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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Middle Girl's birthday present

It was the Middle Girl's birthday last weekend. She'd asked for a stunt scooter. Oh. Dear. God. Whilst the thought of the damage she could potentially inflict on herself on such a thing fills me with the kind of dread all parents will no doubt relate to, this gift request sums her up. Her bright blue and shiny aluminium speed machine has already given her a fair amount of fun on the school run, and I know she is plotting some fun on ramps at the park when the weekend comes round again. 

I love giving my girls something Mummy Made when it's their birthday. They know this, and, they know that (along with Christmas) is it an occasion when I am open to requests and willing to indulge them in (almost) whatever I can attempt to produce on my sewing machine.

The Middle Girl has been having gymnastics lessons since the start of the year. We signed her up, thinking it would suit our sofa leaping, handstand/headstand/cartwheeling child. Being absolutely honest, I'd hoped that this would give her a space to practise all her energetic antics, and reduce the amount of crazy stunts attempted in our living room. It hasn't. But, she absolutely loves going to gym. It is her thing that she does, and (perhaps not insignificantly) that her sisters don't.

I had held off buying her the proper gear - the class she goes to has plenty of kids wearing leggings and tshirts, alongside those kitted out in shiny leotards, so I thought it wouldn't do her any harm to wait a while.

As her birthday approached, I started to make noises that this might be something we could buy her as a present.

Toucan fabric from Funkifabrics
I have recently discovered Funkifabrics - they specialise in brightly coloured designs on stretchy fabric - and this is partly what inspired my latest birthday present sewing adventures. 

The first thing that hit me when I looked at the designs was how vibrant they all were. Because Funkifabrics prints to order, there are squillions of eye poppingly exciting designs to choose from. (Think child in a sweetie shop.) Almost too much choice if such a thing is possiible - I refined my search criteria to just a few categories that I thought would appeal as potential dress making material. 

I have a few favourites that have made it to my mental short list (ready to go back and buy once my existing fabric stash has shrunk a bit).

I might start with a copy cat pair of running tights, like Scruffy Badger.*

 RUB544 Peacock Green

I would like a dress out of this fish fabric.

RUB725 Underwater Green

I can definitely picture either Skater Dresses or some leggings for my girls in the cow print. 

FLO201 Cow Print Black White

I lingered over this zebra print for a long time, picturing a Skater Dress for myself made out of it.

TS217 Zebra Dazzle

And then this tropical toucan kitsch gloriousness caught my eye. Although I had originally planned to make a dress for myself out of it, once it arrived, the colours were so vibrant and the overall design so much fun that I knew it would make the perfect leotard for my budding gymnast. 

I couldn't keep this gift idea as a complete surprise, as, once I'd bought a pattern, it was obvious I needed to take quite a few careful body measurements. The leotard was a lot easier to make than I thought it would be. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the pattern - it was under a fiver, and it came with good instructions, and saved me a load of guess work compared to a vague plan I had of tracing a pattern from an old ballet outfit. Hurrah for the internet.

As for the finished leotard - it has been judged a Big Success by my most particularly tricky customer. She loved the toucan on her tummy, and was chuffed to head off to gymnastics in her new leotard, knowing no one else would have one like it. It has held up to a lot of stretching and leaping about, and the colours have stayed nice and vibrant after a second run through the washing machine.

High on the success of making a garment I would have previously thought too tricky to try, I fleetingly considered offering to make some for the rest of the gymnastics class members. And then... well, I got a grip. There are a lot of other things left to sew. For me.

In the meantime, a big thank you to Funkifabrics for generously giving me my choice of fabric to review. As already stated, I'll definitely be back for more.

*I did copy Scruffy Badger. Only with toucans. Well, I couldn't let my Middle Girl have them all to herself. Did they make me run faster? Oooo, yes! Ahem. I mean no. But I love them all the same, and, more importantly, they did not fall down once during my four mile run. Check out my Instagram feed to see what they look like.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

#NotJustAnotherNotebook update

As I sat down to sew my latest notebook order, it occurred to me it has been quite a while since I've posted an update on how things are going on the charity sewing front. Oops!

I am still feeling the notebook love. I like it when people give me specific things to go on, as this allows me to challenge myself to design them a notebook that will really suit the taste of the person it is for, and, I hope, be something that is treasured.

This notebook is a birthday gift, from one best friend to another. The lady in question has a black cocker spaniel (called George) and loves vintage style. The words were chosen for her by her friend when she contacted me.

I'm bored of blogging monthly updates about every single notebook. So, I'll stop by every once in a while and give you a peek of what's happening, and a gentle nudge to say I'd love you to bear my little project in mind when thinking of what to give loved ones for birthdays. 

This is notebook number 61. Wow. Thank you to every single person who has trusted me to make them something they will like. And, for helping raise a whopping £818.75 for WaterAid and The Salvation Army. 

Funnily enough, I got a phone call from a lady at The Salvation Army just a while ago - she wanted to tell me about the effort the charity is putting into supporting victims of human trafficking. Crikey. That is a million miles from my world of pretty vintage fabrics. 

If you'd like to see all the notebooks as they are made, you can follow the making here - come and say `hello' on Instagram. Bye bye for now.

Monday, 4 May 2015

A little rascal called Charlotte

My three older girls were very excited to hear that a royal princess had been born. "YES!!! It's a girl! It's a girl!" they leapt up and chanted in triumph, like it was somehow a personal achievement for them. I should point out, that this is how they celebrated in the scanning room at the hospital when the radiographer broke the news they were having another sister (and not a brother).

Well. Now the Duke and Duchess have announced what they will be calling their new little bundle of joy, may I congratulate them in having such fine taste?! Ha, ha. Whilst Charlotte was too young to understand this as a potential gloating opportunity, five year old Elizabeth was of course delighted, and wasted no time in rubbing it in with her two big sisters (who are now self-confessed republicans).

Here is my little rascal called Charlotte. A princess she is not!

I made her this dress a few days ago. It's already been worn and washed, and here it is, back in action today (wrinkled, and with evidence of all the things she'd been eating and the dirt of the play ground covering it).

It is a pattern from Funky Little Dresses designer, Kirsty Hartley - she's promoting her book that is coming out this week, and I think this is probably why the current issue of Love Sewing Magazine features this pattern of hers. Can I just say, I haven't been asked to write this - I don't have a copy of the book, but will definitely be buying one, as I absolutely love Kirsty's fun packed approach to children's clothes - check out her fox and badger designs. I defy anyone not to wish for those dungarees in their lives. It would make hanging out the washing a bit more joyful, no? Having done a small amount of digging about on the website, Kirsty deserves to be celebrated amongst us crafty types - she has created a business off the back of her fab designs, and now employs British makers to carry out the clothing orders she receives. Someone committed to selling stuff that has been lovingly made in Britain - let's celebrate the woman and (if like me, you can sew and so wouldn't buy her clothes) buy her book and make your own versions of her smile inducing designs.

The dress was super simple to sew - I did it in a couple of hours, including the applique. Because of Charlotte's size, I got it out of half a metre of linen type cotton from Fabric World by the bus station in Bedford. With the buttons and Bondaweb, and using scraps I already had for the rainbow, the whole thing cost me less than a fiver. Win!

I plan to make a black cat dress next, inspired by another Wild Things pattern that was featured in a Mollie Makes I have from aaaaages ago.

Having got sucked into National Trust membership over a year ago, not used it at all for the first year, and then stupidly allowed the automatic renewal via Direct Debit (through my own general lack of paying attention to my banking), I am now determined to use the flipping family membership.

So, with a Bank Holiday approaching, I hatched a plan with my friend Gis (who is also a member) to meet for a catch up at a place roughly half way between the two families. Being far more knowledgeable about the good places to go than me, Gis suggested Belton House. As a little public information aside, this place is blooming brilliant on a sunny day like today, as there are lovely gardens and fountains to admire, and a fabulous adventure playground to impress even the most complaining (`How much longer is this car journey going to be?') of six year olds. But, had it rained, we could have sheltered in a cafe, whilst the children played in an indoor playground complete with astro turf and other fun stuff. Oh, and tours of the house were on offer, too (but let's face it, our children were not remotely interested in doing that when they had spotted the ginormous curly slides and a zip wire).

So here is Charlotte. Disobeying instructions. She spent at least half an hour picking up handfuls of stones and lobbing them into the pond. She showed absolutely no signs of slowing down during this time (which, to be honest, was quite nice, as the older chidlren were busy hiding behind the bushes, and this all allowed the grown ups to have a decent chat in peace). Who knows what goes on in her little head, but she went about her important task with a busy pace as though the Queen herself had requested that she put all the stones into the pond. It took a repeated offer of the bribe of an ice cream to finally convince the girl to step away from the stones without causing a scene.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Delphine Skirts (and matching toes!)


Are you like me, and keen to get the sandals on at the first glimmer of sunshine?

Delphine skirt worn with Tonic Tee
I made these Delphine skirts from Love at First Stitch almost a month ago now, and have been waiting for some weather warm enough to justify bare legs so that I could wear them.

 I really like the pattern - it is a flattering little number, that is perfect to show off some lovely prints and get you in the mood for summer. I've also got a warmer version planned, using the remnants of green cashmere wool I have leftover from making my coat - but, who wants to sew a winter skirt when spring is here and picnic season is beginning, eh? (Yep, that little project is all cut out and may only need a few short hours to be sewn, but it isn't going to see the light of day for a good six months now!)

Yippee for cake at Fancy
I made these skirts during a couple of delightful sewing nights round at friends' houses. I feel very lucky to have friends who sew (and I promise it's not just because of the yummy treats they normally have ready to be eaten during our sewing nights!). Although this was my first time making the pattern, the construction was pretty similar to other zipped skirts I have made, and so the Delphine lived up to my expectations as an ideal thing to sew and enable me to chat with friends. By total fluke, the pattern matching on the waist band and the skirt on looks pretty good to me - yay!

 I lined both skirts with some white cotton, and think this gives them a nice quality and structure.

I am such a fan of the Delphine that I have chosen it as the pattern for the next set of sewing classes round my kitchen table.

Two places have been snapped up already, leaving another three for whoever would like to join us. If you're a Bedford local and would like to learn how to make yourself a skirt, then I'd love to hear from you. As with all of my courses, the atmosphere will be relaxed and friendly, with plenty of tea and cake to fuel your sewing adventures. Here's where to find out more and book. 

I wore the green skirt when I went to my friend Liz's birthday get together at Fancy. I was the first to arrive - check out how fabulous Liz looked as she sat knitting, waiting for her friends to turn up. Liz had a little surprise up her sleeve - she decided to mark her birthday with carefully thought out `little acts of kindness' gifts for each of us. How lovely, huh? Needless to say, I was super excited to open up a large bag full of fabric. First to get turned into something will be the leopard print cotton. Think cropped Ultimate Trousers.

On that note... Bye bye for now!

Friday, 17 April 2015

All children are capable of extraordinary things

The Middle Girl is six years old. She is full of fun, and there is rarely a dull (or quiet) moment when she is around. She is an independent and strong minded little girl, who doesn't see the point in doing things just because someone has told her to do them. But, when it comes to a thing she has set her mind on doing, you'd do well to bet money on her succeeding at whatever it is.

You would be right to conclude that being the mother of such a person can be, well, kind of infuriating at times. Finding the right balance between making her comply and do the things she has to do, and not spending significant chunks of each day nagging her and feeling frustrated at her unwillingness to listen, is a challenge.

The other day, after being asked to brush her teeth a squillion times, I sat down and tried to reason with her.

Me: "You know, life would be a lot easier if you would just listen and do as you're told. Why don't you?"

Her: "You told me to ignore people when they annoy me."

Ha! How on earth do I respond to that?! I still can't work out if she was playing me or deadly serious. Either way, I don't want to go on about her faults. All of us have them, and, hopefully, in her case, she'll grow out of some of her annoying habits.

I am not one bit sorry if elements of what I write now just boil down to me being a proud parent shouting about something her child has done. This post is intended as a celebration of how fabulous my Middle Girl can be, and a reminder to us all that children of all shapes and sizes are capable of extraordinary things.

sewing in a dressing gown
The school holidays gave me a bit of slack in the system to come good on a promise I'd made to my older two girls to help them sew a garment. I'd planned to do this on a one to one basis, for an hour at a time in the 7 pm slot once the youngest two girls were in bed.

When offered the chance to make a skirt (which is what the eldest had made), the Middle Girl pulled a face and announced she wanted to make a t shirt. That's quite a challenge, are you sure, I asked her. Yes. And I want it to have an `R' (for Rachael) on it, too. Okay, I said (because it was immediately obvious that if I wanted to achieve my aim of some mother and daughter sewing time fun, I needed to give in and help her make the thing she wanted to make).

The choice of jersey remnants I had to offer was limited, so she quickly agreed on using the navy and white stripes I had leftover from my recent cowl. I pulled out my crumpled copy of Flashback Skinny Tee, guessed at a size that would fit. My dress making scissors are too big and heavy for her to use (she tried), so I cut out, while she designed the logo she wanted for the front. She was willing to tolerate this intrusion of hands on help, on the understanding the sewing would be her territory. (Now where does she get her independent streak, I wonder...)

sewing a sleeve
In our first session, we got as far as having the logo on and one sleeve in place (she was very keen to have a sleeve on and negotiated getting this done before going up to bed). The thing she enjoyed most was using the iron to apply Bondaweb for the logo, along with getting reaquainted with my sewing machine. My Janome has a fast and slow option switch on the foot pedal, and setting it to the later means that, with the help of a plastic step underneath the pedal to boost the height, it is pretty child friendly to use.

making the machine child friendly
She complained throughout about having to follow the 10 mm guideline on the machine, even though she understood why she had to, and proved to be pretty good at sticking to the seam allowance. I guess the girl is just a free spirit!

top stitching
The second day consisted of top stitching the logo. Strangely enough, because the tiny inside of the `R' was the last bit she did, it turned out to be her best bit, as she improved a lot with practise.

I strayed from the instructions on how to apply the neck band, because I thought getting her to sew it into a loop and then attach it to the t shirt would prove too fiddly. Instead, I unpicked one shoulder seam (this did not go unnoticed, and was another thing she complained about me doing) and then got her to pin the folded neck band to the neck edge, treating them both as one long sort of straight line.

This idea came from making a version of the excellent Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick Tonic Tee pattern. As an aside, I'd definitely recomment trying this free (woohoo!) pattern if you are wanting to make t shirts for yourselves in time for warmer weather.

learning how to change a needle
I pointed to the neck band of the t shirt I was wearing to show her what I meant and what the things she was being asked to do corresponded to. At this point, she asked how to get the two lines of stitching around the edge. Inwardly groaning, I explained how I'd used a twin needle for that bit. That, of course, is what she then wanted to use.

using the twin needle to top stitch the neck band
This is pretty much how the experience went on. I won't bore you with every detail of the make.

She was gleeful when she finished, and bounced around the house, leaping off furniture, showing off her new thing. Funnily enough, she has not worn the t shirt since, and I couldn't hazard a guess why. That is the Middle Girl for you!

just about standing still long enough for a photo

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Ultimate Trousers

Hello, campers. This week, the youngest two girls graduated up to bunk beds, like the ones their big sisters have. This has been quite an exciting event in their lives, and, the enormous boxes it all came in has provided them all with some fun, too. The latest thing the boxes have become is a rocket - after half an hour or so of effort from me with some Duck tape and a stanley knife, we had ourselves a tall and rather wonky rocket to play in. This has both made me popular (hurrah!), and, has bought me some peace and quiet, as there is now a lot of cardboard for them to liberally go on decorating as they wish now that the youngest one is in her bed having a nap. Hurrah to the sunshine being out, and all this activity going on in the garden. 

Talk of my frustrated ambitions to be a Blue Peter presenter aside... you guys - I made my first pair of trousers!

Bring on the daft and awkwardly posed pictures of me wearing them..!

You might think these trousers look a bit familiar - I was inspired to make a pair whilst watching Lorna make her version on the first episode of this year's Sewing Bee. Sew Over It were cannily selling the pattern at 20% off, and a week later, I spotted that Beales had the very same fabric on at half price, and so, my trouser making fate was sealed. 

I watched that episode of GBSB with my pal Christina, and we hatched a plan there and then to have our own sew off, and see if we could make our trousers in the same 3 hour time limit.

Our sewing night was a lot of fun - and, even with Christina blatantly trying to scupper my chances of finishing by hogging the iron (!), we both did it in the time, and were gleefully plastering selfies of ourselves posing in our makes all over social media before parting company.

I like this pattern a lot. I made a slight adjustment to the sizing based on my measurements, starting with a size 10 at the waist and going down to a size 8 from the hips. It worked, and I am happy with the fit.

It did feel a bit on the snug side on first wearing, but the cotton has stretched a little bit with wear, and so this worked out fine. I'm pleased to report that after a lot of bending down (repeatedly picking things up that Charlotte drops) and running around at the park, there have been no embarrassing trouser falling apart moments. Phew.

I'll definitely be making more Ultimate Trousers before too long. The instructions were simple and easy to follow. I liked finishing all the raw edges on my over locker, and I am pretty pleased with the finish. The only slight snag is that the waist facing keeps on rising up out of place - I will secure it down at the side seams (when I get round to it...).

I'm wearing my trousers with a new Coco top - I made a couple of these in an evening, using some super soft and lovely Roma Ponte I bought in a dreadful Instragram inspired impulse buying session from Sew Over It.

Grr. Those clever sewing shop owners, posting pictures of products to tempt weak willed people like me. At the same time, I also treated myself to the Tea Dress pattern, along with some pretty floral fabric to make it with, and, a couple of metres of light weight ivory jersey for making some staple tops for summer.

Spring is definitely in the air - and with it the motivation to make lots of lovely colourful clothes to enjoy wearing. Hurrah!

Happy making, everyone.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Sew Over It cowls meet Kelly

Yesterday, I had The Mother of All Clear Outs. A lot more housework than ever normally happens was done, cupboards were emptied and organised, and lots of things were ruthlessly culled whilst no one else was watching to object. I am telling you this, because this kind of behaviour doesn't happen that often. Don't go sharing this with anyone, but, once I got over the `oh, my goodness - the entire house looks a complete mess now, why did I ever start this process?' tidying hump, I found myself quite satisfied in the end.

Don't go worrying about me turning into a Proper Housewife (as opposed to the Slummy Housewife who flies by the seat of her pants that I really am). Sewing will still win over my affections when faced with a choice between it and housework. Having six people to keep in clean pants and provided with meals (to be complained about by at least one family member at any given time!) and everything else that goes with it takes an undeniable amount of effort. There are times when I have to admit that life would run a lot more smoothly if I devoted more effort to going beyond the basics of running the house as I do sewing. But. There has to be balance, doesn't there? And, I have long recognised in myself that sewing for pleasure is part of what makes me tick. Making time for this, over doing more regular clear outs etc, keeps me a lot more happier than if my house were perfectly organised and tidy.

In the spirit of balance, after The Mother of All Clear Outs yesterday, I felt that today deserved to contain a bit more, well, fun and frivolity. Mary Poppins I am not.

Today, the sun was out bright and early, so I decided my bare legs would be too. Time for a first proper outing of my newly made spring clothes - my Sew Over It cowl(s) and chambray Kelly Skirt with vintage buttons. Hurrah!

My friend Lucy took these pictures for me whilst we were at the park with another friend. Charlotte loves playing with my sunglasses, but helpfully trotted over and handed them to me - a blatant little photo bomber, huh?!

 I've made two versions of the Sew Over It cowl now - and love the pattern. As already mentioned, it spurred me on to get my overlocker out, clean out all the fluff that had built up, and spend time learning to thread it up properly.

When making the tops, I enjoyed taking my time to finish all the edges nicely on the overlocker, before switching back to my regular machine to twin stitch the hems. The pattern is so simple, that even with slowing down to aim for a really professional finish inside and out, I can still whip one up from start to finish in a short evening of sewing. After the mamouth effort of making a coat during the first part of the year, some quick projects are very gratifying.

I'd deliberately planned for these two tops to go with the Kelly skirt I had made as a sample for my current beginners' course. I'm pretty pleased with how it's all come together - the buttons being my favourite element, and, the discovery of just how iron dependent the skirt will insist on being being the only slight fly in the ointment. Still, you can't have everything. Maybe I'll turn over a new leaf and iron this as it comes out of the wash, and not leave it to get buried under the other clean washing awaiting attention in the airing cupboard...

The final photo is in the other version - I did a cheeky change in the loos of the Pavilion. If you are wondering why I am smiling, it is because I have just indulged in my favourite guilty secret relating to Bedford Park - a BLT in the cafe.

It occurred to me as I was thinking about writing this post, and also the fact I have fabric ready for another three cowls (!), that spring seems to be the time of year for me to make several of something. Last year, it was the Tilly and the Buttons Coco. I wonder what it will be next year, to pop along at just the right moment to inspire me into some sewing to refresh my wardrobe in time for the warmer months...?