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Hey Marianne!

15 Feb

It’s been a while. Sometimes life is like that. I’ve been sewing but not blogging, embracing my inner introvert (if that’s not a contradiction in terms). We moved house (albeit about 30 yards) last October and I got me my very own sewing room, which has transformed the whole process of sewing and given me a space to call my own.


Agnes meet Marianne, Marianne meet Agnes

Agnes meet Marianne, Marianne meet Agnes

Anyway, to the dress in hand. I love Christine Haynes. Hers are some of the blog posts I most look forward to reading; I love her style, her warmth and her patterns. Bizarrely, this is the first of her patterns I’ve sewn up. I have a little stash of Emery dress fabric waiting to go but I am, by nature, a cogitator, so I imagine just like with the Colette Patterns’ Laurel dress, I will make a toil and then whack a few out.

Neck binding that went to plan!

Neck binding that went to plan!

Marianne is my friend. She pays me the compliment of making me look quite well pulled together, while feeling like I have all the comfort of wearing my nighty.  I don’t feel self-conscious of my midriff either, so a round of applause for Marianne please. Our blossoming friendship nearly came a cropper when the lovely ponte roma I bought from Ebay arrived with a giant hole perfectly positioned in the centre. When I say “giant hole”, I don’t rely on my usual copywriter’s style of over-embellishment for dramatic effect. It was easily the size of a large dinner plate and enabled me to wear the fabric Tonto-style as a poncho.

A dinner plate sized hole.


While I queried the eyesight of person cutting the fabric, understandably I thought, the seller could not have been nicer and gave me a full refund. But still, how do you cut out a length of fabric and not notice a hole that large? The fabric itself is lovely and washed and stitched well, but it did mean that I was very restricted in the pattern placement and style (and length!) of Marianne I could choose. All’s well that end’s well though and she’s a beauty. I cut a size 6 on top and graded out to a size 8 from just under the arm and it fits beautifully. After draping it on Agnes I was temporarily alarmed, thinking it looked far too small to fit me, but not a bit – in fact it looks far better than I ever imagined on these middle-aged bones. The joy of ponte roma is that it doesn’t cling where I don’t want it too and despite feeling that the style of sleeve would only accentuate my bosom – zut allors, all is well! There’s a bit of fabric gathering under the arm but I’m not sure that’s not down to the wretched hole I was trying to cut around (I’m fairly sure there was some slippage) and my efforts to match the stripes.

Gormless with strange hair fin, plus job sheet in the background

Ignore the strange hair fin I’m sporting.

This time I sewed the entire dress on my sewing machine for a change rather than my overlocker, while following Christine’s sew-along. The pattern is very straightforward but I really liked jogging along next to Christine – the sew-along helped slow the process and made it even more enjoyable. There were some tips I picked up that were new to me, even though I’ve sewn with knits quite a bit over the last two years and I have to admit, sewing ponte on my Janome rather than my rather spirited and feisty overlocker was very easy.

Gratuitous cat shot: Lord Boo looking imperious - and learned.

Gratuitous cat shot: Lord Boo looking imperious, as is his want.


When life gives you lemons, make a Marianne dress, I say. Most of the time I like to hide in the corner and remain the observer, but being part of the sewing community on a wider scale involves dipping your toe in the water, particularly if you want to be a part of it all. I love waking up, checking Instagram, and seeing what sewing peeps on the other side of the world are doing, as well as here in good old Blighty: snapshots into other people’s lives make this big old world feel a whole lot smaller, widens your perspective and helps you feel connected in the best way possible to a group of generous-hearted, talented individuals.





Looks like Purple People Eater to Me!

31 May

IMG_2670Oh yes, Sheb Wooley, I’m after you! Here is my Tilly & the Buttons Coco dress – is it called a franken-dress, or is that just me in it?!

It’s a Coco top, shortened a wee bit, with a sort of Merchant and Mills Factory Dress skirt on the bottom. It’s what I call a result, after the trauma of my first Coco.  Last time, I managed to disfigure my fabric by drying it badly and then forcing my daughter to model it. This time I went for a more stable knit, using a lovely ponte roma bought from Plush Addict, and washed and dried it carefully.

It was a one-eyed, one-horned flyin' Purple People Eater!

It was a one-eyed, one-horned
flyin’ Purple People Eater!

Originally, I cut a funnel neck but I thought I looked a bit too much like a purple ET, so cut it out and used some black cotton ribbing I had lurking instead. I really liked the contrast – black/purple, purple/black – and added the ribbing to the cuffs too, using the lovely Amanda method (from Kitschy Coo), as detailed in her Lady Skater dress pattern.

So all’s well that ends well really: I had wanted this dress to be in a Kelly green (as I had pinned on one of my Pinterest boards) but thought it might be too bright, being a gal who favoured black for all seasons for most of her twenties and thirties. So I chose vibrant purple instead.

Despite cutting the same size Coco as before, this fabric behaved differently – just like my children, in fact. The end result is a little bit big, thus casting it into the “roast dinner dress” corner of my wardrobe. It also functions as a giant nighty, which means on all these balmy Spring days that have so far eluded most of the British Isles, I remain snug as a bug and asleep at my desk. Happy days.

Brigitte and Tonic

19 May

A rare sighting of the shade-loving Panda in sunshine


Today, I seized the moment and got him indoors to photograph me outdoors. Outside our office to be precise. Seeing as we work together, the sun was shining, and our office is a four minute walk from our house, it seemed like a good idea.

Friday night saw me whizz up a Brigitte scarf from Tilly Button’s book, Love At First Stitch. This book richly deserves all the accolades that it has garnered: it’s well written, beautifully styled, full of properly helpful sewing information, and some fab-u-lous patterns. When I was “saved” by sewing last summer, Mathilde was the first pattern I made and since then, I’ve made all of Tilly’s patterns to date. I thought I might as well start with Brigitte as I’m rather partial to a head scarf, as they cover a multitude of bad hair sins, and as evidence from my college library card shows, I’ve been wearing head scarves and plaid shirts my whole life.  The scarf is straight forward to construct (of course it is!) but, you know, it’s really nice to have a scarf to wear in a print that you’ve chosen and that goes with loads of things in your wardrobe.

Close-up of Brigitte hiding the seam lines of my wig

Close-up of Brigitte hiding the seam lines of my wig

Having been in our office on my own last week all on my lonesome, I took the opportunity to utilise the large flat table in our meeting room in order to cut out some rather lovely fabric I’d bought to make the Tonic Tee by Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick (SBCC). I’d chosen a rather gorgeous grey and navy striped jersey from Guthrie & Ghani at £4.75 per half metre. The pattern was rather generously available free of charge, and needed only a metre of fabric so less than £10 for an organic cotton t-shirt seems a pretty good price to me. IMG_2646

The office table was good value and enabled me to release my inner OCD and match my stripes like a zealot during my lunch time. Did zealots match stripes? This one did. I am now planning a hostile takeover of the meeting room for my own sewing purposes, armed with a pair of Fiskars and some shearing elastic.

Ta-dah! Stripes that match!

Ta-dah! Stripes that match!

The inspiration behind my Tonic Tee was the ethereal sewing goddess known as Christine Haynes. She wrote a fab tutorial for drafting a Peter Pan collar for the Tonic Tee that you can find here. Everything was awesome. Everything was cool as me and the table worked as a team. The construction of the Tee probably took me about three and a half hours and everything worked. This is my favourite item of 2014 so far. I love it. I encourage you to make one too. With a collar. You know you want to. I am a stripey Tonic Christine zealot and it’s made me very happy. I made something I love to wear.

The zealot pose

The zealot pose

And of course, spurred on by success, I naturally returned to SBCC to buy another pattern, the Mimosa Blouse – which is exactly how it should work, when they’re kind enough to share their stuff for free.

Last Saturday, I managed to overcome various different anxieties/phobias/navigational challenges and head off to the vast gathering that was #NYlon2014. There I met some truly lovely women and hopefully began some new friendships – special mentions to Caroline of CJ Made and Janet at Kitchen Table Sewing – and bought enough fabric to make a Mimosa blouse and plenty more. Being part of the sewing community really does give you so much.

For a long time, I regularly guest blogged for my husband’s music blog, Mad Mackerel. This song was the school anthem for 2012 and it came to mind when I was thinking about how much I dislike having my photo taken for this blog! It’s actually a very funny indie punk song by The Lovely Eggs and my children (and lots of others) LOVED it! Don’t be put off by the cover, it’s expletive free, but there’s plenty of scope for some improv dancing. By child number 2 I’d had enough of ‘Wind the [bloody] Bobbin Up’ and ‘The Wheels on the Bus’, so number 3 just got stuff like this 🙂