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!

Saturday, 26 March 2016

A tribute to my maternal grandfather

Two weeks ago today, my beloved grandfather passed away, aged 78. It was unexpected and he faded away over the course of three days. Even though there wasn't enough time for me to get back to Cyprus to be with him, I'm grateful I managed to fly over for the funeral and to spend time with my family. He was surrounded by loved ones at the time of his death and knew how much we all adored him.

I'm thankful that he was spared a drawn-out end, yet heartbroken about our loss. My grandfather had a super-sharp brain, the kindest of souls and brilliantly eccentric ways. He was progressive, revolutionary and without any doubt, one of a kind. Did I mention that he was devastatingly handsome too?!?

I'll miss so much about him - the soothing sound of his voice, his mischievous laugh, his sense of humour, his encyclopedic knowledge, our intellectual chats... 

Circa 1965

A lot of people have a special bond with their grandparents, but for me this couldn't be truer. My mum and I actually lived with my grandparents from when I was 5-10 years old and I still get all warm and fuzzy when I remember how safe and loved I felt. My grandfather used to tell me that he's two times my father, to make up for the fact that my dad wasn't around. I saw them everyday after that too, until we moved to England when I was 13, and have visited almost every single year since then.

I will forever remember him sitting at the kitchen table into the early hours of the morning, reading a newspaper or one of his thousands of books. His collection was remarkably diverse - academic, political, religious, philosophical, fictional, factual, name it - and legendary among all who have witnessed it. He kept a log since 1958 of every single book he bought, and his collection is well over 4,500!

When he retired he decided that he was going to live in pyjamas, sleep during the day and read all night when the house was quieter...which is exactly what he did! Although it's easy for us grandkids to remember him this way, he was actually a very academically and politically active man in his youth, which I want to do justice to in this tribute.

Pictured on the left

Born in 1937 in Leonarisso, my grandfather was orphaned at a young age. When he met my grandmother in his late teens - in her neighbouring village of Koma tou Gialou - he was immediately embraced by her family and he finally felt like he belonged.

Pictured behind my grandmother who is leaning against the side of the car

He was just 18 years old when they married in 1955 and he enjoyed reminiscing about falling in love with the long plaits my grandmother wore her red hair in.

Pictured second from the right

Pictured in the middle, crouching down

By 1957 he had fathered his first child and was studying at Morphou college. At the same time, his strong sense of patriotism led him to join EOKA - a Greek Cypriot nationalist organisation that fought to end the British rule in Cyprus. He had an active role in this, which also involved giving refuge to fighters wanted by the British military, until the organisation disbanded in 1959.

Pictured second from the right

Pictured in the middle

Pictured on the right, the embodiment of The Great Gatsby

My grandfather had always been a man 'of the people', seeking social justice and striving for 'the greater good'. By 1962 he was the General Secretary of the Commercial Employees of Cyprus, and he joined other trade unionists on a two-week visit to the UK, as a guest of the Commonwealth Relation Office of Information.

It included visiting a Government Training Centre at Perivale, and an informal dinner with regional officials in Birmingham.


1967 - my mum pictured on the right

My mum pictured on the left

In 1965, my grandfather moved his young family to England, so he could study Politics and Economics as well as Industrial Relations at Ruskin College, Oxford. He then went on to study Law as well. The family grew (four kids in total) and ended up working and living in England for 13 years, joined by my grandmother's sisters and families. These were financially challenging times, but my mum remembers them as full of love and happy family times.

By the time they moved back to Cyprus in 1978, the Turkish invasion of 1974 had cost them their homes, their villages, their much loved lifestyle. They settled in the capital, Nicosia, in a welcoming house which has always felt like home to me. 

My grandfather eventually turned to primary school teaching, but remained politically active and patriotic to the core.

His final resting place is picturesque and serene, befitting of the special and universally-loved man that he was.

Rest in peace my Bappou.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Black and biscuit Sewaholic Fraser Sweatshirt

In terms of sewing, I've had a sluggish start to the year. Life's been full yet challenging and my new job is enjoyable but tiring. I recently found the time and energy to squeeze in a quick project though, and it felt good! 

The moment Sewaholic's Fraser Sweater pattern was released I knew I had to have it. Not only do I love sewing with knits, especially when I'm pressed for time, but the design details and variations are really cool.

I used a snuggly, fleece-backed knit from my stash which is heavyweight and delicately flecked. I paired it with a lighter weight knit which is beautifully textured. I really, really like the colour combination of the black and biscuit - it gives a basic make a sleek finish.

Construction-wise, this was a doddle. Quick and fairly easy. But the instructions didn't go into tas much detail as you'd expect of Sewaholic, which might be an issue for those who haven't experienced sewing points like the ones on the front and sleeve yokes. 

Fret not though, because this tutorial should help with both Views C and A.

For a comfortable fit, I cut out a size 10 from top to waist and graded to a 12 from waist to bottom. I also shortened the sleeves by 6cm, although they could do with being a smidgeon shorter really. I'm pretty happy with the overall fit, but the length hits at my widest part...good ole muffin tops! I can just about get away with it with a black hem band, but I'll probably lengthen the bodice a little next time.

And there will be a next time as I already have Versions B and C planned!

What do you think to the Fraser Sweatshirt? Have you sewn one up yet?