Skating for Sunderland, Panda style

2 Mar

I was mugged at Sunderland Ice Rink aged 14. Let that not be a reflection of this dress, nor the event for which it was made, but I do realise that there are no promises in this life…

Lady Skater the Second was born after in an idle moment contemplating the shock of Sunderland FC entering the League Cup Final (taking place today, if you’re interested!) I had already completed “semi-final top” which I meant to blog about prior to this, but in my arse-about-face way of doing things, it will have to follow later. Needless to say, the semi-final top was sewn while listening to radio commentary, with a lot of haste, fervour and expletives, none of which related to said garment, only the match being played.

Minerva Crafts once again produced the goods for the dress by way of a red, white and black jersey fabric and at only £4.99 a metre it meant that my inevitable disappointment would not cost me dearly. Football is a fickle mistress when Sunderland is your team.

Red, white and black lass

Red, white and black lass

Back to stitching. I did, of course, sew a Lady Skater Dress (my second, following on from the Lady Moo Skater Dress) all ready to wear at Wem-ber-lee. Cut a straight 4, as I did for Lady Moo, and a small back adjustment was needed so I thought, but apparently a bit of a bigger one would have been better. Once again, I dock my hat to lovelyAmanda of Kitschy Coo fame: this is a great pattern for a novice knits stitcher (try saying that quickly) and she is just SO helpful if you have any questions. The instructions are very detailed – just perfect for a simple sewing soul like me.

Pretending to skate on the patio

Pretending to skate on the patio

I’d actually cut the pattern before a few days in Denmark at half term. As I returned home looking like I’d squirrelled a fair few Danish pastries to midriff (because actually I had) I did wonder how it would fit. All OK. It might look better in a couple of weeks once the pastry effect has subsided. Unless I replace it with a Creme Egg habit. Has been known.

Like the back end of a ... skater dress

Like the back end of a … skater dress

So anyway, on to today. It’s the only Northern thing I’ve truly been able to give my children, much to their chagrin at times. Well, actually, a lot of the time. But they’ve stuck with it, bless them.  Slightly concerned that cameras may pan round and catch middle aged woman sobbing with young son at end of the match. You know how they like those shots? Joe Schmo and I are both weepers. Any sporting event or children singing tunes from Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and I’m toast. I last wept at Wembley in 1998. It’s always the same: I know it will end in tears, but at least I got a nice frock out of it this time. Bon chance! I expect my next stitch will be a consolation dress 😉

Ha’way the lads.

‘Better things come to those who wait/Then appearness left for all too late
Greatness achieved, and darkness defeated/Ram shack crew with something to prove/And the truck blew up believe it’

[Band of Horses/Knock Knock]

PS Failed to get this posted before we set off, and sadly we were not victorious… but they played so well and for 55 minutes it was the most exciting sporting fixture of my life!

Awkward posing on the patio. Even worse on Instagram - you can see my face!

Awkward posing on the patio.


Lady Grey – the Skater Chick

28 Feb

Chick, a rather lovely (I think) term of endearment, rooted in and from the North East, and for me, from my childhood. This chick, may I make myself clear, is an avuncular, non-lairy chick, not a babe-chick. Just so we understand each other.

Welcome to my first Lady Skater Dress, a la Kitschy Coo. I spent A LOT of time reading as much as I could find about sewing with knits and this pattern in particular, before I took the plunge. In a post-Christmas fug of cheese and red wine I ordered two metres of grey checked knit fabric from Minerva Fabrics (for just under a tenner) and made a promise to Lady Moo, my teenage daughter. Sadly for me, despite all my reading, I’d overlooked one crucial and critical fact: the amount of stretch in your material makes quite a difference when fitting the neckband to the bodice. Oh yes indeed. If only I’d read that bit. Fewer tears would have been shed and no small animals would have been hurt in the production of this dress. (That last bit was a joke btw.)

Lady Moo - my skater chick

Lady Moo – my skater chick

Once again, after castigating myself loudly and frequently, I decided to email the lovelyAmanda (lovely and Amanda are all one word in my dictionary), curator of Kitschy Coo and pattern designer of the Lady Skater dress. She replied. Not only did she reply, but she replied quickly and helpfully, in a friendly and non-irritated manner. How so I thought? I’m so irritated with myself I’d quite like to sew my fingers together with the twin needle. Anyway, enough of this light-hearted banter, neckband sorted (ish), the rest of the dress came together quickly and easily.


I cut Lady Moo a size 4, in accordance with her measurements, making a slight back adjustment as per lovelyAmanda’s very excellent instructions. They are super-duper, top banana instructions for eejits like me. The Kitschy Coo website is also full of some very helpful advice about sewing with knits – just make sure you read it properly, said the Panda, clearing her throat. The neckband could be better, but it was a hard lesson learned. Overall, old Panda Face smiled with relief.

Teenage daughter turns her back on mother. When asked.

Teenage daughter turns her back on mother. When asked.

What else to tell about construction? Well in my web trawl I’d found a top tip to stabilise the hem to be using some wunderweb type stuff. That worked a dream apart from when I was watching Call the Midwife and the wunderweb became stuck to my iron. Wunderweb in place, I hemmed it with a twin needle – all good. I even cleaned the iron afterwards.

I knew it wouldn’t be my last Lady Skater. And I was right. Ooh I’m such a tease 😉

‘I am good, I am grounded/Davy says that I look taller/I can’t get my head around it/
I keep feeling smaller and smaller/I need my girl/I need my girl.’

The Lion Roars… or something

22 Feb

I have been something of a slattern in terms of blogging. I have given myself a severe telling off as I have been busy stitching and so producing stuff to blog about but, well, guilty as charged. Anyway, flurry of activity begins here. I am supposed to write for a living after all, not that you’d guess.

First up is what is now referred to as the Aslan top by myself and darling daughter, Little Moo. Does anyone remember the awesome 1970s ish production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? How great was that lion? How dare they bump him off in some biblical reenactment? Hurumph. Just because the story said so.

I showed this fabric to my daughter, Little Moo, because she has always loved lions and I thought this was a bit “Converse Lion” (as in the shoe/baseball boot).

Lions. They roar.

Lions. They roar.

Found on the Kitschy Coo website, I managed to buy the last metre of fabric which was just fine (as I think it would have overpowered on the sleeves too) and topped it up with some organic black jersey from Ray Stitch. The pattern: Plantain by Deer and Doe. Of course. If you sew, you can’t have failed to see the prevalence of all manner of  Plantains across the webersphere (my word so piss off, spellcheck).  I first noticed its appearance on Paunnet and decided that it might be worth a punt. Having already dipped my toe in the water with a Lady Skater dress (blog post to follow), I felt a lot more confident about sewing with knits. And as things go, I was mighty pleased with the outcome. It fits. The elbow pads are in the right place. She wears it without any undue pressure. It has been through the wash without disintegrating. Huzzah.

Elbow pads positioned on elbows. A miracle!

Elbow pads positioned on elbows. A miracle!

Sizing-wise, I cut a 40 across the bust and then graded to a 38 at the waist. Yes I know, grading. How improved am I?!!And zut alors, it worked! Look…

Lovely Little Moo

Lovely Little Moo

Now, I think I might quit while I’m ahead. There’s a fair bit to follow, garment-wise so happy Saturday peeps and see you in a while, crocodile.

‘And I’m a goddamn fool, but then again so are you
And the lion’s roar, the lion’s roar
Has me seeking out and searching for you
And I never really knew what to do.’

Leopard skin lurve

24 Jan

Here are some gifts I made earlier, in true Blue Peter style. And while it’s not quite the same sewing hit as making a garment to wear, it’s a good feeling to give friends gifts you’ve made yourself. (As long as they like them of course…) So, I give you – or even them – the leopard skin make-up bag and the big cat collar.



As I seem to spend most of my time either reading sewing blogs, musing on sewing projects or actually sewing, I find the short synopses that many sewists share very helpful.

Pattern: Make-up bag – a free pattern given when I signed up to Make It Love It blog and the detachable collar pattern was from Tilly and the Buttons

Fabric: Slinky leopard skin faux fur from Fashion Fabrics in Banbury Oxfordshire

I thought this fabric might spew fur like a spewy thing when cut, but because it was short pile it didn’t, so much so I could attach a small zip pull to the make-up bag quite easily. The only challenge for this Panda was the lining fabric that slinked around and I even managed to cover the zip ends as per the instructions.


A covered zip end will hopefully give some degree of permanence to this gift, she said hopefully

As you can see, I artfully filled the bag with tissue paper to help it look less floppy (a bit of interfacing in construction would have helped I suppose) and then added a lovely red lipstick and matching nail varnish. I didn’t make these. The gift was well-received (I hope) and I plan to make some more as wash bags for the male species children of the house. They will be clean and tidy. Sewing across the pointy corners should, in theory any way, help the bags to stand up; I think this would work better with different fabric and a waterproof lining both of which just happened to arrive at my door in the last two weeks…

The furry detachable big cat collar was easy peasy to construct as you’d expect from the wonderful Tilly and I whipped up two in one evening. I made one with the same lining fabric I’d used for the make-up bag and the second I used an off-cut of organic pin-stripe cotton. The latter will be the gift as, quite frankly, it’s better!


This is the third Tilly pattern I’ve used and she’s just fab, always making me feel like a remotely proficient seamstress. Her instructions are always clear and detailed, perfect for the beginner or rusty sewer like me. I was quietly amused (as I am a lot of the time) to realise that the collar will be for my dear friend Polly Pocket, from a pattern by Tilly Button.

Anyway, I’ll be back, in true Arnie style very soon, having completed another garment this week. My anxious/furious sewing was fuelled while listening to a rather important footie match on the radio. All’s well that ends well this time for Sunderland FC. A new top and a cup final to look forward to: Wednesdays don’t get much better than that.

Back soon!

And sewing aside for one moment, who else could I turn to (lyrically) after a victory over Manchester Utd in a cup semi-final?

‘It’s more than a feeling, when I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)

I begin dreaming…’

Pyjama Party

2 Jan

It’s been a while since I last wrote, but here’s a bright shiny New Year and the twigs have finally got their pjs.  Every time I’ve finished a project I think “damn it” I was supposed to photo as I go and show my shoddy workmanship as it happens. I still haven’t quite gotten over the fact that I think I don’t really believe I have the right to offer anyone the benefit of my limited knowledge. Nevertheless, I have started liking some of the blog posts of my fave sewing bloggers, and believe me, that feels quite out there for me, for the moment.

And lo, mama brought pyjamas from the North East

And lo, mama brought pyjamas from the North East

Back to the jim-jams. First up was Cotton-Eyed Schmo in his elephants-go-walkabout pair. I was too tight to buy two patterns for pyjamas so as I’d already purchased the Simplicity 9781 to cover the children now taller than myself, I thought I’d have a go at “drafting” a junior pair for my skinny nine year old.

Surprisingly it worked without constricting my boy in his vital areas. I started off at Handmade Jane‘s blog and read all about her pj construction for her boys and followed the links. If only I could remember them for next time. I managed to make his pair out of one metre of a lovely elephant cotton flannel purchased from Plush Addict and had my first go at adding some satin bias binding. Sense of accomplishment B+.

The boy with curly toes and lovely pjs

The boy with curly toes and lovely pjs

Next up was the strawberry set for my daughter. Again this fabric came from Plush Addict, and I was really pleased with the quality. So far so good. Measured daughter and cut out according to the pattern guide. Actually I made an effort to trace the pattern with my carbon paper gifted through our Secret Santa at work, sadly no tracing wheel until the big fella visted for real on Christmas Eve, so traced the pattern with a pencil. It worked. Sort of.

Note to daughter with dirty toes: remove nail polish properly pre photos

Note to daughter with dirty toes: remove nail polish properly pre photos

Cut out pieces and they looked rather large to say the least. Got stitching, added more bias binding and voila: a pair of clown trousers with enough room for a small family of guinea pigs and their mobile home.  After quite a bit of growling to myself I unpicked the waistband and cut FOUR inches off the outer leg seams, re-stitched and was delighted to see that they do now look like they should, rather than typical circus attire.

Lovely in strawberries and pink fur

Lovely in strawberries and pink fur

Lastly, the camera shy 16 year old. The stars on blue (rather than 45) was ordered from before I realised that it was based in Germany not the UK. Dumbelina. I’d invested so much time looking for fabric that he would like, I couldn’t face starting from scratch again despite the hefty postage charge. All was going well until I trimmed the length as he wanted them skater boy style and I cut the second leg shorter than the one I’d already hemmed. I ask you. Anyone would think I wasn’t quite compos mentis after a severe lack of sleep on New Year’s Eve.  I sustained an injury competing in Just Dance – a fairly innocuous move to Superstition by Stevie Wonder rendered my left arm immobile. Yes, I know, but pulling a muscle in your arm is super painful and cramps your dance and sewing style. Good job the other arm was still in working order, meaning  that I could still reach my prosecco and bark orders from the sofa. Happy days!

Wishing you much love, health and happiness in 2014…

No pjs for M dog

No pjs for M dog

‘What were the words I meant to say before you left?
When I could see your breath lead where you were going to
Maybe I should just let it be and maybe it will all come back to me
Sing, oh, January, oh.’

All dressed up and somewhere to go

23 Dec

Once again, a long period of work and other life has gotten in the way of sewing, but earlier this month I did manage to finish the Factory Dress by Merchant & Mills in time for our Christmas do. While it might not be a Christmas dress per se, more like a work dress really, I was determined to wear my own creation to our small but perfectly formed festivities, and hope desperately that I didn’t unravel at the table…

Material used: some lovely cotton flannel in a pin stripe from Ray Stitch. ‘Slight’ blunder in the cutting out having cut out the pieces so far I became distracted, returned to the kitchen table, and cut a pocket out of one on the front bodice pieces. To say I was annoyed with myself was a polite understatement. Raging fury more like. Having castigated myself loudly, I sat on the naughty sewing step for a full 24 hours. Hurumph. Anyway, I order another half a metre and patiently waited for it to arrive. In the end, all was well.

I followed the instructions pretty well and all was fairly straight forward to sew up for a novice like me. I was particularly pleased how the collar turned out as, having learned from my earlier blunder, I slowed right down and really took my time. Nice and pointy, huzzah!

A good collar,if I say so myself!

A good collar, if I say so myself!

The only thing I struggled with slightly was knowing when to finish my edges – I tended to overlock the edges before sewing each piece but this didn’t always work. Anyway the end product is something I can wear and feel just a little bit please with myself. I certainly think I’ll make this pattern again but most definitely falls into the autumn/winter pattern category for me.

The Factory Dress

In amongst the chaos of December, I’ve also made one out of three pyjama bottoms for the sprats, finished my 2013 top twenty songs (in my fishy alter ego) for Mad Mackerel music blog, and been to Berlin. Not at all bad for a Panda, I’m sure you’ll agree?

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year – let’s hope it’s a good one without any fears.

Cousin Cushion Man

17 Nov
Raffia trim: a tricky customer

Raffia trim: a tricky customer

A long time ago, when my hair was naturally dark instead of artificially blonde, some of my friends created a cushion person aka”Cousin Cushion Man”. We were easily amused in those days. As I hazily recall, he was brown, squidgy, and didn’t say a lot. The soft silent type. Anyway, I’ve dabbled in a spot of cushion making over the years – who hasn’t? – and last week an old friend of mine asked me if I wouldn’t mind recovering a couple of cushions for her that were looking a bit sad and worn. My first foray into “unselfish sewing” in my new sewing Panda guise.

It wasn’t too bad, as cushion making goes: the trim was a bit fiddly (particularly the raffia one) and I had to finish off round the zips by hand as the material was too thick to fit under the sewing machine needle, but all looks OK I think. I even have a tip to share that I gleaned from a one day cushion cover making course at Lewis & Wood in Stroud I did a couple of years ago with my BF. I still feel a bit too newbie to be sharing tips, but as it’s someone else’s, it doesn’t really count. Anyway, she told us to make our covers slightly smaller than the size of the pad. Voila! What happens is that said cushion (particularly if of the feather variety) looks beautifully plumptious, instead of looking a bit floppy. Does that make sense? Use of terminology poor I know, but hey, it’s Panda Speak, catch up!

Cushions but not in human form

Cushions but not in human form

Anyway all edges were overlocked inside, neat and tidy, tidy and neat (if you know your Mr Men). I like cushions: comforting and quite quick to produce even for a slow goat like me.

Fabric has arrived from Plush Addict for Christmas project for the bairns, albeit two are taller than me, so it’s going to take a while (and, may I add, I’m not a midget, they’re just tall). More fabric due to arrive this week from Ray Stitch for me to make the Factory Dress from Merchant & Mills. I was going to make my Anna dress, but I’m a bit scared having realised that the material I’ve bought needs LINING. Yikes. That needs a long run up on the Panda springboard of sewing. I’ll keep you posted.


One last photo: my mama’s old sewing box, a Quality Street tin, circa 1960s. I love this tin dearly. There used to be a Dorcas pin tin that went with and was equally old with lovely old silver headed pins inside. Sadly, that’s gone. My lovely Ma has dementia, so does throw things away with some vim and vigour. I decided to rescue the sewing tin (with permission of course) before it disappeared too. My memories are made from this. Have a good week y’all.

‘I’m in a hurry to get things done/I rush and rush until life’s no fun

All I really got to do is live and die/But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.’