Wednesday, 3 February 2016


Hello friends! Thank you all for your lovely comments welcoming me back to blogland. I have lots to write, but don't want to put undue pressure on myself, I'll just pop in and blog when I feel like it, or if I feel like it.

During my absence I have been busy building up my sewing skills. Some projects have gone well, and others have not gone so well. But in the interests of sharing my successes I thought I'd show you my latest make! Readers that have been visiting here for a while will know my love of Tilly and the Buttons, a fabulous blogger and pattern designer who was made famous by appearing as a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee! In November 2014 I bought her Françoise dress pattern, and it has sat rather forlornly on my shelves ever since. Frankly I was slightly intimidated by it- there was a fantastic sewalong at the time with all sorts of fitting instructions which all looks a bit scary to me. Not to mention the invisible zip. I have been struggling to find an invisible zipper foot for my old machine for some time, and have avoided patterns with invisible zips, or attempted to use my adjustable zip foot. I had some success with that, but really liked the neat look of the real deal. Number 9! This is a second hand machine that I bought when Make, Do & Mend sadly closed its doors in December. It's a Singer Confidence, and couldn't be more different to Miss Betsy. It's all so easy! Too easy, I'm not sure I trust it yet, that's why it's still called Number 9. It has a toploading bobbin, automatic needle threader, LOADS of stitch options, a buttonhole foot, storage and removable arm thingy and lots of other features I will probably never use.

And this is the first thing I've made with it!

It was great fun to make, and as you can see, easy to wear! I cut a size 5 in Tilly sizes, and am thrilled with the fit. I have large hips but decided against sizing up on the hips as I didn't want the A-line to turn into a big bell shape skirt. I think it hugs the hips nicely! Obviously I've made the sleeveless version, it had to be really in this gorgeous rust needlecord (purchased from Plush Addict). The skirt is short, but cheeky rather than provocative, and I'll always be wearing it with thick woolly tights anyway.

I think next time I will be a version with sleeves and a collar, this is my inspiration (as ever):
I *Heart* Suzy Bishop, the leading lady in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. I will need to draft some cuffs though. And source the perfect textured peachy-pink or mustard fabric.

Today I'm wearing my Françoise with a long sleeve jersey top and woolly tights and my black knee-high boots. I was hoping to wear it with my aubergine t-bat clogs but there was a freak snow flurry on the school run this morning so I opted for warmth! Hence my beehive got flattened by my beret. FML, amirite? Or something equally nonsensical and teenage. Also WHOA look at that double chin! Cripes! I did lose half a stone in January, hoping to continue to lose a little more weight this month so my clothes fit a little better.

Anyway, until next time, happy hooking, stitching and bitching.


Friday, 29 January 2016

Yarn Talk

Throughout January, I had an epiphany. It's not unusual to have this kind of epiphany at this time of year; the start of a new year usually prompts such changes, but I realised I was weighed down with STUFF. So I sheeped out and bought Marie Kondo's best-selling The Life Changing Magic of Tidying. I haven't even got through to the part of how to tidy, but the idea of having objects that 'spark joy' only really struck a chord with me, and so I started with the place that I find is supposed to 'spark joy', and that's my yarn. I've seen bigger stashes than mine, but I felt I just had too much yarn that had no intention of using, that I had gone off, or that was left over from work projects. So I had a big clear out, swapping and selling what I didn't want, or donating it.

Here's what's left of my acrylic:
And I've kept a small stash of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in this basket too. It was overflowing with Stylecraft Special DK before, so I kept these few colours (2 x Parchment, Forest, Gold, Old Rose and walnut) either for a shawl (possibly My Rose Valley's Nordic Shawl, or Joanne Scrace's Acer) or a granny square blanket. I've also kept the mint, cream and blue from my Annell Rapido collection as I do love these colours. This basket now sparks joy!

I also organised my cotton stash, only keeping my very favourites (some Rowan Handknit Cotton, and a collection of Drops Paris) so they fit snugly into a birdcage that my friend gave me some years ago. I've invested in a cheapo yarn winder, and I wound my super chunky collection nicely, and used up the few balls of chunky that I had, making some mittens and using the chunky Natura XL for a work project. My aran collection now consists of just a few balls of leftovers from personal projects, in case repairs or alterations are needed. I organised all my Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino into one of those big organza bags that Wool Warehouse sends, and have another of my favourite DK yarns. My 'Luxury' yarns all got kept,l of course.
I mean, why wouldn't I? NO FILTER! These yarns really are this gorgeous! I have here (clockwise from top left) some precious The Fibre Company Terra, The Uncommon Thread Lush Worsted, Eden Cottage Yarns Titus 4ply, Collinette Jitterbug, Eden Cottage Oakworth DK (a very generous gift from instagram friend @penelopemakes), DyeForYarn Silk Fingering in a colour exclusive to Loop called Golden Beehive, and that lovely SparkleDuck Baby Camel/Silk. To be fair, virtually all of these skeins will be assigned to knitting projects.

Really what has prompted this yarn stash management drive is the wonderful knitting designer, blogger and podcaster Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade. I've been devoted to her podcasts this month on how she's tackling stash management, and how she's learning to love what she's got. So I'm using up some stash- some baby knits (ssshhh! they're a secret for a friend!) and a shawl for me- some selfish, enjoyable makes to make me appreciate what I've got.

Go have a listen to Helen's podcast and see if you can't get inspired to organise your stash, and join in the #uknewyearstashswap over on Instagram to see if you can get the yarn you've been dreaming of. And join me on Ravelry to see what projects I have queued up and the knit- and crochet-alongs I'm joining.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Year in Books:: January 2016

Last year (or possibly the year before?), Laura over at Circle of Pine Trees (and the deputy ed of 91 Magazine- yay!) started a thread and hashtag called #theyearinbooks, taking time to share our reads over the year, and offer a short review. I've decided to start documenting my reading in 2016, and will be using the hashtag and sharing over on Instagram, too. There's even a group twitter chat, and for February, a good reads reading group! I promise you won't be disappointed by Laura's blog, it's a beautiful document of slow living and finding magic in the every day...two things I hope to pursue this year, too.

My first book of 2016 is arguably the most famous of Agatha Christie's Poirot mysteries, 'Murder on the Orient Express'. I've been hearing a lot about Agatha Christie recently over on BBC Radio 4 (my favourite station), and knowing my interest in 1920s and 1930s fiction, my husband gave me this copy for Christmas. And I devoured it. The writing was full of nuanced characters, a rollicking plot line and of course the absolutely essential 'whodunnit' thread. I genuinely had no idea who had indeed done it, and my modern 'Nordic Noir' (and slightly cynical, I admit) stance had me guessing at completely the wrong person.

One does have to be aware of some of the rather old-fashioned opinions of a few of the characters- I don't think it was Christie's intention to offend anyone, it was just the prejudices of the time of writing, I suppose. I found some of the characters a little irritating, but that's probably the point. And at times I felt that Poirot's 'johnny foreigner' routine a little weary, but all in all it was a good fun read, and my first foray into crime fiction. I'd love to get to know Miss Marple next!

Also this month I've started two other books. 'Reasons to Stay Alive' by Matt Haig is one man's journey into depression, and the lessons he has learnt from his particular manifestations of the Black Dog, and how he has learnt to both live with it and manage it without drugs. It's fascinating, and I've found it a complete antidote to the kind of stigmatising depression usually invites. Reading it, I feel normal, and have found a way to verbalise my particular feelings and how depression manifests in me. I recommend it to everyone if you're struggling to understand your feelings and not sure how to approach your GP or loved ones about it.

I've also read the first chapter or so of 'The Tenant of Wildefell Hall'- my first Anne Bronte. 'Jane Eyre' and 'Wuthering Heights' by Anne's sisters Charlotte and Emily respectively are my two favourite novels so I have high hopes for this. I'm struggling with a wintery exhaustion at the moment. but it's important to make time for my first love- books.

Here's the pile of books I intend to read this year. If you want further reading inspiration, visit the Year in Books Pinterest board, or drop in on my chum Georgina's blog, Miss Chapter's Reviews, for a more in depth blog about books.

Monday, 25 January 2016

A Confession.

Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned. It has been almost nine months since my last blog.

Is a blog like a confession? Almost. A document of time passing, those small obsessions that take hold over the course of a few days, weeks or months. I confess to having lost my mojo. Blogging, crochet, parenting...all of it. In truth, I have been suffering from depression, and keeping myself busy with work and regular contact with my (wonderful) GP have helped me through a black time.

But on the bright side, my creative juices have been flowing- straight into work! I'm loving my writing work, and have been working with the same publishers on my features job for five years now. Each week I talk to interesting people, learn about new ways of doing things, and I'm inspired by those who teach, create, travel and just want to make the world a prettier, more productive and sustainable place to live in. And so I'm pleased that my ten-year career as a journalist has brought me to a happy place. And now, an even more productive, creative place in the shape of my new role as sub-editor of 91 Magazine! I've long been a fan of Caroline's blog, Patchwork Harmony, and I'm delighted to be involved in such a cool magazine, celebrating my favourite things: interiors and creative lifestyles. We're working towards bringing a new print version to you in late Spring/early Summer, and I can tell you know it's going to be BEAUTIFUL.

Speaking of beautiful, isn't the above image lovely? This is my stash from the Waltham Abbey Wool Show, which I visited last weekend with my mum. I chatted to the lovely Fiona Alice, author of Take Heart above, and I can't wait to cast on some of these projects. The yarn is gorgeous too- the slate grey is Baby Camel/Silk and is the softest thing EVER. I had to stop myself buying more, but at £23.50, one 400m skein of 4-ply is plenty! I'm thinking of knitting a shawl- my current obsession, actually. That West Yorkshire Spinners Fleece is a beautifully soft Blue Faced Leicester, and will be a cowl I think.

Over the past few months I've been acquainting myself with less 'mainstream' yarns and delving more in to the world of small dye-houses and indie yarn spinners. Yes, folks, I have become a yarn snob. Of course I still love my Drops yarns, my bright Rico cottons and my growing stash of Debbie Bliss yarns, but there's something magical about the combinations of fibres and colours that indie dyers and spinners are using. So to celebrate my birthday in November I went to Loop and spent an obscene amount of cash on some truly special yarns- limited editions and exclusive to Loop! My most favouritest yarn shop in all the world.  I'll share that stash soon!

I can't wait to update you on my Handmade Wardrobe situation and show you all the work I've been doing for pretty much all the crochet magazines. I'm also becoming a proper Ravelry user! Be my friend! And does anyone know how to get a little 'r' button so you can link directly to my Ravelry page? Evidently the break from blogging did not include learning how to be more technically-minded.

Thanks for calling in again, I wasn't sure if I wanted to blog. But thankfully the words have flowed, and a little break from the work schedule can do the world of good. cheerio old beans xxx

Monday, 30 March 2015

A Gingham Washi Dress

It's been a year since my dressmaking odyssey began, and it all started with some red spotty poplin and a Colette Sorbetto. Since then I've made a few skirts, some cardis and even some dresses. I still haven't made anything with a zip in it. I'm definitely going to get myself an invisible zipper foot for my sewing machine and give it a whirl. I have the fabric, zips and thread for three projects, I just need to grow some balls and get on with it.

But I've been having plenty of fun making dresses WITHOUT zips. This is by far, my greatest dressmaking achievement. I've been wanting to make Made By Rae's 'Washi' Dress since I started sewing, and now I've finally made one. 

I spent many happy hours this week in my sewing space, taking my time to perfect each technique. I learned facings, a rather tricky set-in sleeve technique and shirring! I love that this pattern uses the bust dart and binding skills I learnt during my very first 'sew'. 

Here are my happy pics of me wearing my washi the other day...

Can I just say? I LOVED making this dress! And I LOVE the dress. It's perfect. Pockets? Check. Roomy to disguise great big tummy? Check. Flattering neckline? Check. I will DEFINITELY make another of these...perhaps even two or three? I'm thinking a chambray version with sleeves and a sleeveless mustard version with green bias bound armholes and neckline!

Things to note:-

  • The fabric is cheap as hell and as a result it frays like hell. Meaning this will probably fall apart. But it cost £3.99 a metre. I think it might be a poly cotton as it doesn't crease very much and I felt a bit scared pressing it in case it melted. I got it from one of those fabric shops where everything is piled up in a precarious fashion. But it's GINGHAM. Consider this a very wearable toile.
  • Yes, my pattern matching is shocking. But who cares? Not me.
  • I decided to gather the fabric at the front instead of pleating. I prefer the gathered look and also it cut about 4 days off the time spent making it... 
  • I liked shirring, and I think I will do two extra rows on my next version and it's slightly loose around my underbust. 
  • The sleeves were quite tricky, due to the curved edges. I also did not enjoy binding the raw edges and seam allowances. I really hated that. 
  • The facings flap about a bit. I did understitch them to the seam allowance but they still flap. I've also stitched them down to the shoulder seam allowance. But hey ho. 
  • The seam allowances for this dress are really quite tiny so go slowly and take your time. 

I wore my smashing new dress with my teal tights and my handmade crochet cardi. I'm pretty chuffed and proud with how far my handmade wardrobe has come in the last year. I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Thank you ALL for your lovely comments on my sewing room. It's a lovely sacred space and I've cherished every moment I've spent in there so far. Yippeeeeee!