Monday, 31 December 2012

New Year but not New Me

2012 was probably the best year of my life so far. I got married. I learned how to sew clothes. I started blogging properly and discovered the fabulous sewing-blogging community. I got married. Oh I said that already! (It was big thing tho...)

Sewing highlights include my Robe Sureau and my Kelly skirt. I'm really looking forward to making Washi and Cambie dresses next year! 

I've decided not to make too many resolutions for 2013. Mainly because I don't think that there's any point in trying to make myself stick to things just for the sake of it, like other years. I will inevitably break all resolutions that aren't important enough to me and then feel annoyed with myself. So instead, I've decided I'm just going to pick a few things that are important to me:
  • I want to carry on sewing - making things that I will use, wear and improving my techniques. I want to enjoy my sewing
  • I want to learn how to knit and/or crochet
  • I want to lose between 4 and 5kg by June and get myself healthier and fitter - I think that's a realistic goal and hopefully one that I will stick to as it's for a specific reason
So that's it, just three. This year coming, I'm not going to try and change a whole lot. I like who I am at the moment, I love my life and I want to stay happy! Oh, and I will carry on blogging (thank you to everyone who takes a little peek or leaves lovely comments, I get very excited when that happens!) How about you, do you have any thoughts on what you want out of the next twelve months?

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

My Sewist Secret Santa gift and other cool pressies

Yay, my gift arrived today!

With a cute card (how did my Santa know I love cats I wonder?!) with a little note explaining how he/she had missed the last post before Xmas, oops! Oh well, I certainly don't mind as it's lovely to receive a present at any time!

And this is what was inside:

How cute! I'm excited just thinking about what I can do with it... Thank you SO much, Secret Santa, I'm well chuffed! I'm not even going to try and guess who my Santa actually is btw, it will hurt my brain too much...(I've been ill all week and only just starting to get better)...

It was my first "married" Christmas this year, spent with my in-laws. I was thoroughly spoilt with lots of gifts, including:

Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing

Cambie dress pattern

I also got knitting needles, crochet hooks and wool - no excuse not to learn now! With them came a book called The Knitter's Bible and in fact, I've already started knitting my very first woolly scarf! I received fabric and other sewing supplies, a really fluffy and warm dressing gown and my favourite gift:

So all in all, a very good haul, eh? I hope none of the family got my horrible cold as a present from me... Best get on and do some crafting now!

Monday, 24 December 2012

A skirt called Kelly

I've wanted Megan Nielsen's Kelly skirt ever since it came out cos it looks so damn cute! And what a nice surprise to get it as a birthday present from my sister a few weeks ago (I say surprise -  it was on my present list! Altho I did think at one point I certainly wouldn't receive it)

I'd already got some fabric in mind for it (a lightweight denim from Birmingham Rag Market) but I only had 1m so I thought I'd better make a practice run. I picked up this navy fabric on my last trip to Barry's - I have no idea what it is, it's drapey, has a lovely sheen and a very, very slight one-directional stretch. It was only £1/m on their odds and ends table - bargain!

The fabric looked perfect for a work skirt too so I decided I'd make it a touch longer than the pattern states - I need to be "appropriately attired" as a professional and mid thigh skirts are definitely more weekend than weekday!

I know everyone has already said it but I'm going to say it as well -  working with the pattern was a dream! The pattern pieces are printed on sturdy, "proper" paper, not tissue paper which was fab. I traced a pattern for the first time ever. Mainly because I listened to (should that read "read"?) all the advice out there on other sewing blogs about saving original patterns for future use (I hadn't thought of that before, but in hindsight, such common sense advice!). The instructions came in a lovely booklet instead of that horrible newspaper-type material that the Big4 use and were crystal clear. Everything was explained really well and Megan (am I allowed to use her first name?) used great diagrams to help.

The bestest thing about the whole thing is the amaze-balls pockets - they are roomy and oh so simple to create. I think I'm in LOVE.
I did have one or two disasters along the way though, although neither were the pattern's fault. The first one occurred when I had put all the skirt pieces together and was about to move on to attaching the waistband. I needed to press seams and flatten the pleats. My iron is old. Really old, inherited from my mum when I moved out 5 years ago. You can see what's coming next, right?...

Disaster! I had to take apart one of the front panels and redo that whole section. Luckily, I was able to save the pocket bag.

The second disaster was the buttonholes saga. Now, I've never made buttonholes before. So I carefully followed the instructions in my sewing machine manual. And I have no idea what happened.

Both the fabric and the thread seemed to keep jamming. I tried a different thread, I tried it out on a different fabric, I even tried taking the foot out and reloading it all according to the instructions, just in case I'd done something wrong the first time round. But to no avail. If someone can tell me what I'm doing wrong, I'd be very grateful!

In the end I got so frustrated that I just have up. I really wanted to wear the skirt to work on the following day  so I decided to use poppers instead. I used 4 in total and for the remaining 3 buttons, I just sewed through all the layers so it's more a pull-on skirt rather than a complete button-up.  I was planning to do this anyway so not that huge a change.

Anyway, despite these two setbacks, I really love the skirt. The pattern is simple but put together really well and the finished article is great. I was a little bit worried the the box pleat at the back would make my botty look huge but I think it looks ok...what do you think?

I'm definitely planning to make more of these beauties, one in my originally planned denim with wooden buttons and I'm already in the midst of using the pocket method for another skirt. I just need to sort out making buttonholes!!

Anyway, merry Christmas to all, and hope you all get whatever sewing goodies you were dreaming of! See you all in a few days.

Wearing my Kelly for lunch at Akamba!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

My new sewing area - eek!

Ever since I started sewing, my dream was to have a dedicated sewing room. Unfortunately our house is just too small. The bed, ironing board, shelves and wardrobe take up the spare/guest bedroom and I would hate to have threads and bits of scraps all over my bedroom floor. At the moment, we don't even have a dining table to work on! We have a coffee table that's usually covered in "essential" rubbish so even that has been difficult to utilise. So, I've been known to sew on the floor. Yes, the actual floor. As in, the sewing machine would be on the floor, I would sit cross-legged and control the foot pedal with my knee. Not so great for my back!

On a slightly different (but soon to be related) note, we have a lovely bay window in our lounge that gets loads of sun in the summer months and gives a great view of our garden. Ever since we moved in, I've been saying to Mr Sabs that I would to be able to sit in the window to read or chill with Mini and Merky who like curling up on the windowsill to watch the birds.

So my lovely hubby came up with a brilliant idea - why not combine the two things and have window seat cum sewing area? Genius! So he spent a couple of weekends knocking up a shelf and supports and I'm proud to present the finished article:

We used to have long, floor length curtains which were a real pain to draw so last weekend I made them shorter and used the cut-offs to make little curtains for underneath the window seat - partly to make it look nice and homely and partly so we could hide all our crap there!

The cats love the new area (hence the cat bed and see saw) - it's wider than the old windowsill so they can sleep there and they like hiding behind the curtains too! I think it'll be lovely to have them right there when I'm working on my clothes.

With my machine set up. Obviously I will move the bouquet of flowers when I'm next working!
I'm really pleased with my new sewing table and can't wait to use it. The plan is to make upholstered foam cushions to go along the shelf so we can use it as a proper window seat but that will be easy enough for me to remove when I want to sew. I'm very grateful to Mr Sabs for the idea and execution... Reckon we make rather a good crafty team!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Die Auszeichnung ist mein liebster

Oh how lieblich... I got nominated for another award! This time round from Shivani of pins & needles who has a wicked blog about her sewing escapades. The cutest thing on her blog has to be Cornelius who is just adorable!
Thank you Shivani - I'm honoured! The award was set up way back when and has undergone a few changes from what I can see from my research. Its purpose is to bring blogs that have less than 200 followers into the limelight and increase their readership. It has definitely morphed since it first started (as has the logo in fact!) and the most current rules are:
  • Post 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions that your nominator (is that a word or have I just made it up?) asked you
  • Nominate up to 5 other blogs for the award and ask them 11 questions of your own
It's quite fun! Here are my random facts:
  • I LOVE cats (you probably already know this from my posts)
  • I'm determined to wear more dresses and skirts from this year on seeing as I've spent most of my life thus far in trousers
  • I've banned myself from crisps for years now as I was a little bit addicted to Walker's salt and vinegar in the past
  • I love toast with margarine and either honey or marmalade (I go thru phases)
  • I get really grumpy and argumentative if I'm either hungry or tired - my hubby tells me it's not my most attractive feature...
  • I'm scared of open water and found it really difficult to go sailing when I couldn't see any land
  • I'm really anal about grammar in formal documents
  • My favourite colour is brown and my favourite palette is earthy/autumnal
  • I have tried snowboarding twice and not been very good at it (I think I'm just too scared!) so am going to try and learn how to ski on my next trip in 2013
  • I have to read every night in bed in order to get to sleep
  • I really don't like the sound of my voice when it's recorded - but bizarrely I think I'm a reasonably good singer (not tried and tested in public so my fantasy of being the new Adele may yet be shot down in flames!)
Next up, my answers to the questions Shivani asked:

1. Why did you decide to start a blog?
I actually started it to enter a competition run by Rachel of stitched in color back in August 2011 However, it quickly became apparent that I could use it as an online diary to record stuff that I made. Initially it wasn't meant to be for public reading and it was REALLY boring for anyone but myself. It was only a few months ago, when I started making clothes, that I got into making the posts a little bit more varied and fun so that others out there in the blog world could see what I was up to.

What is your favourite piece of clothing that you've ever owned?
If I'm entirely truthful, it would have to be any of my pyjamas!! I tend to change into PJs as soon as I get home from work as they're so comfy. Everyone I know laughs at me for this but I really feel trussed up if I stay in work clothes at home. I suppose a more serious answer would probably be my wedding dress which I had real wobbles about a week before I got married (I thought I hated it and didn't want to wear it) but on the day I fell in love with it and it's now a special part of a special day.
3. Other than the current one, which era of history would you most like to have lived in? 
For the clothes it has to be the 40s and 50s but I'm a bit obsessed with the Regency period (late Georgian/early Victorian) when Jane Austen wrote her novels. I don't really know why as I think I probably would have felt quite opressed as a woman back in those days (and I'm pretty sure that Austen's heroines weren't the norm then either) but there's just something about the novels that makes me yearn to have been alive then.

4. What made you start sewing clothes?
I wanted a new hobby! I had tried jewellery making a few years previously but got bored quite quickly as beading is very repetitive (well, I found, anyway) so I thought sewing would be more varied with a greater scope for expansion. I started off by making quilts and bags and cushions etc but wanted to do more. I was given a new sewing machine by my aunt as a wedding present and was really keen to join some evening classes to develop my skills. I was definitely encouraged by my other half (probably to get me out of the house so he could watch sport!!)

5. What is your dream holiday destination?
I'm hopefully going to Kenya on safari next year, that's something I've always wanted to do. I'd like to explore Australasia, South America and parts of Africa too if I get the chance.

If you won the mega jackpot on the lottery, what's the first thing you would do?
Pay off my mortgage! Then give some money to my parents and my sister so that they didn't have to worry about money in the future. Then buy a bigger house with a bigger garden. And go part time at work!

7. What is your favourite ice cream flavour?
Gonna be boring - chocolate. Altho I did try some mince pie flavoured ice cream recently at my work Xmas do which was very nice.

8. What is your favourite book?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Obsessed I tell you...
9. What are you frightened of?
All creepy crawlies. If I see one in the house (especially a spider) I have to get one of my cats, usually the bigger one called Merky, to save me.

10. What is your favourite quote?
I don't think I have one but I do like this potentially topical one: "don't eat yellow snow".

Which five guests (from any time in history) would be at your dream dinner party?
Nelson Mandela
Prince Charles
Stephen Fry
Jane Austen
David Attenborough
(I feel like I need more women in the mix though...Maybe swap Charles for Kate Winslet? )

And finally, here are my questions to the blogs that I've nominated:
1. If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
2. What colour are your eyes?
3. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up and have you become that?
4. What was your favourite childhood toy?
5. Dresses or trousers?
6. How many hours a day or week do you spend looking at other peoples' blogs?
7. If you could timetravel back to the past and change one thing, what would it be?
8. What have you always wanted to do but were too afraid to try?
9. What crafting experience (ie something you've made) are you most proud of?
10. Which day of the week do you hate the most?
11. Daddy or chips?

And the award goes to (drumroll please)....

Go and read these lovely blogs and start following, they're all fab! (Follow me if you like too!) Thanks again, Shivani, I'm chuffed to bits for my award. Coming soon - my new sewing area and my first Kelly skirt... x

Friday, 14 December 2012

I'm featured!

Wow, I can't believe my finished Robe Sureau got featured on the paunnet blog! Anna, who has a really amazing blog about her sewing escapades and reviews has chosen me as one of four non-French speaking participants of the Deer and Doe Robe Sureau sewalong whose dresses are showcased on her blog. (The four best French participants' Sureaus are featured on Eleonore's blog)
I love Anna's blog, her creations are so beautiful and always look impeccable and so chic. She is a "proper seamstress" in my eyes so for her to think my dress is even ok is something  I'd be over the moon about let alone good enough to put on her blog for hundreds of her readers to see.

Anyway, you can read the post here and see who else she picked to feature.

I've really enjoyed taking part in the sewalong; it's given me more confidence in dressmaking, I've learned new skills and techniques but you know the best part? It feels really nice to be part of a sewing community, even online. I don't really know anyone in real life who sews much and even the girls in my sewing class, although absolutely lovely, are not really what I would call friends (ie we don't socialise together outside of the class or discuss anything much other than what we're working on for the class...). But I really feel like I've made some new bloggy friends through the sewalong - there has been much encouragement and merriment along the way and I've discovered a whole load of new blogs to get addicted to! So thank you to Anna and Eleonore for this wonderful idea and thanks to one and all who participated - it's been emotional.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Double chocolate orange cake

Here's my version of the recipe posted by Kelly over at bakedoandmend recently. I've tried to make it a teeny, tiny bit healthier by substituting olive oil for butter and using less sour cream. It was delish, so thanks very much Kelly! I made the full sized version to take to our annual friends' Christmas dinner on Saturday night and then made it again using half the recipe for when my family came over for lunch today. It went down really well on both occasions. There's still some left over for dinner....! (God, I really need to cut down on all the bad food in the run up to Christmas. Meh, I'll just do it after New Year!)

Friday, 7 December 2012

Butterbeer is RANK! ... But my Robe Sureau is not!

Really sickly sweet and not very nice!
So I got to go to the Harry Potter studio tour for my birthday - it was great fun and as it was a special day, I wore my Sureau for the first time. I love it! It's so comfy to wear and looks really good.
I'm holding Lord Voldemort's wand in that photo above! The dress certainly wasn't without its trials; I decided I wanted pockets and so set about using the instructions from another pattern I have (Simplicity 2215). Except that I've never used an invisible zip before. Or put in pockets. The right pocket was fine and has turned out lovely:
But the left pocket, which sits in front of the side zip, was a complete and utter nightmare to do. I don't know how many times I had to rip out the seams and start again, about five I think! It seemed to go ok when I made the toile but I suppose I wasn't being particularly neat then. When I eventually got the hang of it (well, sort of) I realised that the raw edges of the pocket were showing at the side, doh!
So, more seam ripping. I eventually got it so that I was reasonably happy with the look of the finished pocket. The different coloured pockets are on purpose, before you say anything. The invisible zip isn't entirely invisible by the way!
Bit of a blurry photo!
I love the dress and the pattern was so easy to follow despite being in French. Thanks to Eleonore and Anna, I got lots of tips from the sew-along and managed to make a lovely dress that I'm sure I'll wear time and time again. I may change a couple of things for next time though - perhaps putting the zip in the back rather than the front if I make pockets again and also I might make the skirt part not as full. Oh, and I found these really cute button to go on the bodice - apologies for the blurry photo again.
Here are a few highlights from the studio:
And I couldn't resist taking this next photo of Delores Umbridge's pink dresses, after all this is now a sewing blog...Future projects maybe??!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

It's my birthday and I'll sew if I want to...

Well, it's time of year again folks: another year older and another year wiser (or not). Here's a rather photo-heavy post of my birthday presents:
There is a lovely, traditional, British-made trug basket for me to wander round the garden collecting flowers and home grown veggies, a soup thermos for those cold, winter days at work and a gorgeous basket of pink flowers. The blue you can see peeking out from the trug is my new waterproof jacket:
And just in case it's not that clear, there are two, yes TWO! patterns in the trug as well - the Washi dress from Made by Rae and the Kelly skirt from Megan Nielsen. I have been wishing for these!
Then there's the most lovely little monkey puzzle tree that the Tinkers seem to like a lot:
And also a felt making kit - I saw this at the Great Dorset Steam Fair being demonstrated by a really lovely lady and had to drop a few hints to make sure someone bought it for me - how sneaky is that??!! But I'm really glad as I'm planning to have a go over the Christmas period, maybe even with my mother-in-law who gave it to me.
Other gifts include a lovely grey cardigan, sewing machine needles, zip-off trousers, roasting tins, a waterproof cover for my rucksack and handmade lavender pouches. All in all, I've been thoroughly spoilt!

I'm off now to finish my Robe Sureau - hopefully there will be photos tomorrow...