party that had turned out to be in a field and he suddenly spotted a group of us emerging through a hole in the hedge!

Obviously he wasn’t perfect – he was a master of the tactless comment when you were just about to go out for the evening thinking you looked great.  I wore fuschia coloured tights to his funeral as a reminder of the time I went downstairs in some maroon tights and he remarked “did you know all the blood has rushed to your legs?”.  He made dreadful puns at the drop of a hat and continued to make these right up to the end of his life – some of them were so obscure that you wondered how his dear old brain came up with them when he could barely do anything else.  He also remembered all the poems and songs he’d learned as a child and we sat and recited and sang them with him all the time.  And he was still always smiling.

I think we did him proud when we said a final farewell to him last Thursday.  We read poems, sang and one of Mr Jane Makes’ lovely daughters played “Moon River” on the flute, one of his favourite tunes.  My mother was an absolute star and read her poem without faltering (unlike me and my sister) and Mr Jane Makes read the eulogy so beautifully.   We finished with these words of comfort from Winnie-the-Pooh.

If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. I’ll always be with you.

I now need to get on with my sewing, he wouldn’t have wanted me to sit around idle.

 

Time for a Maritime

I sew lots of skirts and dresses but as the cold weather set in  I realised how short of tops I am. During the winter I tend to wear jersey tops, cardigans and the occasional warm jumper (sadly not hand knitted!).

Some while ago I bought the Liesel + Co Maritime top from The Eternal Maker and two pieces of jersey.  They joined the ever increasing pile in the sewing room, possibly to await the unlikely day when I decide that using my overlocker would be a positive experience!  More recently I spotted a remnant of striped cotton jersey in C & H Fabrics which I think was £4.  It’s a lovely quality and really soft and smooth.  It also washed beautifully and there was no battle to get it back into shape afterwards.

The perfect fabric for a Maritime top.

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Based on the measurements on the pack I went for the size 2 which turned out to be the right choice.  The top has three-quarter length sleeves, which is always my preference, and side vents.  It also has a faced neckline which I’ve never done on a jersey top before.  I was slightly dubious but it gives a really neat finish.  The neckline is finished with topstitching but for a smarter top I might try just securing it at the shoulder seams.

I had some iron-on jersey interfacing I bought ages ago to use for the Grainline Morris Blazer (still waiting to be made – I’m using the excuse that I’ve never found exactly the right fabric).  I thought it would be tricky to use because it is very floppy but it ironed on beautifully.  I’m reserving judgement until the first time the top goes through the wash but at the moment I’m very happy with its performance!

This is a very quick top to make (all sewn on my regular machine) and the pattern goes together really well.  I did make a slight muck up sewing the side seams/sleeves at the underarm point but how many people inspect your underarms during the course of the day?  Hopefully not too many.

I particularly liked the sleeves because they are cut exactly the same so there’s no wondering which one is which (something I often get in a muddle with regardless of notches) and I liked the way the vents are finished.  You machine baste the vent closed while you sew round it and then remove the basting stitches.  It gives a really neat and even finish.

Although my fabric was pretty stable I also used a strip of the jersey interfacing on the sleeve and shirt hems – for another really neat finish.  I was rushing to finish the top to wear it to work and couldn’t be bothered to break out the twin needle so just hemmed everything with a straight stitch.  The vents mean that the shirt hem doesn’t really need to stretch and the sleeve hems are quite loose on me so again don’t need to stretch.

I LOVE this top!  I wore it to work two days running which is not something I do very often.  When I’ve got my #stitchingsanta sewing finished, I’ll be making another one (or two).

On the jersey front, I’ve also made the Toaster Sweater by Sew House Seven.  I’d spotted several versions on IG and then linked up with @sewing_in_spain and @doobis71 for a Toaster sewing challenge!  Stupidly I hadn’t realised there were two versions so only bought #1.  I really like #2 so may buy that one as well, although I would have saved myself some money if I’d paid more attention to what I was doing.  @doobis71 and I both made #1 and @sewing_in_spain #2.  Check out their versions on IG.

This is another great pattern which is really quick to sew.  I used some jersey from Ditto which is a lovely blue.  I decided to cut the medium which was a mistake as it is a bit too spacious so I’ll size down next time.  I will also reduce the length of the sleeves.  It has a nice cuff feature but I have to fold them back on mine.  It’s essential with #1 to use a jersey that can hold its shape otherwise the funnel neck won’t stand up.  Mine is just about OK but having had success with the jersey interfacing I may well try using some in the neck of the next Toaster.  It’s certainly a cosy sweater and would be lovely in a fleece type fabric.  The pattern recommends fabric with a 20% stretch but I know there are people out there throwing caution to the wind and ignoring this!

It was a perfect top for a recent weekend in Lyme Regis.

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You can see how long the sleeves are in this photo.  I need Twizzle’s arms!

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A Delphine Skirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a good weekend.

An Odd Looking Vegetable

A recent arrival in the Veg Out veg bag was this enormous celeriac. I’ve never bought or cooked celeriac before, having always been put off by its appearance and the fact that I’m not that keen on the taste of celery which it obviously resembles.

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However, I am committed to using every vegetable that arrives in the house regardless of its level of attractiveness. My research indicated that soup would be a good option but then I found this recipe for roasted celeriac by Sophie Grigson. There was a bottle of Marsala lurking at the back of a cupboard so I decided to put it to good use.

The finished dish smelled amazing but as I was still keen to make soup I blended everything from the dish with some almond milk (I have a serious aversion to cow’s milk which is a hangover from being forced to drink school milk too long out of the fridge) and black pepper. The soup was served with a swirl of crème fraiche and roasted garlic and was smooth, creamy and really delicious.

Another kitchen success was the result of using up the remains of the cavolo nero pesto from a previous post which I topped with sliced goat’s cheese and encased in some ready-made puff pastry for a speedy lunch.

I now have a beautiful cabbage to do justice to and, having read Henry Dimbleby’s article in the Cook section of last Sunday’s Guardian, I think I will take his advice and try roasting it tonight.

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I’ll let you know how it turns out.