I logged into WordPress for the first time in ages yesterday, and couldn’t believe that I haven’t blogged for nearly a month. A whole month!
I haven’t had twins, become the new head of the UN, been working shifts on oil rigs or taken up dry-stone walling. So I’m not entirely sure where the time has gone.
I don’t even know if anyone is still reading this blog apart from my Mum (hi Mum.)
Anyway, whether I’m just talking into the void or not, I’m back now and there’s lots of exciting sewing related news to talk about. So hold on to your hats:
By Hand London Kickstarter project
You must have already heard that the multi-talented women from By Hand London are setting up their own fabric printing business. They have a Kickstarter set up here, and they’re so close to their target with just 9 days left. So go and pledge now!
Although I wear homemade clothing nearly every day, MMM always helps me to come up with new outfits, encourages me to fill gaps in my home-sewn wardrobe, and gives me tons and tons of inspiration. My favourite part is checking the Flickr group and seeing what everyone else is wearing and making.
One more thing…
SPRING IS HERE!
And it’s my favourite time of year. I remember being freezing nearly every day of last May so I’m loving the sunshine.
I haven’t been able to sew at all for the last two weeks. We’ve either been away attending weddings or at home entertaining houseguests, which is of course delightful, but makes it rather difficult to spend hours in my sewing room (or the spare room, as some people insist on calling it).
I keep reading people’s posts about ‘what’s on my sewing table’ and gnashing my teeth in envy. The only thing on my sewing table is dust and an old mug.
I’m also in that awkward autumn stage of ‘I have nothing to wear!’, and really want to sew myself an AW13 wardrobe. I have grand plans so hopefully I’ll be able to get started soon.
In the meantime though I just had to show you an amazing present I got in the post – a new tailors ham and pressing roll! These were handmade and posted to me by the lovely Emma of Clipped Curves, after she read my post about sewing accessories, and my moaning about not having a tailors ham and being too lazy to make my own.
How amazing is that? Check out the fabulous fabric. I know that sewing with these will cheer me up every time. Can’t wait to give them a try, I feel extremely lucky. Thanks Emma!
I also accidentally bought some new shoes from Clarks in anticipation of a rainy autumn. They’re these ones, called ‘Hotel Diva‘.
I love them. Clarks have some brilliant shoes this season. Sadly they have toned down the crazy shoe-naming for the latest collection. Possibly the person in charge of coming up with the names has been sacked, or just been given some Valium in their tea. Hotel Diva seems like a fairly reasonable name for a shiny shoe (although you might expect more of a Joan Collins-esque 80s stiletto).
The only creative thing I have been doing is knitting this jumper:
Well not this exact one, that’s the pattern picture. It’s called Robin and you can find it here on Ravelry. As it’s 4-ply wool and I am the world’s slowest knitter so you probably won’t hear about it again until Xmas 2014. Good thing I don’t run a knitting blog.
I counted 52 comments who wanted to win the pattern. I put that number in the handy Random Number Generator, and here’s what I came up with:
The third comment was from Giddy Aunt Lola of A Saucy Stitch – congrats! I couldn’t find your email address on your blog, if you drop me a line with your address I will post the pattern to you.
If you haven’t read the comments, have a squiz – there are some great tales of fabric/pattern mismatching which certainly made me feel better about all my failures.
In other news – I am married!!!!! It feels quite surreal.
The wedding was completely amazing, we had such a fun day. We won’t get the official photos back for a few weeks, but the lovely photographer has sent me a sneak peek, look:
I can’t wait to get the rest of the pictures! Warning – I will bore you all to tears with them when we get back from honeymoon. Thanks so much for all your congratulations and kind messages, I’ll see you in a week or so.
Not much sewing or photography going on around here at the moment. I’ve got two recommendations instead.
This is the new clothing brand from H&M (they also own COS). I went there last weekend with Julia from the Secret Life of Seams to do some impromptu shopping. Reader, I loved it.
Now, I also love COS. The clothes have amazing detailing and little touches that you appreciate more if you sew (hong kong seams! appropriate lining! pockets!). But sometimes it’s a bit ‘severely avant-garde Japanese librarian’ for me.
On the other hand, I never shop in H&M. I just can’t take it. When I was younger and had more stamina I did appreciate their good range of basics, and the fact that everything comes in a few colours.
& Other Stories, ridiculous over-branded name aside, is like if COS and H&M had a baby, and it was the most perfect baby shop in the history of the world. Seriously, nearly all the clothes are amazing. They’re not as severe as COS can be, but they share the same ‘basics with a twist’ aesthetic.
Check it out if you’re ever mad enough to go to Oxford Street! Even if you prefer to sew all your own clothes, there’s enough inspiration there for a whole new wardrobe.
Recommendation number 2: Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin
Are you a podcast listener? It’s been too cold for me to cycle lately, and my default bus strategy is to arm up with listening material so I can block the coughing of the other commuters. After burning through all my usual podcast suspects, I found this one with Alec Baldwin.
It’s great on so many levels.
Alec is the most terrible interrupter I’ve ever heard. He loves to pounce mid-sentence, mostly to introduce a bizarre anecdote from his own personal life. This is usually a tale about his ex-wife (ie. Kimg Basinger), or his kids, his current wife and how young and pretty she is, or various directors he’s fought with over his career.
The best fun is when he has a strong-willed interviewee who won’t let him interrupt at will. You can almost hear him searching frantically for an opening so he can shove his oar in. His frustration is palpable over the airwaves.
He does get some interesting chat out of people, in between interrupting them. I enjoyed this session with the NYTimes Executive Editor. She has the most extraordinary accent I’ve ever heard. Americans, where does this lady’s voice come from? She draaaaawwwwlllls out her words for such a long time that even poor Alec can’t get a word in edgeways.
I also very much liked this interview with Patti Lu Pone. If you haven’t heard of her, she’s a legendary Broadway star who sang the title role in Evita (think Elaine Paige but cooler). She’s also the biggest luvvie I’ve ever heard captured on audio. She actually starts sobbing with emotion in the middle of the interview, just because he mentions the first play she was in.
After hearing this I bought her autobiography, which is a fine read if you’re in the market for more highly-strung shenanigans. It includes an extensive slagging-off of Andrew Lloyd Webber, an overview of theatre dressing-room ghosts, and a explanation of how to un-curse yourself if you say the word ‘Macbeth’ in a theatre. Recommended (that’s a sneaky bonus third recommendation for you there. You’re welcome).
I have some loose ends to tie up. If I was a sensible blogger I would probably get three posts out of them but instead I’ve awkwardly welded them together into one. You’re welcome.
Confession time – I’m not making my own wedding dress
I’ve been getting loads of hits from people googling ‘sew your own wedding dress’ and similar keywords so I have to come clean – I have bought a wedding dress. And it’s not even vintage. But neither is it a big white meringue, or even an ‘official’ wedding dress. I’ll post some pics after the big day so you can see what it looks like. Place your bets now!
I have mixed emotions about this. It would be so perfect to wear a dress I made myself, but I just can’t handle the stress of such a big project right now. I barely have time to sew at the moment, and I’d rather prioritise other projects over one mammoth dress that will fill up the next 5 months with untold amounts of stress and weeping and french seaming.
This strategy seems to be paying off, as I have a new skirt and (drumroll please) another pair of skinny jeans to show for it! Pictures will follow as soon as free time and daylight coincide.
Blog Awards and making, not consuming
Two sewing bloggers nominated me for awards – gorgeous Hazel of Disaster in a Dress for the ‘Liebster’ Blog Award (Hazel works in Mandors fabric shop in Glasgow, I am green with envy), and the beautiful Almond Rock for the ‘One Lovely Blog’ award. Go and check out their blogs ASAP, they are ace.
It’s below freezing in London at the moment. How do you cope with the cold weather? Last year I found an unusual solution – this book.
It’s called ‘The Worst Journey in the World’, and it’s by a guy who rejoiced in the name ‘Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard’, and was on the Polar expedition with Captain Scott.
The ‘worst journey’ wasn’t actually the trek to the Pole, but a 2-month quest he and two others took through the Antarctic in the depth of winter, to collect some penguin’s eggs which scientists at the time thought might be a vital missing link in evolutionary studies (spoiler alert: they weren’t).
It was pitch black the whole time. They trekked 70 miles in the snow, sometimes travelling just 1 mile a day in temperatures of -60. It was so cold that each morning they had to prise their sleeping bags open so that they’d freeze with a hole where they could insert themselves at night. It was so cold that their sweat iced up immediately and didn’t melt, so they walked everywhere with massive sheets of ice moulded to their bodies.
All their teeth fell out after the nerves died. If they stood still for more than 30 seconds, their clothes and harness would become frozen into position and they’d have to man-haul sledges in that pose the whole day.
It was bloody cold, is what I’m trying to say. At one point their tent blows away during a huge blizzard and they lie on the floor in a icy cave, waiting for death. Then the blizzard lets up a bit and they struggle outside to realise the tent has miraculously been caught on a bit of rock outside. It’s nail-biting stuff.
What’s really heartbreaking is that not only were the penguin’s eggs a massive red herring, but when Apsley took them to the Natural History Museum a clerk basically told him to piss off and stop bothering people doing important scientific work. Then nobody even bothered to dissect the eggs for years.
After reading this book I had a mental epiphany, which is that if they could cope with two months of this, I could cope with getting out of bed in a cold flat and getting into a hot shower. So if you want to feel slightly warmer than a man with only a reindeer fur sleeping bag between him and the frozen Antarctic waste, I recommend this book. It is quite long though.
If you don’t have time to wade through 600 pages, and you don’t want to crank up the heating bills either, I recommend these things instead:
Get two hot water bottles (one for your feet and one to cling to desperately). You can even make your own covers.
Knit some handwarmers that you can wear indoors while still being able to type, make cups of tea etc. I recommend this pattern.
Uniqlo Heat Tech is surprisingly good. It’s all polyester, but somehow breathable. The tights are particularly amazing.
I have been living in my boyfriend’s Snugpak army surplus bodywarmer non-stop for the last week. It’s a bit Made in Chelsea to actually wear out of the house, but it does have military grade warming properties.
Accept any invitations to go out. Whether you’re in a public place or someone else’s house, at least they’ll be paying for the heating.
Happy New Year! Here’s to an extremely lucky, rain-free, and prosperous 2013.
For your enjoyment, here is a murky picture of me enjoying the Edinburgh New Year fireworks, complete with fizzy wine in a plastic cup. For bonus points, can you spot the shivering toga-clad students in this photo?
But now I’m back and raring to go! I’m determined to beat my blogging record from last year (a measly 77 posts). This must also be the year I master the self-portrait, especially as my in-house photo taker and tea-maker is away for the whole of January, and I already have three finished garments waiting to be photographed.
2012 was an awesome year. Here are my highlights, in no particular order:
Standing on a troll’s tongue in Norway, and experiencing the strange delights of Norwegian cuisine (bolognaise pizza anyone? no?)
Watching and enjoying esoteric sports including synchronised swimming, handball, and water polo (thanks, London Olympics!)
Getting a tweet from Shelagh Fogarty, personal heroine and Radio 5 Live presenter.
Touching my toes for the first time in 20 years (thanks, ballet classes!)
Getting engaged under a beautiful sunset (see above).
Tackling the fly front and winning, thanks to an awesome tutorial from Grainline.
Bouncing on a Stonehenge replica somewhere in Walthamstow Marshes on a scorching hot day.
Last year I fulfilled all of my New Year’s Resolutions, or ‘objectives’ as my friend Jenny prefers to call them (I approve of this as it sounds incredibly business-like). But I only had three, which is cheating really.
This year I have a whole enormous teetering pile of objectives, with three specific sewing ones:
Take part in Me-Made-May and actually make it to the end. Third time lucky.
Scale the trouser-making mountain and sew some stretch skinny jeans.
Work on my personal style so I only make what I’ll actually wear.
The key to keeping any resolution is to make it specific, so I think the first two are okay. The last one is way too vague, but I’m working on that. Expect a post about it soon. Happy 2013!
Autumn is definitely here. I know this from the many alarming creaks and groans coming from the boiler now it’s finally switched back on. I even got the hot water bottle out the other night. So it seems like a good time to post these photos of the balcony garden we grew this summer.
So my two big New Year’s resolutions this year were:
Learn to dance and get more exercis
Grow some vegetables on our balcony
It’s best to draw a discreet veil over No. 1 – I’ve been taking ballet classes since January, but I’d wouldn’t really describe anything I do there as ‘dancing’. But resolution No. 2 was a huge success, mainly because of a lovely lady called Naomi who runs this awesome gardening blog.
She is a gardening genius who I met via her blog, and she offered to give me some advice on how to grow stuff on our balcony, in exchange for using the photos in her upcoming book.
This was what we started with:
Nothing natural except for all the dirt on my bike.
And this is where we ended up!
Naomi was a huge help, giving us seeds, soil, and lots of useful advice. Not to mention taking all these awesome photos.
These tomatoes grew to about 6 foot before we chopped off the top, and were incredibly nice (they’re called Gardener’s Delight). We also grew tumbling bushes in hanging baskets which yielded hundreds of tomatoes, but the vine type were definitely the tastiest.
These were the tumbling tomatoes and some parsley (and my messy hair).
Not sure how much of an overlap there is between the sewing blog world and the gardening world, although I know that Emily of The Bottermann Empire has a rather impressive balcony garden. If you are interested, this is what worked for us (on a sheltered SW facing balcony).
Vine and bush tomatoes grew like anything
Salad leaves, although we did get a pesky bout of manky caterpillars on them
Herbs including parsley, mint, thyme, and oregano
Jalapeño chillies – not grown from seed, but we got loads of fruit off one plant
Rhubarb! That’s what I’m clutching in the second photo down
This is what didn’t work so well:
Coriander just grew about 3 inches, flowered and died
We had some great purple bean seeds, but the plants didn’t flourish for some reason
Peas are really pretty and tasty, but didn’t yield that much in a wine box
Tromboncino squash grew like mad but didn’t product many veggies
Beetroot were great for leaves, but the roots were a bit small
This is beetroot in an old wine box. I tried loads of places to try and get a couple of these, and eventually struck gold in a local deli. (Top tip – only really posh wine comes in these boxes, so don’t bother asking at Morrisons. Even Majestic turned me away.)
If you’re interested in doing container or urban gardening, I recommend checking out Naomi’s blog Out of My Shed, as well as the small-space gardening blog Vertical Veg. I also bought The Bountiful Container, which was very helpful but not really aimed at the UK which makes all the buying recommendations a bit useless. It’s great for ideas though.
I can honestly say that growing these plants has been one of the highlight of my year. I can’t believe how rewarding it is coming home from work and checking out which seedlings had grown an extra inch, and whether our tomatoes had started to turn red. I don’t think we’ll be self-sufficient for a while yet (or ever, unless we turn our spare room into a hydroponic growing pod) but just having fresh herbs and salad leaves makes you feel remarkably proud/smug.
Thanks to Naomi for all her help, and these lovely photos!
I’m not exactly the world’s most ardent monarchist, but there’s one aspect of the Royal Family I will always have a soft spot for.
The Queen’s outfits!
The Queen was working the block colour look many years before it appeared on the runway. And I’m pleased to announce that Vogue have finally acknowledged this, with a fantastic infographic on the back page of their May issue.
My favourite bit is the line up of floral frocks to the bottom left, which looks a bit like the Queen is doing a robot dance.
I’m going to frame this and stick it on the wall to remind me to sew more with bright colours. If it’s good enough for Her Majesty, it’s certainly good enough for me.
(p.s. – if you’re into Royal outfits, you have to check out The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor, a mesmerising blog which covers in exhaustive detail every unnecessary ruffle, Euro-trashy hat, and bizarre ceremonial sash you could ever wish for)
Now, when it comes to fabric, I am fussy about bird prints. I’m not really into small, boring repeats. Neither do I want to see owls, swallows, or generic bird silhouettes. I want massive tropical birds and I want them now! Like this one:
This dress may be silly in many ways but I love the 60s silhouette, and of course, the giant parrot.
For something a bit more jaw-dropping, what about this Alexander McQueen dress from 2003?
I love the way this hangs between being both an over-the-top carnival costume, and the most beautiful evening dress in the world.
The shape reminds me of the giant condor that’s been etched into the Peruvian desert, one of the Nazca lines. Nobody knows why the lines are there.
And finally, what about this Peter Jensen dress? I am not a peplum fan, to be honest, but the parrot print is nice.
All of this lovely parrot print fabric doesn’t seem to be trickling down to London fabric shops, unfortunately (although Peter Jensen’s studio is actually in Dalston – maybe I should hang around outside and check the bins).
I’m off on holiday tomorrow! Hooray! For a whole two weeks: 2 nights in Washington DC, 4 days driving around Virginia and North Carolina, then a week in a beach house on the Outer Banks where my friend is getting married. I’m more excited than I thought was humanly possible. I REALLY need a holiday.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the holiday capsule wardrobe, and I’ve decided it’s an evil concept devised by fashion magazines to make us all feel bad. It comes in two versions:
The upmarket Vogue/Elle type. All you need is 10 bikinis, one wildly expensive designer dress for dinners out, some ‘funky accessories’, and cashmere socks* to wear on the plane.
The cheap and cheerful Woman’s Weekly/Good Housekeeping version, where you take a sarong, a swimming costume, and a big scarf, and combine them into a myriad of complicated outfits.
Am I right or has anyone actually mastered the concept of the capsule wardrobe on holiday? Maybe you have to have a very specific personality type not to wildly overpack. I am hopeless at thinking of possible outfits beforehand, I just frantically shove everything I own into a huge bag and then discover that nothing goes together and I can’t actually carry it (but aha, this time we’re renting a car! Over-packing here I come.)
So I won’t be updating this blog much for the next two weeks. I’m going to try and keep up with the Self-Stitched September group, probably with some dubious quality phone photos. And if you have any tips on things to do while we’re away, let me know! I have a Virginia guidebook but it’s a little bit useless.
*Why do people always recommend this? It must be a first-class thing. If you’re travelling with the rest of the plebs you need ear-plugs, a trashy magazine, and one of those mini bottles of lukewarm white wine just after take-off.
This post has no real purpose, except to distract me from my pre-holiday packing woes and pending unemployment (three weeks and counting, oh dear). There’s three things I’ve been pondering lately:
Firstly, the elbow patch. Check out the awesome tartan tweed elbow patches on this young man. They’ve actually been needled-felted into the jumper! (at least as far as I can tell from the confusing description on the Fred Perry website). Also here’s an inspirational elbow-patch post from Experiments and Accidents.
I am a huge fan of the elbow-patch, never mind any geography teacher related jibes, and have been searching for the perfect ones for a while. I’d love to make a jacket or jumper and add some, but I’m not sure where to buy nice-looking ready-made ones (NOT in fake leather, John Lewis). Ultimate Craft in Stoke Newington has, for once, proved fruitless. If only I had Howard Moon here to provide me with a wide selection.
The second thing on my mind is bust darts. I’m frantically trying to finish a new dress (it’s Vogue 8779) before I go on holiday next Tuesday, for a friend’s wedding in America. I don’t know why I always impose these ridiculous sewing deadlines on myself.
This dress is not going smoothly, and the main reason is the stupid bust darts, which just refuse to stop being pointy. They’re really going all out for the whole ‘cold in here?’ look, and I can’t fix it. I’ve tried curving the dart and pressing the hell out of it, but it’s just not working.
At least I’m in good company – Kate Middleton’s wedding dress seemed to have a smidgeon of the same problem (or is it just me?) Surely Sarah Burton knows a thing or two about a bust dart, from which I can only surmise that it was a deliberate design look. Anyway that’s how I’m going to re-brand mine if I can’t solve the issue…
Lastly, and this has no relation to anything, Rita Hayworth. I have wasted many hours lately watching clips from old Rita Hayworth films on Youtube. There are loads of great ones, but this is my favourite. It’s 11 minutes of brilliance and I watch it whenever I need some cheering up. The best bit (apart from Rita) is the un-smiling lady representing Vogue at 1:08. Clearly Vogue was the snootiest of the fashion magazines even back then.