Monday, 20 June 2016

Home Improvements: Spare Bedroom #1 Makeover

It doesn't take a genius to spot that my sewing productivity has been somewhat lacking this year, but I've been busy y'all! What with a demanding 'new' job and home improvements on the go, there's been precious little time for stitching. Don't panic though as I have a few exciting projects under my sleeve and our fun-packed #VintagePledge schedule for July is really taking shape.

On the plus side, I do have another epic room makeover to share with you...behold our biggest of the spare rooms!

Before we tackled it, the room was a mismatched furniture dumping ground and rather green...light green walls, green floral wallpaper and dark green carpet. Also, when we first moved in over two and a half years ago, we replaced and moved the radiator only to discover an unsightly wallpapering job. It shamefully remained that way until recently.

As you can see, we stripped the walls right back to the plaster and painted them a subtle grey to offset our loud geometric wallpaper. We freshened up the ceiling, revamped the woodwork with a lick of white satin paint, varnished the door for a richer look and, with the help of Charlotte's dad, we replaced our tired old carpet with good quality laminate (it has a tangible grain and everything!). In hindsight I'd have opted for the slightly darker laminate, but you live and learn!

Anyway, it was all pretty straightforward, but it still took about six weekends worth of work...painting rooms with high ceilings, coving, dado rails and skirting boards is not for the faint hearted...hah!

With this being a spare room, we decided to compromise in the way of furniture so we could spend more on our own bedroom makeover. So the bed, side tables, chest of drawers and wardrobe are from our old bedroom. We've had them for eight years so although it's not the style we would have chosen now, it's held up very well and isn't exactly offensive.

At least we had lots of fun with soft furnishings and accessories. First came the artwork, which inspired the splash of orange lampshades, then we added some much-needed storage boxes and picked out a new rug and curtains. We're not sold on the duvet we panic-picked after a long day at the shops, but it'll do until we find something a bit more fun.

In case you like what you see, Charlotte compiled a handy shopping list for you! And if you want to see more of our home improvements, I've almagamated them under a new tab at the top called House.

The good news is that we now get to enjoy this room while we decorate our own. The bad news is that we've settled in a bit too comfortably and with the stumbling blocks we've encountered with our room, we might be here for a while... 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The humble mesh washing bag

Hands up if your delicate handmades have ever perished in the wash! I've lost count of the times my carefully stitched clothes have come out mangled beyond repair, no matter how gentle I set the spin cycle on my powerful washing machine.

It normally happens to items with a lot of hand-stitching or bias-bound edges, which probably says more about my sewing skills than my washing machine! Nonetheless, it's pretty devastating and I was determined not to let it happen to my lovely Afternoon Blouse.

Enter the humble mesh washing bag! My mum has always used one for her sheer tights, bras and the like, but I stupidly never thought of using one to protect my me-mades. You just place your item(s) in the bag, zip it up and chuck it in the washing machine with the rest of your load.

It works an absolute treat and I no longer dread investigating freshly washed laundry for unsightly rips. It's the small things in life, eh!?!

Do you use washing bags? What other simple tricks have transformed the way you sew/care for your handmade wardrobe?

On another matter, I have lucky giveaway winners to announce!

A copy of The Great British Sewing Bee: From Stitch to Style goes to Moody Cat Crafts and the Simplicity goody bag goes to The Crafty Pinup. HUGE congrats Kirsty and Abi...I'll be in touch shortly to arrange delivery!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Simplicity Sewing Challenge & Giveaway

Hello friends! Two blogs in two days can only mean one thing...another GIVEAWAY of course! If, like me, you missed yesterday's epic-sounding Simplicity Blog Meet, fret not because the good people who organised it are offering one lucky reader in the UK this goody bag:
  • A selection of 5 Simplicity patterns
  • Simplicity style magazine
  • Simplicity sewing DVD
  • 2 packets of items from British Trimmings
  • A Simplicity pad, pencil and ruler

For a chance to win, just leave me a comment (with your email address) telling me what your favourite Simplicity sewing pattern is, by midnight (GMT) on Sunday 29 May.

On a related subject, have you seen The Simplicity Sewing Challenge that was launched on Saturday? There are 4 patterns to choose from and 5 categories to enter with awesome judges picking the winners. Your chosen patterns (up to 2) are sent to you for free and the competition deadline is 31 August. Winners get a year's supply of patterns (12), crafty supplies and the chance to become VIP Simplicity bloggers.

Are you tempted to take on the challenge?

Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Great British Sewing Bee: Interview & Giveaway

If you've popped by today expecting a Simplicity giveaway, I'm afraid I've moved that to tomorrow. Stick around though as I have a copy of The Great British Sewing Bee: From Stitch to Style to give away today, thanks to Quadrille Publishing.

Before I go into details about the giveaway, here's an interview with the book's author, Wendy Gardiner. Considering the buzz that always surrounds the BBC 2 prime-time programme, I thought it would be fun to hear about what it's like to work on the fourth series, which kicked off this Monday.

You’ve been influential in the sewing industry for many years, having edited sewing magazines, authored sewing books and presented on television shows. Tell us a bit about your journey. 

It has been incredible and I feel so lucky that I have had a career in something I love so much! It was a serendipitous start – I had edited a general interest magazine for the army in Germany, and it was that experience that led me to the job with Butterick and Vogue – as editor of the sewing magazines. I did sew of course, but not to the extent I now do! I love to share my passion for sewing so am always looking for ways to do that – writing books, presenting on TV etc.

The Great British Sewing Bee: From Stitch to Style is the fourth title in a series based on the popular BBC TV show. What drew you to this current project? 

Who wouldn’t have been!?! It is an honour to be associated with the show and the book – it has done so much for the sewing industry, helping to promote sewing to a wider audience. I also felt I could add to what is broadcast by including lots and lots of techniques and how-tos in the book – to help readers grow their skill set in a way it is impossible to do on an entertainment TV show.

How did working on a book based on a TV series differ from other books you’ve written? 

More people were involved in the decisions such as what garments to include and fabrics to use. The timing was also very, very tight from start to finish and of course, so much of the content is still confidential because it relates to the show – which is yet to be broadcast. However, the nitty gritty, of writing copy, producing rough diagrams, making samples etc – all that is the same whatever book I’ve written!

The book is divided into three main sections - Foundation, Inspiration and Exploration. How do these reflect and support who it’s aimed at?

I think the sections are very clever – and here is an example of others' involvement as it was Lisa from Quadrille who came up with the titles and idea to divide the book in that way. Anyone who wants to start out can begin at the Foundation stage and make the simpler garments whilst learning techniques as they do so. For those more experienced, they can dip right into the more challenging garments. It really is aimed at everyone who wants to dressmake!

There are 27 projects (with additional variations) in the book. How and why were they chosen? 

We got together as a group to decide on the garments to include. Some are from the show of course, and others are based on ideas from the show, the rest are classic or wish-list garments that I know people want to make. We also wanted to ensure there was something to make for all the family so have some for children and men.

What format and size-range do the patterns come in and why? 

The patterns are in a regular format, although you do have to trace them off if you don’t want to cut into the pattern sheet (which has all the patterns included). The sizes range from 8–20, but not traditional pattern sizing, the sizing is more closely akin to the high street sizing. As always, take measurements and make the size that is closes to your measurements.

How does this book set itself apart from the three that precede it? 

Oh, that is difficult! It follows the same tried and tested format with lots of projects and occasional ‘hacks’ or variations, but I like to think that it also provides lots and lots of sewing advice. For instance, rather than have one zip insertion method, I’ve included lapped zips, surface mounted, exposed and invisible zip insertion. You can then take your pick.

Finally, did you get to work on The Great British Sewing Bee set and what was your highlight? 

I did go for one day’s shoot to watch proceedings and I did, very briefly meet Patrick and the lovely new judge Esme. She is delightful and fun. Patrick is as handsome as he appears and very tall! The set is very busy with loads of camera crews all around the contestants filming their every move and utterance(!). I sat with the producer who watches everything and decides on which contestant to follow at each moment. It was fascinating. When the contestants get a break, the crew are still busy taking extra shots of the garments and the sewing team lead by Claire Louise Hardie are busy cleaning the workstations and getting prepared for the next. The days are also extremely long so really, hats off to all involved.

Thanks to Wendy for a fascinating insight into the making of the book and programme! For book and project reviews check out Made Peachy, English Girl at Home, Sew Over It, The Foldline, Sew What's New and By Hand London. Don't miss related post by Crafty Sew & Sew and Guthrie & Ghani tomorrow to complete the blog tour organised by Quadrille Publishing.

If you're in the UK and you like what you see, then leave me a comment for the chance to win a free copy of From Stitch to Style. Tell me your favourite thing about The Great British Sewing Bee by midnight (GMT) on Saturday 28 May...good luck!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Martha Dress in a ditsy-print ponte

Happy Bank Holiday, England friends! I've had a particularly long and fulfilling weekend as I took the Friday off work too, meaning I had time to finally sew for myself!

I chose Tilly and the Buttons' new Martha Dress, even though at first she seemed a little too late-1960s for my taste and I'm really not a fan of mandarin collars. But it was very difficult to resist the princess seamed bodice, gently gathered sleeve heads and bias-cut panelled skirt, especially after Tilly planted the seed of a ponte knit version.

I chose this ditsy-print ponte de roma from Girl Charlee, which has a nice retro vibe to it (1970s or 1990s...I really can't decide?!?) and is beautiful to wear and handle. Although it sadly camouflages Martha's lovely design lines, I absolutely adore the fabric and how the dress turned out. 

Despite making a knit Martha, I wanted a dress with a bit of structure that wouldn't loose its shape after a day's wear. So I still included an invisible zip (which ended up perfect if I do say so myself) and I added stay-tape (cotton tape) to stabilise the waistline.

I followed Tilly's easy construction, but instead of setting in the sleeves, I sewed them in flat and closed them and the side seams up at the same time. I omitted the mandarin collar and cut the neckline down to the smallest size, making sure to cut my facings to the same size too. 

I really like the neckline where it is, as it's modest enough for work, but not at all chokey. My one regret is topstitching it because the bulk of the ponte has made it go a little curly. I'll have to figure out a different way to finish off the neckline next time...any ideas would be most welcome!

Just to point out the obvious, I used a stretch needle and zig-zag stitch to sew my Martha up. For the skirt panels I just used a straight stitch as they're not fitted to the body so the seams don't need ease.

My one piece of advice would be to check the fit of the bodice as you go along, because unpicking six zig-zag bodice seams and two sleeves ain't fun. Yup, that's how I spent my Thursday evening!!! I know checking the fit is a no-brainer, but with knit fabric it's easy to get complacent due to its forgiving nature. Anyway, for reference, a straight size 4 with the regular 1.5cm seam allowances fits me perfectly. 

Even though Martha is a much more time-consuming and fabric-hungry make than your average knit dress, she's totally worth it. The design is ridiculously flattering with a bodice that's fitted with both bust darts and princess seams and a beautifully swishy skirt without any waistline bulk. 

I want more knit versions in my life, and heck, I'm even tempted to have a go at a floaty viscose version too! What do you think to the Martha Dress? Aren't these trimming ideas so much fun?!?

To celebrate Tilly and the Buttons patterns now being stocked at John Lewis, Freya, Jane and I will be joining Tilly for a Saturday Sew In on 21 May at John Lewis on Oxford Street. I hope you can pop by! It will be lovely to see both familiar and new faces!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Vintage sewing fun in 2016

It's turning out to be a heck of a year for vintage sewing lovers, dontcha think? As well as the extravaganza Kerry and I have planned for our year-long #VintagePledge, there are a couple of other exciting initiatives that you may or may not know about...

Frankly, I'll be a little surprised if you haven't heard about Butterick's BIG Vintage Sew-along, but I've been meaning to shine a well-deserved light on it for a while! You have until October to take part, by sewing up your favourite pattern from a specially and beautifully curated selection spanning from the 1930s to the 1960s. Apart from the selfish fun to be had, the best thing is that funds raised go to The Eve Appeal charity which strives for the better detection and prevention of women's cancers. 

There's a comprehensive roundup over on The Foldline, featuring the full pattern selection and outlining ways in which you can get involved through social media. I'm joining a number of bloggers in sewing along, so look out for my make on 8 July!

The other really cool initiative is the Vintage Suit Sew-along, hosted by Mermaid's Purse and Chica Chica Boom Chic. April has been about sharing inspiration, in May the duo will share tips on muslins and fit, and then June is for sewing up and sharing your suits. 

Although my lifestyle doesn't really call for a sophisticated suit, I can't help but get all wistful when I browse the sew-along's sublime Pinterest board. Aren't the pins to die for?!?

The closest pattern I have to a suit is this McCall 1940s jacket, whose scalloped view I've had cut out as a muslin for years. I'm seriously considering plucking up the courage to give it a go thanks to Angela and Amy's virtual kick up the butt! Are you tempted to join them in sewing your dream vintage-inspired suit?

Do you know of any other vintage sewing initiatives this year that I should be aware of? I'd love to hear about them!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Plans for #VintagePledge July Extravaganza

Hello friends, it's been a while! I first want to thank you for your kind and comforting messages about my grandfather's passing...they mean an awful lot to me.

But on a brighter note today, let's talk about the #VintagePledge EXTRAVAGANZA that Kerry and I have planned for July. It includes a jam-packed schedule of guest blogs from fellow Vintage Pledgers, as well as daily photo prompts and awesome prizes on Instagram!!!

July Contributors

Friday 1 July - Introduction - A Stitching Odyssey & Kestrel Makes
Saturday 2 JulyJet Set Sewing - A Stitching Odyssey
Sunday 3 JulyMy Happy Sewing Place - Kestrel Makes
Monday 4 JulyGussets & Godets - A Stitching Odyssey
Tuesday 5 JulyMichelle, ma belle...tres bien ensemble - Kestrel Makes
Wednesday 6 JulyHandmade Jane - A Stitching Odyssey
Thursday 7 JulyNicole Needles - Kestrel Makes
Friday 8 JulyA Stitching Odyssey #bvsewalong - A Stitching Odyssey
Saturday 9 JulyModern Vintage Cupcakes - Kestrel Makes
Sunday 10 July Lady Sewalot - A Stitching Odyssey
Monday 11 JulyBeyond Measure - Kestrel Makes
Tuesday 12 JulyUntangling Knots - A Stitching Odyssey
Wednesday 13 JulyHandmade By Heather B - Kestrel Makes
Thursday 14 JulyElena Knits - A Stitching Odyssey
Friday 15 JulyKestrel Makes #bvsewalong - Kestrel Makes
Saturday 16 JulyBlack Tulip - A Stitching Odyssey
Sunday 17 JulySewin' in the Rain - Kestrel Makes
Monday 18 JulyFadanista - A Stitching Odyssey
Tuesday 19 JulyMermaid's Purse - Kestrel Makes
Wednesday 20 JulyI Want to be a Turtle - A Stitching Odyssey
Thursday 21 July Lavender & Twill - Kestrel Makes
Friday 22 JulyMiss Kacy Sews - A Stitching Odyssey
Saturday 23 JulyBetty Stitchup - Kestrel Makes
Sunday 24 JulyUp Sew Late - A Stitching Odyssey
Monday 25 JulyVery Kerry Berry - Kestrel Makes
Tuesday 26 JulyThree Stories High - A Stitching Odyssey
Wednesday 27 JulyAllie J. - Kestrel Makes
Thursday 28 JulyPetit Main Sauvage - A Stitching Odyssey
Friday 29 JulyThe Vintage Knitter - Kestrel Makes
Saturday 30 JulyBy Gum, By Golly - A Stitching Odyssey
Sunday 31 JulyThe Story Sew Far - Kestrel Makes / Seamstress Erin - A Stitching Odyssey

#VintagePledge Sponsors

We'll be releasing details of our Instagram activity and specific prizes nearer the time, but I can tell you which generous sponsors have already pledged their support. Without these guys #VinatgePledge wouldn't be half as fun, and the good news is, we have even more sponsors and prizes in the pipeline for July and for our end-of-year competition!

That's a pretty cool line-up of guest bloggers and sponsors, don't you think? I hope you're excited as we are!!!

Don't forget that you can sign up to #VintagePledge at any point in the year. Make the pledge your own and join us for as much or as little of the activity as you like. And you can always stay motivated and inspired by following our dedicated #VintagePledge Pinterest board - details of how to become a pinner here.

That's it for now, but have a stitchin' weekend all!