White Lace and Daydreams

Work in ProgressThis is my latest project during the fitting process (and, incidentally, I like this picture a lot more than the finished shots).

Anyway, this top is proof, if proof were needed, that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I do that I do (I’m pretty sure this phrase only works in a Lancashire accent so feel free to insert one at will).

The source of my over-mastication? Well, I’ve decided to participate in Simplicity’s Star Sewist Blogger Challenge. I’m not sure how wise this is since I’ve only sewn a handful of (quite shoddy) garments but I’ve thrown caution, common sense and good judgment to the wind and signed up anyway. I don’t intend to win. Dear God, I just hope to finish my make in time. I’m really hoping that  participating in itself will force me to learn more about fitting a garment – and push me into a more productive sewing frenzy…I haven’t made a lot in the past year.

So what’s the challenge all about? There are three patterns to choose from, each associated with a category: Best Dressmaking Project, Best Vintage Make and Best Newcomer. I’m entering the vintage category which is based around this blouse pattern:

Simplicity Pattern 1364

Why not enter the beginner category which is clearly more in keeping with my experience and skill? Well, old age, frankly. My blog is a couple of months too old, sadly. To qualify for the beginner category, you have to have been blogging for less than a year and I recently celebrated my blogiversary. Devastated! Still, the blouse pattern is really interesting, simple to sew and full of potential. I figured I’d make a few then choose an entry later. I think they call this hedging your bets.

Lace T-ShirtI certainly never intended to enter this particular make. I decided to make a wearable muslin just to check the sizing but didn’t want to make anything too similar to what I intend to do for that actual competition. I’ve really wanted a lace top with raw hems for a while. How tempting not to have to face, bind or press anything but also, I thought (somewhat mistakenly) that I’d love the random patterns of the lace edging the neck, sleeves and hem. As soon as I’d finished it, I suddenly remembered I’m incredibly pernickety about symmetry.

Lace T-ShirtI bought the lace from an Etsy seller and only used a yard. The blouse came together in a couple of hours…it’s an incredibly easy make – especially as I didn’t bother with the zip – and I don’t know why I hadn’t considered this pattern before. Sadly though, the sizing was all over the place. I cut a straight size 16, thinking it was incredibly risky and probably wouldn’t fit over my swollen post C-section belly. Imagine my glee when it was actually too large all over, even over the giant baby pouch (you could read this as ‘giant baby’ or ‘giant pouch’ – either way is fairly accurate). And, yes, I know this is probably the pattern’s generous ease but I’d really rather imagine it’s testament to my shrinking body…I have an excellent imagination by the way.

Lace T-ShirtSo, I had a good go at making some fit adjustments. I trimmed a couple of inches off the side seams and hoiked up the shoulders a bit and that seemed to do the trick. The biggest problem was the sleeve edges and neckline. Because I wanted raw edges, I omitted the seam allowances at the neckline, sleeve and hem and I did really try to cut the fabric so that I didn’t have to do any special finishing other than to trim around the shape of the lace but getting the boat neck and sleeves to look even with the irregular pattern was a pretty heinous task. I just about managed it but, if I look too closely, the asymmetry really starts to bother me…so I’ll just have to squint at it and continue to love it, I think.

Lace T-ShirtEven if I consider this make a (partial) success, I still think I’ll have to go back and make a proper muslin for my final competition version because I probably want to go down at least a size and might even have to do some grading. Getting the fit right is what I’m aiming for when I make this blouse for real so I’m going to put some ground work in first…and I’ve ordered my copy of Fit 4 Real People to help me along the way already.

And there you go, a frosty, iced t-shirt you could practically eat.


A Laurel Laurel Laughs

Colette Laurel DressGood old Cilla Black…she’s having something of a resurgence right now, right? So I thought I’d tip my proverbial cap at her in the title for my first Colette Laurel. It’s a tenuous link…but what if one were so inspired as to channel Cilla’s gorgeous red velvet wedding dress via the medium of Laurel? Food for thought…

Well, red velvet I cannot deliver but some sort of cheap 70s blend? Oh yes…that I can do. Just look at this floral poly-wotsit-wannabe-wool. Isn’t it seven shades of man-made fabulousness??

Colette LaurelI picked it up at a vintage shop in the village where I used to live and there was only just enough to scrape a simple Laurel (and, in a world of plentiful time, maybe a belt but in my world of limited time, I couldn’t be faffed. Yes, faffed. That’s a verb, okay?)

Originally, I’d planned to turn this lucky fabric find into some sort of voluminous midi-skirt but I’m glad I went with a post-9lb baby Laurel as it’s now pretty much the only thing in my wardrobe that fits comfortably. Waistbands are not the friends of the newly-mummied. And please do remember when you look at the photos that I’ve spent the best part of the last three years either brewing or spitting out babies. I’m a mere 14 weeks postpartum as we speak so be kind!

Colette Laurel DressEven though this dress was a bit of a dream to sew, I did have to admit defeat with the invisible zip. I have sewn a very dodgy one once before but this time I’d invested in the proper foot, read tons of tutorials and fully expected to be master of the universe! Dear God, why didn’t it work? I ruined TWO zips. Either, the zips were rubbish (poor workmen…tools etc) or maybe the fabric was just a bit too thick. Basically I sewed over the teeth…but I promise I pressed the hell out of them first and I’m pretty sure I didn’t melt them. In the end, I caved and put in a regular zip. But it looks great and works perfectly so I can’t be surly about it.

Colette Laurel Pattern MatchingAnd look at the pattern matching? Should I confess it was accidental as in my fervour to get sewing I totally forgot about the necessity of pattern matching? Hmm, might keep that to myself! Serendipity can be a wonderful thing.

I also did what every good sewist should never do with this dress and cut right into my vintage fabric without checking fit first. I’d read a lot of posts about the Laurel’s generous fit and I figured I could do with a little Lady Generosity around my hips at the moment. I graded between size 8 and 10. To be honest, I probably could have gone down a size at the bust. The fit was okay but I did have to pinch some fabric out of the front and back neckline. Thankfully, the patten is too busy to show it.

Colette Laurel NecklineI tried to make a feature of the extra fabric at the front and put pleats in but they’re playing hide and seek in the pictures. They’re a bit less shy in real life.

And while we’re at it, let’s talk hand finishing. I never thought I’d hand finish anything, much less hem, sleeves and neck in one fell swoop. Joyous. Kids in bed. Eastenders. Catch-stitching. The stuff of dreams…and it just shows how far you can come in sewing land and how quickly your skills can improve.

Colette LaurelThis is the first garment I’ve made that will really honest to goodness become a wardrobe staple. In fact, I’m wearing it now. It’s the first time I’ve made something that’s finished well, fits well and I feel proud to wear. I might unpick the hemline and make it a teeny bit longer so I can wear it with tights without the fear of baring my bum when I bend down but, otherwise, this little dress will stay in my wardrobe forever…even when it’s threadbare and my hips have found a way to spread even further past its ample size. But isn’t that one of the great things about sewing your own wardrobe? You’re not just sewing clothes but little horcruxes that can hang around in your wardrobe for generations to come to marvel at. “My Granny made that, she did.”







Giveaway Winner!

Sewing MachineOops…apologies for the tense pause in announcing the blogiversary giveaway! Maybe you think I’m trying to inject some X-Factor drama into proceedings? Nope. The fact is, madness is afoot in the new Nathan household. Yes, NEW household.

After weeks of stress, we’ve finally found a bolt hole to hold us over until the farm house we’re buying is renovated. Phew. The catch? Of course, there always is one. Well, we had to move on Valentines Day – the day the giveaway ended. And, we had to do it all in hyperdrive. It also turns out, the village we’ve moved to is in some sort of broadband blackspot.

Unfortunately, the hurry also means we’ve been left with a Snowdonia-sized mountain of ‘miscellaneous’ boxes as a result. On a good day, we’re not the most organised folk. And these have not been good days!! Thankfully, I found the giveaway prizes – and, yay, I also dug out my sewing machine. The foot pedal on the other hand seems to have grown legs and gone walkabout. And my fabric stash is tantalisingly visible but absolutely unreachable behind the aforementioned mountain. See that vintage skirt pattern in the photo? It’s coming…as soon as I dig out that damned pedal!

Oh well…on to the giveaway winner: Ruth Proctor of Nightingale and Dolittle! If you can send me your email/postal address here, I’ll organise your Minerva Voucher Code and vintage prizes ASAP! Congratulations and thanks for entering.

Thanks to everyone who commented – there was some great inspiration for future projects and date nights…if ever a date night occurs again in a household where two under two generally run amok!

Baby Love, and a Blogiversary Giveaway

Minerva Blog PrizeThis post comes with advance warning: it’s likely to be as addled as my postnatal brain. And, believe me, you don’t want to peek inside my head right now – it’s basically just a lone tin can blowing around in the wind!

Needless to say, it’s been an eventful few weeks. Christmas passed by almost unnoticed in a flurry of more important events. The hubby and I have been scouring the planet (well, the Ribble Valley at any rate) for a rental property to keep us warm and dry whilst we renovate our new home…to no avail sadly. We’ve lost out on at least 5 so far. We’re still searching and will be out on our ears in a few weeks. Stressful. And that’s the least of our plate full.

The Boy, BenedictOf course the most exciting thing to happen in the last few weeks is the birth of my beautiful Boy, Benedict, who arrived 10 days overdue at 9lbs 7oz. Perhaps I should have led with that? Particularly as I’m writing this post from this position. So, little sewing of note going on but I did manage to organise a little giveaway to mark my first blogiversary. Yay!

The lovely folk from Minerva Crafts…who happen to be on my new doorstep (if ever we actually make the move!), have generously donated a £20 gift voucher to giveaway to one of you. In fact, I was deep in cahoots with Vicki organising the prize on the day my waters broke! Fortuitous coincidence or are Minerva actually my lucky charm? Perhaps I should have named the boy Minerva…he was nameless for almost a week!

 My Minerva Must-HavesBut back to the giveaway: to mark my first year blogging…and sewing, Minerva has donated a £20 gift voucher for the winner to spend through their website…and you can now spend it in instalments rather than blowing it all in one haul. I’m lusting after a few bargains as we speak…I wish it was mine to spend. I have a hankering for this stretch Jersey at £4.99 a metre. And since it’s freezing, how about some of this gorgeous wool at £12.99 a metre?

1974 Wrap Skirt PatternAs part of the prize, I’m also throwing in a little pack of vintage loveliness from my growing stash – an uncut, factory folded pattern and a trio of vintage buttons. The pattern is a 1974 wrap skirt that has only 5 pattern pieces (4 if you omit pockets). I bought it thinking I’d make the maxi skirt but the waist measurement is too small – especially given my enormous Mum of 2 under 2 waistline – and I’m too lazy to grade the pattern up…good news for one of you! It’s a size 12-14, to fit a waist between 26 1/2″ and 28″. Although, since it’s a wrap skirt, maybe you’d get away with an inch or so either way. I, for one, think it’s seriously funkalicious.

A Trio of Vintage ButtonsThe buttons are from my growing stash of vintage sewnalia (if that’s not a term, it jolly-well should be!) I have a growing collection after organising #sewingsanta. I bought any I saw at a decent price to stash away just in case. I did send some to my #sewingsanta buddy (and, oh, by the way, that just happened to be Deborah of burgeoning #GBSB fame – eek!)These are just SOME of the ones that got away. See anything you fancy?

Vintage Button PrizeThe textured ‘red brick’ buttons (centre) are 3/4″…and there’s 12 of them. Score. Perfect for a blouse, cardigan or down the placket of a skirt, maybe?

Vintage Button Prize 2The 12 white buttons are so delicate and pretty. I’m not sure what they’re made of but they are shiny and perfect – and remind me of pristine enamel. Just like new. They measure just short of 1/2″ each.

Vintage Button Prize 3The 7 blue plastic buttons conjure up images of shellfish…not sure why, maybe those beautiful concentric curves decorating the circumference remind me of combing the beach for shells? Wouldn’t they look delicious atop some chambray? Mmm. Yum. They measure 5/8″ apiece. So, what do you have to do to be in with a chance of winning?

Well, since my actual blogiversary coincides with Valentines Day, I’ll be announcing the winner after Feb 14th. Leave a comment below by midnight GMT on Feb 14th telling me your perfect pattern for a date-night outfit and your perfect date to wear it on and I’ll choose a winner soon after. You must make sure I can contact you to organise delivery of your prize so make sure to leave an email address!

For me, it would have to be a relaxed ‘not-trying-all-that hard’ number like the Deer and Doe Sureau…and the irony? I’d love a ‘try-hard’ date: trip to London, antique jewellery shopping at Burlington Arcade or Grays Antiques, dinner, a play at the National with post-theatre drinks and a late night walk along the South Bank. Double standards? Me? Never! Happy Valentines Day, folks…

#sewingsanta Reveal

My #sewingsanta giftWell, before I go into labour (hopefully sometime around this Friday), I better reveal my amazing #sewingsanta package from Camilla over at Making and Marking.

It arrived via my parents on Christmas Eve (we’re moving house so I’d had it sent to them for safekeeping…and I knew I couldn’t be trusted to wait until Christmas Day if I’d received it any earlier anyway). Traditionally in my family, we’re allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve…was there ever any doubt what it would be? I was salivating at the sight of it under the tree!

The Amy Butler MetreWhen this Amy Butler metre fell out of the parcel, so crisp and pretty, I was giddy with glee! If there’d only been that inside the gorgeous wrapping, I’d have been pretty smug. Little did I know there was more lurking inside it’s pretty orange and navy folds. And by the way, that colour way couldn’t be more up my alley. If anyone has any good suggestions for a 1M pattern, I’m all ears!

Back to the surprise though. Wrapped inside the fabric, I found a veritable treasure box of individually wrapped gifts…which I didn’t have the patience to photograph before I greedily unwrapped them: a plethora of gorgeous buttons, some ever-so pretty binding and some tailor’s chalk.

Hidden GemsI can’t believe all this was under a tenner!! It’s testament to the creativity and generosity of the ladies involved in #sewingsanta that so many gorgeous gifts have been passed between us all.

I hope my giftee Deborah was pleased with the vintage bundle I put together for her…it was a risky trilogy of a vintage pattern, buttons and a dyed 70s double bedsheet (that if you are one to call a potato a potarto, could just be interpreted as a fabulous yield of vintage fabric). Just see Sylkotwist for my inspiration on that one.

Deborah's GiftsI thought it was well-suited to Deborah’s style…and I certainly put some effort into trawling her blog and putting something suitable together…but maybe it’s one of those Christmas gifts you just don’t ‘get’…like those from a strange Auntie!

Well then, with a final thanks to Camilla…I’m off to eat some spicy curry whilst walking briskly in an effort to oust my apparently rather comfortable bairn! Please do leave suggestions for what to do with my metre…I could do with some borrowed inspiration.

Too Late to Love Lucy?

The Lucy DressHonesty is the best policy. Or so they say. So I suppose I’ll have to confess this dress was meant for summer…and I have no excuse but total apathy for it’s late appearance!

Well, we’re buying/selling a house; I’m 8 months pregnant and have a wilful one year old but that’s no defence. Women have had babies before, for heaven’s sake. I could have made the simplest…and cutest…child’s dress in the world.

So, it’s too late for summer…but is it too late to love Lucy? I don’t think so. In fact, I’m considering making a full-on winter-proof corduroy version. That’ll be finished sometime around spring probably, just as the weather is warming up.

Strap TurningBut this little chambray version IS finished…and in one very short sitting, no less. Not a seam-ripper in sight. Huffs and guffs noticeably absent. Wow. Even the first-time shirring? Yes, my friends, even that. The hardest part was turning the straps the right way round. I have a gadget for that…but I’m afraid I resorted to a handy old Biro!

I made my Lucy (a free download from Love Sewing) out of leftover chambray from a Tilly and the Buttons maternity Mimi blouse I’m (still) working on (which is also predictably overdue…and even if the baby is late, I have a maximum of 6 weeks left to make and wear it!) Oh, and let’s not forget I also used a set of pretty vintage buttons I found on Ebay.

Vintage Buttons

I stand by the Lucy as a winter dress: a vest, pretty shirt, woolly tights and a festive cardigan, and we’re in business through to New Year, I think!

It’s official: I love Lucy!

#sewingsanta Round Up

Stitched Up From the Start #sewingsantaSomehow, we’ve reached Dec 1st. When I launched #sewingsanta way back in October, Christmas was merely hovering on a far-off horizon and now look. It’s looming large.

With my second child arriving any moment, I’ve been busily wrapping so that nobody gets left out in the winter wilderness without a gift. And that includes my lovely giftee! Yep, mystery giftee, your sewing booty is all wrapped and ready to post. And I’m pretty pleased with what I managed to put together for a tenner!

The Gift!

The emails for #sewingsanta went out a while ago so, if you’re signed up to take part and you haven’t done so already, please take a peek at your emails…and start getting that sticky tape and gift wrap out!!!

I allocated giftees randomly…you’re all buying for one person whilst receiving from another, as is traditional of these things. If you’re one of those people who just has to sneak a peak and you want to check out who might be buying your gift, here’s who’s taking part.


Thanks to everyone who’s taking part this year – I’m amazed at such a great response…and I’ve discovered so many new blogs that I’m thoroughly enjoying reading.

Not registered this year? Watch out for #sewingsanta 2015!

With thanks from Lisa