Last week I attended the Craft, Hobby & Stitch trade show in Birmingham, as a guest of Bamber Sewing Machines. I was invited along to offer Alan, who I interviewed here, my opinions on what a stitcher would like their local sewing shop to stock. 

During the day, I also discovered some interesting home truths about myself. I'm not a sewing tool and gadget person. I'm not against them at all and in fact I'm always open to recommendations and have almost always liked the ones I've tried out. But when it comes to what grabs my attention and deciding what to spend my hard-earned cash on, colourful fabrics and pretty notions always win out. So...yeah...I'm not the most practical-minded stitcher...but, I guess I already secretly knew that!  

It's no surprise then that my favourite part of the day was the 'fashion' show, which cleverly allowed various brands to exhibit their yarn, fabric and sewing patterns.

This blue knit with a 1960s twist really stood out to me and it was great getting to see it up close and personal on the DMC stand.

There were many, many other gorgeous yarns on display too!

Of course I hugely enjoyed the fabric and sewing pattern exhibits, which to my delight were definitely very retro / vintage inspired.

Sadly the lighting was terrible for photos, but this is one of the most beautiful version of the famous Butterick walk-away pattern I've seen. It just looked so chic!

The endless notions on display totally unleashed my inner magpie. What really caught my attention and made my heart skip a beat was the faux-crochet trimmed bias binding. Have you ever come across this stuff? There is literally a style and colour out there for everyone - I instantly thought of Winnie when I spotted the polka dot one and of Jane when I saw the gingham! I'm keeping the floral all to myself thanks ;o)

One thing that did amuse me, was the bias binding machine. Yep, you heard me! It's not just the simple metal gadget we probably all own and never use, it's a machine that said metal gadget clips onto. So you feed the fabric into the metal gadget, then you hit 'start' and it automatically feeds the fabric through the machine, pressing it on a hot iron as it goes no ironing required! 

To be fair, this would probably come in handy for quilters or those who sew stuff in large quantities to sell. So if you're interested in winning a free bias binding machine identical to the one pictured below, keep  your eyes peeled for an imminent giveaway on the Bamber Sewing Machines Facebook page.

Despite many temptations I didn't buy anything for myself, because the B2B minimum spend requirements were too pricey for me. I did come away with four free magazines though - they're not ones I normally buy or read, but it was great having some freebie 'literature' for the train ride home.

It's with mixed feelings that I write today's post - I'm really sad because it signals the end of Watch This Lace, but I'm also over the moon to have Lauren from Lladybird with me!!! Everybody squeeel! To put it mildly, Lauren is a creative dynamo of activity - last year she made a staggering 52 items and that's at the same time as holding down a job and having a social life! This gal sews everything - from tricky trousers and epic jackets to prettiest dresses and everyday basics. And she's fearless to boot - teaching herself to knit last year and already churning out some seriously impressive things.

Hey y'all! I'm so excited to be a part of this fancy lace journey - thank you, Marie, for the opportunity to participate!

I don't normally choose to sew with lace - I love the way it looks, but I feel like it always looks too fussy when I try to add it as a decorative trim. For my project, I decided to sew something that can only be improved by the addition of lace - a fancy nightgown, using the Cinnamon Slip by Colette Patterns. To keep things a little edgy, I chose a lightweight cotton plaid, in a manly range of colors. I love plaid, and I think it looks so cool paired up with such a dainty lace, don't you agree?

Sewing this up was fairly simple - cutting it was a NIGHTMARE. I don't know why I thought a bias plaid garment would be fun to cut out, but yeech. I think I spent over 2 hours trying to match up all those little diagonal lines, and some of them still don't match up perfectly. With that being said, I think I did an OK job and it is a slip after all - so I'm trying not to be too nit picky!

I assembled most of the slip before adding the lace - I didn't have a terribly clear picture in my mind of where exactly I wanted the lace to trim, so it was helpful to have a mostly-completed piece that I could pin lace scraps to and play around with. Originally, I was going to pile layers of the lace over the V midriff section, but it just looked too busy so I ended up letting it be a trim. You'll notice the top lace is sewn over the seam, and the bottom lace is sandwiched in - I thought it added a little visual interest. The navy ribbon trim was a last-minute afterthought, it helps pull everything together. I added the little bow in the center because I LOVE that kind of girly shit.

I added a line of lace around the hem as well, to complete the look.

I am so happy with my new slip and I can't wait to get some serious wear out of it when the weather starts warming up again. I still have a pretty big cut of the fabric left over, and I'd love to make some matching Amerson undies to wear with it. For now - I'm layering it with knee-high socks and a cardigan, because this little Southern Rose is COLD! Spring, spring - where are you?

Thanks for letting me be a part of this, Marie! You da best ;)

Oooh, Lauren looks so cozy and cute in her Cinnamon! I'm sure my boyfriend would rather I slept in one of these than the sloppy pyjama bottoms I like to lounge around in! Thanks for taking part Lauren and for making the lace work for you in such an interesting and clever way.

I also want to thank my seven other brilliant participants - who are all listed and linked to here. You've all made this series the success that it's been and I hope my readers have enjoyed it as much as I have. It's been really cool having a regular feature to look forward to, so I'm already thinking of new ways to fill this void...
Friends, do you find it hard abstaining from exciting things going on in blogsville? And do you then wrestle with feelings of regret? I know I do, but there just aren't enough hours in the day to take part in all of them.

Recently I've missed out on Debi's meticulously-hosted Sew Grateful Week, which I've loved taking part in before. But I think this post nicely sums up much of what I'm sew grateful for - one of those things being the community spirit that goes hand-in-hand with online challenges and competitions.

For my sanity's sake I'll be abstaining (with a heavy heart) from Winnie's Polka Dot Frock Fest, the Oh La La lingerie competition, the Eva Dress Pattern Contest and no doubt many more throughout the year. This makes me really sad, but I have to be realistic about what I can take on.

However, making a conscious decision to take on less is not all bad. I find it's giving me more time to  get excited about projects and to plan for them. And currently - alongside my 2013 sewlution - there are two more challenges I am excitedly planning for:

1. When the lovely Rochelle from Lucky Lucille announced her Sew for Victory sewalong, my heart literally skipped a beat...or two! I knew immediately that I was in! I'm a huge fan of 1940s styles, yet I've not even made a dent in my pattern stash from this era. Rochelle is even putting together a whole suite of resources for the sewalong and there's still plenty of time to get involved - finished garments don't have to be submitted until 29 March.

At the moment I'm choosing between these three beauties. I'm tempted to go for the non-frilly version of Simplicity 4986 and save the other two for when I have more time to concentrate on their intricate details.

2. I also knew immediately that I had to take part in Julia Bobbin's second Mad Men Challenge. I  had a lot of fun channelling Jane last year and it was a blast seeing what everyone else made too! Again, there's plenty of time to jump in as final garments don't need to be finished until 19 April.

I'm torn between a number patterns in my stash and this time the choice is harder to make. I could channel a specific character again (McCall's 7366 for Faye's green dress or McCall's 4003 for a shirt-dress like Trudy's or Betty's) or I could just make a generic Mad Men type dress, which is also tempting. Hmmm...

If you'd like to take part in this challenge, but you don't know where to begin, I did a series of Mad Men style files last year that you may find helpful:

So, are you taking part in either of the above? 

And when faced with inevitable time constraints, how do you choose what to take part in? Do you have any major regrets on this front?
For today's, penultimate Watch This Lace post, I'm excited for two reasons: we're Down Under and we're spending some time with none other than the sassy Reana Louise! You may remember her from Curves, Patterns and Pins, but she's back with a bang and blogging here now. This girl is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous and she has such a fun sense of style – colourful, yet  chic. I also love her honest and hilarious way of writing, so over to her...

If you ever get the chance to work with Marie I encourage you to grasp it with your bare, stitchy little hands. She is organised, generous, and just as nice as she appears on her blog. I am with the firm belief that she's secretly a saint or a serial killer. So, thank you for having me Marie! :)

Like many of the other participants, sewing with lace was pretty new for me and I was excited but nervous about wasting a precious vintage treasure. I took inspiration from a beautiful Deer Creature blouse and decided on a visible (but safe!) panel over the d├ęcolletage. 

Deer Creatures inspiration via Paunnet

But to add a bit of a challenge (because, you know, if there's not a 90% chance of me screwing up it's not a challenge) I decided to do my first 'rub-off' pattern. Guys, rub-offs are easy! Why didn't you tell me?! Oh, it's a well known fact? Well, cool beans then.

It's a cropped, square-shaped blouse that is forgiving of those burrito binges I seem to keep having. The original blouse was super basic so I love the visual interest that the lace panel adds to this one. If I were to make it again (or, if Brisbane had a better fabric selection) I'd love to copy the mint / lace colour combo of the Deer Creatures blouse. Until then I'll be wearing this breathable, cotton bad-boy to the burrito bar, and everybody's invited!

Thanks again for having me Marie! And happy birthday you magnificent woman!

Reana Louise, can I place an order for one of these super cute blouses? I seriously need one in my life please! The shape and fabric choice is fantastic and you've really managed to showcase the lace in all it's glory...thank you so much for playing along! Oh, and when are we off to the burrito bar?!? Nom, nom, nom!

Next week will sadly be the last in this series, but I know you'll all be flocking over to see what the unbelievably productive Lauren from Lladybird has in store for us!
There's no easy way of saying this, so I'll just do it quickly like ripping off a plaster - I turned 30 on Saturday! Some of you may already know of course, as Sonja has already outed me on her blog! I can't say I was looking forward to it (look at that uncertain face below), but some HD Brows, a new haircut, loads of presents, cards and phone calls, as well as partying with wonderful friends, certainly took the edge off!

I also made myself a little, aztec-print dress for the occassion, which turned out way cuter than I thought it would. I warn you now that you will be seeing more of these...the jersey love is back folks! This was my first time using Sew U Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin and I can already see how versatile all the patterns are. I used the boat-neck bodice from the 'Yacht to Trot' dress and re-drafted the skirt according to the 'Pretty Baby-doll' dress.

The tulip sleeves, inspired by Dixie DIY's self-drafted dress, are my favourite feature. Not only do I love the cross-over detail, I think the overall shape is very flattering and adds enough volume to the arms and shoulders to perfectly balance out the hips. This wasn't planned, but it was an unexpected bonus.

Believe it or not, the sleeves were taken from Simplicity 1813, a 1940s pattern. I cut them out exactly as they were and they ended up fitting the existing armhole perfectly. I was fully expecting to have to re-draft them to fit, so that was a happy coincidence too! The slightly annoying thing is that I followed the sleeve instructions closely, but I still managed to sew them on back-to-front. But life is too short to sweat the small stuff! I am 30 now you know ;o) And anyway, I like them as they are...a bit of back detail is never a bad thing in my book!
I really must apologise for the quality of some of these photos, but it was grey and drizzling on the day. And since then for that matter! I just wanted to show you the back too, to prove that this is quite a flattering style overall, because I wasn't convinced that gathered jersey would look that good.

Here's a nice close up so you can actually see the colour and print of this jersey. Despite only costing £4 p/m from Leicester market, this is one of the nicest jerseys I've worked with  - I'm convinced it's 100% cotton as it's very soft and non-sweaty.

So it turns out that turning 30's not that bad really, especially when you have a cute dress to see you through the day!

Apologies for the later than usual Watch This Lace post today, but I'm hoping you'll agree that it is well worth the wait! All the way from The Big Apple, I have the cute-as-a-button Sonja from Ginger Makes! This lady is cool in every way - she does location work for TV and film, she has two adorable Pugs, she's part of the Mood Sewing Network and I think she looks uncannily like the beautiful Lizzie Brochere from The Hour and American Horror Story! Oh, and did I mention she has an incredible sense of sewing style?

First of all, I want to say thank you to Marie for including me in this fun project and for sharing this beautiful lace! I'm so thrilled to be a participant!

Man Friend: "You've got to get the gator head into your photos!"

This is actually my first time sewing with lace! Can you believe it? I love delicate, feminine lace, but I'm such a tomboy that I never really feel like I'm pulling it off. So I was excited by this challenge, and of course I couldn't turn down the chance to get my grubby little paws on some vintage lace! My first thought was to pair it with black to toughen it up a little, but that looked a little too "French maid", ya know? Then I spied this creamy dotted Swiss, a cotton from Mood that I've been hoarding for over a year - a perfect match! I love the way that the different textures play together.

I used the Colette Sorbetto Top pattern as a basis for this shirt and drafted a front and back yoke. I eliminated the darts and instead gathered the bodice front into the yoke to give it a nice, swingy shape (I didn't add extra volume to the bodice back to avoid looking like I'm wearing a maternity top). The dotted Swiss is quite sheer, so I left the yoke unlined but lined the front and back below it. I used French seams throughout, so it's very cleanly-finished. I hand-stitched the lace just above the yoke seams, and to the back side of the hem so it's peeking out from under the top. I actually really enjoyed taking my time and carefully stitching the lace to the garment - it was oddly therapeutic!

What's the Photoshop command to remove clutter from your home?

It was so difficult to decide on a style and a pattern! I really wanted to do right by this heirloom lace, but I didn't want to make something too "special occasion" that would languish unworn in my closet. So I'm really happy with the way this turned out - it's a simple, wearable top, but it's still special (and oh-so-pretty!).

Thank you again, Marie, for letting me play and for sharing your exquisite lace with me! I can't wait to see what the next WTL-ers make!

I definitely don't want to play Crocodile Dentist any time soon.

Gosh, I love this Sonja - the yoke, gathered front and lace make this such a unique take on the Sorbetto! It looks smart, yet casual and so wearable. I'm over the moon that you're happy with your first ever lace-sewing experience!

Next week, we're off to Australia for our penultimate WTL fix from the gorgeous Reana Louise...I can't believe we're almost at the end of this fun journey!
When I was pondering which style of skirt to make for my pattern drafting course, one reader's comment really struck a cord with me. Reana Louise said, "DO IT! And make a skirt like something you've never made (and might never make again) while you've got an expert on hand to answer questions". Reana's comment forced me to think outside of my style comfort zone and to actually contemplate designing and wearing a skirt I didn't think would suit my body type. Out of my six inspiration images, it's this skirt on the right that really made my heart sing. But lack of confidence and negative assumptions about my body shape made me initially discard it as an option and settle on a more gathered type of skirt. But Reana's comment kept niggling away at me and I'm so glad it did!

Despite my issues with wearing most types of skirts - outlined here - I do actually love this one! It's not perfect by any means, but it looks and feels better than I could have imagined. And I guess that's all to do with the fact that it was designed to my exact measurements.

I chose darker colours to flatter my curves and a jersey yoke - which you may recognise from here - to accommodate the muffin tops comfortably. The middle part is made of a canvas type cotton and the bottom band is linen. I'm seriously tempted to knock a summer version up in brighter colours and completely in cotton or linen.

I still have issues with lining garments, meaning I don't actually know how to so it properly as I've never fully-lined anything...yet. So I improvised by underlining the bottom two thirds of the skirt, which has worked out absolutely fine for this. Phew!

I wanted to show you this next picture mostly to brag about my neat insides, but also to giggle about my shape. It really is quite funny seeing in 'black and white' just how much larger my butt and hips are compared to my wonder I have fit issues with skirts!

I'm not going to lie, and you've probably realised it by now, but I'm really proud of this make. A lot of work and re-working goes into designing, drafting and then sewing a garment and I'm so pleased to have an end result that I like. I mean, for one, look at all that stripe matching...

No, really...look at it! The tiny pocket is practically camouflaged, but I assure you it's there...see?
Among many firsts during this make, I also learned a new technique by inserting my first ever exposed zip. It was easy overall, but a tiny bit fiddlier than I originally anticipated. I used a combination of two excellent tutorials to guide me though it - this one by BurdaStyle and a video tutorial featuring Gertie.

So, erm...I kinda like my skirt! I realise that some of you may actually want to know more about the design and drafting process, so I'll do a separate post on that aspect either later this week or early next week.

If you've had a go at pattern drafting, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Do you prefer it to working with ready-made patterns?