A Gingham Lady Skater Dress

Hello hello, if there's anybody out there! It has been such a long time since I posted. Needless to say I have been consumed by motherhood, but now, 6 months in I feel like I'm slowly getting back to myself, and feel ready to sew and blog again.

My incredible daughter is napping upstairs, and after 5 and a half months of refusing to, she is now happy to nap in her cot! I cannot tell you what a difference this makes. I had time to take blog pictures! Not great ones, mind, but I'm not fussy! She is wonderful and she has taught me so much already. I adore her and I feel enormously grateful that I get to be her mama.

Honestly the first two months of her life were a blur. A very happy but crazy blur. I did sew a tiny bit, as one day she napped for ages and I seized the opportunity to whip up a quick pleated skirt (I was sick of having nothing that fit me!), and that felt great, but then we moved house, to the beautiful Cotswolds countryside! That was crazy with a 3 month old, a very timid cat, and in a car that was on the verge of breakdown. Embarrassingly we have been here 3 months now and we are still not fully unpacked!!! Consequently there was a huge sewing drought until about 6 weeks ago.

I decided I needed to carve out some "me" time, and that I would use some of the evenings after our little one had gone to bed to do some crafting and sewing. It felt so SO good! It was only once I began this project that I realised how much my soul had missed it. It felt like coming home. So I whipped up this Lady Skater in a couple of hours flat on my overlocker, and I love it. It's nothing fancy, it's not my neatest work ever and the print at the waist seam doesn't quite match up, but I honestly don't care.

Dimming of the Day dress (Kitschy Coo's Lady Skater pattern in Gingham ponte from Minerva Crafts)
Worn with wellies and a teething necklace for practicality!
There's not much to say about the sewing, I made the same sizing as my Flibbertygibbet dress, as that still fits me (it used to be a bit big), and I sewed everything up on my overlocker. I did a zigzag hem as I still don't have a twin needle.

Told you the print at the waist seam really doesn't match up. Also, check out how wonky our new house is. I love it (except for the creaky floorboards!)
Yep, the print should match on the neckband too, and this one DOES bother me (just not enough to unpick overlocker stitching to redo it)

Zig zag hem
I love this dress, and the reasons are fivefold:
1. It is stretchy and practical for mama duties and for countryside walks
2. It's made of lovely snuggly warm ponte
3. It's suitable for all seasons with the right accessories!
4. It's a forgiving cut on my mum tum
5. The print is fun and it makes me feel more like me

That's a belt, not my bare midriff
Full disclosure: I actually never wear this with a belt. It gets in the way when wrangling a wriggly 6 month old baby. But it does look better with one so I put one on for the pictures.

None of my lovely handmade dresses fit anymore, bar a couple of jersey or ponte ones, but I'm hopeful that by the summer they'll fit again. In the meantime I will have to get sewing a new wardrobe! Every cloud has a silver lining, eh?!

I still have a couple of things to blog that I made towards the end of my pregnancy, so I will be back with those soon. I am also going to make a blind for the nursery, some more practical clothes for me, a Christmas stocking and of course a few Christmas gifts. As usual I have too many ideas and not enough time! Wish me luck!

Tees for Two

Hello, sewing friends! It has been a while since I blogged, which really was unintentional. I made these two Cara tops MONTHS ago, and photographed them shortly after, and then promptly forgot to ever blog them. How embarrassing. Anyway, here they are!

Arrows Tee (Megan Neilsen's Cara maternity top pattern)
After my first edition of the Cara top, my old, inherited overlocker well and truly broke down. It was very iffy during the making of that floral Cara tee, and by the time I had finished I had to admit there was something badly wrong with it.

So, I made my second Cara on my normal sewing machine using a zigzag stitch, my walking foot and a ballpoint needle, and it was absolutely fine! So if you want to make jersey clothing and you don't have an overlocker, do not fear! It is not only possible but very easy and stress-free to sew jersey on a normal sewing machine.

This arrows jersey was from Sew Over It, and I bought it yonks ago, but I think they still have stock of it. It's a really lovely quality & weight, and it sewed up like a dream with no rolling at the edges. Thumbs up from me. It's a 4 way stretch and I wanted the arrows to run horizontally so I cut it on the cross-grain.

Here I am with my body double at the Knitting & Stitching Show a few months ago!

At the Knitting & Stitching show I also bought some lovely duck-print jersey for another tee (or is it goose-print? Not sure), and a new overlocker! Hoorah! I tried LOADS of overlockers out, and as my budget was rather squeezed (our impending arrival is making me more spend-sensible!), I went with the Janome 8002DX. I really couldn't spot any difference in sewing on this one or the next price bracket up, and after all, overlockers all do the same thing, so I snapped it up for around £200.

I have to say I am really chuffed with it. It's such a smooth sew, absolutely no complaints whatsoever.

Anyway, for my next Cara I went with 3/4 length sleeves for the changing weather, and I love this one too. This jersey does roll though so the hem is always rolling up which is a bit annoying.

Goose ducks tee 

These pictures were taken when I was 30 weeks pregnant, and I'm happy to report that there's still plenty of room in them now at 38 weeks! If anything they look better as I've filled them out more. I really have lived in my maternity jeans and Cara tees, so if anyone out there is expecting and wondering which sewing patterns would be useful, I would definitely say the Cara is top of the list!

I'm on maternity leave now, and while I wait for baby to make his or her entrance, I am hoping to get some last bits of sewing done. We shall see!

A Bloomin' Lovely Cara tee

Eliza top (Megan Neilsen's Cara pattern)
I blooming love this top! As I mentioned in my maternity sewing plans post, lately I have been wearing anything that fits, which has been pretty much exclusively jersey basics for a good while. I've been getting so bored with all the black and grey I've been wearing, and longing for some colour and fun prints. 

Enter: colourful fun print jersey from Fabric Land which is just beautiful. Such good value too, £3.99 a metre and great quality. I will be browsing more of their jersey section for sure! 

I decided to make a Megan Neilsen Cara tee with this fabric, and thought it would be a good idea to make the long sleeved version for winter. Then I can always lop the sleeves off to the short length when the spring weather comes. Hopefully this will work out and this top can cross seasons easily! 

I made a size medium, going by my usual pre pregnancy size. I'm really happy with the fit, it has plenty of room left for my bump to grow more but doesn't look too baggy now - amazing! Also super duper comfy. Big thumbs up. 

My one fit gripe is that the shoulders are way too wide, which is a bit of a surprise to me because I actually have very broad shoulders. Hey ho, it doesn't bother me very much. To be honest I don't even think I will alter the shoulders for subsequent versions of this pattern (oh, there will be more!), since it's such a short-term make. 

The only alteration I made was the sew the long sleeve seam at 7/8" rather than 5/8". The sleeves were really baggy on me, but I do often have this problem as my arms are disproportionately slim! 

Construction wise I loved this make and really, truly enjoyed sewing this. It was such a quick sew - only a few hours start to finish! And I am not a quick sewer so I can imagine some of you speedier stitchers would have had this whipped up even quicker. 

Excitable mama-to-be

On another note, I am having some real trouble with my overlocker. I think I'm going to have to take it to a repair shop for an expert opinion, since I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on with it. It was absolutely fine, then one day just started skipping stitches, the tension kept going weird (even without me touching the dials!) and now just behaves erratically overall. I have rethreaded the thing more times, and more meticulously, than I thought I could stand to, and have adjusted the tension so many times and in so many ways - I really don't know what else to try. It's the fact it keeps changing without me twiddling any knobs that is making me think maybe it has a fault. Any advice welcome! 

Good timing, overlocker, just when I want to make all the stretchy clothes!!! Haha. 

Well, I shall leave you. I'm sure I'll have another Cara top to show you soon! 

Why I Love Handmade: An Incredible Gift

I'm sitting here weeping, happy sad tears. I've just received the most wonderful, truly special handmade gift, and it has just brought home to me why I love handmade things. The love, time and care put into a handmade gift is never lost, it stays there, and can be felt years later. 

A dear family friend has just sent me this gift, a beautiful crocheted shawl my mum made for her when she was having her youngest. Of course our family friend treasured it, used it often and her son and first grandson were even christened in it. Now she has sent it to me, so my baby will get to use it, a shawl made with love by his or her grandma, who would love them so so much. 

My mum passed away almost ten years ago, and of course I miss her very much. She was an amazing lady and she also loved making things, and she instilled in me my love of making and sewing. Since being pregnant I have been thinking of her a lot, thinking of what it would have been like if she had been here, and also what an incredible mum she was. If I can be half as good a mum as she was I will be happy! Being pregnant and already feeling the bond between me and my unborn baby, I have a new kind of appreciation of her as well, for everything she went through for me and for everything she gave me as a mum. I couldn't have asked for more and I'm just so grateful I got to spend 20 years with her!

So now, having this shawl that she made has made me so incredibly happy. It's a way for me to feel that she is here with me and the baby on this huge new adventure, and it will remind me of her in the best way. When I'm finding things difficult hopefully it will help remind me of mum and remind me to follow her example. 

I'm incredibly touched and grateful that our family friend has treasured the shawl for so long and made the thoughtful gesture to pass it on to me. It's so so kind and it really means the world to me.

It has also reminded me why I love making things, why it is a special and wonderful thing to create, and that the time and care put into special handmade items will always transcend the years and be much much more than just a beautiful gift. Friends, when we make we put a little bit of our soul into what we are making. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, just transferred. I think this applies to crafting, too. 

Love to all. Keep making, beautiful people. 

A Quilt for Our Baby

The first thing I have made for our baby is this triangle quilt. I wanted to include lots of colours, and was pretty set on using solid colours. As a print lover, it came as a bit of a surprise, even to me, that I was so drawn to making a solids only quilt!

Baby's first quilt
In the end, I found a quilt on Pinterest that I loved so much that I completely copied the colour scheme. I went for an equilateral triangle quilt this time, and since I had purchased skinny quarters of all of my fabrics, let the length of each piece dictate the size of my triangles. I cut each piece in half and cut my triangles from those strips using this method, so these triangles are 12.5cm tall. If I were making another equilateral triangle quilt I would definitely make my triangles bigger than this, just to reduce cutting and sewing time! I'm a lazy quilter!

I went for a layout with no particular pattern or order, but just made sure I was happy with the overall balance and that no colour was immediately next to itself. I'm so so happy with the finished design, it's exactly what I had in mind.

The quilt is 45" square, which I thought might be a useful size as a playmat, receiving blanket or pram blanket.  Once baby is here I can report back on how useful it actually is!

I deferred to Liam again when I couldn't decide on a backing colour, he loved the maroon colour so I went with that. Unfortunately I was a bit stingy with my order and didn't have quite enough, so I had to break it up with two rows of triangles. I like this design, the only thing that bugs me slightly is that the seams don't match up with the quilting. I kind of knew this would happen, but I also knew that I couldn't bring myself to care enough to line it all up exactly! Sometimes close enough is good enough for me.

Anyway it's certainly nice to look at, so I'm already calling it a success. It was pleasure to sew, which I did in short bursts, and to watch it come together was so satisfying. I've grown to love this quilting lark! 

(My previous quilts are here, here and here).

Swishy viscose maternity T-shirt dress

Well travelled apple dress (maternity dress hack of New Look 6217)
I have finally finished my first maternity make, and I have to say I'm so glad to now have another piece of clothing in rotation! I'm now down to about 5 outfits on rotation so I desperately needed this dress.

It's a hack of my favourite woven T shirt pattern, New Look 6217 (which I've made here and here before as tops), which I began right back when I had just found out I was pregnant. Then the sickness hit and this poor project sat, all cut out, in a bag waiting to be sewn up. Of course, once I got round to it over the last couple of weeks, it was a quick and easy sew, and it is so comfy!

My maternity hack

My first port of call was to lengthen the top to a dress length. Pretty straightforward. 

Then I created extra room in the belly by slashing and spreading from the new "hem" up to just under the bust. I wanted a really swingy, swishy dress so I thought this would both give me room for the bump and also extra volume at the hem. I was right! 

I also slashed and spread a tiny bit on the back piece, though nowhere near as much, since I won't really be needing more room in the back. 

The only back shot I got! Oops!
I dipped the hem down at the front, so that when I get reaaallllly big it won't ride up indecently at the front, it will hopefully be more level. The good news is I think it will fit me all the way to the end of the pregnancy, there is so much room! Maybe even too much room! 

I also added ties into the side seams, just under the bust. I like to be able to create some kind of a waistline, so that I don't look like one big lump in a sack. It's nice to define the bump a little and it means I don't look like I'm drowning in all the extra material there is to grow into. 

Since my bust has grown with pregnancy, I decided to sew the side seams at 3/8" to give me slightly more room than in my T shirt version, which worked really well and hopefully allows for a bit more expansion as I keep growing!

The dress is so lovely and comfy, and in the springtime when the weather gets a bit warmer I think it will keep me nice and cool. Perhaps I can find a nice viscose print to make a brighter version in? This was such a quick and simple make (once I got my act together and actually sewed it up), and I have the pattern all altered so why not?! Birthday fabric maybe? 

I felt the fear and did it anyway!

You may notice something a bit unusual for me... my photos were taken outside for once! Honestly, my dark indoor photos have been bothering me for a while, so I decided to bite the bullet and go for it in the park with my tripod and remote. I don't know why but I've always had a daft mental block about taking pictures of myself in a public place. It makes me a bit self conscious! But I decided that I should just give it a go. I'm so glad I did. In all honestly no one else in the park was bothered (to be fair, every second person passing was probably a blogger anyway!!). I do have a long way to go in taking better photos! I know these aren't the best but hey, it's a step in the right direction. Here's to feeling the fear and doing it anyway!

Bump Update

I'm 27 weeks now, and baby has had a huge growth spurt over the past few weeks. I'm definitely feeling more and more pregnant! My bump is growing too of course and it's funny to see it change shape when baby moves into a new position. I can't believe I'm nearly in the third trimester already. It has all gone so quickly! I'm doing well, but getting more tired and out of breath on hills and things. I'm trying to shake off a cough and cold so that has taken it out of me a bit, but other than that I'm AOK. This week was good as I finally got round to having a hair cut. I'm not quite used to it yet but so far liking the long bob! Also I got the boots I'm wearing in these pictures (they're from Office). I loooove them, and it will be nice to have another comfortable footwear choice.

The case of the disappearing bump...
Ah, there it is.

Over and out friends, see you soon. x

2016: the Year in Review

I always think it's useful to look back on the year just gone, especially with my sewing, as it helps me to realise how much I have achieved, how much I've improved, and helps me to refocus for the New Year.  

I gave myself some goals for 2016, which were:

1. Make my perfect coat. 
I didn't do this one. Maybe next year! In my defence, just as it turned to coat weather I was in my early pregnancy, and was sick and tired. I didn't have the energy to sew anything, let alone something big like a coat! I did find a truly gorgeous one which my lovely husband bought me. It's a dark green Diane von Furstenburg one (via TK Maxx), and is everything I wanted in a coat. 

2. Perfect the fit of my TNT dress patterns and make lots of versions of them.
Hmm. I began! I perfected the fit on a few of my favourite dress patterns and I did make some great dresses last year. My favourites by far were the two below. I'd even go so far as to say they are my favourite handmade items I have ever made (bar my wedding dress). Perfecting the fit was definitely a huge factor in their success. 

Magpie Feather dress (Flora bodice with Emery skirt)

A Thing to Shake the Heart dress (Anna bodice with Simplicity 1873 skirt)

3. Make more separates.

Yes, I did this! I made my first pair of trousers, a Sorbetto top and two viscose tee shirts

4. Restrict my internet time!
I actually did alright at this one, spending much less time on the internet. My sewing output was low last year but I had a far higher "success" rate than previous years!

5. Keep using up the stash! 
Yes, I think I did do this. Out of the 12 things I made in 2016, 8 were from fabrics that were already in my stash when the year began, including the scrap busting quilt I made. Of the other 4 makes, 3 were fabrics which were birthday gifts, and 1 was an impulse bargain. I'm actually pleasantly surprised as I write this - I really didn't go nuts with fabric buying in 2016. I only bought ONE new pattern is 2016! Wow! 

The Scrappy Quilt of Joy

I find statistics really satisfying, so I've done a bit of analysis. 

In 2016 I made a total of 12 items:
3 tops
1 pair of trousers
6 dresses
1 quilt
1 lingerie/nightwear set

10 of the above were prints, only 2 were solids (quell surprise).

Only 1 of the items I sewed turned out to be unwearable (that lovely tartan dress which was just too small in the bust).

Fabrics I used were...
100% cotton: 5 
viscose: 2
polyester or poly mix: 2
ponti de Roma: 1
100% silk: 1
srtetch cotton: 1

My Sewing Goals For 2017

To be honest this year I have only one: keep on sewing! Since we're expecting our first baby in May, I know that keeping up my sewing will be much more difficult in the latter half of the year, so if I can keep sewing even in tiny little bits, I will be happy. 

My happy little sewing space

Happy 2017 everyone, I hope the year brings you lots of happiness. I've just started off the year very well by passing my driving test! I'm so so happy to be ticking off this big life goal. Next challenge: baby! 

Fox in the Foxgloves Quilt

Some of our dearest friends were expecting their baby girl in early January, and I knew I wanted to make them a lovely quilt as a gift. I really wanted to find some lovely co-ordinating prints to make a herringbone quilt, inspired by some I had seen on Pinterest. I'm pretty chuffed with the result of my efforts:

Fox in the Foxgloves quilt 

My luck was in when I found these fabrics: a bundle of Cloud9 fat quarters from their Fox in the Foxgloves collection by Aneela Hoey. It was just what I was looking for, a nice mixture of different prints, cute and child friendly, but not overly cutesy. Plus I love the colours.

As I didn't give myself much time to make the quilt, and I didn't want to feel "bogged down" by doing it, I decided on a pram sized quilt for our friends. I actually think this size is more useful for a newborn. It can be used as a mat to lie on, a pram blanket or even just to snuggle in.

It really did come together quickly, I only spent 3 sewing sessions on it in all, which I was pleasantly surprised with!

The quilt top's herringbone design is made up of half-square triangles, which was really speedy as thankfully I opted for 15cm squares.

The quilting is stitched in the ditch of the herringbones, with white thread.

I backed the quilt with white cotton and used a thin 100% cotton wadding by Quilter's Dream. I didn't want anything too hot for the little one!

Choosing a fabric to bind the quilt in really took some deciding. I tried peach, mint, navy blue, a combination... and thankfully asked my husband for his thoughts at the critical moment. He's usually spot-on with colour or print decisions, and he said: "Oh, I thought it was just going to look like that. I think a strong colour on the edge would spoil the effect.". He was absolutely right, and when I tried white, the quilt looked much more balanced. Thank you, Liam!

So, in the end I used the backing fabric and folded it over from the back to make the binding. I would definitely do this again - it was really easy!

I'm so pleased with how the quilt has turned out. There are a few less-than-perfect bits (can you spot the 3 squares which had to be laid the wrong way round?), but hey, that's the charm of it being handmade, isn't it?!

We went to visit our friends and meet their baby yesterday, and oh my goodness, she is absolutely lovely. It's so wonderful to watch our friends being parents as well, they are absolutely besotted with their little girl and it just warmed my heart to see. They love the quilt, which I am so pleased about!

I will definitely make another pram sized quilt as a new baby gift in the future, since I enjoyed making this one so much. A smaller quilt is so much less tedious to make than a large one, and much less frustrating the squish through the machine when it gets to quilting time.

In fact, since this quilt used less than half of each of the Cloud9 fat quarters in the bundle, I am already making a sister version of this quilt as a gift for another pair of friends expecting their baby girl soon. I'll put it on the blog if it turns out much different to this one!

Thanks for reading! x

P.S. Here are links to posts about previous quilts I have sewn:
The Scrappy Quilt of Joy   (throw size)
Nautical Chevron Quilt      (cot size)

My Maternity Sewing Plans

(Yes, there's a baby on the way!)

I am so delighted to be expecting my first baby, due in May, and very excited for the new challenges and adventures ahead!

NOTE: this turned into quite a wordy post! I apologise, and I realise that not everyone will be remotely interested in my musings on my maternity style/wardrobe, so I honestly won't be offended if you skip it all! 

I'm almost 22 weeks pregnant now, and up until recently had not sewn a single piece of clothing for myself since becoming pregnant, due to a number of reasons....

  • I was very sick.   Like many expectant mothers, "morning" (ha!) sickness hit with a vengeance at exactly 6 weeks gone. I could describe it as feeling constantly nauseated, knowing I had to eat but then often throwing my breakfast / lunch / dinner / dry crackers back up again. I did eventually find that making sure I ate something bland every 2 hours helped keep the sickness at bay, but then it really ramped up around 16 weeks, before tailing off at 17-18 weeks. Now, I feel waaaaay better, much more like myself and am only occasionally sick now, which is honestly wonderful!
  • I was so tired!    Again, very common, but I wasn't quite prepared for how tired I would be. For the whole first trimester I pretty much just managed to work and sleep. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT complaining here, it is totally worth it and I am beyond grateful to be carrying this little baby! But the tiredness meant I just did not have the energy to sew.
  • I had no idea what I wanted to wear!    My usual default style is a fitted dress, with a very definite waist. This pretty quickly became uncomfortable, as although an actual bump didn't appear straight away, my waistline did get a bit thicker and my bust grew quite a lot straight away too. The clothes I get excited about sewing tend to be woven dresses, which just didn't seem practical when I was growing every week and really unsure of what I wanted to wear. Consequently I lived in baggy tops and jumpers for the first part, before I had told anyone the news, then quickly found that once my bump appeared I wanted to show it off! So I have been wearing much more jersey, basically just stretching the RTW tops I already have. I would LOVE to make some more though, with belly room for baby to keep on a-growing!
  • I had lost my sew-jo.   I think because of a combination of having not sewn in ages, not feeling inspired and not knowing what I wanted to sew, made me feel completely "meh" about sewing for a bit. Sewing a quilt really helped me get it back (coming to the blog soon!), and instantly rekindled my love for sewing.
One by one these four things have resolved themselves and I am now reeeeaaaally excited to get sewing some maternity clothes, both very useful basics and some frivolous frocks too (I do miss the frivolous part of my wardrobe, and I definitely miss the bright and bold prints!). 

I've been really inspired by watching Lisa from Sew Over It's vlogs about the maternity hacks she has done to existing patterns, and it really got ideas firing in my head. I also loved Zoe's posts about her maternity makes at Hello Zoe B, and found them to be very useful, inspiring and helpful. I have also been following Jessica's outfit posts on What I Wore. She is so stylish and gave me some great ideas on how to mix it up a bit, and what pieces might be useful in my maternity wardrobe. 

Things I would like to make:
  • T shirts in fun prints, with room to grow
  • Empire line swishy dresses to wear with leggings or tights and boots in the Winter, then bare legs in the Spring
  • A retro "tent" dress. I think they can look oh so stylish on a pregnant lady!
  • Vest tops for layering
  • A stretch pencil dress
  • A long jersey cardigan
  • PJs! 
  • A chambray shirt or shirt dress which may be useful for nursing after baby is born too
Hmmm, as usual I fear I have been overly ambitious with this list! That's a lot to cram in when I also want to make some things for baby. I will have the Easter holidays and also a few weeks of maternity leave to do last bits of sewing though, so there's that to bear in mind. 

Any tips on good maternity patterns or hacks? 

I promise to be back soon with some sewing to show you!