Autumn Plans

I’ve been rather absent from the world of blogging recently!  Regular readers will know that my summer was rather taken up with supervising Mr Jane Makes’ post heart attack diet and this will be the final update.

  • Total weight loss : 23 kgs (3 stone 6lbs)
  • Total inches off waist : 17.78 cms (7 inches)

I’m pretty stunned (and pleased) that he’s achieved this with only one transgression when he was left unsupervised at a party for a short while and was faced with what I can only describe as a wall of tiny, delicious cakes!  I took one as I ran out of the door to fulfill my daughterly duties and to be honest if I’d stayed longer I’m quite sure I would have stuffed my face!

When I posted this before and after image on IG as part of this year’s #sewphotohop (entitled Wow!) I think I got more likes than I’ve ever had before!

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The before is him looking pretty fed up in hospital faced with a very uninspiring salad.  The after is him in his Lycra about to take his new bike over the Trundle at Goodwood.  He’s still not looking very cheerful but I can assure you that he does smile!  He’s lost even more weight since the after photo was taken.  We’re now working on an entirely new wardrobe and a huge pile of clothes went off to the charity shop the other day.

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Talking of entirely new wardrobes …. I’m working on mine too.  A by-product of the diet has been some unintended weight loss for me which I’m actually really pleased about, except that pretty much everything I’ve ever made for myself no longer fits!  I’ve done one or two alterations but am taking the opportunity to start again.

I have a number of favourite patterns which I know work for me and I enjoy wearing so my starting point is to re-trace and re-make them using fabric already in my stash.  My inital plan was not to buy any more fabric until I’d made heavy inroads into what I already have but I met up with vintagerockchick yesterday and we visited Chichester’s finest fabric emporiums!  More on that in another post.

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First out of the packet was the Esme Dress from Lotte Jansdotter’s book, Everyday Style.  I’ve previously made two versions which I’ve worn regularly but are now too big.  I’ve altered the blue and white one since this photo was taken but I’m not 100% happy with it.

I traced off a smaller size and made a quick toile from an old bedsheet (my new source of toile fabric having had a clear out of the airing cupboard) to make sure I could get in and out of it (it has no fastenings) and made it up from some cheap and cheerful denim-type fabric from Fabworks.  I washed the fabric before I started but it still turned my fingers blue while I was sewing and the first wash of the finished dress has resulted in some fading.  I’m not too fussed about this – better that than me turning everything I sit on blue – but there was a bit of shrinkage too, although it seemed to stretch out after wearing it for a while!  I love this dress.  It’s so quick to make and this time I added the patch pockets which I really like.  I incorporated in-seam pockets on the original pink version which isn’t part of the pattern but also worked well.

Here’s the finished dress, photography credit to Mr Jane Makes.  Very comfortable to wear, especially when sitting all day at work.

I’m wearing it with a striped top underneath because and my frog brooch which I bought years ago from Accessorize and only recently rediscovered in a drawer!  Also appearing is Erika, the 1960 East German typewriter we found in Oxfam recently.  She’s in great condition and has a new ribbon from Ebay.  She is currently being used to leave each other messages – much more fun than texting.  Just have to remember that she has a German keyboard so the Y and the Z are the opposite way round!

Next up were a new Annie A-Line Skirt, a great little free pattern from Sew this Pattern, and View D of McCall’s 3830 which I’ve made numerous times before.

McCalls 3830

I used another denim for the A-line skirt, this time from Clothkits.  It’s a reversible Railroad Denim which has some stretch in it.  I’m not sure what came over me as it was quite expensive but I got the skirt out of a metre so I can live with it, especially as the fabric is so lovely.  The pattern is straightforward and I really like the bias binding finish on the facing.

I used a heavyweight wool, I guess it’s a boiled wool, from Ditto for the McCall’s pattern.  It’s been on the shelf since last winter.  The jury is still out because I used the same fabric for the waist facing and the result is possibly too chunky.  I’m going to try wearing it and see, I can’t really face unpicking it all now!  It has a lovely shiny red lining and will be very cosy with thick tights when the weather gets cold.  There are one or two previous versions of this skirt that I’m going to refashion to fit me, including this one because I only got around to wearing it a couple of times and this was a special piece of vintage fabric that I’m particularly fond of.

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The best bit about making the wool skirt was discovering a new (to me) way to finish the back seam after inserting an invisible zip.  I’ve always sewn from the bottom of the zip down to the hem but often end up with a bit of a bump at the base of the zip which drives me bonkers, often leading to an unpicking and re-sewing session which usually makes things worse.  I remembered reading somewhere about sewing from the hem up and, hey presto, it worked brilliantly.  I will always do this from now on.

Given the weight of this fabric I think the zip went in pretty well, although I’ve just realised I took this photo of it before I pressed the skirt.

Now lined up for re-tracing and re-making are the following.  The Simplicity skirt will be without the frill on the pockets of course as I’m definitely not a frilly person and I make the top from the Cynthia Rowley pattern rather than the slightly odd shorts!  I’m always put off by the strange illustrations on Hot Patterns but the three-quarter length sleeve top is a good shape.

These will be followed by a first attempt at the new Kitty Dress by Maven Patterns.  There will definitely be a bedsheet toile of this one!

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Very glad to be blogging again!

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.

Self-drafted top and today’s lunchbox

I love this top!  So much so that I have worn it two days running.  After a previous post when I reported that it wasn’t quite right I decided to bite the bullet and take the shoulder seams in by just over an inch.  This definitely did the trick.   I wouldn’t want to show the interior workings as I had to be a bit creative when finishing it off after the alterations but no-one will see that.

The pattern was self-drafted and based on an existing top that I’ve had for years and a couple of patterns I already had but with necklines I didn’t like or shoulder that were too narrow.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing (hence the very basic brown paper pattern pieces) and I really think I should enrol on this Craftsy course to learn how to make a bodice sloper so that I can perfect my technique.  I have to confess that reading Hila’s Saturday Night Stitch post about the skirt sloper course was the first time I’d ever heard the term ‘sloper’.

My main criteria for clothing is that is comfortable and I hardly know I am wearing this top.  It goes perfectly with a cardigan (I am a big cardigan fan) and the only thing wrong with it is that it make my eyes go a bit funny if I look down at the stripes  So the answer is – don’t look down!  This striped jersey fabric from Clothkits is really lovely.  Comfortable, really easy to work with and with enough body to give the top structure.  It is not the cheapest but as I could probably make this top from 70cms I think I can live with that.  I’m tempted by the red and grey stripe but in the meantime I’ve nearly finished a plain version in the black cotton interlock from Tissu Fabrics.  It doesn’t hang as well but it is very reasonably priced.  I wished I’d noticed that they do a jet black version which I think I would have preferred.  I nearly forgot to mention that I used a twin needle for the first time to finish the hem.  It was brilliant and the space between the needles was exactly the width of a stripe so I was just about able to conceal the navy stitching on a navy stripe.

On to today’s packed lunch.  Anyone who knows us will be aware that W is pretty keen on his food and his daily lunch box is very important!  Last night I realised the fridge was looking a bit bare so I decided I would have to rustle up something with what was left.  I’ve noticed a few crustless quiches in the supermarket recently so I created these Crustless Mediterranean Mini Quiches.  The recipe is fairly basic but could be adapted to use up all sorts of ingredients and one of the advantages is that the lack of pastry makes them  gluten free.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 large mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small red pepper, chopped
  • 75g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 12 black olives, chopped
  • 6 free-range eggs
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and saute the mushrooms and red pepper until soft.  Stir in the feta cheese and olives being careful not to break up the cheese too much.

Whisk the eggs with seasoning.

Divide the vegetable mixed between 12 muffin tins.  I lined mine with some individual silicone muffin cases which are brilliant.  They are so non-stick the contents are practically climbing out of the cases by themselves once they are cooked.

Pour over the egg mixture so each case is about two-thirds full.

Cook in the pre-heated over for 20 – 25 minutes.  Mine took 22 minutes.  Don’t overcook them or they will become rubbery.

These would make a lovely starter eaten warm with salad but they did make an excellent lunch box item.

I packed a couple for my own lunch which I decided to serve on a plate rather than eat straight from the plastic box.  The salad dressing is a combination of red pesto and olive oil.  An definite improvement on shop-bought sandwiches.

 

Belated Thoughts on Me-Made-May

This week has been a bit hectic so my thoughts on Me-Made-May are a bit late.

My original pledge was to wear one me-made item on at least three days a week and to add one new item to my me-made wardrobe each week.  I didn’t want to be too ambitious because I really didn’t think I had enough things to make a daily commitment possible.  I’m pleased to say that I exceeded my own expectations by wearing something me-made every day apart from two Sundays when I just grabbed the first thing that came to hand.  There were quite a few repeats but it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and I was generally very happy with what I was wearing each day.  Although I hadn’t really planned it, I also managed to avoid buying any ready made clothes for the whole month.

I think my favourite/most useful items during the month, apart from the new things below were my floral frock, a stretch shirting top which goes with lots of my skirts  and a chambray skirt (not pictured) I’d stopped wearing because the fabric had shrunk in the wash but the lining hadn’t.  A five minute fix was all it took.

Floral Dress Vertical Striped Top

I added the following to my wardrobe either by sewing new garments, finishing half-completed projects or adapting previous makes.

I found the whole process quite inspiring and have definitely been encouraged to expand my efforts on the me-made front.  I’ve realised there are a lot of gaps in my skills (and wardrobe) and I need to be more ambitious and confident – particularly in trying new patterns rather than sticking with the ones I know will work.  I’ve now got my Grainline Morris Blazer pattern and hopefully I can get my head round that over the next few days.  Having looked at the images I’ve just included I think I need to inject some more colour so perhaps this green ponte from Guthrie and Ghani will be the answer for the blazer.

I’m making progress on the self-drafted shell/vest top.  Rather impatiently I used some expensive (but really lovely) jersey from Clothkits to make the first ‘proper’ toile and I really should have waited for the cheap and cheerful jersey I’d ordered from Tissu Fabrics to arrive, which it did this morning.  It was a bargain at £3.99 a metre.  However, the top is coming along and I think this attempt is wearable, although the fit under the arm isn’t quite right yet.  Just the hem to go.  I really want to take it up a bit at the shoulders to raise the neckline (and hopefully improve the fit under the arm) and then I think it will be almost perfect.  I’m not sure if I’ll mess this one around or make the changes to the next version.

Stripy Vest

Having spent some time on the Guthrie & Ghani website the other evening I discovered that they sell espadrille soles.  I really want to make my own espadrilles!   I have quite small feet and can never get them to fit properly.  I don’t know how I missed Lauren’s blog post last year but hers look great and they only use a very small amount of fabric.  Given that Boden are now charging £60 for theirs I think these are well worth a go.

Have a good weekend!

Glittering Prizes

W has been on a winning streak recently. Last week he responded to a competition on Twitter resulting in two tickets to see The Rehearsal at the Chichester Festival Theatre (very good) and on Saturday night we finally enjoyed the benefits of his successful raffle ticket purchase at the Transitions Chichester  Fair last year – a dinner for six prepared and delivered to our door by the chefs, Anita and Julia.  The menu for the evening was :

Spinach, pea and mint soup with bread rolls

Lamb tagine

Vegetable tagine

Spicy chickpeas

Couscous with lemon and raisins

Rhubarb crumble with vanilla custard

 

Everything was locally sourced and delicious. The flour for the bread rolls came from the mill at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum. All I had to do was lay the table, heat up the soup and put the crumble in the oven!  Oh, and buy the Prosecco! It was a real treat.

We kept with the local theme and invited our neighbours to share the meal which was lovely. There was so much food the leftovers are being served up tonight.

I had intended to finish the spotty skirt to wear on Saturday night but thankfully saw sense at about 6.00 pm and despite my previous decision to restrict the wearing of too many bright colours together I went for this combination!

Spotty Skirt New Outfit

Spots did make an appearance at the theatre. I made this skirt a while ago with fabric from Clothkits in Chichester. It has a lovely red lining to match the stag’s specs but I made it far too short for daytime wear so it is restricted to evenings with black tights!  This fabric has featured on Tilly and the Buttons but I did make mine first!

Stag Skirt Stag Fabric

Looking at Tilly’s version has reminded me that I had planned to try her Delphine pattern from Love at First Stitch. Maybe with this needlecord?

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It is Kyrie from kyrie_in_kalamityland’s birthday today. One of her early birthday presents was a sewing machine and she’s already made a Coco top! I’d planned to buy her Love at First Stitch but she beat me to it so I have given her Fashion with Fabric from the Great British Sewing Bee to add to her sewing book library.

Kyrie's Present

Cup cake themed gift wrapping!

Zip Perfection

This week’s make is progressing well and after the last rather poorly executed concealed zip insertion this one went in reasonably well. However, compared with Karen from didyoumakethat?, my efforts are nothing! The care and attention to detail she has put into the zip insertion for her beautiful red lace dress are pretty impressive.

Spotty Skirt Spots

The spotty double gauze fabric from Clothkits tends to fray a lot so I’ve been finishing the seams off quite carefully by folding the edges under and using a zig zag to hold everything together. I might post a photo of the inside at the end if it looks presentable enough! The fabric isn’t as see-through as I originally thought but I’m still going with a lining because I think the gauzy nature of the fabric will catch on tights and stop the skirt from moving freely. A happy discovery was that I already had a lining cut out from this pattern which I hadn’t used so that will save some time. I experimented with pinning up the hem last night because I cut the pattern a bit shorter than I meant to so needed to be sure that it was going to be wearable and decent!

I’m still on course with my Me-Made-May pledge. Before the temperature plummeted today I was able to wear this dress. It is the same pattern as the infamous Brighton Pavilion frock but is showing signs of wear having been a favourite for several summers. The fabric came from C & H Fabrics in Chichester and is not a typical choice for me but it is very pretty and goes well with several of my cardigans which makes it quite versatile.

Floral Dress Floral Dress detail

C & H Fabrics currently have a window display showcasing some fabrics by our local famous dress designer and founder of Red or Dead, Wayne Hemingway. The images on their website really don’t do the fabrics justice and the Tulip design is very tempting. I shall have to buy some so I can post a decent image of it.

My latest fabric purchase is from Raystitch. I found this organic cotton denim on their site a while ago but it was out of stock.  I was keen to make another denim skirt in a neutral colour and discovered it was available again. It is lovely and soft but seems very robust. I’m thinking of trying a new pattern as an alternative to the last denim skirt – perhaps this one from Hot Patterns – but may end up sticking with what I know works. I think this is another fabric that needs to be washed before use in case of shrinkage.

No more Morsbags created over the last few days.  I’d like to get another couple finished by the weekend as I have potential recipients in mind.

Life Laundry Weekend

I was distracted from sewing this weekend by some cupboard tidying. My linen cupboard is now so organised that I was almost tempted to take a photograph of the lovely neat pile of towels and sheets! I also cleared out half the book cupboard and now have three black sacks of paperbacks to donate to the charity shop. I’ve been hanging onto them for years but I know I will never read them again and it is great to have cleared a space.

This led me on to a quick tidy up in my sewing room. Nothing got thrown away but I did discover this spotty fabric which I had completely forgotten about. It came from Clothkits in Chichester and is a block printed double gauze fabric. It is very lightweight and also very see-through so I will definitely be lining it.

The actual fabric is a bit blotchier than it looks on the website and there are some unprinted areas which will need to be avoided. I’m not really sure why I bought it but at that price I’m not wasting it!

I will be making a very simple skirt to show off the spots to best advantage and this McCall’s pattern is a favourite because it can be made up very quickly. In fact after the first ever episode of The Great British Sewing Bee I actually timed myself making this skirt to see if I could do it within the time limit they were given to complete an A-line skirt – it think it was two hours. I did manage it, without a lining, and it was wearable. However, it did make me realise that I would never want to take part in any competitive sewing!

This is my Me-Made-May item today. It is the above pattern in striped linen which is lined but unfortunately this makes no difference to the amount it scrunches up after a day at my desk. I was also somewhat optimistic about the weather today and ditched the tights – which I’m rather regretting now.

 McCalls 3830 Striped Linen Skirt

One more Morsebag (number 15) made last thing yesterday because I felt bad about not sewing anything all weekend. It isn’t really this tiny, just folded up, but I thought a small version could be rather fun.

 Morsbag 15

Thanks for the lovely and encouraging comments about the unfinished Brighton Pavilion dress. I won’t let you down.