Sunshine in Bournemouth

Last weekend, it really felt like spring had begun early. I was in Bournemouth and there were people on the beach wearing shorts and t-shirts (very foolish people, but there none the less).

I also saw the first crocuses of the year, which is always worth recording. Almost as note-worthy as the first day you can leave the house without a coat on.

Bournemouth balloon

Water tower in Bournemouth

Take-away on the beach

Westover rowing club

Bournemouth pier

Bournemouth carousel

First crocuses I've seen this year

p.s. have you seen Handmade Jane’s post about our book-making adventure with John-Paul Flintoff? Check it out here! I have my own post planned as soon as I get round to finishing off my little book…

Dogs of London

Is there anything better than watching other people walk their dogs?  All the fun of a cute puppy without the muddy paws, trips to the vet, and massive food bills.

Our local park is my favourite place in the world for dog-watching, second only to Cramond shore in Edinburgh (where I once watched a tiny dog chasing the waves away from the shore and back for a full half-hour. I think he was hoping the tide would go out so he wouldn’t lose face).

So you can see why this is my new favourite tea-towel:

As modelled by one of my kitchen cabinets

I think my favourite is the Belgravia corgi. You can get it from the Garudio Studiage website here.

If you REALLY like dogs they also sell this adorable puppy :

Don’t worry, he doesn’t need feeding as he comes flatpacked. Not much good for walks but I think he’d look nice on my sideboard.

Muppet blue pencil skirt PLUS bonus Sorbetto

I have been sewing!

It’s true, even if you wouldn’t be able to guess it from reading this blog. I’ve just been too busy writing endless job applications, attempting to get our boiler fixed, and practising my new Ballet Workout exercise DVD (okay, I haven’t actually done that last one very much).

I’ve even been keeping my resolution of sewing with Burda patterns. This skirt is from 08/2011, made in lovely felty wool from Fabricland. The top is another Sorbetto.

I’ve pressed the heck out of these darts but they still look strange. Hmmm. I liked this skirt because of the lovely inverted pleat and petersham waistband, but I added a few details:

  • A lining (made from the mysterious American D-Kripp from Ultimate Craft! At 1.50 a metre you can’t go wrong)
  • Pockets, also from the enigmatic D-Kripp
  • A back vent, from this A Fashionable Stitch tutorial. I didn’t incorporate the lining. I had a look at an old RTW pencil skirt and there’s a big hemmed rectangle cut out of the lining back seam, so I did the same here. Well, if it’s good enough for M&S…

I’ve had NO luck with my stupid Burda invisible zip foot lately. The teeth just get stuck in the groove, resulting in little fabric puckers all the way down.

I put this one in with a normal zipper foot, but it’s less than perfect. Any top tips? You can see how rubbish it is here:

The Sorbetto is entirely stash-made, from fabric and bias binding left over from my birthday dress, as well as various random trimmings I found while having a tidy up. There are three tiny pearl buttons at the top. It’s a possibly a teeny bit too Per Una-esque, but I like it anyway.

I have one and a half metres left of this bright blue wool fabric, so I’m thinking another skirt might be useful, only this time one I can wear on my bike (Have you ever tried cycling in a pencil skirt? Not recommended).

There is a matching jacket in the Burda issue, but I’m not sure I could pull off a whole outfit in what I like to call ‘Cookie Monster Blue’…

St Pancras cake

As it’s the coldest week of the year, of course the boiler has spent three days making scary rattling noises before expiring completely. Until it gets fixed, it seems practical to spend a lot of time out of the house in warmer places.

On Saturday we went to the St Pancras Renaissance hotel. I’ve been dying to see inside since it opened.

The outside is this insane gothic wedding cake of a building. Inside it’s a huge hotel and apartments – apparently if you live in one of the top flats, you can order cocktails from the bar and have them sent up to you.

We just went to the lobby and had some tea and cake, and we probably could have bought a new boiler for what it cost (4.50 for a tea, although they forgot to serve it in a golden cup).

It’s a huge space with a glass roof and pale blue girders. It’s nice, but feels a bit too much like a hotel lobby to be super-glamorous. The bar is more buzzy, it’s in the old ticket booking office and a door leads directly out onto St Pancras.

I did enjoy the rather odd uniforms the female staff wear. Didn’t get a photo but they’re a cross between a 1950s wiggle dress and something a lady alien ambassador would wear on Star Trek.

The lemon meringue pie was pretty good

I also popped into the British Library bookshop and bought a Herb Lester map of London. I love the idea behind these. For three quid you get a well designed, fold-out guide to a city, a nice object to hold rather than a boring old i-phone app.

This is the first one they issued, called ‘You Are Here‘, which is a guide to cafes, bars and tea-rooms in Central London that are ‘quiet spots to think’. Somewhere you can always find a seat to settle down and get some work done. Or just read a book.

I especially enjoyed their recommendation of the Garden Cafe at Regent’s Park- apparently the staff are so rude and the service so bad that hardly anyone goes there, and you can sit in peace for hours without being disturbed. Will have to try it out.

Anyway I recommend a trip to the Renaissance Hotel, overpriced tea and all.

Kimono sleeve jersey top: Burda 09-2011

I started buying Burda magazines in 2008, when I discovered a local newsagent stocked them. (I’m not telling you which one in case somebody else nips down there and takes my copy. Don’t even think about it. He only stocks two.)

But I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of clothes I’ve actually sewn from them.

This isn't all of them. They hide round the house.

It’s such a gigantic pain, and I am very lazy. Cutting out is already my least favourite part of sewing, and now Burda want me to trace off the pattern as well??

But where they win out is if you need a simple pattern for a top or a skirt. You’ll find it somewhere in a back issue for free, rather than having to pay 6 quid or more for a brand new pattern. So my 2012 sewing resolution is to make the most of my Burda stash.

I haven't quite got the hang of 'I'm a little tea-pot' yet

This top was a pretty easy start, it’s only got two pieces so it wasn’t too hideous to trace (using a spiked wheel, as explained by Melissa of Fehr Trade. Please do not risk your sanity by trying to actually trace the patterns with blank paper on top.)

It’s from the 09-2011 Burda issue, which I nearly didn’t buy as I have little use for a dirndl and/or traditional folk-style waistcoat, which make up the bulk of the issue (see paunnet’s post for an amusing overview).

I do, however, love jersey tops with kimono sleeves.

I’m also obsessed with sewing tiny little useless triangular pockets. I once bought a t-shirt with this detail from M&S (the glamour never stops round here), and since then I’ve added an identical pocket to every knit top I make. They are totally pointless, unless you need to store some loose Polo mints or perhaps a single pound coin, but I like them anyway.

This fabric is from Ultimate Craft. The stripes are a little bit too close together and it hurts to look at it for a long time, the whole thing starts to flicker like one of those Magic Eye pictures.

So to break up the eye-hurtiness, I lowered the neckline and used this brilliant tutorial from CraftStylish to add a finishing band. I sewed the whole thing on my overlocker, except for the hem and sleeve finishes (twin needle).

I’ve noticed that in most RTW, the grown-on sleeve only extends to the elbow or above, and below that a tube of fabric is sewn as a little sleeve extender. This is probably to save fabric, but I like the way it looks with stripes so I used it here (the pattern as written has a grown-on sleeve all the way down to the elbow).

I’m definitely making another one of these from the lovely leopard-print fabric I got from Claire at the Brighton swap. Two thumbs up for Burda.

Brighton sewing meet-up and swap

This weekend I went to Brighton for a meet-up and swap organised by Zoe and Claire. I was a little nervous about meeting lots of strangers from the internet (as your gran would say) but it was totally fun and I had a great time.

The swap was epic and took at least an hour. I feel a tad guilty at how much great stuff I managed to snag, but at least the things I brought found a good home (looking forward to seeing what the stylish Rehanon makes with some hot pink tie-dye fabric I swapped)

Highlights for me were:

– Turning up wearing the same hat and gloves set (hand-knitted obvs) as Shivani of Pins and Needles

– Finding this unique fabric in Ditto. Is this a famous photo I am too culturally illiterate to recognise? You can now buy it splashed across jersey knit in no less than three different colourways. I guess it could be good for…no, actually, I can’t think of anything.

– Zoe’s rather excellent 70s pattern for high-waisted flares (please note that the model is working the classic hand to face pose)

– The swap: like free shopping, with the added bonus of clearing out fabric that you’ll never use (but that someone else loves).

– Meeting Julia of The Secret Life of Seams and admiring her truly amazing tiger-print dress in person

– Hanging out with lots of other super-nice sewing ladies.

– Going to Brighton again. I went to uni there and haven’t been back for ages. We were so busy chatting and swapping I didn’t have time to look round Snooper’s Paradise, gaze at the sea, play the 2p machines on the pier, or eat lots of doughnuts. Next time for sure.

Here’s my haul from the swap. I actually came back with more than I took, which wasn’t exactly the plan, but I love all of it:

The top fabric is from Ditto. My boyfriend took one look at it and described it as ‘Beetlejuice chic’ but whatever, I think it’s cool. It is channelling a sort of hip prison uniform vibe, which should go nicely with my lady prison warden dress (maybe I will sew a incarceration themed collection, along the lines of ‘Derelicte‘. What do you think of ‘Pénitentiaire‘?)

Zoe and Claire v kindly made us a goody bag each containing zips, buttons, and pipings, which is on the left.

I’d also like to draw your attention to the 1970s pattern in the lower-right hand corner, which for some reason nobody else wanted to take home. It’s a beauty, and I think it deserves a post of it’s own, which I’m sure you are now hugely looking forward to.

Thank you SO much to Zoe and Claire for organising, it was great!

Yes I like these: interesting links

Here are some of my current favourite internet-y things:

– I’m not really a Tumblr fan (I just…don’t get it) but I have to admit that it’s the only way to go for single-topic blogs, and I just found my new favourite: Wear Color. Tons of amazing colourful clothing inspiration.

Here’s a picture of my dream coat, a  Gloverall* tartan duffle which I found via this blog. It’s great how they’ve lined up the print so it makes little wingtips on the collar.

*the original duffle coat makers!

Image from via Wear Color

– Shivani of Pins and Needles posted about the new collaboration of Clarks + Liberty, which should be enough to give me a heart attack, but I think they could have done a bit more with this collection. Hopefully it’s the first of many. These are my favourites:

Picture from

– I’m sure you’ve all seen Luxirare’s blog, but I thought this was a particularly interesting post which has a lot to say about the nature of creativity and the importance of hard work and attention to detail. Everything she makes is so super-slick, it’s very interesting to see behind the scenes. (Also includes a massive close-up of a Pfaff embroidery machine if that floats your boat.)

– And finally, I heartily endorse this review of tights from Already Pretty. The cold weather has finally found us, and I totally believe that wearing wool tights is the ONLY way to keep warm in sub-zero temperatures.

If you like that, you’ll also enjoy this tights test from the Guardian. This is the kind of pioneering fashion journalism that I can really get behind.