Saturday, 26 January 2019

2018 Xmas gifts, looking back on The Year of "Just Because" and announcing 2019

Autumn 2018 had been very busy. On one hand, I don't quite understand how I managed to make any Christmas gifts at all. On the other hand, I've got a bad case of the should, coulda, woulda and feel a bit disapointed for not delivering more (better) gifts. This is why crafters start in April!

In case you're curious, I oversubscribed my evenings/weekends and then found myself reapplying for my job in December (again) (I got it!), and so any spare time/attention got sent that way. Somehow the gifts got squeezed in.

Little t-shirts for Little N

The early deadline for me is always the past posting date to Japan. I have to get P, M and Little N's items sorted as quickly as possible because it's easy to get caught out.

I've been a long-time admierer of Madeit Patterns but have always stayed away from buying the kids patterns until Little N was a bit bigger. I always thought that they were for slightly bigger, older kids. But on a  recent idle browse I noticed that the patterns went all the way down to 2Y! Very exciting! I know someone who's 2Y!

I checked the sizes with P and it seemed like Little N would actually be good in the 5Y size so I made up the Matrix Polo and Kite Fold Tee in 5Y and hoped for the best. I'm not good with kids sizing. He can always grow in to them.

I liked working with the patterns and enjoyed reading the instruction booklet too. The paterns helpfully come with a colour guide/fabric guide so you can get the same colour distribution as the product photos. I also printed the technical drawings so I could plan which colours should go where. There are also a few jokes and quips in the instructions, and some really nice illustrations. Yes, I know I'm not normally a follower of instructions but I do at least believe in reading them through before starting!

The fabric is a classic 95% cotton 5% elastane jersey from Girl Charlee UK. I chose the colours for a bit of a Union Flag/Team GB look. M is a bit of an anglophile so I'm hoping she appreciates it, despite having a bit of a black/white colour palette for herself (much less wacky than mine!). I think Little N will look handsome in anything so it's no use asking me.

I made one alteration, switching the zip on the Matrix Polo for press studs and a CF placket. I hope N gets another one of these shirts because I'd like to refine the placket a bit more.

Glow in the Dark PJs

When you make stuff, it's only good and proper to go slightly nuts whenever glow in the dark fabric pops up in the shops. Anything less would be rude.

So I found an excuse to buy some: one with stars and one with dragons. And some friends got PJ sets making use of the fabric (and no prior warning). Both light grey fabrics are glow in the dark. The fleece and dark jersey are both normal fabrics.

Butterick 5432 and Madeit Patterns Strip Tee

Butterick 5432

Burda 04/2016 #139 in star fleece

Burda 04/2016 #139, Thread Theory Strathcona Henley

I realise that I didn't get any images of the fabric actually glowing. Ooops. Anyway, the glow fabric I used was this dragon design and this plain/star design. They do actually glow, promise.

Patterns used: Butterick 5432, Madeit Patterns Strip Tee, Burda 04/2016 #139, Thread Theory Strathcona Henley

Grandparent Cosies

For some reason I'm constantly worried that my grandparents are at risk of freezing. So I made them some warm clothes again. I'm totally guessing their sizes so it's unbelievably difficult to make anything complicated. Even if I know my grandad prefers tailored trousers over joggers, I can't even begin to guess how to do them for him. I was proud of getting the size vaguely right for my nanny's fleece jacket. I know people shrink in later years, but she's still a good few sizes bigger than me.

I used fold over elastic on the purple jacket, so it's a bit wobbly as I didn't really have enough available but needed to finish edges. I think it works well enough. I added one of those nice shields at the top of the zipper to stop things getting scratchy.

Newcatle cardigan with small collar and wood-effect buttons

Burda 04/2016 #139

Burda 12/2012 #116 jacket

Patterns used: Burda 04/2016 #139, Thread Theory Newcastle, Burda 12/2012 #116

Jeans for B

I've been meaning to make a new pair of jeans for B for a very long time, but they finally got made!

I bought the fabric from Goldbrick Fabrics at Xmas 2017, so these have had to wait a whole year before being made up. It's a denim with a coloured wrong side, this one is red but I also picked up a beautiful green one. The green will give me a pair of jeans hopefully at some point. Goldbrick had the denim available in several colourways and I think the yellow version has popped up online at times over the last year. I haven't seen any more of the red or green yet so I'm glad I got them when I did. This is why it pays to shop physical sometimes!

Annoyingly the red is just printed over the white threads, instead of being cleverly woven in. I did some abrasion tests when I first got the fabric, hoping that the colour would show through if I ripped/distressed the jeans. I saw some fancy designer jeans do this (maybe True Religion?) at some point in 2016/17 and thought it would be good to replicate (a bit like this). It turns out that distressing the red side allows the dark blue colour though, but distressing the blue side shows the white threads. Shame.

It's a good thing we waited to make these because B's measurements flucctuate quite a bit and the old adjusted Jedediah pattern would no longer be suitable. I was prepared to set off on a new bunch of pattern adjustments to the Jeds pattern but then Thread Theory announced the Quadra Jeans - which apparently had more room in the thighs than the Jeds (one of the key adjustments last time) so I was quite keen to give them a whirl.

We took B's measurements and chose a size. According to the measurement chart we would have plenty of rise to sit high-ish, or at least as high as his sample Uni Qlo jeans. The finished jeans seem to sit fairly low, and definitely lower than the product photos led me to believe. This might just be a result of where/how B likes to wear his jeans. Without being too personal about it, the back sits quite high and the front dips down, similar to my Helsinki jeans (and possibly similar to maternity jeans). 

I think the Quadras are [sort of] drafted to sit level all the way around the waistband. If you were to see B's preferred jeans style on the body from the side, the waistband would be diagonal, not horizontal. So I'll probably made adjustments for future versions. Also, I will see how they change over time - jeans need to age a bit before you can properly judge them. 

I cut them fairly generously because the fabric has no stretch and will probably shrink over time. Also, the previous trousers/shorts I've made for B all became too small, so I'm trying to future-proof these a little bit.

Also, you may have noticed that this was the only Xmas gift I made where I wasn't completely guessing the recipient's size. I even made a muslin!

I used a red/gold colour scheme with a side-serving of rainbows (Always show them you care with a side-serving of rainbows). This is a mix of twin-needle and single needle detail. I really liked the pocket topstitching samples that came with the pattern and made one of those designs. I spent absolutely ages switching needles and threads on this project. Ouf.

My super high-tech method for tracing the pocket stitching designs.

Pocket topstitching in progress

Reverse side of the twin needle yoke. I think it looks pretty fun!

Pocket bag and coin pocket

Fronts in progress and a side-serving of rainbows

Wrong side of fronts in progress. And my front.

I also liked the instructions for the fly. Morgan got me through my first ever zip flies so it was fun to try a new style.

That's it for Xmas gifts. Special shout out to Empress Mills from which I purchased a lot of fabric (first time customer). You weren't lying when you said that fleece was substantial! I'm lucky to have quite a bit of tasty fabric left over to fuel my makes well into 2019.

2018 Roundup

At the end of 2018 I felt like it had been a year of slow progress and falling slightly short of (my own) expectations. A lot of my plans and goals are still very much "in progress" - but they are happening! I am still eternally grateful for my health, job, friends and family. Let's keep it up, but let's get back to makery.

So, The Year of Just Because was largely about trying to rediscover enthusiasm, passion, excitement and joy in my makes. Also, about pushing forward into silly makes, indulgent makes and great makes. I think it was also partly about re-discovering the emotional rollercoaster of makery - especally the high points. So, how did I get on?
  • I got an overlocker! I have loved working with 2 machines and I'm really glad I got one at the start of the year. We're buddies now.
  • I danced my heart out and kept healthy. My diet sometimes gets a bit crappy, but I loved cooking, eating and growing food. The monster tomato plants got a bit much in our back garden, but they were damn tasty.
  • My makes went on stage at Sadler's Wells. Dream come true. 
  • Daft gifts and crazy fancy makes definitely happened.
  • I developed a pretty Airtable to organise my projects. You have no idea.
  • I received a very generous haul of very pretty fabrics from India.

Just Because has allowed me to indulge a few of the crazier makes and idead in my head (see: dehydrated food). But it has meant that the number of ideas in my head has far outstripped my ability to make them. The balance between my regular scheduled of sewing, branching out into new projects and everyday demands has been stretched and disrupted. It's just that enthusiasm and indulgence don;t make good bedfellows with balance and moderation. I'm not sorry. But it's time to break this habit.

2019: The Year of Breaking the Habit

2018 did exactly what it was supposed to creatively. For 2019 I want to bring it in again. I am probably going to be full-on busy until Easter at least, and I need to expect to be time-poor. This means I need to find projects that give me the kick I need in a bitesize fashion.This might be taking projects more slowly, doing smaller/simpler projects or taking a step back. I love my long and complicated projects but I think investing 20+ hours in a project cannot be my expected norm this year. It's not my job, it's not my only hobby, it's not my total social life and I don't have that kind of time available.So, this year is about controlling the habits that could get me into problems.

  • I'm thinking more about cooking and baking. It's actually an activity with a relatively strong payoff vs time invested ratio. Plus, I really like food and would like to grow my culinary arsenal.
  • I've booked some Morley College courses for the early summer in beading, tutus and millinery. They're good for branching out and I think I'm going to enjoy having some structure and direction imposed on my makery.
  • B has given me some electronics kits which I may pursue. They look like a lot of fun.
  • I'm hoping for some holidays as well. This is the first time I'm considering not going to the Edinburgh Fringe and the idea of an actual week of holiday seems quite exciting.
  • Music, live theatre and learning are all important parts too.

I started the year by wiping out my queue, getting rid of the recycling pile and got a couple of tiny victories by reading an actual novel (a whole actual novel! I'm not sure I read any stories in 2018!), going on a trip, finishing a "chore" project and trying out some new recipes. Let's keep it up!

On the downside, a bunch of my office clothes have ripped since the start of the year (don't ask) and my dance mojo has also completely fled. At some point these things will be rectified, but I'm not forcing it.

Snoop My Stash

Since you've read this far, a stash update for you:

Loads of leftovers. Tasty, tasty leftovers.

Bye x

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Catchup: I made an outfit

I made these pieces in the early spring and I feel like I really should write a bit about them. They don’t seem particularly interesting – and I sewed them so long ago with no notes so it’s tough to know what to say. I did post a review on, so pop over there if you’re interested.

I also haven't been in the mood to be in front of a camera for a while so there aren't any new photos to go with recent projects. Hopefully you'll get something new before Xmas, but I make no promises. The making carries on, slowly and surely, but it is taking a while to appear.

Green Corduroys

I used my self-drafted Helsinki Jean pattern but mixed it up a bit woth a double-height waistband. I really should add an elastic or wear with a belt as the fabric is still quite loose. The fabric is from Edinburgh Fabrics, the pocket linings are Liberty’s Harkness McNair in purple.

Grey Top

This pattern still needs perfecting. It’s too tight, and I only wore this once before cutting it up and turning it into underpants.

You can see how I feel about this top...

Nike Hoodie #2

I’ve been meaning to remake my Nike Hoodie for a very long time! I finally got round to it! This time I left off the zips, but still found it to be a bit complicated to construct. The main fabric came from my Japan trip, it’s a lovely blue/stone knit with a crinkly textre. There are 2 knit layers which are meshed together in the fern motifs. The hood lining is a plum jersey from Goldbrick Fabrics.

This hoodie is being truly used and abused – it’s wonderful.

That’s it for now

Monday, 22 October 2018

Bleach stains? What bleach stains?

Confession time: I am a lady of bottled, carbonated enthusiasm. Shake me up the right way and I’m frothing all over the place.

So on a hot summer night, I offered my throat (no, not to the wolf with the red roses) to the bar offering free alcohol. And, well, I took the dye right outta my pants.


I worked so hard on those jeans!

 I bundled these up for a few months before deciding what to do. Had these been RTW jeans, I may well have admitted defeat and sent them to the recycling pile. If they had been a crappy make, their fate would have been similar. But these were pretty darn good, they weren’t even particularly worn out yet. They were struck down in their prime!

Being a stubborn sewist who doesn’t like seeing her makes go to waste, the only option was to fix them. And fix them so that I would wear them again. No cut-off shorts, no cliché miniskirts.

My first idea was to go heavy on the appliqué and embroidery. Huge patches of layering and coloration and textures. But I did a few hours of work and wasn’t loving it. Sure, it was probably fine, but that’s not enough to make me want to wear the jeans regularly. I was also not very excited to work on it each time. Coming up with 10-15 ideas to coordinate is quite tiring. So I packed the jeans away again.
After starting the stencils, before removing the needlework

A few more months passed and I entertained ideas of re-dyeing the entire pair of jeans, or adding additional bleach deliberately (*cue raised eyebrows*). But the former felt like it would end up ugly, and the latter made me worry that the new bleach wouldn’t complement the existing stains if I tried to apply it sober (*cue more raised eyebrows*).

Turns out, I like the bleachy bits. The fringing is a beautify bright orange-y colour and the blotches have a wonderful dappled continuity. And my left leg is still completely plain.
So how about stencilling?

People pay good money for painted jeans...

I paid a visit to Henny Donovan Motif and picked out some blossoms and paint. I already had several components of a colour palette on the jeans, so instead of trying to hide them, I could supplement them.

Trying out stencils for the first time!

Now, I tried doing a few stencils with no adhesive and a makeup sponge, but that went pretty badly. I then got hold of some repositionable spray mount and a paintbrush. And, since we were ankle-deep in winter, I had to do some work out in the snow.

Spray glue in the snow

But! I loved working on this! For my first time stencilling (and one something that can’t be laid flat), I had a lot of fun. And I’m pretty happy with the result. I have definitely worn these quite a bit and though the jeans now play a slightly different role in my wardrobe, I’m so happy to have them back in circulation.

Until next time,

Monday, 10 September 2018

Make your baby look like the Thirteenth Doctor

It's not every day that your massive Doctor Who addict friends have their first child (who conveniently ended up being female). It's not every day that the BBC announces that the Thirteenth Doctor will be female, played by Jodie Whittaker. It's not every day you realise that these two events need to be married together and that you need to make sure that (when the time is right) your friends can dress their daughter up like Doctor Who.

So I made a baby outfit.

A tiny version of Jodie Whittaker's Doctor Who costume, including boots, socks, shorts, braces, t-shirt and jacket

This is sized approximately for 6-12m in the hope that it will be the right size when the new series airs later this year. It's also sized for 6-12m because I have a very poor concept of how big/small babies actually are and this felt like a safe bet.

I had this idea way back in November 2017 and no sooner had it popped into my brain than Zenith & Quasar had announced that they would be stocking some custom print ABP in the style of the Doctor's costume. I quickly joined the preorder for some t-shirt fabric. The rest would be pretty easy to find in London. The Z&Q fabric took TWO MONTHS to arrive at my doorstep. Two frustrating months! It got lagged with pre-order lead time, Christmas, customs and stuff of that nature in the way. I was so relieved when the package finally arrived.


Coat: Stash fabric and bought fabric from London. The rainbow trim is actually from a pair of Stonewall shoelaces!
Tee: Z&Q
Shorts: Stash fabric. The yellow braces came from my stash of plush elastic.
Socks: RTW
Boots: RTW

Patterns used:

Burdastyle 09/2013 #143 Quilted Baby Coat
Burdastyle 09/2013 #146 Baby's Ruffle Blouse
Oliver & S Sunny Day Shorts

The shorts were lengthened slightly, and I added some attachments for the braces but otherwise it was made as drafted. The blouse and the coat both had some significant modifications. The coat was modified to match the costume. The t-shirt was modified to match the RTW style of overlapping shoulders (instead of the closure at the centre back).

I also entered in the the PR Match Your Shoes contest. It was pure coincidence that the timings lined up, so I thought this would be a fun tiny outfit. If you want more technical detail, I give more in my reviews over on sewingpatternreview. Otherwise, feel free to ask.


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

The Road to Sidmouth (part 4): The Food Edition

I've got about 5 drafts queued up/nearly ready to go, so excuse the potential deluge...

You read earlier that we got a Jetboil and decided to embrace dehydrated meals. You saw earlier some cosies for our little mealboxes. Now you will see the fabulous borrowed dehydrator making its presence known on top of my sewing cupboard:

And all over my sewing space:

With hindsight I think I may have over-prepared our food for Sidmouth. While we did follow an ultralight dehydrated food method, it was too much food, and when all the meals added up I wasn’t really able to carry the weight of my own bag. In total I prepped breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2 people for a full week. And, naturally, I made massive portions. And then insisted we pre-buy all of the snacks.

In general it was a success, though some meals didn't turn out as good as others. I guess that's not uncommon, but we got exceedingly lucky considering the whole method was new and I invented most of the recipes. The runaway recipe winner was my Upside-down Fish Pie, although the chickpea curry and Jetboil couscous were also really good. So, for the benefit of maker-kind, here’s the recipe:

Ultimate Dehydrated Upside-down Fish Pie for camping, hiking and fast cooking.

Serves 2 generously

You will need:
Boiling water
Cooking pot or cosy

A handful of dehydrated vegetables (I mixed carrots, peas and sweetcorn, and measured about ¾ of an American cup measure per person)
2 tbsp powdered full-fat milk (e.g. Nido)
1x sachet of Coleman’s Cheese Sauce (or any other sachet of cheese sauce with a respectable level of cheese content)
60g Smash instant mashed potato
Pinch of black pepper
2x60g cans of no-drain tuna
1x can of anchovies in oil

Before Your Trip
  • Assemble the meal by putting the dehydrated vegetables into 1 zip-lock bag, and by combining the powdered ingredients + black pepper (to taste) into another zip lock bag.
  • Store the bags and cans of fish together in an airtight container until ready to use
At Camp
  • Boil some water and pour the veg into your cooking pot/cosy. Stir in a small amount of hot water, just enough to cover the veg, to rehydrate. Cover with a lid and leave to sit for a few minutes.
  • Tip the sauce sachet into your cooking pot/cosy and stir, gradually adding more water until you reach a potato-y fluffy consistency. Cover again and leave to sit for a few mins.
  • Fluff up the tuna in its can and add to the pot/cosy. Stir.
  • Divide the anchovies between serving and pour in a little of the oil to loosen the mixture if desired
  • Serve.

Well, there you go, enjoy!

Friday, 31 August 2018

The Road to Sidmouth (part 3): Utilitarian Makery

Hello hello, welcome back.

I know you come here for the sewing and not the snark (or do you?) so today’s post is going back to basics of the blog. I decided to put sewing skills to use for festival camping. I made a lot of colourful clothing already (which you can see here) but today this post is more about addressing our practical needs through sewing


More of a scrap buster rather than genuine need – I could easily bring a regular pillowcase – but the scraps were burning a hole in my stash cupboard and the polyester fabric content is probably beneficial for sweat or dirt of something.

I don't have a photo of the final item in use, and I'm not sure where I've actually put it now. So instead, here's a photo of  the sewing space from earlier this summer. The pillowcase is made from the diamond fabric, which is still available to buy from Girl Charlee here. One word of warning: the print is much larger in scale than th website suggests.

Camping cosies

While researching dehydrated backpacking meals, I saw that a lot of people use a pot and post cosy combo to insulate a dish while it’s rehydrating. This frees up the stove for other uses or saves fuel (you’re not keeping something simmering) or allows you to leave your dinner unattended for a while.

Most people out there are using scraps of thermal insulation foil apparently to make theirs, though I have seen kitchen aluminium foil versions and glorified jiffy envelopes as well. All the camping cosies are round, and while we could have bought one or repurposed a soup can, we chose to try using our regular 750ml Lakeland boxes. The Jetboil has neoprene insulation, and we happened to have some on hand, so now it’s all one cohesive dinner set (kinda)!

Mine is a black, grey and lime green combo and B went for a black, blue and rainbow combo.

That’s it really, I was hoping to make a new swimsuit ready for the trip but that didn’t happen. Oh well.


Thursday, 2 August 2018

The Road to Sidmouth (part 2): The Camping Challenge

I'll admit that I haven't been camping in a long time. B is similarly (in)experienced.

So we've got a lot to do before spending a week at the Sidmouth campsite. If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that we will be a lot better off by planning and preparing, and we will suffer if we just try to wing it on the day.

We're transporting almost everything on the train with us so we can't just overpack for every eventuality either. So, I've been looking at the ultralight movement for ideas so we don't get weighed down by our own supplies.

One thing working to our advantage is that we can afford to throw a bit of money and a bit of makery at the problem. So this is what we've done to get ready

Buy a tent

Trading off weight against ease of setting up, we picked one of the Decathlon Arpenaz 3-person tents. The concept of a blackout tent is new to me but we chose this one for a few reasons:
  • B doesn't like being woken up by the sun
  • If there's a remote chance of anyone suffering migranes, this is a ready-made dark space
  • We need it to stay cool as it's blisteringly hot at the moment and we need some actual sleep.
  • We need it to stay cool because we've got nowhere else to store our food or stuff.

Buy something to sit on

A week of sitting on the ground is likely to be unpleasant. I got a posh chair, B got a cheap one and each of us thinks that our own is better. Let's see who wins.

Buy a camping stove

Actually, we got a Jetboil.

Ah the Jetboil, the Macbook of camping stoves. With its neoprene sleeve and colour changing logo. It boils water. It boils water damn well and it boils waer damn fast. Just don't ask it to do anything else.

This thing cost twice as much as the tent. It cost more than anything else coming on the trip (with the exception of B's fancy new headphones). But we are a couple of compulsive tea drinkers and we couldn't avoid getting something optimised for boiling water. Cue the constant (almot instant) mobile supply of tea.

This has made it quite fun planning meals. We have no ability to keep chilled food and need to keep things light and compact. Our only cooking facility is boiling water. Dehydrated food party it is!

I'll go into more detail about food planning and other  makery in another post, but for now you need to know that we're going to play to the Jetboil's strengths, and our love of laziness by embracing dehydrated backpacking meals.



Buying supplies