Wednesday, 9 April 2014

I Have Moved!

I have decided to move my blog to a new home at for various reasons, mostly involving me being difficult and fancying a change.

I hate to be a pain, but please could you update your blog readers with my new home?

Here is the bloglovin link to get you started :)

Bonus excitement: head over there and see the skirt which I have not only made, but photographed as well - not to mention an exciting breakdown of what my neighbours have been feeding the local seagulls this week.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

I'm an April Fool :(

Today my brother and his fiancée (who are travelling in Thailand) posted a picture of a plaster cast, saying that she'd broken her leg and that the hospital were saying their travel insurance wouldn't cover it.

I first heard about this from my mum, who phoned me, panicking. I rushed home from the supermarket to sort it all out (as I like to do), and only after sending a few messages to them to check that everything was ok did I remember the date.

Well, now I feel quite the April fool. I can't decide if my mum realised it was a trick and decided to double trick me, which seems unlikely; although this is the woman who told me that Knightmare was real, and that people who didn't make it out in one episode had to stay in there for the week. Childhood trauma, right there.

Sadly not a joke: there have been builders working in the flat beneath us for over a week now, spreading toxic fumes throughout the building and spending every day singing along to dubstep (turns out that's both possible and deeply unpleasant).

Finishing on a positive note: Alfie has learnt to sew.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Terry Wogan, Personal Hero

I just read some interviews where people were asked about their childhood heroes. I had to laugh at their choices of cartoon characters and the like - mine was Terry Wogan

For the non-Brits/Irish (he's famous in Ireland, right?), Terry is an Irish TV presenter who has lived in the UK and been on the BBC for as long as I can remember. His chat show was on the telly three evenings a week for the first eight years of my life, and he presented my gran's favourite, the Eurovision Song Contest each year, so it's not surprising that I was quite attached to the man. 

The book above was owned by every household in my family. I assume they all bought it for each other one christmas, hoping to remind themselves of the old country. Look at him - so smooth, so casual! Would you look at that jumper? I think most members of my family owned one of those delights, too! 

When I was six, I made up a game which was, surprisingly enough, titled "Wogan", where I would line up all my cuddly toys on the bed and interview them. One especially exciting "show" featured Superman, Prince Charles (who had recently broken his arm playing polo), and Mozart. A bit of fiction, a bit of reality and a bit of history and music - I presented a well rounded show there! 

Ah, Terry Wogan. Such a lovely, lovely man. He's 75 now and just down to presenting a radio show each Sunday as well as a few other bits throughout the year. He's still way up there on my list of people I would be extremely starstruck if I met.

Who was your childhood hero? Do they still live up to your expectations? 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A Belgian Weekend

This was going to be a post about one of my two (two!!!) new makes from last week, complete with photos taken in Brussels. Sadly I fell down some stairs on my first night there and smashed my chin open on the pavement. Yes, alcohol was involved. I've decided that the world isn't ready for pictures of my manky chin, so you're just going to have to wait for the clothes posts.

In the meantime, I offer you this picture of a pig outside the Berlaymont (European Commission headquarters). The pig is called Hope, and she's part of a campaign calling upon the Commission to uphold laws protecting pigs from inhumane treatment in Europe. It's all very interesting, and you can find out more about the campaign here, and the other work Compassion in World Farming do here.

This is one of the more sedate demonstrations I've seen in Brussels. The dustmen's protest involved setting fire to all the street bins within a kilometre of my office, and I had a firecracker thrown at me while trying to get through the annual farmers blockade near my work (they then sprayed the European Parliament with milk and partied in the square outside, apparently oblivious to the smell).

We spent most of our trip trying to catch up with as many of our friends as possible, and generally eating and drinking too much. It would be a lot easier if all of our friends were friends with each other, but we have diverse tastes, so we just had to cram everyone into any available gap. It was great to catch up on everyone's news and I was pleased I could fit in a lunch with my old office buddies at Lunch and More, a brilliant Polish Restaurant close to Arts Loi specialising in pierogi (yummy dumplings).

Of course we couldn't come back without some of our favourite Belgian treats (and a bottle of Soviet Champagne, because we found a Russian supermarket). 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

It's a Wrap!

I decided to add a more casual and multi seasonal skirt to my wardrobe. Something which I felt was lacking. I chose a Miette, because I think it's an interesting take on quite a classic design. Also, other people had them and I was jealous.

I really enjoyed making this, and found the pattern and instructions very clear. I made this a few months ago now, and at the time, it was really helpful to be guided through the process in so much detail. I'm probably a bit more capable now, and could whip this up with slightly more confidence!

I chose a grey linen for this skirt, mostly because I thought the grey would be easy to dress up and down. I didn't really take into account that linen would fray and crease like crazy. Next time, I'd finish the seams differently. I've just had to come to terms with the fact that my lovely skirt will look really crumpled within ten minutes of putting it on. It's not too bad as long as I don't sit down. 

The biggest issue I've found with wearing this dress is that Brighton is super windy. Although the overlap at the back is very large, I still think I might end up flashing someone. These pictures were taken on a moderately breezy day, and it seems to be ok, but I don't know what would happen in some of the more extreme weather we've had recently. It's a fair-weather skirt, really. And if I flash you, then maybe you shouldn't have been looking, peeping tom!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Happy Shopper

When my auntie came to stay recently, she admired both my curtain, and my tote bag. "Aha!" I thought, "Aha! I shall combine the two!"

Can we call this a self drafted pattern? I mean, it's only a tote bag, but I did make a pattern for it all by myself (with a slight pause to watch a video on how to make a square bottomed bag on youtube). Yeah, lets call it self drafted and make me feel very pleased with myself indeed. 

I was so happy with it, that as soon as it was finished and photographed, I headed straight up to the post office to send a nice surprise all the way to Yorkshire. Hopefully she'll like it; you can fit A3 paper inside, so she should be able to get her Daily Telegraph in, as well as some groceries (which won't fall over thanks to the flat bottom - yeah!! ). 
I used the curtain's natural resources (massive eyelets) to form the strap holes, and used french seams for added strength. They make it a little bit bulky, but I think it's ok. The cotton is pretty thick anyway, so I don't think it's a fold-up-and-keep-in-your-bag-bag. Ben thinks it looks like an owl. 

Oh, and by the way, I learnt from my mistakes and used a denim needle, which made all the difference to my sanity with this project. 
The two dressmaking projects I've been working on at the moment have come to a bit of a standstill after various blunders on my part. The 70s tunic is just a disaster partly through strange instructions, and partly through stupidity (let's call this version a toile). The Kelly skirt is probably too small for me, and I'm disinclined to finish it - also, sewing that corduroy is akin to punching myself repeatedly in the face. Today it began shedding wildly all over the flat. It's everywhere. I have corduroy up my nose. Does decent corduroy do that? Is this what I get for buying cheap shit? 

By the way, I set up a new page on my blog listing fabric shops which I've visited. It's very Brighton/London/Chichester centred at the moment, but hopefully it might be helpful to some people. I always look for things like this when I visit a new place. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

It's Snood Easy Being Green

The snood is complete! Huzzah! It was actually completed aaaaages ago, but the weather was bad at the time, and I was disinclined to be photographed in the rain, so this shot of me wearing it with a hoodie and one of my prettiest faces in my sitting room was the best I could manage. I wanted to do better for you. 

Since then, I've managed to add a picture of me wearing it with my coat and a normal face in my bedroom to the mix (see below). It does get worn outside, but not when I have a camera to hand, apparently. Just pretend the background shows some nice trees or something.

I'd reduce the circumference by about 20% next time, but I was working with a River Island snood which I'd measured against my arm in the shop (just don't ask), and I was also a bit worried about it fitting over my big old head coat collar.

As you can see from the first picture, it's really tall, but it can be folded down to half the size for a more subtle look. It's nice to have both options, making it practical for cold and less cold weather. I'm actually pretty chuffed with it!

It was a really easy make - perfect for a beginner or a lazy person. Here's one of the least helpful how to guides in history (British crochet terms):

1. Teach yourself to crochet a little bit

2. Decide how tall you want your snood to be and crochet a foundation chain to that length

3. Double crochet about 80 rows (depending on preferred circumference/head size)

4. Crochet the last row onto the first row, creating a loop - make sure the snood isn't twisted up before you start

5. Wear that massive snood with pride! 

Friday, 28 February 2014

Inlight Glass Fusion Workshop

A couple of weeks ago, my mum and I had the BEST DAY EVER(!!) at an ornament making workshop held by Chantal of Inlight at her studio in Hove.  

I found the workshop on Groupon and got it as a Christmas present for my mum - I had to tag along of course, just to make sure she was enjoying herself. My mum is like me, and loves anything crafty or creative. She's also always happy to have a nice day out. We were joined by another mother and daughter combo, these ones had both received the workshop for Christmas from their daughter/sister. 

The three hour session started with cups of tea, and an explanation from Chantal about the basics of glass fusion, what we could do with our glass, and what effects different decorations would have on the finished product. Before we went, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but I was quite worried about serious burns from molten glass, and the effect that those might have on my life. 

I needn't have worried, as it turns out that you start with a solid sheet of glass, which you cut into the shapes you want. First of all, we drew out some templates and practised cutting them out on sheets of cheaper glass, then, once Chantal had checked our work, and explained how to avoid any of our mistakes in future, we were set loose on our allocated bit of nice glass. 
The technique used involved scoring the shape you want into the glass, before snapping the excess off with some pliers. This was a bit scary at first, but it all worked out fine, and we were soon cutting out squares, icicles, owls and birdies to our hearts content. Once cut out, they were decorated with small bits of glass, copper wire or foil, special paint, and silver glitter. There were so many ideas floating round, not to mention Chantal's beautiful work hanging above us, it was hard to decide what to do!

I settled on a crazy-eyed red owl, an abstract square and a blue bird, while mum went for a partridge, a blobby rectangle, and a kitty cat (modelled on her own cat, Hank).  It's funny how we both work in such different ways - she's much more abstract in her designs, whereas I like everything to line up very neatly (strangely, I'm the messy one). You can see my designs after and before cooking at the top, and mum's below.

Chantal took our creations away and cooked them in her kiln, before we picked them up a few days later. I was really pleased with how they turned out, and I loved the opportunity to try out a different craft for the day.

I'd love to go back and try another of the workshops - the jewellery making one really caught my eye! 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

To Do... no particular order. 

Beachy Tunic
My first proper vintage creation is cut out and ready to go! The fabric is the grey stuff which I got in France, but my God, I wish it was skunk print. I got the ribbon in Fabric Land (do NOT click on that link if you have epilepsy), and it's not exactly what I wanted, but it hurts my eyes a little bit, and that can only be a good thing. 

Jiffy II
I love this dress. I love this dress so much. I got this cotton for about £3/metre in Fabric Land (surprise!). I'd planned to make a different dress with it, but I need a dynasty of Jiffys in my life. I'm going to try out my alterations from Jiffy I, leave off the collar and buttons, and I'm wondering about including the additional excitement of an exposed zip. 

Growing up in the woods, I used to live opposite a girl called Kelly. She was a few years older than me, but she'd come to my birthday parties and stuff. Her family had some ferrets and a dog called Piper. I wonder where she is now. 

This skirt doesn't have any ferrets, more's the pity, but it does have some polyester/nylon blend corduroy (guess where that came from). I need a winter skirt and it's time I learnt to make buttonholes. 

I was planning to make this for my friend's wedding last summer, but it never quite happened. The design is absolutely beautiful, and I love this fabric (John Lewis), so I think it's time to do something about getting the two of them together to form a meaningful relationship. 

Lumberjack Shirt
This is, I think, literally the last piece of plaid brushed cotton available in Brighton and Hove (thank you C and H Fabrics). It is also, according to the pattern, not big enough, but if I have to live with one sleeve, I have to live with one sleeve. 

The original idea was a shirt for Ben, but the lack of man-fabric caused too many problems, so I changed my plans to an Archer for myself. Then I saw this pattern in my sewing bee book, and decided it was close enough to what I wanted. Who needs cuffs, anyway?

Pierre Balmain
Oh, Pierre. How you intimidate me. I had to take my mum and auntie shopping to finally reach a decision on the fabric to use for this. I left my flat with plans for a light wool with some kind of pattern, which, somewhere between Fabric Land and C and H, turned into maybe a plain crepe in rust. But my refusal to pay more than £10/metre led me to this pink jersey with grey flecks through it.  Having never sewn anything stretchy before, I can't help thinking I may have bitten off more than I can chew. On the plus side, it is so, so soft, so if the dress doesn't work out very well, then at least I shall have an excellent nightie. 

Here's a close up of the loveliness:

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Animals of Farthing Wood Dress

I just need to put this out there - THIS IS THE HAPPIEST I'VE EVER BEEN WITH ANYTHING I'VE EVER MADE!!! You can probably tell that from the big old sulk on my chops, not to mention the fact that I forgot to iron the dress, and may have potentially forgotten to brush my hair as well. 

Initially, things were going quite well with this dress. I bought this massive blue sheet in a charity shop for under a fiver, ordered the Jiffy 1609 pattern online after spending about four hours browsing the Simplicity site, decided to use up some scraps on the collar, and then became overwhelmed with insecurity about which scraps I should use. 

Along came Ben, who declared the red floral print I was holding up against the blue to be too obvious a choice, and asked why exactly I hadn't already decided to use that deer print fabric I had hanging around. 

Work commenced. I drove to my mum's house every day while my sewing machine was being repaired so I could get the dress finished in time for a party, I used Gertie's tutorial for making the collar, and everything was going swimmingly. I'm not a big fan of scalloped edges, but I decided to give them a try in order to make the dress a bit more exciting. I'm still not entirely sold on them, to be honest. 

Then I got sick, and then I christened it the Animals of Farthing Wood Dress, and then I remembered how sad that book and TV show were, and how much eight year old Laura cried over every death. Oh, yeah, and then I tried it on without the back seam sewn up and it looked like a tent (surprise!!). A tent of death! 

So it sat on Alan, my dressmaker's dummy, for a few weeks. An important fact to note about Alan is his ability to make any garment look disappointing. For someone set up to my measurements, he sure manages to take the form of nothing human. 

Eventually, I decided to just get on with it. Anything was better than looking at it every day! I sewed up the back and put a zip in with relative success (for me). At least it isn't so dreadful that I felt the need to redo it. Then I held it up against myself and it looked tiny. I wasn't sure it was going to fit. I didn't want to try my new dress on if it wasn't going to fit. 

Yeah, fits almost perfectly. As this handy picture shows, there's a bit of gaping around the back of the neck, which I reckon could be resolved by increasing the size of the neck darts, and I think future versions could benefit from a sway back adjustment, or possibly I could just use a shorter zip which would get rid of the bum bump weirdness (it just gets a bit tucked under whenever I move). I'm kind of working with the 'give my improvements a try and see what happens' process at the moment.  What a good job Ben didn't take the nice picture of the back looking all nice that I'd asked for! 

The only other slight disappointment is that, despite my best efforts, the deer are not quite symmetrical on the collar. However, nobody else seems to notice, even after it's pointed out to them, so I guess I can live with that. My step dad has even commented on how much he likes the deer collar (well, that's his Christmas present sorted). 

The shape of this dress is absolutely my style. Look in my wardrobe and you'll find a line of shop bought dresses in the same shape. This is already a firm favourite in my wardrobe, and considering that it is really not season appropriate, it's already been worn out of the house twice! Just think how much use this bad boy's going to get come summer.

We took these pictures in the grounds of Hove Museum & Art Gallery. I've yet to go inside, but the small garden is lovely and peaceful. Apparently, the inside contains toys, pioneering film ephemera, local history and fine art displays.

The thing I'm leaning against is the Jaipur Gate, which was at the entrance to the Rajasthan section of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, held in London in 1886. It was donated to the museum in 1926, although I don't exactly understand why, or what it has to do with the rest of the exhibits. Maybe I should go inside and see if I can find out?

As photoshoots go, taking pictures by a local landmark on a busy road is probably a good way to crush any shyness out of your system. PEOPLE STARED!! A VAN DRIVER STOPPED TO WATCH!! I think I will continue this trend, working my way around Brighton's highlights. Maybe we'll have another nice day for dressing up and taking photos before the West Pier falls completely into the sea??!?