Monday, 14 April 2014

Super exciting news - I'm a Craftsy writer!

My super exciting news for the day, or week, or month, or maybe even that I'm a Craftsy writer! The good folk at Craftsy contacted me a few weeks ago, asking if I'd like to regularly contribute to their blog. On reflection, my response was probably a tad too enthusiastic, but luckily that didn't put them off and I'm now signed up for two blog posts a month. Although I'm being compensated for my work, I will strive to share my honest views and it'll be just like reading my ramblings here...but elsewhere ;o)

My first contribution is already live, so check it out if you want to know how to sew faux leather seams! You will also be able to see all my Craftsy posts through my Craftsy profile, or by clicking the I'm a Craftsy Writer badge on my sidebar.

Apologies for such a self-indulgent post today, but to say I'm not excited would be a dirty little lie!

Hope you've all a wonderful weekend and are tackling the week ahead with boundless energy...

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Are you attending the Minerva Crafts Meet-Up?

I'm pretty sure you've heard about the meet-up of the century already, the question is...are you coming along? Organised by Minerva Crafts to celebrate the success of its Blogger Network, the day will give you the chance to meet lots of the contributing bloggers (including myself...hehe), pose your burning stitching questions to Karen of Did you make that?, hear from the talented girls at By Hand London, take part in various workshops and feel like a carefree kid again with a Craft Treasure Hunt. If this isn't enough to convince you, have you seen Minerva Crafts HQ?!? Just imagine the fun we'll have running around in there and fighting over bolts of fabric!

The good folk at Minerva Crafts have even put some information together about Darwen attractions local and accommodation. I sure hope you can join us!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

10% discount code for Opal sofa range at Harveys!

Hello friends, I hope you've all had a great weekend! To soften the blow of Monday's imminence, I have an exciting discount code for you! When I shared an update on our home improvements so many of you expressed enthusiasm for our choice of sofas. I fed this back to the guys at Harveys who were so delighted they decided to offer you10% off their gorgeous Opal range - the code is BLOPAL10% and will be valid for the next six months. Pretty cool, eh?!?

I must also say how impressed I am with the time and effort Harveys has put out into engaging with me and how overwhelmed I was to receive a lovely letter and thoughtful gifts! Chris clearly took the time to look through my blog and register my interests - thanks a million, much appreciated!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Springtime Cambie Dress - Minerva Blogger Network

Friends, meet my Springtime Cambie Dress! I’m being super cheeky and doubling up this make as both my latest Minerva Blogger Network project AND my first #SewDollyClackett submission. I say my first of the latter, because I’m just warming up! Consider this an interpretation of Roisin’s earlier style, with something reflecting her more current style in the pipeline...sewing Dolly Clackett through the ‘ages’, if you like!

This is my first ever Cambie Dress, despite buying the Sewaholic pattern way back when it was released, but I'm so pleased I finally got round to making it. The irresistible cotton lawn from Minerva's designer selection is a perfect match for the pattern and a great way to welcome the glimmer of warmer weather in sight. Needless to say that Tasia's instructions are second to none, resulting in a beautiful garment inside and out. The pattern has become a firm favourite among stitchers around the world, which must have something to do with all its lovely details!

Gathered sleeves perfectly frame the shoulders and complement the sweetheart neckline.

Sneaky pockets come in particularly useful when you don't know what to do with 
your hands and arms in photos.

My best invisible zip to date, with a perfectly lined up waistband and everything! 

The construction of this dress is really clever, concealing all raw seams. The entire dress is lined and beautifully finished, with a nifty way of attaching the lining. At least, that's the theory! I fully lined mine with cotton lawn, but decided that the skirt was way too voluminous, so I ripped the skirt lining out. It still looks super neat with just the bodice and waistband lined though.

In terms of sizing, I made this up in a Size 8 (UK 12), but went down a size for the neckline and sleeves. Next time, I’ll probably pinch a smidgeon out of the front bodice – the gaping isn’t terrible, but could be better. Skip this next bit if you’re not up for a moan about muslins...

..The thing about muslins is that they sometimes trick you! After choosing my size and shortening the bodice pieces by my obligatory couple of centimetres, I then sewed up my muslin and pinned in a zip. When I tried it on (bodice only) it felt a little snug and too short. This ALWAYS happens by the way! I bravely ignore it normally and the final thing comes out fine. But this time I decided to reduce my side and waistband seams by 0.5cm. Guess what?!? My bodice is now a little too long and smidge too loose. Aaaargh! Does this happen to anyone else? Could this all be down to the weight of the skirt on the final garment?

I couldn't help adding this last photo in! I was surreptitiously picking a rogue thread off my dress when my boyfriend snapped me - he claims it looks like I'm feeding chickens! If we had chickens, this is definitely how I'd like to dress for feeding time...

Anyway, despite my minor gripes, I'm pretty smitten with this make overall! What do you think?

Monday, 31 March 2014

Material Magic

Hello friends, it's been a while! I've found it really hard to catch up on blogging and sewing since my recent visit to Cyprus, so I'm breaking myself back in with some good news for crafty folk in and around Leicester.

A few weekends back I went to visit my favourite fabric stall on the market, only to find out that the owner was winding it down in favour of a permanent shop just up the road, called Material Magic. I can't tell you how exciting this is for us locals, because there's a serious lack of choice when it comes to fabric shopping in Leicester. The two market stalls are excellent, but obviously not there every day, and the haberdasheries in the big chains (John Lewis, Fenwick, etc) are pricey and lack selection. 

Anyway, Material Magic certainly didn't disappoint! It's a relatively small shop, but packed with a good variety of fabrics which are very reasonably priced. 

Cottons of all weights for any project

Fancy fabrics for special occasions

Fun animal prints

Jersey in a range of solids and prints

Colourful linen for Spring time

Cotton lawn in brilliant florals

Of course, it would have been rude to leave empty handed, so I brought these adorable prints home!

Have you discovered any good local crafty shops recently?

Saturday, 15 March 2014

My stitching heritage

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I'm in Cyprus, visiting my family and eating my body weight in Feta flavour crisps...and so much more! However, I think that it's also the perfect opportunity to share a little more about my stitching heritage, which I only recently discovered fully myself. Last year I shared the story of my great-grandmother and the silk she painstakingly spun and wove for her daughters' dowry - which I am now one of the lucky recipients of.

My Armistice Blouse made from my great-grandmother's silk

Today, I want to share the story of my grandmother's skill - she is so ridiculously modest that she initially didn't think it warranted sharing with us. You see, my grandmother was a bit of a whizz at freehand machine embroidery! She used to decorate plain bedding and make it into something special for the family household. One of my favourites is this set below, which shows so much attention to detail. The colours and design are so fresh and pretty and I don't even know where I would begin to embroider scallops...machine or no machine!

My grandmother also helped her mother to put the intricate finishing touches on the hand-spun silk bedding for their dowry. It was a combination of embroidery and crochet and the result is so stunning, don't you think? 

So well-known had my grandmother's skill become on the island, that from 1947, when she was around 16, she started taking in students. Around 6 female students (and their sewing machines) could be accommodated at the family home and over a 3-month period my grandmother would teach them everything she knew about machine embroidery, even helping them work on specific projects along the way. She got paid one Cypriot pound a month, which in those days was a pretty significant contribution to the household!

And just because I couldn't resist sharing, here are some gorgeous pictures of my grandparents. I know I must be biased, but I think they're one of the most handsome couples I've ever seen!

It's been said that my grandfather fell for my grandmother because of her red-ish hair that she used to regularly wear in girlie plaits. I don't know why, but I find that an incredibly cute notion!

This last photo is such fun! I doubt they had many cars in the village so it must have been a blast posing with this one. My grandmother's the one on the left leaning on the car and because she's always been somewhat of a matriarch - always the strong pillar of the family both physically and mentally - it's so nice to think that she once may have been a little frivolous.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I've enjoyed learning about my stitching heritage. Does stitching run in your family?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint workshop

A couple of Sundays ago, some lovely colleagues and I took an Annie Sloan Chalk Paint workshop at the gorgeous Pomponette in Leicester. I know this has nothing to do with stitching, but you've all shown such a great interest in our home improvements, that I figured you might find it interesting. So, if you're not familiar with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, it's pretty amazing stuff! It can be used on a multitude of surfaces - wood, concrete, metal, matt plastic, earthenware etc - inside and outdoors. The best thing is that as long as your surfaces are clean and oil-free, you don't even need to sand them down or anything!

During the workshop, Pomponette owner and Annie Sloan Chalk Paint extraordinaire, Joanne Purtill, taught us how to achieve different finishes with the paint. Although the possibilities seem endless, we focused on Vintage Rustic, Crackle Effect, Two Colour Lyering and Smooth Modern Finish - seen in that order below.

It was liberating being told that random and messy brush strokes are a must for most effects, because that kind of goes against all your painting and decorating instincts. It was also quite fun using a hairdryer to make the paint crackle...again, so counter-intuitive!

Once the paint is dry, wax is applied for a more robust finish. There's a clear wax that protects the painted surface and a darker wax that also allows you to create a 'dirtier' finish. The latter is particularly good if you want to give a modern item a vintage vibe.

After practising the different effects, we got to choose a favourite paint colour and were then set loose on an unsuspecting photo frame.

I even picked up a genius tip for removing excess paint from your brush, without totally messing up your paint pot. Very handy indeed!

Due to the ridges on my photo frame I opted for the simple Two Colour Layering effect, basically distressing the frame back to its original wood in certain places. I'm not gonna lie and say I have a natural talent for this, but the workshop was heaps of fun and these are skills I'd love to nurture! Don't all our frames look pretty all together?

The absolute icing on the cake, was getting to spend the day in such an inspiring setting. Joanne's shop is tastefully crammed with beautiful pieces of furniture (vintage and new) which she has skillfully transformed using the very techniques she teaches. If you've seen the kind of vintage furniture I'm into, you'll understand why I was in heaven!

So yeah, if you're ever in Leicester and have some time to spare, I highly recommend popping into Pomponette. If you have the time or the inclination to sign up to one of Joanne's workshops, better still!

Are any of you fans of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint? Got any examples of your work to share?