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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

More tortoise, less hare


I have been working on a dress pour moi. To recap, it is a Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress, made using chiffon and crepe de chine, for no reason or occasion other than I really liked the fabric in question.

On Sunday afternoon, conditions were just right for a spot of dressmaking. We had eaten a big roast lunch, after which everyone in the house found something happy to do - the littlest was having a sleep; the next girl up sat down to paint; the living room floor was host to all the Lego (and the eldest two sisters working alongside each other in peace - for once); Mark was strumming on his guitar, and so, I... sloped off upstairs to sew.

That isn't quite accurate. I ended up spending the afternoon cutting out the remaining pieces of my dress. There I was, sprawled over the double layer of fabrics, doing my best to line up the patterns and keep everything nice and straight during the cutting process. It was a slow process. But a happy one. Three hours later, I finished the cutting out. I just about had enough fabric to kind of match up the chevron pattern across the panels. There is a bit where the bugs don't quite follow the pattern they should, but I don't mind. The chevrons and the balance of black and white sections is pretty much consistent enough for my liking, and I am hopeful the dress will look decent when it is done.

I don't know about you, but one thing I like about making clothes is that I often have memories associated with the making. So far, this dress has memories of an evening spent with a couple of old friends, chatting, eating a Victoria sponge, and admiring a new baby. It also has memories of the sounds of children playing and singing and generally doing their own thing without arguing. Anything is possible.

I am treating the two fabrics as one layer. This is taking time and a lot of pins, so the chiffon doesn't shift and get left out of the seams when it is sandwiched between the crepe de chine. After some sewing last night, I have reached the point where the dress is starting to look a bit more like a dress. No sleeves or zip, but I have tried it on and get a sense of the finished thing. I am pondering whether to leave it sleeveless - what do you think?


I can report that it fits and will do up at the back without needing any adjustments. This is a bit of a relief, as I didn't make a toile, and kind of winged it over the pattern adjustments across all the different panels. I opted for a size 10 bust, and a size 12 at the waist, and back to a size 10 at the hips.

The best bit so far is the swoosh factor the fabric gives the skirt. It has a beautiful weight and hang. Worth the effort over double layers. Now I need to give myself a good talking to and swear to hand sew the hem when the time comes. I must follow through, and resist the urge to rush bits.  More tortoise, less hare.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Creepy crawly dress


I have had a bit of a fabric splurge. Oops. Am I sorry? Not one bit. 

The first bit of fabric shopping was for someone else. I'd promised to make my niece a dress for her birthday. She is only a couple of weeks older than my own seven year old, so, I predict I might be asked to make a second one for her, now that she has seen this.

Fabric and pattern (girl skater dress) from KitschyCoo
I love the jersey fabrics in KitschyCoo - the first Flashback Skinny Tees I made a few years ago using Amanda's interlock jersey are still going strong, getting handed down the family as each girl grows, so I think the money is worth it.

My next splurge on fabric was some pretty darn amazing stuff for making my race day marathon tights with. Buoyed up by the fun of wearing my toucan tights for a recent half marathon, I want to throw caution to the wind and dazzle the crowd with my legs in Edinburgh. The fabric is now in my possession, but I am forcing myself wait until after I've hit the 20 mile mark in training before cracking on with special kit.

My last splurge was totally on impulse, in a moment of love at first sight between me and the creepy crawlies, as I was having a casual browse on DragonFly Fabrics.


I don't know about you, but I am very much a seamstress who is inspired to make something because of seeing a piece of fabric that really grabs me. I saw this and immediately thought I would like to make a Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress with it.

I have since bought some ivory coloured crepe de chine from my local shop, and plan to make the dress as two layers, treating the bodice pieces as one layer, and keeping the skirt panels separated so that they twirl nicely. This will be a bit of a challenge. A slow burner rather than a one night sewing fix.

Progress so far is cutting and stitching the front five pieces together. I was round at my friend Pamela's for a sewing night, and, she helpfully had a spotlessly clean kitchen floor (mine has never been so clean) and was very patient about me sprawling out over it as I attempted to cut my breathe on it and it moves fabric out. Starch spray helped a bit, but I am accepting that chiffon is just a very different beast to interlock jersey.

The two layers of chiffon and crepe de chine hang together to make a dress I think will ooze luxury. I am imagining swishing about the place very happily in this, sun shining all the time, and hair looking amazing too, of course.

Mum asked me if I was making it for a special occasion. Um, no, not really (although it will be nice for such times). I'll be just as likely to bring this out for the school run as I will a fancy do.


Friday, 8 April 2016

It's all about the cake, really


I've just finished teaching some lovely mums how to make clothes for their kids. They approached me as a group, wanting to learn how to make the character dungarees and dresses from the Wild Things book by Kirsty Hartley. 

I made this bunny dress as a sample before the course started.

I had a bit of a spree of dungaree making last autumn. I had initially made this pair for my eldest daughter, and then somehow got talked into making a pair for each of them (for the sake of a bit of peace and quiet). Actually, the youngest ended up with three pairs, because everyone wanted her to have a pair that matched theirs. The final dungaree count in the house was foxes x2, badgers x2, and, mice x2. They saw me coming.



Understandably, after all that, I refused to make anything else for them for a while, for fear I'd end up making four of whatever I made! I went back to my only birthdays and Christmas making things for little people rule. Or, only birthdays and Christmas, and Easter - if you are the youngest, and your mother has had a weak moment over making something with a pom pom on the bum. Who could resist?


Here's the finished dresses and dungarees made on the course - there are going to be some cool looking kids around these parts. Some of the mums are already onto a second garment from the book - these designs are kind of compelling, I think.


The biggest amount of time in this design is the face and pockets - we spent the first three weeks getting these parts done, and the final assembling was finished off in one session. The sizing is quite generous, especially on the dungarees - worth bearing in mind if you make any. 


I shouldn't play favourites, but - I think that shark face is pretty awesome. 


There is no disputing the mums enjoyed making clothes for their kids, and, they have done a great job of creating something really special for them to wear (I'm sure they'll get loads of nice comments at play groups!). But, it was a slow process - and this really hit home with them all. Creating something so detailed takes time. Kirsty Hartley employs British seamstresses to make garments for her shop - knowing how much effort is involved, I think her prices are very reasonable. Once again, big respect to anyone who can make beautiful clothing and turn a profit out of it.


There was a lot of cake and tea, and gossip - this was a wonderfully sociable and fun process. I guess that is the privilege we have in today's society. Sewing has become something of a pleasure for those who choose it. A hobby, rather than a necessity. And, one to be savoured over gossip and cake.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

How I stay sane


On Monday, my husband, Mark, got the call - this is headteacher speak for the lunchtime Ofsted call, to tell you that your school is being inspected the following day.

It has been an intense couple of days!

Today, with The Big O safely out of the way, I could get back to my early morning run routine. The first few miles were just about me shedding the stress of all the wondering and waiting about Ofsted. And then, my mind shifted to the marathon I'm training for, and talking myself out of the self-doubts I have about whether I'll be able to go the distance. I distracted myself by turning my thoughts to my race day outfit. I've done a couple of marathons in the past, but that was before - more or less before children (three more have been born since I did London in 2007) and sewing. 

I wore these toucan tights this morning. I made them last year, and I do smile when I wear them because they are so ridiculously colourful. I used the Fehr Trade Duathlon Shorts pattern, and the fabric was from here, if you're interested in making some of your own. The pattern was easier to make than I expected, and the fabric is nice for running in. I really like wearing these tights, but I haven't made more of my own kit - mainly because I am not that bothered about what I look like when I run, and the existing stuff I have been running in for years is still doing fine.

But. A marathon. Well, perhaps this is an occasion that warrants a new and special piece of kit?! The joy of sewing is that you can make whatever comes into your head - no boring black tights for me on race day!

I'll be running in a green coloured charity vest, so my new tights will need to co-ordinate, and the idea currently in my head is one that will guarantee my legs stand out as I join the crowds in Edinburgh on race day. I am thinking I'll be a vision of a super hero runner in my go faster tights - the reality of what I will actually look like as I limp round at about 20 miles onwards will be different!

I am going to hold off carrying out my plans for kit until after the weekend, when hopefully I will manage to run 15 miles without my right knee hurting me. A Mars bar and a bottle of water will help, as will my mummy mates who run with me each week. Hurrah for regular runs, and mates to run with - it keeps me sane, that's for sure.

I'll let you know how I get on. And I promise, if I make those tights, I will post a picture for your own amusement, regardless of how I look when I put them on.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Megan Dress Course


Hello everyone.

Here's hoping you all had an enjoyable weekend. This post is a day later than intended - I forgot to take into account my digital free Sunday habit I've fallen into of late - oops.

Here's my final offering for new courses - the Megan dress, made using the pattern from the excellent Tilly and the Buttons LOVE AT FIRST STITCH book. This version is not a new one - I wanted to show you an old favourite that I wear lots and lots. I first posted about it here. The lush fabric is Anna Maria Horner velveteen, and bought the most expensive lining I could, making this dress a splurge, I suppose. But, a year and a half on, it still looks good - it washes brilliantly well, it doesn't need ironing, and so I enjoy pulling it out of my wardrobe every time I get the urge to wear a nice dress just because. This dress sums up the joy of sewing for me.

The last time I taught a Megan dress course, I felt privileged to pass on some new dress joy. All four of the ladies on the course made toiles with me before starting their dresses. They needed help learning how to adjust the pattern, because they didn't fit the standard size measurements (most of us don't). A couple of the ladies successfully made a full bust adjustment, whilst another lady was able to make a dress suitably proportioned for her tall frame, and, another, took the genius design move to add her own Peter Pan collar and belt. Add into that the other new skills of zips and fitting in sleeves, and you have yourself a bunch of gorgeous new handmade dresses.

If you'd like to come and join the next dressmaking course - starting Wednesday 4th May - you can book a place here.

I'll do the #KnickerDrawer prizes this evening now, to give everyone a bit longer to enter if they want to. There are two workshop places up for grabs - all you need to do to enter is share this (or any of the other course related posts) on social media, letting me know you've done it by tagging me into the post on my Facebook page or via Twitter (@kitchentablesew). If you feel like you never win anything, this could be your lucky day, as there aren't too many entries yet. Good luck!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Delphine Skirt Course


The weather gods have listened to my moans - it is a lovely day here in Bedford. Perfect timing, as today I have something to get us all in the mood for baring our legs - a classic A-line skirt.

I made a couple of these last year, using nice bold patterned cottons, and lined them with some sheeting, to keep the nice structure of the skirt. This time round, I thought I'd opt for a plain version, in a colour that could become a wardrobe staple and go nicely with lots of different tops. I bought this denim from a shop on Goldhawk Road, where I only paid a fiver, due to there being a little mark at one end of the metre piece. I fancied customising the design a little with the addition of some piping, and I like the pop of contrast it gives the skirt.


If you have done a bit of sewing, but have never tried making any clothes, this Tilly and the Buttons skirt is a good place to start. There are no complicated fitting issues with a skirt like this, and the simple design is versatile and flattering to wear. A lot of newbie sewists are a bit daunted by the thought of zips - they aren't as difficult as you might think. When we cover zips in my classes, we have a few practises with scrap fabric, so that everyone feels nice and relaxed and confident before having a go on the real thing they are making. A steady supply of tea and cake, helps, too.

The Delphine Skirt Course starts on Thursday 30th June, and you can book a place here. 

The LOVE AT FIRST STITCH book that the pattern comes from is currently only £10.78 from Amazon - worth knowing, if you are after a book that has a nice selection of patterns that are wardrobe staples.

If you'd like to join in the #KnickerDrawer competition (and you can enter more than once), simply click on one of the social media icons at the bottom of this and share the link, and then let me know you've done it.


I'm off to make and eat a chicken pie now. I'll be back tomorrow with my final new course make. In the meantime, have a happy Saturday!

Friday, 11 March 2016

Granville Shirt Course


Hello again.

Today I have a brand new course to talk about. The Granville Shirt!

I'd had a `proper shirt' on my mental list of things to make for ages, but, feeling a bit daunted by the challenges posed by plackets and the like, didn't get round to tackling shirts until the start of this year. I wrote about my second version here, and the animal version I'm showing off today is the latest one I have made.

Unlike yesterday's Coco (which I made in an afternoon), a shirt is not a quick thing to sew. But, break it down into chunks - main body and yoke; pockets and flaps; sleeves, plackets and cuffs; button band and collar - and it seems a lot less daunting. I made the plackets on this shirt during a sociable sewing evening with a couple of friends - plenty of tea and cake, and laughter, and just the fixed goal of completing the plackets, and things ticked along nicely (even if my poor friends had to patiently listen to me going on about how much I was enjoying making my plackets at every stage of construction - thanks, guys).

I bought the fabric for this during the day out to Goldhawk Road in January. It was in a shop that had several rolls of Liberty at discounted prices - I spotted this Queue for the Zoo design, and knew I wanted to make a shirt with it. The shop was busy - another lady saw me holding the roll (not much left on it) and asked if I was planning on buying it. Yes I was, but I knew I wanted to head to the basement and check out what was down there, too, so my mum offered to hold it. She stood guard, gripping the roll of Liberty, the whole time I was downstairs - apparently the other lady asked a couple more times if she still wanted it, and Mum just kept hold of it. Ha - mums have their uses!

My next Granville is going to be more fabric bought from the same shop, using some floaty white cotton lawn with an intricate coral pattern over it - but a mere £3.50 a metre (compared to eye-watering £17 I paid for the Liberty) - and I am going to pair it with some grey shell buttons. I think it will be lovely for spring.

Talking of which, what is with the weather?! I went for a run first thing, and the fog was so thick I could hardly see where I was going, and had droplets of frost forming on my fringe. Come on, spring!

If you'd like to join the cake eating, tea drinking, shirt sewing gang, we'll be kicking off on Tuesday 10th May, and you can book your place here.

Thank you if you shared yesterday's post about the Coco. I'd appreciate some shares of this one too - and, of course, your name goes into the #KnickerDrawer again. Good luck for Sunday, if you enter!