Tag Archives: blogging

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.’

The Slow Dog of Sewing

10 Nov

When my children were much smaller, some of our favourite books to share were the Fast Fox, Slow Dog series by Allan Ahlberg and Andre Amstutz. They are lovely stories to read with great amusement value for parents too: Fast Fox desperately trying to capture the chicks from Mother Hen, while constantly being foiled by his unwitting adversary, Slow Dog. Slow Dog is as he sounds: slow and ponderous in movement and thought. He always wins through in the end, but always by happy accident. Slow Dog became a gentle, tongue-in-cheek rebuke between us grown-ups; to be a ‘slow dog’ meant c’mon, wake-up, make it happen, you dozy doughnut! Thus, for the time being, I must label myself the Slow Dog of sewing and blogging…

A spot of measuring by the Prince of Siberia

A spot of measuring by the Prince of Siberia

Started well, fell away at the second. Hmm, well can’t exactly shoulder all the blame. In the world of charidee copywriting, this be the busiest time of the year and we are a teeny tiny set-up (just the three of us, unless someone small’s hiding behind the photocopier). Anyway, the stuff that pays the bills has had to take priority over the stuff I’d rather be doing, particularly of late. After the successful completion of a Mathilde blouse, I’d moved on to the Miette skirt, another of Tilly‘s creations. I’d purchased some lovely dark grey/black organic medium weight cotton from Ray Stitch and was keen to get started. This should be easy peasey I thought, seeing as I’ve completed the Mathilde without a hitch and that’s the more complex pattern. Complacency and haste are the enemy of the Panda sewing. Chuck in my worst client in living memory, and it became a somewhat fraught affair.

Still, I’m pretty pleased with the end result, as I managed to regain my sewing mojo, slow down and proceed at a steady canter towards the finishing line. This was beautiful material to sew with even for my inexperienced hands. I was too lazy to change the thread on the overlocker and couldn’t afford the time to trug to my nearest haberdashery, a twenty minute drive away. Actually I really like the end result: the white serged edges on her dark materials. It’s always pleasing to see the inside looking as average as the outside. I like a good – or even mediocre – finish. The hem may have a discrepancy of about 1/2 inch in some places that seems to match the 1/2 stone I’ve managed to gain for the first time in eight years, but hopefully the advent of time and a reduction in my biscuit and cheese consumption may mean that the skirt hangs a little better. The pattern is quite forgiving and I’d certainly like to make another come the Spring.

Serger mess...

Serger mess…

Once again, another master stroke from Tilly in the instruction department: there’s the simple pointers that come with the download but there are also more detailed step-by-step cues on the website, together with photos. If you’re a visual learner, and I believe I am, these are a god-send.


My big lesson learned this time through was never sew when raging about the day job. It puckers your stitching and mismatches your seams. Hey ho. Anyway, next up is the Anna dress from By Hand of London. I’m going to make a toile, and I’m going to line it. Whoaa there! Easy girl! I may be some time…

‘He’s going the distance
He’s going for speed
She’s all alone
In her time of need.’

Welcome Mathilde: I’ve been expecting you

23 Oct

Hey there, I’m the Panda that sews. Let’s give me a capital letter as I am a proper noun, just a bit shy really. I do other things too, but maybe later.

First out of the stalls on my sewing voyage of discovery is a Tilly & the Buttons pattern that I rather stupidly read as a beginner pattern: hi there Mathilde. Wrong: Mathilde is not a beginner, she’s intermediate, unlike me. Actually it’s her sister Miette I should have gone for, but she’s happily now also in my possession, and I’m waiting for the arrival of a parcel from Ray Stitch to get busy. All hail Tilly for enticing me into the wonderful world of sewing once again and leading me down the garden path to a whole world of fabric fun.

MathildeI followed the fabulous online instructions on Tilly’s website to the LETTER for Mathilde, and I’m feeling just a bit pleased with myself that it all worked and actually seems to fit. I’ve even been out in it. Albeit in the dark and to a friend’s house five minutes walk away. Still little steps. Mathilde is made in a Michael Miller fabric, Hawthorn Blossom, bought from the lovely lasses at Bedecked in Powys. Of course I bought it online; I can’t go shopping in my panda mask now can I?

My sewing vocab increases daily. I am now building a stash, quietly and secretly. (Previously I thought a stash was family silver hidden from granny, ready to sell to fund some ne’er do well Med cruise. Hey ho.) I now have an invisible zipper, a foot to go with, and some basic know-how in how to marry the two.

Mathilde2It’s a jolly good job I decided to ‘rediscover’ sewing with Google and his mates, otherwise I think I’d be lost. Yep, little steps.

Oops, here we go… I knew there was a song in there somewhere.

‘Something good tonight made me forget about you for now.’