Tag Archives: blogging

The Everyday Feminist Skirt

11 Aug

Photo bombed by Lord Boo, cat supremo, feline mastermind of the neighbourhood.

Hey there. It’s been a while. I’ve been-a-sewing but sometimes it’s nice to swim below the surface for a while. You know how life goes.

So here we find the all new ‘I love Liesl’ page. The Everyday Skirt is a pattern by Liesl & Co that I first saw all sewn up on What Katie Sews – following her links there were some other rather splendid versions out there too – and in a typical blast of sewing impetuosity, pattern download was bought and fabric sourced. All from the comfort of the sunny shores of Devon. A week of sunshine, sand and ice-cream was just what I needed and I returned to the dappled sunshine of West Oxfordshire desperate to get sewing. It’s essentially a sophisticated gathered skirt, elasticated to suit at the back, with straight side panels. It’s the smooth side panels that make this such a flattering fit, together with pockets that are sewn into the waistband (not shut as I have been known to do before…) The skirt is designed to sit slightly below the waist but I may well position it on my waist next time, not quite sure.

Tidy on the inside - it's a miracle!

Tidy on the inside – it’s a miracle!

The fabric was a lovely cotton seersucker from Miss Matatabi, one of my favourite Etsy shops. Not only does she have a wonderful range of fabric but her shipping costs are reasonable and FAST. I mean I’ve known letters take longer from my ma and pa in Sunderland, but that’s another story, and seemingly often another country for Royal Mail.

Look at the fabric! Of course this print is perfect for my feisty, no nonsense Northern alter ego (or do I mean my personality?) and I so love the little women’s signs that I flounce in the face of the men of the house. What for, I’m not entirely sure. They’re quite an emancipated bunch. A statement skirt – who’d have thought it?!

Waistband wonders and my girl power fabric

Waistband wonders and my girl power fabric

This pattern really was a dream. The instructions are simple, clear and well thought through. I understood everything. I made no mistakes! I felt competent! In fact, I felt more than competent. I felt good. The insides look as good as the outsides. I can tick off pockets as a feat accomplished and as Katie says, the method of sewing the waistband to the skirt is fab-u-lous. Yes, it’s a beginner pattern but it really is so well put together in every sense, I reckon even the dog could sew it. The only slight fly in the ointment (and I’m sure that I’m to blame here) is that the print is slightly skewiff (one of my ma’s favourite phrases – fringes, tiling, shelving, teeth, you name it, it’s a bit wonky). I spent a long time matching selvedges, pulling, tugging, trying to align the grain and this is where I ended up, a bit off kilter. But don’t actually care. I still love this skirt.  I already have some lightweight denim ready to make an autumn version. Go me! Ah yes, but wait til I blog about my other makes. The great leveller.

More wonders: pockets that open and aren't sewn together...

More wonders: pockets that open and aren’t sewn together…

There is much sewing to be done in the next month. Two dresses (one for moi and one for Lady Moo) for a very special wedding next month. Two Sorbettos owed as gifts. And the fabric stockpiled for all the summer dresses I was supposed to make but lost time somewhere out there to pestilence, illness, despair and toil.

So let’s close the show in my favoured way, with a rather wonderful song.

The show has now left town. Yep, the Wilderness Festival is over for another year; the deer can trot back from whence they came; the crash barriers (chortle) can disappear from the train station; and the Co-op is decimated (the 6ft Wilderness banner opposite the shop failed to give them any pointers in terms of stock control…) As this was my first year of non-attendence, I thought I’d offer up a lighter-in-the-air/swaying song to recreate the mood. Lights, camera, joss stick, action.


When is a deer not a deer?

20 Apr

IMG_2631When it’s a cushion, of course.

Happy Easter campers. I hope your cup overfloweth with chocolate.

It’s a bit of a cop out really, blogging about sewing cushions when I’ve some perfectly good ‘garments’ to write about. A large part of that is due to my loathing of being photographed, something I will just have to get over I suppose…

And so, a little bit of frenetic Good Friday sewing activity of the soft and squidgy variety: cushions! First up was the new cover of the neck sausage – the Ikea mini bolster cushion – that fits conveniently behind my rather wobbly and often very painful neck. A very good friend of mine, known to my children as Movie Mate, gifted me a fat quarter of a rather splendid print, just the right amount of fabric to make a new cover. It’s ace. It’s a carton strip of Quilt Girl, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Velma of Scooby Doo fame, if you ask me.

Linda, a mild mannered assistant, not janitor

Linda, a mild mannered assistant, not janitor

IMG_2637Anyway, I wanted to remind myself how to pipe a cushion, as it had been a while; shame I didn’t pick an easier shape than a CIRCLE. Second end is better than the first, but the end result is just dandy. I’ll gloss over the “adventure” I had with the open ended zip, removing the pull like an eejit when I’d just sewn it in…

All this piping practice came in handy for cushion number two. This is to be a gift for the son of one of my most favourite people in the whole wide world. He turns 18 on Wednesday and is off to study photography in Falmouth next year. This should be something for him to vomit over as he sees fit; I took a great deal of care and it came together well, the best of the three.


Last up was a cushion, for my children. I love this blue fabric with the groovy deer wearing specs. I have a bit of a thing about deer, so don’t be surprised if you see them popping up from time to time. I used up some ready bought navy bias binding that I already had, but it was much narrower than the purple I used for the camera cushion and therefore far more expletive-inducing. You sew and learn.


So that’s it. If anyone out there reading this can point me in the direction of a tutorial for piping something in the round, that would be fab.

Cushion pads came from Furnish NK at the bargain price of £2.25 per 12 x 18 inch feather pad; p&p was a little steep at £6.99, so I ordered four pads to make it worth my while. The deer and camera fabric both came from modes4u in Hong Kong and arrived impressively quickly.

Sewing cushions may not be the most exciting or challenging of projects, but a little bit of instant gratification when you’re feeling a bit meh was just what was needed.



Retro Rose Winifred Dress

9 Apr

At the start of March, I gave myself a stern talking to and decided to enter a sew-along. My first ever. The Winifred Dress by Bluegingerdoll, to be precise. I had been admiring her from afar and it seemed the perfect style for this panda.


Winifred with a longer hem. Because I'm worth it.

Winifred with a longer hem. Because I’m worth it.

However, all did not go according to plan and to regurgitate the rather hackneyed expression, it was a bit of a journey.

That journey began with the much delayed arrival of the pattern itself, ordered 5 March, arrived 29 March. Abby of Bluegingerdoll shared her frustrations at the shortcomings of the Australian post office and emailed me the pdf so I could start long with everyone else, bless her. It wasn’t the most auspicious of starts but I was armed with some beautiful cotton bought from Ditto Fabrics  (grey Retro Rose by Makower) and I could see the dress in my head – question was, could I sew it?

I love love love the expression [sewed] “like a boss” which I believe – and of course I may be wrong – originated with Lauren Lladybird. I have my own sewing simile now, post Winifred: sewing like an arse. Arse, arse, arse. Saying it repeatedly brought some relief. Good job I can laugh about it now. Much.

Anyway, back to Winnie. Being a good panda and reading and following Abby’s instructions, I constructed a muslin. Despite my measurements being well within the size 8 spec, my muslin became wedged around my bazookas and I feared that I would have to cut myself out before losing consciousness as my chest was so constricted. Small matter, muslin numero dos fitted just dandy although I did add 1/2 inch  to the armholes front and back. I blame my obsession with kettlebells, but I’m shoe-in for arm wrestling competitions these days. Anyway, fair dibs Abby, as there was enough fabric to cut out the dress but not an annoying amount spare, if you know what I mean.

Step by step I followed the sew-along until I got to the collar, whereupon I behaved like a cat repeatedy running at a closed cat flap. I swear you could see the smoke rising from the old grey matter as I tried to understand and make sense of what I was doing. Eventually I emailed Abby, as it appeared from the Winifred Facebook page that no-one else was having a collar issue, and she duly replied. But the time difference between West Oxfordshire and Melbourne meant that I had my eureka moment …at 12.45am… before I got her reply. I couldn’t go to bed until I’d figured it out. Nevermind the pressing work deadline facing me the very next day, at least the collar was on!

A collar. Just a collar...

A collar. Just a collar…

It may not sound a big deal when written with due brevity here, but collar-gate lasted several days – my children went hungry, the dog was unwalked, I barely spoke. I am pernickety about my sewing. I want it to be good and I want to get better at it. The finishing matters. I want collars with points. Hems that are even. A dress that looks good inside as well as out. La la la. I’m keen to improve and that’s part of the joy of sewing again.

I’d found a lovely slide buckle for the back of the dress from Minerva Crafts, as well as some gorgeous lilac bias binding. But godammit the buckle was too BIG. Growl. Gnash. Fury. I bought another. Wrong colour. More gnashing. I ordered another from Ebay and at last a fit worthy of Cinders.

My back plus buckle

My back plus buckle

Buckle on I was ready to hem. I left the hem a bit longer because, well, I wanted to. Maybe next time I’ll be daring. Because I loved the bias binding so much, and I’d bought extra, I decided to cover the raw edge of the skirt in bias binding (or whatever the proper technical term is) and then hand sew the hem using slip stitch.  Other sewers regularly wax lyrical about the joys of hand-sewing, and I never thought I’d join them, but this is the second time I’ve done a fair bit of hand-sewing as part of my garment finishing, and I really enjoyed it. I used some bias binding for the inside collar too and used my overlocker, which I’m driving as an automatic (if you get my gist), to finish the rest of the edges, apart from the centre front and centre back which are French-seamed.

Hem it!

Hem it!

Anyway, she’s done, finished, Miss Winifred. I’d say take a bow, but that’s Sheila, and I think Winnie should be more of a curtsy. Ta dah!




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.’

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 myfabrics.co.uk 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.’