So last Saturday I enjoyed a jaunt down to London organised by the lovely Roisin and also attended by the equally lovely Amy, Emmie, Janene, Jen and Katie. Predictably (and most enjoyably) we kicked off the day with a trip to Goldhawk Road, pretty much visiting each and every shop. I didn't go crazy, choosing quality over quantity for once, and snapping up some divine sandwashed silk crepe.

Then we headed over to the Barbican to gawp at The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Oh my, what an excellent exhibition! It was much larger than I expected and I couldn't stop marveling at just how many of his designs I recognised not only from the catwalk, but also from all walks of popular culture! Admittedly I didn't know an awful lot about the man before, but I picked up so much about him on the day which Janene sums up beautifully here.
I went a little snap happy to be honest (you would have too), so I'm just going to share my absolute favourites below, which really are a tiny taster of what was on show.

I was particularly enamoured by the structured lingerie...

These ethereal creatures stole my heart with their floaty gowns and haunting faces. In fact, the moving faces projected on many of the mannequins was one of the highlights of the
 exhibition for me...some of them were exceptionally cheeky!

My love of animal prints is well documented, so no wonder I was drawn to this masterpiece! Despite the realism, it was actually hand-beaded in *just* 1,060 hours...the detail is exquisite!

It's hard not to have a soft spot for the very iconic nautical line which inspired the popular fragrances...

Mr Gaultier himself even made an appearance to tell us a little bit about the exhibition...hehe!

Lastly, how could my inner Sex Pistols loving punk not be drawn to these!?!

Janene has set herself the challenge of recreating this super cool jacket...can't wait to 
see how it turns out!!!

As you can imagine, a great day was had despite my train journey woes (which I won't bore you with even though I love a good moan). I stupidly didn't take any group shots or selfies...but here's some photographic evidence of Roisin and I enjoying a Gaultier-themed cocktail.

Do you have a favourite Jean Paul Gaultier line or era?
Hello friends! Today I'm partaking in a bit of blog hop fun after being nominated to play by my super cute friend - Amy of Almond Rock. Amy and I have shared a hotel room before and if my piglet-style snuffles at night haven't put her off being my friend, then she's made of strong Yorkshire stuff, as well as being wonderfully charming and a very clever little seamstress! I've no clue where The Blog Hop begun (do tell if you know), but the premise  is nice and simple with just four questions to answer and two nominees onto pass the baton to.

Why I write

I predominantly started writing this blog to keep track of my stitching progress, but have dabbled in writing before because I find the act both cathartic and enjoyable. Since starting A Stitching Odyssey over four years ago, it has become so much more than I ever imagined. I now feel like I'm able to give a little back to the sewing community, whilst sharing snippets of my life outside of stitching as well. For me though, the most rewarding and addictive part of writing is the interaction with my readers. Each and every comment makes me feel fuzzy inside and the advice offered is always priceless. So thank you all for making all of this so worthwhile!

What I'm working on

Oh boy, what aren't I working on? I always have a massive queue of sewing project, which inevitably get bumped by pattern testing commitments, shiny new pattern releases and the like! Back in February though, I pledged to put my extensive vintage pattern collection to good use, by sewing at least five of them by the end of 2014. So far I've managed just the one, so with well over 100 of you joining me in my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge - the proof of which is on Pinterest - I need to make some serious progress during the latter part of the year.

How my blog differs from others of its genre

I could never claim that my blog is unique or special in any way, because there are simply too many talented, witty and creative people out there doing great things. However, one non-stitching thing I do like to share with my readers is updates of our home improvements. The boyfriend and I bought our first ever house back in October 2013 and we've been chipping away at the outdated decor ever since. Progress is slow, but it's a really rewarding process, especially when the transformation is as dramatic as our living room was. Next up is a full reveal of our dining room!

My writing process

Having a hobby I'm passionate about definitely helps to keep me focussed and has made writing this blog seem effortless. I must admit that I've been a little more sporadic since my commitment to writing for Craftsy back in April. I don't regret my decision because it's been a great learning journey, but I'm still trying to find my feet in terms of balancing the two a bit better. As a general guideline I try to blog at least once a week, usually about a finished make, a work-in-progress, a quick tutorial, or a review of some sort. So no, there's no real method to my madness...but I do try to keep posting as consistent as possible.

My two nominees to keep this fun little blog hop going

Joelle from The Handstitched Files. I only 'discovered' Joelle after being paired with her for Kerry's Spring Sewing Swap 2014 and I'm so happy that I did. She's a Swedish architect by day and is just as creative by night - sewing, knitting and embroidering to her heart's content.

Louise from In which a bit of an enthusiast sews six patterns in a year. I had the pleasure of meeting Louise in person and I can confirm that she is one of the most enthusiastic person I've ever known! I'm fascinated by her fast progress as a new-ish stitcher juggling caring for two young children.

So make sure you check out both Joelle and Louise's blogs next Monday (1 September) to see what they have to say about their writing habits!

Like many of you no doubt, I was recently(ish) contacted by Teach Me Fashion, a talented mother and son duo from Australia who create sewing patterns and accompanying video tutorials. They wanted to know if I would try out their free Two-Tone Singlet and tutorial, and considering how cute the pattern is I didn't hesitate to oblige!

The Two-Tone Singlet is perfect for using up leftover fabric so I smugly put the remains of my second Lilou dress to good use. I may or may not have sparked a bit of an online debate by originally referring to the print as 'tribal', so I'll go with 'geometric' to avoid knickers getting in twists this time. Whatever you want to call it, I love this viscose and want it in all available colourways!

The pattern is quite boxy, but it has some pretty cute design details which make it fun to sew and wear! The interesting panelling is open to endless variations in terms of fabric matching/contrasting, and I like the sweet pleats on the lower half of the back. The right angles are tricky to sew though, especially in slippery viscose, and mine are not even close to being perfect! I think I just about got away with it due to the busy print.

Despite how adorable I find this pattern, I'm not sure it suits my larger bust. Sure, it's floaty and comfortable, but it's not exactly flattering on me. If I decide to sew it again there are two main things I'd change. First, I'd lower the neckline a tad as I find it sits unnecessarily (but not chokingly) high. Then, I'd raise the armholes by a lot! I'm kind of annoyed I didn't automatically do it on this version, because I could tell from the version on the model that they looked way too low for my liking. Nevermind, you live and learn!

I must say, I'm really impressed by Teach Me Fashion! Although not all their designs are to my personal taste, they have a neat range consisting of dresses, a skirt, leggings, trousers and a coat, which you can pick up from their Etsy shop. What sets this mother and son duo apart though, are their accompanying video tutorials, which are pretty great. They are cleanly shot and straight to the point, with no unnecessary frills and pointless chatter! 

Have you experienced Teach Me Fashion yet? What do you think to their approach?

After what seems like too long, I'm ridiculously excited to share a cheeky glimpse of our dining room! I don't want to give away too much yet as we're still waiting for our table and chairs, curtains and prints for the walls ;o)

Below's a little reminder of what it looked like before and you can revisit our extensive stripping back process. Hopefully this taster alone proves just how far we've gone to transform what was a depressingly dark room!

Aside from stripping back the old wallpaper and carpet, one of the biggest and most rewarding jobs was getting rid of the cat-puke-yellow which all the woodwork, cornices, door and radiator had been painted in. It took a lot of sanding, multiple coats of white paint and even professional stripping of the door, which we then varnished to match our other downstairs doors. 

My personal favourite transformation has to be the fireplace though! We found it quite ugly and very out of place with what we had planned for the room, so my boyfriend came up with an inspired idea to make it look more sleek and contemporary. I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I seriously love how it looks now!

So why has it taken us over two months to decorate just one room? I know it sounds like an age, but we were mostly slaving on it during our free weekends, as we both work full-time. The stripping is relatively fast, but once you get to the decorating, there's a lot of waiting in between coats of paint to dry! And as usual, we had our fair share of disasters that cost us precious time (days) to rectify, including:

  • Picking an Exorcist green for the lower walls, but being in denial until one side of the room was painted. We had to wait for it to dry, cover it with white, wait for that to dry and then start again with our new colour.
  • Thinking we were done with the mantle-piece only to have to 'peel' off the original five-ish coats of paint we'd applied! This heartbreaking blunder was due to the fact that we thought we could get away with just one coat of undercoat. The wood/varnish kept 'bleeding' into each layer of paint, staining the white. We ended up applying too many coats of paint, leaving the mantle-piece tacky. It took us an entire afternoon to strip the whole thing back again!
  • Applying two coats of varnish to our newly painted floorboards, only to watch in disbelief as they turned nicotine-stained. Without wishing to sound too dramatic, this was pretty soul-destroying! We had to sand down the varnish (by hand), spend time investigating better products, spend more money on a more suitable one and re-varnish. 

All these hiccups aside though, I couldn't be more delighted with what we've achieved in this room! And  I can attest that hiccups make for good lessons learned!

So, what do you think so far? I hope you're as excited as me about the big reveal...

Hi friends, just a quick one today to signpost you to my guest blog over at Sue Ryder! I'm Sue Ryder's first ever guest blogger in fact, so I'm very honoured. I wrote about spotting the potential in charity shop finds,with both my stitching and home-owner hats on, so hop on over, especially if you fancy drooling over some stunning vintage furniture.

To the lovely folk at Sue Ryder - thanks for having me!