Thursday 22 December 2016

Sewing Cleo: Tilly and the Buttons Denim Dungaree Dress

 I did have plans for a Christmas dress, a maxi Darling Ranges in cherry printed baby cord Darling Ranges but as  Christmas got closer and I was tired from work, another plan snuck in and I am so glad it did.  I placed an order for a Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress and and a dungaree clips/button set and within a couple of days everything arrived, I'd traced it, cut it and sewn it.

It's a dream of a pattern.  I didn't make a toile, I just compared my measurements with the pattern and size 3 (equivalent to size 10 was the closest fit.  I'm pear shaped so I let my hip measurements lead the sizing as my chest is a size 2 but I knew this had to go over my head - the straps are the only opening and my waist and hip are closer to size 3.  Otherwise, no alterations, just the addition of larger patch pockets to the front.  My patches are the same width as the bib pocket.  It's a simple make and the instructions are beautifully done.  The layout is straightforward, accurate and economic.  If you are a confident sewer, you can enjoy the easy construction and luxuriate in the top stitching possibilities.   If you are a beginner, it's a satisfying project without too much to challenge you - turning the straps out is the hardest process.  I used Gutermann topstitching thread from the jeans/denim set with standard sew-all in the bobbin.   The fabric was a carboot sale bargain I picked up a few years back.  It's an easy fit, perfect for Christmas consumption and I like the length front and split.  It's practical and not too cutesy for a 40 something woman to wear.    You can read more about the Cleo pattern on Tilly's website and buy the pattern as a PDF as well as printed.

My Christmas prep is largely finished, I sung my last session at my day job today and squeezed in a beach walk with Lottie.  The sky was a gorgeous blue for the first time in days.  

I'm ready to rest and enjoy time at home . These few days before festivities start in earnest are my favourite.  Whatever you are doing,  I wish you peace and happiness, in the little things as well as the big.

Friday 16 December 2016

Christmas Mellow Music Playlist

As well as sewing and fabric, music plays a huge part in my life, least of all in my day job - I've just finished a week of Christmas parties for 0-4 year olds, all jolly good fun!  So, as promised, here's my Christmas playlist recommendations for mellow Christmas sounds.  Sources include, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.   I add to this each year and my husband recently found the Fiona Apple and Tracey Chapman tracks, both wonderful.  I absolutely recommend a Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speaker if you are looking for easy to use, great sounding new kit, but I've played many of these tracks thorough a tablet speaker or just listened on my desktop computer and still enjoyed them.

A big thank you to Emily who sent me some of her piano tracks, a lovely listen.   There's nothing like music to help you relax and enjoy the season. 

Tuesday 13 December 2016

December at Eternal Maker: New arrivals, cosy and gifts

My last sponsor post for 2016, it's Eternal Maker's turn and I've chosen some tactile fabrics for the cosiest of times, plus some gift ideas and patterns that you might want to sew up for the holidays or in the new year.

  1. Robert Kaufman Shetland Flannel in Pumpkin.  Great for pyjamas and cosy blankets, clothes, cosies and cushions.
  2. Nani Iro, Fruity Pocho, Cream/blue brushed cotton, Naomi Ito.  Great for pyjamas and cosy blankets, clothes, cosies and cushions.
  3. Riley Blake, Farm Fresh flannels.  The cheeriest flannel cotton.
  4. Closet Case Files, Kelly Anorak Sewing Pattern.  
  5. Oliver + S Sleepover Pyjama pattern
  6. Gera Cross Stitch Pattern: Santa has Come!  Detailed pattern by Kyoko Maruoka.  For use with DMC colours or contact Eternal Maker for the Conversion for Cosmo threads
  7. Rainbow Stripe jersey.   Cotton/elastane blend (95% cotton 5%lycra) so great recovery for leggings and close fitting tops.
  8. Felt Kit Pig.  Includes die-cut felt pieces, embroidery thread, eyes and stuffing.  Instructions are in Japanese but there are lots of diagrams and it's described as a relatively easy kit. 
  9. Apples to Oranges Sewing kit pattern.  A lovely project from Liesl Gibson's Straight Stitch Society.  Perfect to make a gift for a sewing friend and a great scrap buster!


Sew Flower Quilts & GIfts (AKA 'Happy Flower Quilts') Review: Atsuko Matsuyama

Like many, I've been waiting for Atsuko Matsuyama's gorgeous book, Sew Flower Quilts and Gifts for the last few months since I saw an English language version was on the way. It's arrived with a change of title and cover for the UK market, so 'Happy Flower Quilts' as it's known in the USA is Sew Flower Quilts and Gifts but the contents are reassuringly the same and it's a stunning book with 30 detailed projects and a tonne of inspirational photos.

I selected 6 double page spreads from the first 27 pages of the book to give you an idea of the content but there's much more than this inside.  If you like detailed, pieced projects with lots of extra zakka-style details, you are in for a treat.

There's so much going on in this sweet little sewing kit.  Throughout the book, it is all about the details...

Some makes I just find so charming like the 3-D appliqué mini purse. 

I love these seasonal mini quilts, the colour and fabric selection is stella!  The appliqué and hand work that goes into these projects is typical of many in the book. 

Although the Happy Flower Quilt Sampler is the best known project in the book, the Lovely Vines quilt is equally stunning.

The star of the book, Happy Flower Sampler quilt.  I love how the quilt pieces move into the border.

Beyond the eye candy, this book is spaciously laid out.  All the techniques are set out in step-by-step detail with lots of photos.  The 'How to Make a Pouch' guide can be applied to all pouches/bag projects and  includes 22 steps with a photo for each - you can see what I mean by detail!   The translation and production is by Zakka Workshop and the editors are Lindsay Fair and Kristyne Czepuryk from Pretty by Hand.

For each project, the instructions are clearly set out with a thumbnail colour photo as well as carefully drawn and annotated black and white diagrams for layout and construction.  Cutting instructions are shown in a pastel coloured text box.  Imperial and metric measurements are included.

Things to note: the projects are hand pieced and are predominantly made with full size templates at the back of the book.  These could be adapted for rotary cutting and machine, especially some of the simpler blocks and shapes that use basic squares/rectangle/triangles but instructions for that are not included.  Needle turn appliqué features in many projects, along with an interesting freezer paper technique which is different from other methods I've used.  

There have been one or two stock issues with this book before it arrived in the UK, some shops originally had it listed as 'Happy Flower Quilts' with the pink cover - I ordered a pink cover copy and had my order cancelled by the UK supplier at a later date - but I think such issues are now resolved, the UK publishers informed me that cover and name changes can be a last minute editorial decision.   The UK title, Sew Flower Quilts & Gifts is available at Search Press (who kindly supplied me with this copy for review) and other shops like Pretty Fabrics and Trims who you can see were listed as a recommended supplier of 1930s style fabrics, along with USA favourite Pink Castle Fabrics.  Search Press have assured me that they have plenty of copies available.  If you enjoy some thoughtful, detailed slow sewing, piecing, appliqué, quilting and floral motifs,  this is the book for you. 

Sunday 11 December 2016

December at Plush Addict: Luxury Crepe Special Edition

For December at Plush Addict, I'm going to do something a little different.  Following a chat with Kellie about luxury crepe, I'm concentrating just on that fabric in all it's nine colours and partnering it with Tilly and the Buttons patterns.  Why the two together?  The same fabric is often used for the pattern samples and many of Tilly's designs work well with the drape of the fabric.  They are also suitable for beginners, as well as experienced sewers.  If you need a special outfit for Christmas, either for evenings out or something glam for Christmas day, there's a style for everyone. Kellie sent me some samples of each colour of luxury crepe and as the name suggests, it has a luxury feel.  It's opaque and has a bit of weight so safe to use without worrying about of lining.  The drape makes it good for any garment that needs to swish and fall against the skin beautifully- tops, skirts, fuller/loose trousers, dresses, anything without too much structure.  The colours are gorgeous.  I photographed the strips in the sunlight today and the colours are true.

If you are quick, all dressmaking fabric is 20% off-  discount finishes midnight 12th December!

The crepes from top to bottom are:
1. Navy
2. Red
6. Black (limited quantity available)
7. Ivory
8. Teal
9. Aqua

The sewing patterns from bottom left to top right are:

You can get more of a sense of the fabric colours from a quick video I filmed on Instagram to provide an idea of the colours, thickness and movement of the fabric.  

Thursday 8 December 2016

December at Village Haberdashery: Gift Special

When it's this close to Christmas, I think it's time to focus on gift ideas (feel free to share with your nearest and dearest to drop heavy hints).   Here's nine of my top choices from sponsor Village Haberdashery; I think I'd be happy with any of these.

From left to right, row by row:

  1. Parallels, Ellen Lucket Baker for Kokka, Double gauze, Lines in Grey.  Bold graphic print in a retro colour combination on the softest fabric.
  2. Oliver + S Building Block Dress book by Liesl Gibson.  All the instructions you need to design and sew girl's dresses, sizing 6 months - 12 years. 
  3. Tayutou, Root Crop in Green, Kokka, Cotton/linen canvas. 
  4. Bando 2017 I Am Very Busy 12 month Planner in Carnation, see other planners here plus notebooks and sketch books. 
  5. Merchant & Mills Teflon Coated 8" Tailor's Scissors.  Matt black scissors that sewing dreams are made of.   Come in an embossed box ready for gifting.
  6. Nani Iro Double Gauze for Kokka,  Lei Nani in Izumi,  the bluest of cobalt blues, design inspired by Hawaiian  flower garlands. 
  7. Parallels, Ellen Tucket Baker for Kokka, Double gauze Hashtags in Bright Blue.  A vibrant combination of colour and print.
  8. Make Something Amazing, Village Haberdashery Tote Bag.  A lovely extra that you might want to add to your order, bargain price £8.50
  9. Kuiskas, Heijastus in Green by Sawako Ura for Kokka, Cotton Barkcloth.  Amazing print inspired by nature.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Fashion and Textiles Museum: 1920s JAZZ AGE Exhibition

Whenever I travel to London to see my brother, I always try and fit in a visit to the Fashion and Textiles Museum on Bermondsey Street.  Every exhibition is an absolute joy; thoughtfully curated and creatively displayed.  The entry fee is always moderate, an Art Fund pass will make it an even bigger bargain, photography is allowed, the staff are always friendly and helpful and the atmosphere is relaxed.   The current 1920s JAZZ AGE exhibition is a mix of haute couture and ready-to-wear, 1919-1929.  It brings to life popular leisure acitivies of the time like going to the cinema, picnics, having tea and cake, sport and dancing.  If you are visiting London for a little Christmas shopping (or at any time), it is well worth a trip away from the crazy queues and relentless consumerism.  I've loved all the exhibitions I've been to there.  Runs until 15th January 2017.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Advent Activity Calendar

The year rushes by and it's already time for Advent.  I celebrate Christmas from a mid Winter festival perspective rather than a religious time of year and I enjoy a count down like many others so our advent calendars have just come out of the cupboard.  My daughter has a mini stocking calendar that I made her back in the baby years and enjoys a chocolate each day and for a family activity, we have a pocket calendar made from one of Karen Lewis' printed kits from a few years back (spot the wrongly placed number!) and we fill this with activities on scraps of paper.

We have a mix of things and some get changed each year depending on their success.  Last night we sat at our kitchen table and planned it around three different work schedules and commitments whilst listening to Christmas music. Here are some ideas if you want to do the same.  A quick Google will give you lots of other ideas varying from those suitable for young children, a traditional religious focus, charitable ideas and many more:
  • Coffee and Christmas snacks at a local cafe
  • Takeaway night
  • Christmas playlists- we each choose a different theme, mellow, Motown, classic, alternative
  • Baking Christmas cake- mine is a last minute recipe
  • Board game evening
  • Films- we pick a few DVDs from charity shops of films we haven't seen or favourites from the past.  A Charlie Brown Christmas always gets a viewing
  • Youtube Christmas songs/carols from different countries and in different languages
  • Watch Elf and decorate tree
  • Find out and share Christmas traditions from a different country
  • Hot chocolate night, maybe with new recipes- I like this one
  • Haiku
  • Christmas jokes
It always makes December extra special, some of the activities become so silly (often charades or anything that involves singing or reading out loud) that the memories become part of the family cannon.  If you have any new or unusual ideas for activities, please share below, it's always good to try something new!

Sunday 27 November 2016

November at Eternal Maker

Be quick and you'll catch the end of the Black Friday sale!  Prices are already discounted by a generous 30%.  Here's some ideas from the newest arrivals for this month's visit to Eternal Maker.

Row by row, left to right:

  1. Peico Animals: Mono print on canvas, Kiyohara Japanese fabric
  2. Moda Thicket, Swirls in natural.
  3. Kokka Weekend City by Yumi Yoshimoto.  Rich colours and a graphic scribble effect.  Canvas so good for bags, cushions etc.
  4. Robert Kaufman, Tahoe Flannel in Olive Ivory Plaid.  Super soft fabric.  Ideal for  snuggly lounge/PJ pants.
  5. Studio M for Moda Mixologie, Jelly Roll.  Bright saturated colours!
  6. Windham Fabrics, Maribel, Pink and Navy Cubes, Annabel Wrigley.
  7. Moda Thicket, Triangles.  Bold monochrome print 
  8. Robert Kaufman, Tahoe Flannel in Cranberry Stripe. Twill stripe effect of snuggly flannel.
  9. Moda Whisper Double Gauze Batiks, Gulls in Navy.  Cotton double gauze.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Black Friday: Sew-Ichigo discount and more!

Here's a hotch-potch of Black Friday offers for those of you who like a bargain but safe from your armchair.  Some from sponsors, some from people I've worked with and some because it seems like a bargain!  Penny and I have marked all our Sew-Ichigo foundation paper patterns down by 40%, Thursday - Monday. Visit our Payhip, Etsy and Craftsy shops to get your discount on single patterns and pattern packs. 
  • Etsy - reductions already applied, no code needed
  • Payhip - use the code sew40 at checkout
  • Craftsy - reductions already applied, no code needed

Kellie at Plush Addict has organised some mega Black Friday offers, they are also a sponsor so a Black Friday mention for them!

Mark at Girl Charlee sent me an email mentioning that they were offering loads of discounts so you may want to partake.

Anna from Eternal Maker (another sponsor) has been mentioning a Black Friday sale on Instagram,  I have no further details but I can't resist her treasure trove shop, keep a look out!

Creative Bug is doing a great offer, 3 months membership for $1 a month (£1 for UK).  I've joined Creative Bug before an I used it a lot for a few months and then cancelled it but you get to keep a class each month even if you leave.  They've recently added new dressmaking and alterations content so I thought I'd give it another go!


Tuesday 22 November 2016

Simple Sampler QAL: Foundation Pieced Simple Economy Square

If you are following the Sewing Directory #simplesamplerqal and you are relatively new to quilting, this week's block, a simplified Economy Square, might by your first experience of a foundation paper piecing block.  

This block can be made in the more conventional way but it's also a great way to get to grips with how foundation paper piecing works.  I've written a detailed tutorial at Sewing Directory but I thought I'd show the template here for extra clarity.  The whole block is made up of four economy square blocks so each template needs to be printed to the correct size.  The dotted line of the outer square is the seam allowance, then you can see the square outline of the finished size (6") and the inner on-point square (a scant 4 ¼").
The fabric measurements given for this block were generous so if you follow that your pieces should cover the paper including seam allowances but you do need to check your printing is accurate initially.  Usually the printing instructions say print 'to scale' or print at 100%.  There is often a margin of error between different printing systems and PDF files so check your print and you might need to make adjustments.  I find my printer tends to print very slightly small (a 6" block might be 1/16" too small) so to allow for that, I might up the print scale to 101% which would make the whole template just 1% bigger.  So, get your quilt ruler out, check your template pattern and make adjustments to print it at the correct size before sewing your block.  As this is a sampler quilt, there are techniques that are going to challenge you, be brave and give it a go!

Saturday 19 November 2016

November at Plush Addict: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Time for my November visit to sponsor Plush Addict.  Kellie has just had some very colourful new arrivals including a spectacular Alison Glass Seventy Six bundle of 30 fabrics for Andover.  This is not going to be restocked so if you want an amazing bundle, maybe an amazing Christmas present, it's waiting for you.   There's also a Christmas shop section if you are looking for Christmas fabric and related products.

From left to right, row by row:
  1. Makower Frosty Advent Printed Stockings.  Lovely to use for an advent calendar or hanging decor. 
  2. Alison Glass Seventy Six: bundle of 30 fabrics.  Stunning fat quarter selection of saturated colours plus greys and white prints. Also available as yardage.
  3. Tilly & the Buttons Cleo Dungaree Dress Pattern.  Very popular pattern from Tilly Walnes, quick to sew up- suitable fabrics can be found in the denim sectioncorduroys or this floral twill would also work well.
  4. Moda, Manderley by Franny and Jane.  Inspired by a country estate next to the sea, it's a very pretty selection designed by Jane Davidson (Quilt Jane from Splendid Sampler) and Frances Newcombe. 
  5. Clothworks 25 Days of Christmas, red Peppermints
  6. Andover Fabrics, Floral Spendour Green. Gorgeous sugary colour selection from this floral range. 
  7. Dashed Studio Advent Calendar panel.  There's still time to get this stitched up and ready for 1st December. 
  8. Andover Fabrics, Floral Spendour Blue.  Nine fabrics in the blue colour way, designed by Cathy Nordstorm. 
  9. Robert Kaufman Jingel 3, Reindeer in white by Ann Kelle
By the way, there just might be a few Black Friday surprises next week from Plush Addict ;) 
I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday 16 November 2016

#Simplesampler QAL Strings Block & a Couple of Tips

This weeks #simplesamplerqal, block is a strings block - a great introduction to foundation paper piecing.  You can find my tutorial at the Sewing Directory.  It's easy but takes a while, depending on the width of the strips.   For this version, my strips were skinny as I was using up scraps.

Removing the paper is fiddly and a small stitch certainly makes it easier but I have another couple of tips for you.  
  1. Start from the  triangular corners and work inwards to the strip in the centre which is the first strip to be added.
  2. Instead of ripping the paper from the edges of the block which are on the bias and will easily history, instead, tear the paper from the centre and then tear outwards.  This places much less strain on the weakest parts of seams- the start and end.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Wendy Ward's Beginners Guide to Making Skirts Book Tour: Rusholme Maxi

Welcome to the second stop on Wendy Ward's Beginner's Guide to Making Skirts book blog tour.  I was honoured to be asked to take part!  I'm  a big fan of Wendy's work, I've had great results with her patterns and I like her straight talking style and her secure methodology.  This book is guide to making eight basic skirt shapes - jersey straight, wrap, circle, A-line, bubble, woven straight, culottes and button through and covers all the techniques you will need.  Each style is a starting point, with three style variations to add new details to your garments and increase your sewing skills.

There's a lovely group of bloggers - Handmade JaneMarilla WalkerPeas and Needles, and Elisalex from By hand London taking  part and we've each been kindly supplied with the fabric of our choice from Fabworks Online to make a skirt from the book and showcase the styles.   I chose the A-line skirt, Rusholme.  I lengthened the pattern at the hem to maxi length and opted for pockets and a straight waistband.  I also added a lining on the advice of George of Fabworks.  I wanted a check and  find wool itchy so I chose Teal and Charcoal gingham check: a soft brushed cotton with herringbone weave and good drape.  Other brushed cottons are available as I think this one has since sold out.  It's medium weight and the lining supports the fabric, gives a quality finish and adds extra warmth for a winter skirt.  George sent me this sapphire satin twill lining which was a great colour match and feels lovely and silky.  As always, don't forget to prewash and dry flat!

Full size patterns are included at the back of the book and you trace trace the parts needed for the style you're making and some pieces like waistbands are used with more than one skirt style.  Some larger pattern pieces come in two-parts so check out the pattern sheets thoroughly to locate everything you need. The styles are printed in rainbow of colours with a  key on each sheet so you know which is which and I found Swedish paper was perfect to see the lines through the paper; dot and cross paper was a little too opaque to see the lighter colours.  To pattern match the checks, I cut the pieces out flat rather than on a folded double layer.  For the front skirt I drew the fold line in chalk on the reverse, pinned the pattern aligned with that, cut one half and then flipped the fabric over the chalked line so I can match the pattern exactly.  For the two back pieces, I cut one and then laid it on the fabric to act as a pattern piece for the next one.

I cut a size S and my only adjustment was to sew slightly narrow seams from the top of the hips up to the waist and at each end of the waistband as I like a bit of ease around the waist.  I lengthened the hem by 3" on the skirt back and front and used a quilt ruler and a chalk pencil to mark directly on the fabric.  For the lining, I used the same main from and back pattern pieces, but cut them 1" shorter than the skirt.   I also added some of the skirt fabric to the top of the lining as I cut into it a little too keenly and needed to rectify my mistake!  I used Wendy's method to insert the invisible zip (I usually use this method although not any more!).  There is a fair bit of hand basting but it's worth it for the accuracy and all my checks lined up first time.  It also helps to mark the back of your zip with pencil so you can match up each side exactly - you can see a similar method here.  I also used 1" strips of interfacing on the zip seams  which Wendy mentions for invisible zips.  Adding a skirt lining isn't covered in the book but it just involves sewing a second skirt, pressing the raw edges of the centre back seam by ¾" and hand stitching the lining to the zip.  The top of the lining is caught in the waistband and the bottom edge is hemmed. ***Edited to add: Wendy will be covering how to line ALL the skirts in the book on her blog next week! ***

 I cut my pocket facings on the bias for visual interest and I block fused this fabric with sheer perfect fuse before I cut them out  to stabilise the grain.  Once I'd sewed my pockets, I secured the top opening to the skirt front along the top stitching to keep them secure. 

I anchored the lining with a thread chain which is covered here.  

The front of the book introduces to each skirt, the cutting plans and requirements and then the putting it together details take you through construction and refer you to more detailed techniques at the back of the book.  Each skirt has large uncluttered photographs, including close-ups so you can clearly see the features and the styling is clean and modern throughout.  The techniques are clearly illustrated and easy to follow.  The size range is UK 8-26.  once you have some sewing experience, it would be easy to mix the styles up, I like the idea of a button front Rusholme.

I was very pleased with the resulting skirt. It's a classic shape, a great fit and has generous pockets.  Wendy's Beginner's Guide to Making skirts is a solid book for any dressmakers bookshelf, great for beginners and beyond - there's always something new to learn!  If you want to read more about the book, Wendy has done a series of posts featuring each style, see more at her blog.
Disclaimer: I was given the book and fabric as part of the blog tour.  All views are my own.