Sweet Santa

I’ve been naughty lately: neither blogging nor sewing much and seeking instant gratification with RTW purchases which “afterwards left me feeling empty and unfulfilled….”   Also I left it until quite late to sort out and post my Stitching Santa parcel.  So when in the lead up to Christmas nothing arrived in the post for me, I sort of shrugged and started to mull over the idea of karma.

1-pressie-from-stitching-santaThen, on super-busy Christmas Eve Eve as we were all getting down to doing some wrapping of presents, my kids – who’ve very cleverly done some of their Christmas shopping online by getting their dad to pay – came running down the stairs: “Mum, this was with the other ones, we didn’t realise it was for you!”  My present from Stitching Santa had been in their room for several days, behind other jiffy bags all held together with a rubber band….  Not one but several gifts emerged!

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I opened them during a quiet moment on Christmas day.

The first gift revealed a cute belt buckle and immediately brought me to recall two RTW garments with self-fabric belts I’d saved on my Pinterest board with the intention of copying them someday.  Well, I consider this a prompt!

The orange item is rather intriguing….

The MIY (Make it Yourself) sewing tool has a range of seam allowances, a sharp point for turning out collar tips and a guide for sewing circles (useful for marking buttons).  1-stocking

Then this cutest mini Christmas stocking appeared!  It would make a lovely decoration but I also think on future Christmases Blogstalker could hang it up, as the children do their stockings, and Petshop Santa will treat him to a few Dreamies.

And the generosity didn’t stop there. I was also given a sweet Apples and Owls sewing needle book (I didn’t have one till now), beautifully made with awesomely 1-needle-bookprecise stitching.

Finally, just as I was feeling totally undeserving, out came two vintage sewing patterns.  I love the styling of the envelopes.  Both dress designs have a Mad Men vibe and are right up my street. Did I tell you I’ve become obsessed by the idea of growing a killer work wardrobe?!

And my kind benefactor?  After getting totally the wrong end of the stick and ascribing this generosity to the wrong person, whom I thanked on her blog, I have been told by Sheila that may Santa was in fact………..

Trisha of the Small Sewing Room!

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Thank you so much Trisha.

And thank you to Sheila (Sewchet) for organising  (and thinking up) Stitching Santa.  A real gift to the sewing community!

P.S. Have you heard of Leavers Lace?  No, me neither till now. To find out more go here1-british-leavers-lace

2016

1-gucci-fur-slippers2016.  The year which local readers may forever associate with United Kingdom’s decision to distance itself away from Europe like a small raft with a superiority complex and which will be remembered globally for United States’ election of a president so bizarre-looking, with behaviour so obnoxious, that surely we will be told soon it was Bill Murray all along, giving the performance of a lifetime. Just Hollywood’s little gift to the world, for the next April Fools….

Well I liked 2016! 1-liberty-wearable-muslin

Magenta Dress

It began slowly though.  This time last year I was in the doldrums, getting no work and rarely even receiving acknowledgement for the jobs I was applying for.  When my bid to be a pattern tester for By Hand London resulted in an offer, I jumped at the chance.  It made a change to be wanted for something that I didn’t care if I was virtually paying for the privilege with my own money and time.  Then I sold my second Magenta dress to one more US reader wishing to dress up as a character in the Rocky Horror Show.

I made a bit of money doing alterations and sewing cushion covers.  But it didn’t take me long to work out that my kids were earning more than I was in the pocket money I was giving them.

Meanwhile, the job hunting continued with my setting the bar lower and lower till I was applying for jobs that I’d have hated if I’d got them, in freezing, warehouse-like spaces.  Turned out they didn’t want me either.

mdA lot of the time it didn’t matter.  I was having fun as a Newsletter Editor for my Athletics Club and writing elsewhere, then in my fourteenth year of running, I started getting a bit faster – not bad considering most runners plateau after a while or have to stop due to injuries.

In May I got married!  1-the-dress

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With Stephanie

We went to Canada on holiday and despite having to drag around two grumpy, sniping children (this is why you should have kids after your honeymoon!) we had a brilliant time.  We selected a small patch of this vast, beautiful country to do a bit of travelling in.  It felt like a real adventure. We were looked after splendidly by my very dear uncle and aunt who’d always been a stable background in my life, though we rarely see each other.

1-canadaAnother thing that made the year special is that while in Ottawa I met Stephaniewhile back home the friendships I’d made with other sewing bloggers were growing nicely. In fact it felt like my life was developing in another dimension, completely unexpectedly.   It wasn’t what I imagined would happen when I started this blog in 2012.  I’d hoped that it would lead to a return to employment of some kind, something more ambitious than what I’d done since having children.  Although the effort seemed in many ways futile (it didn’t take me long to realise that my contribution to the world of sewing blogs was negligible compared to more polished and dedicated offerings), it forced me to start writing again and overcome a reluctance “to engage with social media”, an activity which I’d always regarded as something of a security risk!  I’ve become much less guarded and reserved as a result, and I’ve had fun.

the-blouseIn August, I got a brilliant though (again) unpaid ‘job’ as Volunteer Coordinator of one of the largest parkruns in the country. Again, this has led to unexpected challenges, learning and a certain amount of unexpected satisfaction. And then an unexpected blessing.  In September this blog did indirectly lead to a temporary job – which is why I’ve kind of been absent lately – for which I’m very grateful. I’m still there now (in fact, I can hardly wait to go back after the holidays just to make sure I hadn’t dreamt it).  But I’m working at the other end of town and due to the long commute and my aforementioned finger in the tasty pie of parkrun, I haven’t the time to sew nor to blog, much.  My disappointment with the offerings of RTW is as great as ever though!  Not one new purchase I’ve made with my newly earned money has been entirely gratifying.  And because where I work I’m surrounded by young people, bastards who look good in anything by virtue of being young, my need for clothes that flatter in high-quality fabrics is greater than ever.  I can’t actually afford them but I can make them!  So watch this space!

Wishing you much health and happiness in 2017.napolen

Marijana

 

Borgen Blouse

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Mirror image

Last month I arranged a meet-up with Ruth while she was briefly in London.  We recognised each other immediately.  Well, I have been a follower of her blog Core Couture for several years!  I examined her Merchant and Mills coat and ‘Vivienne Westwooddress at close quarters and can confirm the standard of said garments was impressively high, even better in light of day than the photos suggest  🙂  As for the vivacious blonde that I expected, she was there alright, complete with a melodic Irish accent but somehow more petite than I’d imagined.  Which I told her!  1 ruth liberty

Rick Owens Shearling Peplum Jacket, Liberty London.

Rick Owens Shearling Peplum Jacket, Liberty London.

This is something that’s been remarked upon before: sewing bloggers look smaller IRL than we do on screen.  Why do you think that is (or, do you agree)?  Maybe in the pictures taken in our living rooms and gardens, we ‘fill’ the frame, whereas in real life we’re surrounded by big spaces?

Our rendezvous was Liberty’s.  We had a look at some of the designer wear on the first floor and felt thankful that we were skilled enough to be able to recreate many (though not all – see left) of these garments at a fraction of their RTW price – if we wanted to.  Ruth’s dress was a perfect example of this.  I felt happy that I’d played a small part in prompting her to make it.

I got a present!  A bundle of sewing patterns wrapped in a length of fabric.  It’s wool, possibly a blend, with a nice amount of drape for it to rest against the skin cosily – great for right now while winter and autumn are battling it out.  I love the muted colours. 1 ice The warm tones I’ve overlooked over the years but the rest – black, ‘envelope blue’ and green – are totally my palette. In fact, I was hunting for a zip for a green dress I was making so Ruth and I walked over to the new MacCulloch and Wallis premises for a bit of habby shopping before checking out the stores on Berwick Street.  As the afternoon darkened, I got the feeling we were walking against the tide: workers rushing to tube stations for their Friday night getaway, pushing into pubs, not to mention the semi-manic shoppers stlll jostling about.  I hope we get a chance to meet again, soon 🙂

1 sketchI mulled over what to make with my new fabric then by chance I found a sketch in  my old notebook that I drew while  watching ‘Borgen‘ (the Castle) years ago.  This was a really good Danish series about a fictional female Prime Minister who’s not only a consummate politician but so attractive that my husband pretended to watch the series with me!  The ‘slash with side bow’ blouse was worn by the another character, the young political journalist.  It was black which created a stunning contrast against Katrine’s blond hair and pale skin.  If I make this again, I’ll  go for a block colour and try a big, more confrontational bow!  1 inside

I drafted the slash and bow blouse pretty quickly from my bodice block, cutting at the upper bust line then playing with strips of paper till I worked out the two lengths of the bow on the side.  The big sleeves are Colette Aster Flutter Sleeves.  Here’s the view of the slash on the inside, showing the facing.  The bow section is double sided.

Anyway, I seem to recall Ruth is also a fan of Scandi Drama.  She once made jeans like the brown leather ones worn by Saga in the Bridge.  Now that’s daring!

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Familiar Faces

Three years ago when I started blogging, it seemed a futile business.  By sharing knowledge, I wanted to contribute something to the internet – after years of take – but most posts would take hours to produce, especially tutorials, and I rarely knew whether anyone read them.  I began to think each post a message in a bottle tossed into the ocean, fingers crossed.

Kate DaviesKate of Fabrickated, who’s been blogging pretty much daily for just over a year, must have felt like that too but she quickly gained a readership of those who, like me, appreciate her well-informed and all-encompassing advice on style.  I like to see Kate’s creative output too, as it’s varied and bold.  I mean, discharge pasteSilver-leaf beetles!?  Well, last Friday I made my way to Kings Cross to meet her.  Though her PA led me straight to her office, I’d have recognized Kate very easily if I’d have had to pick her out in a busy crowd at the station.  She looks just like in her blog!  Not only that, she was wearing her painted silk camisole in colours I’ve come to associate with her.  (Kate on the other hand realised I was a bit of a tich!)  Although we knew quite a bit about each other, meeting in real life helped fill up lot of non-sewing gaps.  Kate very kindly took me for lunch by Regent’s Canal – a former running haunt of mine but much changed after development.  We were a couple of doors away from Central Saint Martins so afterwards we popped in to see some of the students’ exhibits.  Most of it was decidedly zany like the fuzzy gloves, each studded with painted red screws, which we tried on.  Kate and I both love, and feel very lucky to live in, London.  I’ve a lot of admiration for the work she does in enabling the city to be a home to so many.  I went home feeling like I’d been on a bit of an adventure.  It was an unexpected high and evidence of how through blogging my world has grown.

Elna 6200 Decorator's TouchBack at home, Elna was waiting, fresh from her two weeks’ recuperation at World of Sewing.  Here’s a list of the treatments she received, with apologies for the jargon:

Remove ‘play’ from bobbin race and gears

Reset tension

Fit new bobbin hook cover

Check timing and hook and needle clearance

Delinting, degreasing, oil and lubricate

Stitch test, Clean down

[And finally… ] Electrical safety test.

In the 8 years I’ve had this machine, I’ve ignored some warning signs and the work was well overdue.  It cost £148.56 with a guarantee of 6 months.

She now sews with a creamy purr, whereas previously she had a tendency to squeak and whine.  Alas, despite my surge of creativity, my task this weekend was to put Elna to a most basic drawstring-bag job.  This is to replace the tent poles bag belonging to his school which son lost on a camping trip and for which he’d otherwise be charged some deposit money if not replaced.  Luckily, the job was a quick one as I had the ideal instructions: my first ever blog post, Nosebag!

Bloghopping

Pleated gotas de amor fabric, Alexander HenryOr to give it its original title – “Writing Process Blog Hop“. My turn at a blog circular of distant and unknown origin (I could Google it I suppose).  This asks nominees just four simple question which the writer then passes on to others.  The invitation came from the energetic and ever-vibrant Ruth. Ruth’s answers and some of the others I’ve seen make an interesting read.  A common reason given as to why we write is we feel that after years of helping ourselves from the Internet (Life’s Eternal College), it’s time to give something back. But if you want more, here goes:


Why do I write what I do?

I’m filling time by developing new skills.  After going on a pattern-cutting course three years ago, I designed and made a skirt for a friend (she was about to go on holiday, didn’t know what to wear, didn’t have time to shop).  I got high on the uncertainty of “will this work or not” followed by the relief of a job well done and decided to maybe become a dressmaker for others.  Sew2pro is a record of the projects in my transition from amateur to pro.


What am I working on now?

Oh at least four things 🙄

River Island Lace Collar dress1.  A close-fitting version of this velvet swing dress from River Island.  I do love it but the colour of the original is too close to my skin tone so that from the distance I’d appear nude.

Plus, the style of the collar is a bit “Jacobean gentleman”.

My version will be in lilac/grey.

The lace collar from Etsy has arrived…

1 Lace collar from Etsy

1 gotas de amor fabric

2. There are a few parties coming up, beginning with one on 1st November: the Day of the Dead, when I want to wear a skirt made out of this Gotas De Amor fabric.  Possibly a pencil skirt (with a long, turquoise-blue satin-lined kick pleat at the back) but please feel free to suggest other kinds!

3. I’ve pinned the fabric into pleats (casual, rather than measured) onto the dummy here as I’m experimenting with creating my own version of the outfit worn very gorgeously by the Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley below (click on picture for link to the original article).  It’s a kind of Dior look which I’m not sure I’m slight enough to pull off or if I can get away with it considering my (lack of) height.  Jess Cartner-Morley Powerdressing Guardian 17 October 2014

My version will be dark, between red and black, but equally glossy.  I’ve got the chunky watch already, the perfect shirt and – despite Jess’ advice – I will wear pearls.  Or mother-of!  Wish me luck with fabric shopping.

4. I’ve yet to write about the two skirts I made recently.  Tomorrow promises to be sunny so it’s photoshoot time.


How does my work differ from others in the genre?

It’s only about stuff I’ve sewn – and often designed.  I rarely ruminate, there are no reviews of the latest Burda Magazine (but do let me know if it ever stops being ‘orrible) and I’ll never just show some stash.  Sometimes I may sneak in some talking cat photos (after all, we all have our weaknesses) or the odd exhibition review, but only if it involves stitching.


How does my writing process work?

I decide what 6-8 points need to be made in a post then I chew them over while I go for a run.  I ask myself how to put them in order.  Back home I write incoherent, incomplete sentences – often while doing several other jobs – then I start tidying up the text.  Typically, one or two points get trashed for the sake brevity and flow, but if I’m lucky a kind of narrative emerges.  If I’m doubly lucky, I might even get an amusing or original title for the post.

Yeah I know, not this time 🙂


My nominees

Kate of Fit and Flare.  Kate has infinite knowledge and often reminds me that good presentation is an essential part of wellbeing rather than some vain preoccupation.  Kate, who works like a dynamo, has written her bloghopping post already.

Tialys who somewhere in south France sews, sells and looks after a charming menagerie of rescue animals 🙂

I also invite you to view the world of the illustrator and photographer Nicky Linzey who, like Ruth, I’ve come to think of as a good friend these past two years though we’ve never met.  Each of her posts is like a deep breath of the kind of fresh air we don’t get much of in Sarf London!