A quick fabric stash busting idea

So after reading Marie’s What do you do with your fabric scraps? post I was determined to get rid of a couple of scraps of fabric that I’ve had in my stash for, like, ever. Marie’s idea to sell fabrics on ebay is ingenious, but I wanted to use mine (and was too lazy to start measuring, neatening and folding fabric ready for selling to be quite frank with you!).

It was only when I was clearing out a couple of drawers for the baby’s bits and bobs that it occurred to me – drawer linings! Mere moments later (if we discount the days spent waiting for a staple gun to arrive of course but we’ll gloss over that) the scraps were used and the drawers looked much prettier, ready for the infinite cuteness that is a baby’s wardrobe.

Um, so i could do a tutorial but you’d probably shake your fist at me and shout DO YOU THINK I’M SOME KIND OF IMBECILE THAT DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO FOLD FABRIC AND POINT A FRIGGIN STAPLE GUN? so I won’t do that.  But yay! Fabric – you are so busted. And I now have a staple gun. Hear my DIY roar.

I think this is more ‘me’

First up, thanks everyone who commented on my winter coat muslin. You’re all so funny and lovely and clever. I laughed, I cried, I nodded vigorously throughout.

The overwhelming consensus was that this coat is not working for me at all.  The collar is too big, the raglan sleeves too low, the swingy voluminous shape too voluminous for my small frame and the length waaaay too long. Plus, there was some very sage advice involving swelling bosoms, breast feeding and avoiding complex sewing while heavily pregnant.

So taking all that on board I’m going to put my winter coat plans on ice until next year. Any tips on storing three metres of beautiful expensive wool without getting perma folds in it?

And in the meantime, I’ve purchased… this!

Simplicity 7805I decided that something more fitted would suit me and my frame (even if I do end up a bit chubbier) and I love anything with an empire line. When I saw this I just thought of Moonrise Kingdom and fell in love instantly. I’ve actually bought it in a Bust 36 to accommodate any potential extra boobage I might be lucky enough to get.

Isn’t View 1 totally adorable with that double collar?! God I so want this coat to be made up now. But patience is a virtue and what a fantastic goal to get me back in shape post partum.

Help! Your expert advice is required

Yikes. I fear I may have hit an impasse with the winter coat, and I’m only at the muslin stage! Oh dear. Let’s take a look.

Ok. Dodgy collar aside it’s quite clear that this coat is too long (even if we factor in a 2 inch hem) and the sleeves are too short. This can be fixed, yes? But check this out…

What the feck? Why is this non-maternity coat able to wrap itself around an eight-month bump without so much as a pardon me??? Does this mean it’s going to make me look totes preggers even when I’m not? And does that collar now start to look a little big for my head in that picture?

So here’s the back view. Not so bad eh? But again that collar is freaking me out a bit.

Front view – hmm, not so nice. But I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong. This is why I still sometimes consider myself something of a beginner stitcher my friends. Cos these kinds of fitting issues are beyond me.

But this length is much better isn’t it?

OK so I’m just not sure about this pattern anymore. I loved the artwork on the envelope and thought it was super chic, but I’m so worried it’s actually going to be really frumpy and I’ll have wasted three metres of the most divine (and expensive) wool, not to mention loads of time. Because of the raglan sleeves and the voluminous shape I have no idea where to start with making it fit better. And should I even be trying to fit a coat to a body that’s eight months pregnant? Is that madness? Help!

And one final question – does the coat remind you of anyone?

Well at least it’s Hallowe’en appropriate I suppose…



My Handmade Style: Stitch Me Softly

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

Ooh we have a belter this week readers. None other than Elisalex from Stitch Me Softly has kindly agreed to let us ogle her closet. Elisalex might well be described as a bit of a style maven in fact. She’s not only previously enjoyed a career as a  shoe designer, she’s also one half of By Hand London – a brand new indie pattern company. Check out their first collection, due to be released very soon. And in the meantime – let’s find out more about Elisalex’s very unique style…

Elisalex from Stitch Me Softly

To me, you’re part bohemian mum, part avant garde designer, part garden fairy Elisalex! But how would you sum up your style?

I love your description and I think that’s definitely how I would like my style to come across! In reality, I find it very hard to strike a balance between ridiculously overdressed and just-rolled-out-of-bed casual. During the day when I’m in the studio or running around with my boy, you will most likely find me in jeans or PJ-like attire; but when I go out – even if it’s just for a quick drink with a girlfriend – nothing less than a cocktail dress! I think of my style I guess as classic with a twist: I love 50s and early 60s silhouettes that emphasise the female form – cinched waists, full skirts, high heels. With that classic silhouette as my starting point, I love clashing colours and mismatching prints or showing off a little midriff in a kiddy t-shirt worn with a super smart high-waisted skirt.

Kung Fu wiggle skirt

Kung Fu wiggle skirt

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me-made wardrobe?

Inspiration comes from infinite sources – mainly sewing and style blogs, trips to fabric shops always leave me massively inspired and planning all the things I want to make and I definitely spend way too much time browsing vintage pattern websites! I don’t read fashion magazines at all as I don’t like to be too influenced by passing trends and I find that instead of being inspired, I’m always left with that horrible desire to shop and consume, which is something I’ve really tried to stay away from.

Part of the problem with being so drawn to dramatic silhouettes and delicious, often expensive, fabrics is that my me-made wardrobe is firmly rooted in “too much frosting, not enough cake” territory. I’m now really trying to translate my love of colour, print and texture into pieces I can wear on an everyday basis, which will also hopefully bring my everyday, run-around style out of jeans and PJs at the same time.

Who are your style icons and why?

I’d have to say first and foremost, my Mum – Orsola de Castro who is not only the designer and founder of From Somewhere, but also a pioneer of sustainable fashion.

Orsola - Elisalex's mum

Orsola – Elisalex’s mum

Other women/characters who’s style I love are Carrie Season 2 – it slightly pains me to admit that but it’s true! Daisy Lowe – such a beauty, and so versatile and grounded in her style. Scarlett O’Hara – because, well, just because she’s amazing. Kind of loathsome, but completely fabulous!

Daisy Lowe

Daisy Lowe

Are there any particular designers that you use for inspiration?

I’m not nearly as on the pulse with designers as I used to be, or maybe should be… but ones that come to mind are: Lu Flux, From Somewhere (my ma!), Miu Miu & Prada rarely disappoint, same goes for Erdem, I’m still dreaming about Temperley’s SS13 collection you recently posted about, and for shoes I’m currently salivating over Sophia Webster‘s tropical bliss collection for SS13!

If you had to select one self-stitched garment that really encapsulates your style – what would it be and why?

Having just launched a new indie pattern company – By Hand London – my partner Charlotte and I wanted to design and base each of our patterns on women who’s style we wanted to capture. So we started with ourselves! The Elisalex dress is, for me, the epitome of elegance: it has a snug, princess seamed bodice with a sexy scoop back, super cinched waist and a beautiful tulip skirt with big box pleats. I can’t even begin to tell you how many versions of this pattern I’ve made – definitely in the double figures by now – and I still have fabric stashed for future Elisalex dresses!

The Elisalex Dress

The Elisalex Dress

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

Within the brackets of my personal style, I guess my outfits have veered towards the avant guard, namely that sheer skirt…! I don’t really take big risks however, and dyeing my hair pink/lavender is about as risky as I get.

Star print tulle skirt

Star print tulle skirt

Is there anything you wish you could wear but can’t?

Haha yes plenty!! I wish I could get away with that edgy layered I-just-piled-on-every-chic-thing-I-own look… but to be honest, I’m so aware of my shape, what suits me and what I feel best in that I tend to just stick to that!

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

Way too many ideas come to mind… Can I change the question to “what would be your dream wardrobe?”??? Why, that’s easy! Everything I’ve pinned!

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

There are so many wonderful and inspirational women out there and I just know I’m going to end up leaving some out… At the moment I am mostly reading Closet Case Files, Yes I Like That, Dixie DIY, Gertie (obviously!), Lladybird, Ginger Makes, SallieOh, A Stitching Odyssey, Reana Louise and of course, Stitch and Witter!

Joanne, thank you SO much for inviting me to take part in this series, I’ve loved reading all your interviews so far and can’t wait for more!

Thanks so much for being a part of it Elisalex. Good luck to you and Charlotte with By Hand London – can’t wait to see those patterns taking the blogging world by storm!

A Renfrew to see me through

Why have I been avoiding this pattern? It’s a dream! Must be something to do with a fear of knits and a growing bump. But then I came across Zoe’s fantastic tutorial on adapting a jersey pattern for maternity.. and a new wardrobe essential was born!

Maternity Renfrew

Maternity Renfrew

The tutorial couldn’t have been easier. Zoe walks you right through it (and all you’re doing is adapting the front pattern piece in any case). Couldn’t be easier. Pregnant bloggers – take up the challenge!

But mustn’t forget the genius that is Tasia’s Renfrew pattern. I sewed up View B with View C’s three-quarter-length sleeves. The trickiest bit was attaching the V neck to the body of the top – that was a little hard and I think I botched it slightly although it’s impossible to notice. However Tasia has plans to do a step-by-step on this later in the year. The rest was pretty much plain sailing. I really really wanted to do some topstitching with a recently purchased twin needle but lo and behold it’s gone on walkabouts somewhere in my sewing room, along with my tomato pincushion. (Where do these things go… the fourth dimension?) All seams were sewn with a basic zigzag stitch.

I feel a bit guilty as I’ve only taken one photograph but that’s really all there is to the top and showing you all my different angles isn’t as appealing as it once was! The fabric (looks like polkadot but is actually a star print) is from Walthamstow market (a bargain £2 a metre).

Verdict? This is an ace pattern, pregnant or otherwise. You can do it in an afternoon and you don’t need an overlocker either. Once you’ve done one I’ll bet you’ll go back for more. I’m going to try a stripey black and white next!

Has your fear of knits been conquered by the Renfrew? Or are you still quaking at the thought?

The Knitting, Stitching and Blogger Show

Since I live quite literally FIVE MINUTES from Alexandra Palace, and had never before been to the Knitting and Stitching Show up there, I felt it would have been quite, quite rude not to make an appearance this weekend. I’ve passed by before when it’s on and marvelled at the coachloads of silver-haired, sharp-elbowed grannies coming in from all over the country, yet always thought it might not be my cup of tea exactly. But this year I was absolutely determined to check it out, and I have to say, I’m glad I did!

Not only was it a gorgeous day for a walk to to the Palace (see Karen’s lovely scenic pics), my in-laws were down from Norwich for the weekend, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to go and have a look with Ann, my M-i-L.

We were only in ten minutes when who should I see having their picture taken together but new bride Zoe and Karen! Sewing serendipity batman! Zoe had to dash off to her stall (yes Zoe was manning an area for Traid, giving advice on upcycling and refashioning old clothes, as she is a responsible and caring human… not browsing for bargains like the grasping selfish seamstress I am…) but I managed to grab Karen for a quick chat and pic before we toddled off to look around. Here’s the lovely lady in question looking rather fabulous (are we both wearing Orla Kiely prints Karen?)!

Karen and me!Then it was off to try and cram in as much as possible from the exhibition and the stalls. Here’s my modest haul from the day:

The haulHere we have a metre of gorgeous helicopter fabric from Favourite Fabrics, first spotted on Jane’s tutorial for baby blankets. Hey – I’m a plagiarist an ideas magpie, what can I say? We also have four wooden buttons for the winter coat, an embroidery hoop, some assorted needles and a thread organiser to get me started on embroidery and a rather fabulous 5mm crochet hook. I’ve been frothing at the mouth with jealousy every time I see another swanky hook on the crochet vids I’ve been watching on Youtube so I’m delighted to finally get one of my own.

Then it was over to Zoe for a quick chat (thanks for being so accommodating whilst trying to work at the same time Zoe!) – we’ve never met so it was just lovely to see her in person. Here she is hard at work, bless her.

Zoe hard at work

Finally, off to the Royal Oak in Muswell Hill for a cup of tea and a sit down. Phew. Oh and we spotted this delight on the way out – a knitted village!

All in all I really enjoyed the couple of hours I spent there, but here are my tips for doing it well:

1. Dedicate a structured day to it. There’s so much to see and do it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Try and get booked in for a couple of workshops (like Shivani did) or talks in the morning as these are easy to miss out on. Shivani made the excellent point (in comments on Karen’s blog) that the coaches start to leave from 3pm and it empties out quite a bit so it might be worth leaving the shopping bit til then.

2. Bring a packed lunch. Alexandra Palace is a delight to walk around and have a picnic (yes, even in October!). At the back of the Palace is an enclosed deer park and there are loads of parks and woodland to the fore.

3. Have a budget and stick to it. It would be so easy to get carried away, especially at the sewing gadget stores, and it’s difficult to tell in all the excitement whether you’re really getting a bargain.

4. Don’t expect to get much in the way of dressmaking fabric. Most of the fabric available is quilting cotton.

5. Make the most of the expert advice on offer. I feel bad I can’t remember this particular stall’s name, but the lovely owner was invaluable and spent at least five or ten minutes in helping me find the right tools to get started with embroidery.

6. Which brings me neatly to my next point – bring a notepad and pen to take notes of shops and locations in the hall, otherwise you’ll lose track if you want to go back and visit them or buy from them again. And pick up as many leaflets/business cards as you can too.

7. Take the time to look at some of the exhibitions around the place. ‘Mining a Golden Seam’ was an embroidery exhibition from North East embroiderers. Inspired by coal mining, exhibitors were as young as 7 years old! Seeing something like this definitely makes you think about craft and communities, shared histories and narratives. Ooh it got me feeling all cultured like.

Maybe next year I’ll see some more of you there!

A nice sit down

Greeting crafters! Hope you’ve been making the most of your weekends so far. I’ve literally just finished a project and I just had to write it up because it’s one of those projects that makes me bloody proud to be crafty (and cheap).

So I was looking for a chair that would be ideal for nursing in, and I found a beautiful Ercol rocking chair on eBay going for a song. I eventually won it for £41 and it was delivered last week. It’s a gorgeous chair and the cushions are so comfortable… but they were a bit… eighties shall we say?

Original cushions

The original cushions – grim!

Pretty grim huh? It was time for a makeover.

I had this lovely vintage cotton I picked up at a market in Crouch End a few months ago. I’d been saving it for cushions but when I realised how beautifully it went with the dark wood of the chair I was committed.

Vintage fabricI just traced around the original cushions directly onto the fabric, noting where the zips were. I used some ready-made piping I had in my stash and hey presto, three hours later, we have a transformation!

New ercol cushionsI’m so so chuffed with this! It’s weird that a little project like this can make you so happy isn’t it? I can’t wait to get crocheting in this later tonight!

Do you find little projects can have a completely out of proportion impact on your sewing mojo? What’s been your proudest crafty moment recently?

My Handmade Style: Handmade Jane

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

Yet another blogging favourite joins us today to talk us though her handmade wardrobe – it’s Handmade Jane. I’ve been very excited about featuring Jane, not least because I love her style (and I bet you do too) but because she’s also possibly one of the nicest bloggers you could meet in the flesh. But enough of the fawning – let’s see if Jane will let us into her drawers!

Jane's Alma blouse

Jane, anyone who follows your blog knows you’re mad for vintage patterns, polka dots, gingham and shirt dresses! But if you had to describe your style, how would you sum it up?

Well, I think you’ve covered all life’s essentials in one fell swoop there! If I was blowing my own trumpet (which I am), I’d say ‘elegant chic with a vintage twist’! I’m a stay at home mum, which dictates the sort of clothes I wear to a certain degree – although I love them, wiggle dresses just look plain wrong down at the park! Having said that, I do like to look like I’ve made an effort – I’m a naturally neat person and am not comfortable being scruffy. So knee length skirts and dresses with cardigans seem to be my wardrobe staples during the day.

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me-made wardrobe?

Other sewing bloggers mostly, closely followed by old films and books, and of course, Pinterest, which I have to ration myself with, otherwise I’d be on there clicking away all day. I’ve just started collecting classic Agatha Christie books of the 1950s and 1960s, partly because I love a good crime novel, but also because the unfortunate murder victims on the front covers always seem to be rocking a gorgeous frock!

Agatha Christie heroine

Any kind of wartime drama is right up my street, especially if it features girls swanning around in tea dresses and cardigans. I really like Sarah Waters’ novels because she has a wonderfully evocative writing style and is a stickler for period detail, whether it’s clothes, decor or manner of speech. I’m thinking specifically of The Night Watch which is set during WW2.

The Night Watch

The Night Watch (BBC)

But with all sources of inspiration, it’s the vintage details that really get me going: a ruched bustline, a lace trimmed collar, a piped edge, an unusual colour combination, vintage buttons…. I’m always looking for ways of incorporating these details into my own sewing. I’m not really trying to create an entire vintage look, just a flavour. So I might make a shirt dress from a modern pattern, but shorten it and perhaps add vintage buttons for more of a 1940s look.

Who are your style icons and why?

I’ve got a soft spot for blonde bombshells from the 1950s! It’s a look that really appeals to me: the curvy figure, the sexy cut of the clothes, the blonde hair, the red lippie. Marilyn Monroe is probably my number one style icon.

Marilyn MonroeSome of her film costumes are eye poppingly wonderful, and it was two of them (a halter neck dress from Niagara and a cherry print dress from The Misfits) that inspired me to make my own Cherry Fabulous dress (seen above) this summer.

Jane's Cherry Fabulous dress

Her off-duty style is fabulous too: halter neck tops, polka dot sundresses, fitted sweaters and tight trousers – she always looked pulled together and perfectly accessorised.

Are there any particular designers that you use for inspiration?

I’m not really interested in current fashion trends. I feel quite strongly that what I
wear should be about what suits me, my personality and my figure, rather than
what’s currently doing the rounds on the catwalks. Tara Starlet and Vivien of
Holloway clothes are great for vintage style inspiration. I think Orla Kiely‘s eye for
design and colour is excellent and I always like the clothes she designs, even
though they are ridiculously expensive. I’ve recently discovered Kate Spade, and
was delighted to find she has a similar obsession with polka dots as me!

If you had to select one self-stitched garment that really encapsulates your style – what would it be and why?

That’s a difficult one! I think the easy option would be to choose a polka dot blouse or a gingham dress, as both these types of garments encapsulate my style in a nutshell. But if I was putting a little more thought into it, I’d have to say my Oolong dress. I made it for my brother’s wedding last summer and virtually everybody I spoke to said the dress was very ‘me’! It’s a flattering, feminine fit with 1940s style details (ruched bust, slightly gathered sleeves, knee length) in an oh-so-pretty blue floral fabric. I like the fact that it’s vintage in look but retains a modern edge. It’s also one of those dresses that makes me feel fabulous whenever I wear it, which can only be a good thing, right?!

Jane's Oolong

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I’d like to be a bit more of a risk taker but I just can’t drag myself away from my favourites most of the time! I’m constantly drawn to red, red/navy combos, 1940s florals, polka dots and gingham. A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested that maybe ‘enough was enough’ with the gingham and polka dots. It was like a red rag to a bull. If I like them, they suit me and make me happy, I’ll wear gingham and polka dots every day if I want to!

Having said that, I do have a hankering to wear yellow and this is one thing I’d like to be braver about. I have a Pinterest board full of yellow inspiration which I’m constantly sighing over. My reticence is because I know red and blue suit me, so I can wear them with confidence. With my colouring, I’m not so sure about yellow, and if I don’t think something’s quite right on me, then I won’t be confident wearing it. I’m taking baby steps though, and have taken advice from Caitlin Moran in her book ‘How to be a Woman’. She says, “every woman needs a pair of yellow shoes (they unexpectedly go with everything)”. Too right.

Jane's yellow Pinterest board

There are certain looks some of us just can’t pull off… do you have a style bugbear?

Anything that ‘s too flowing or unstructured – I just look pregnant! I definitely need some shape definition. And like Zoe, circle skirts just don’t do it for me. I love them on other people and really wish they suited me. But they don’t.

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

Amazingly, after so many years, I still really really love my wedding outfit. A dressmaker from Brighton made my dress, based solely on some pictures I’d drawn and amazingly, she got it spot on! It’s a sleeveless, fitted, floor length gown in red crepe de chine, with princess seams. Very simple and timeless and she managed to get the fit just right. I wore a matching shoulder wrap and red heels, and truly felt like a movie star (as all brides should on their wedding day!) I didn’t stop dancing and smiling all day!

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

I have to mention Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons, as hers was the first sewing blog I started following. Seeing the evolution of her handmade style really inspired me to start up my own blog. I also got very excited when I first discovered Lauren’s blog Lladybird – a lot of her style preferences overlap with mine, so I’m always keen to see what she sews next! Her beautiful polka dot Ceylon dress is probably one of my favourite ever dresses. I also really admire Casey‘s unique, vintage style – she just does her own thing and always looks wonderful! This is just the tip of the iceberg though, sewing bloggers inspire me on a daily basis.

Thank you so much Joanne for inviting me to be part of this excellent series. I can’t WAIT to see who else you have up your sleeve! x

Thanks for introducing me to Kate Spade (and wasting a whole afternoon) Jane! I’ve already got my eye on the Oolong pattern after seeing your version… divine.  And who else wants to see Jane’s wedding dress NOW?

The evolution of the cardigan

I’ve just finished my third crocheted baby cardigan, using a pattern from (Cute and Easy) Crocheted Baby Clothes, and I just have to share this pic of all three as it tickles me so much to see the difference!

The evolution of the cardigan

Apart from the size (which IS deliberate by the way) you can clearly see some sort of development in confidence and skill. I’m not saying the most recent is perfect by any means – but look at the difference! Makes me almost sorry for the baby when it’s tiny as it has to wait a couple of months before it can wear the good stuff!

Here’s a closer look at the latest addition to the family. The pattern is called the Baby Shell Cardigan  on account of the shell-style detail in the skirt. Apparently it’s been adapted from an old vintage pattern.  It’s quite feminine in style as a result of the shells but hopefully the colour and the traditional buttons make it more gender neutral.

Cardy close up

A few of you expressed amazement in my last post that I was so far along in pregnancy so I thought I’d share a pic of the bump from last week so you can see how big I’ve got! Bonkers eh? Gracie is wondering if it’s a new place for keeping kitty treats. Gracie, you’ve got no idea what’s coming sweetheart. These are the salad days. Cherish them my little fluff-duster.

Le bump et le chat

Finally – I’ve managed to make a start on the winter coat. I’ve traced out all the pattern pieces onto Swedish tracing paper, ready to cut out my muslin pieces.

Winter coat pattern piecesI’m trying out a new tracing paper this time. I used to use Kwik Trace (92cm by 4.6m) for £10.21 but I’ve recently found Gloriarty’s Swedish Sewable Tracing Paper in a roll (74cms by 9.14m) for £9.99 which is much better value.It’s thicker which means you can really make out the pencil notes on each piece which is great in this failing autumnal light.

Next up – cutting out the muslin and putting it together! Slow and steady Joanne, slow and steady…