Half term busyness

Hello dear reader, hope you are having fun and starting to get excited about spring?

In all the excitement of finishing my 1960s coat, I’m only just getting round to blogging about my other recent activities. I had a great half term which left me feeling relaxed and ready for the next surge. I had a bit of a supper party one night for some friends/neighbours and one of them actually asked me what exactly it is I am doing when I prance about on the riverbank in season inappropriate clothing!

imageI don’t have a posh camera (or a tripod, remote control etc.) so I have to take photos outside to get the best light and I only use my mini IPAD anyway.  I might need to re-think this strategy as sewing/blogging is becoming a bigger part of my life (it’s not so big for others who I have to cajole into taking pictures for me). However, for the time being I will continue to prance around at the end of my garden.

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This is my second Sewaholic Belcarra blouse – it is such a lovely top – I made it up in Liberty Lawn Queue for the Zoo which I bought last year.  Similar to my first Belcarra (see here) – I think this has the potential to be worn to work with more formal attire as well as with denim as seen here.

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This is a better view of the fabric (and my goose bumps) but I also wanted to show you the little button detail I added.  This is another one from my mum’s 1950s button box and I love it that I am now able to put to use some of the buttons that I have sorted through periodically for decades.

imageIt is a wonder I managed to squeeze this top in at all as the little people were around with it being half term.  They are so inquisitive about sewing but to date we have only made a tote bag together.  The majority of the time in which I could sew was spent on finishing my coat (see here)  but now that is done I can move onto another couple of projects which I have lined up.

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The first is a Kim dress – which I am doing as part of the sewalong.  I am doing a direct copycat of Dolly Clackett’s dress which used a fabric called Flamingo Border.  Unfortuantely I made a huge boo boo.  I have noticed that frequently when I buy the amount of fabric stated on the pattern I end up with so much left over  – I have squeezed a number of Sorbettos out of such generosity. So, on this occasion, I only bought two metres – doh. The skirt is made from a rectangle of the full three metres and consequently not only will my full skirt not be nearly so full but I didn’t have enough for the lining of the bodice. I was already entrenched in my cutting out so  – what to do?  Well, I did something rather extravagant.  A couple of weeks ago I bought some lovely broderie anglaise from Sew Over it (with no particular project in mind) and I used a little bit of that for my bodice lining.

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It will be my first project which looks lovely from the inside!  I also ran up a couple of pairs of Trixie Lixie knickers with my leftover Liberty lawn (what a wonderful way to use up leftovers!).

imageMy other half term achievement was to set up a Twitter account linked to my sewing activities.  I have two followers so that is exciting!  I am struggling to de-couple an existing twitter account which I used when I walked the Camino de Santiago six years ago (pre hashtag days) so I can’t add a button yet to the blog but if you are interested it’s ClarindaKaleidoscope @Clarinda_K  I only really decided to set one up so that I could follow along with all of the tweeting which  accompanies #GBSB which I am enjoying hugely.

Hope the week is going well – Good Luck to Amanda and Deborah tonight!

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

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Finally ….. I am proud to present: The 1960s Coat

Greetings all on this last day of the half term,

I am SO pleased to say that I have FINALLY finished my coat and here it is!

imageIt has taken four weeks of a weekly workshop at Sew Over It, Clapham with the super talented, super patient Julie and four weekends of homework (which has been substantial).  I have blogged each week charting my different feelings towards the project which have veered from extreme frustration and desperation through to pleasure and wonderment. If you are new to my blog and are interested in its journey (someone might be – certainly no-one in my household is) then you can read about it here: week one; week two; week three; week four.

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I think it is only fair I give huge credit to Julie who held my hand throughout the process.  I found the number of pattern pieces overwhelming: lining, interlining and shell.  The lined pockets incorporated into the seam took me one whole workshop of three hours.  I don’t drive; I don’t have any spatial awareness. Similar deficiencies became apparent during sewing – I find construction really quite baffling and when some particular aspect finally comes together, it seems to me to be as if by magic.

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I was also lucky enough to meet David Miller of DM Buttons  in Soho who expertly made my buttonholes and the funky buttons came from Ditto Fabrics in Brighton – I was really lucky to get some which managed to perfectly match the flower design of the coat.

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The fabric came from Guthrie and Ghani who also supplied the lining.  I would highly recommend Lauren’s store for online purchases. She was extremely helpful, sending swatches and confirming that the fabric would be suitable for the coat I was going to make.  Items purchased always arrive swiftly and are beautifully packaged.  Ooh dear – this could be beginning to sound like an Oscar Acceptance speech – so after, Julie, David and Lauren there was me!  Regular readers will know how I frequently feel deflated and am quick to point out errors but I really am chuffed to bits with my coat – it is certainly my most ambitious make to date – and probably a feat never to be attempted again!imageimageIn order to consolidate my learning (SUCH a teacher), I really should go straight into another one – perhaps in a cotton twill or canvas for summer.  I know this would be the best way to ensure I do not forget all of the techniques I learned but I am not sure I have the motivation to keep going by myself.  Knowing I had to face Julie and my fellow workshop chums each week meant I tried hard to do all of my homework and keep more or less on track.

So there you go, the journey of my 1960s coat has finally reached its destination.  The photos were taken in Arundel this morning on a cold but bright sunny day and the coat kept me warm.

One final comment – a question actually: I have three weddings to go to this year.  I am toying with the idea of making a little dress in the same fabric as the coat to wear together as a set – perhaps a sleeveless shift or a Megan – a la Jackie Onassis.  What do you think? Would it be too much?

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

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The Button Man

Hello fellow sewistas, are you having a good week?

Last night was the final night of my coat making workshop at Sew Over It  – do I have a finished coat? Of course, I don’t! However, it should be completed by the end of the week. I did have an interesting day though – I met the Button Man of Soho.

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Our tutor had recommended that we have our buttonholes done at DM Buttons in Soho. As the establishment’s opening hours are 7.30 – 3pm, I knew I would only be able to get there in school holidays so although I think it is more usual to do your buttonholes as part of the finishing touches, I decided to visit yesterday before my final class as I didn’t want to be in the position of having a finished coat and then having to wait until Easter before I could get them done.

I am a Londoner, born and bred, and one of the lovely things about London is that you can find things off the beaten track that you never knew existed before and DM Buttons was one such experience.  In Soho I went down a side street, then down an alley (Mews to use the correct term) and then right at the very end was a white doorway that opened onto a steep staircase down which I descended to the basement to find the Button Man busily working away on a gorgeous gold corset style bodice.

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I was fascinated at the number of industrial machines and how quickly the buttonholes were done.  I had marked them up in advance but I had to re-do with tailor’s chalk and then whoosh – four keyhole buttons holes in a flash.  Honestly, it was the most amazing service – super efficient and super cheap: £4  I could not recommend this service enough. When Julie first suggested we get our buttonholes done I thought that was a bit of a cheat but of course, I see now it makes perfect sense to have something so prominent as buttonholes on a major garment finished professionally.

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See – perfect?  If you remember my button hole fiasco on the yoke top you will agree that I made a wise decision!

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The other interesting thing I discovered yesterday on my sewing journey is that  I have big shoulders – even more unfair as I have non-existent boobs. At class we spent ages learning how to place, sew-in (handsewing) and then secure the lining to shoulder pads – I guess that took about an hour an a half – I am such a slow coach at everything.  Anyway, once I tried my coat on it looked really odd – I didn’t get any photos as I was too busy weeping at that point. Instead of a nice line falling straight down the sleeve from the shoulder pad, there was a bulge outwards where my big shoulders were wider than the pads (which I originally thought were rather chunky).  It completely spoilt the line so there was nothing to do but to unpick all of my hand sewing and remove them.  By complete coincidence I read a blog post from Crab and Bee this morning about fitting clothes based on your shoulder size – who knew we had a shoulder size?

Half term is going well; lots of family stuff intermingled with sewing, marking, reading and walking on the beach. Hope to do an update on my half term projects at the end of the week.

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

 

 

 

 

 

The continuing saga of my coat; Class 3 of 4

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I hope you are having a good week? It’s the day before we break up for half term and as per every penultimate day of a half term I am super stressed.  There is a big sign on the wall at the Sew Over It studios which says SEWING SOOTHES THE SOUL … OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. It does but my coat making has caused a lot of stress too.  There are four classes and homework each week – the tasks for which are detailed and numbered on really helpful A4 sheets.  I have just finished class three of four.  The lesson has seven tasks and there are a further three for homework.  I have managed to do task one … of the classwork!

I think the stress-inducing issue for me has been the homework – which is not something quick but a chunky four to six hours worth of work.  This amount of time needs to be carefully scheduled in but with consecutive weeks it can cause a build up in other activities which you normally do at the weekend e.g. marking (I am choosing to forget that I spent a glorious afternoon on the beach – wasn’t Sunday gorgeous?)

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I had not finished the  classwork/homework for week two so decided to skip off early from work and get to the studio two hours before my class.  I sat companiably with one the of the Sew Over It girls, listening to classical music and as I caught up, I did find that, yes, my soul was indeed soothed. Next week is half term so goodness knows what time I’ll have to arrive in order to make up the deficit after this week!

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I did learn an interesting new technique this week – pressing.  When I attached the front facings, Julie (brilliantly patient tutor) told me that I had to “press and pat” to get the facings to lie completely flat.  This involved steaming and pressing and then, so that the fibres don’t spring back into place you have to “pat” them back until the steam has been pushed out and the fabric has gone cold – it then lies much flatter.  The patting was accomplished by whacking the fabric with the ham – you can see how the end has mounded itself to my hand with all the pressure.  Anyway, it gives a nice clean finish.  We also marked on the buttonholes and I am going to take them to a man in Soho who apparently has a buttonhole machine and makes keyhole buttonholes for professional tailors – and amateur seamstresses apparently. I am looking forward to sharing my button hole experience with you next week – are you excited?

imageFinally, it is very difficult not to buy anything when you are in a fabric shop/haberdashery for five hours.  This is what I bought this week.  Some lovely broderie anglaise – isn’t that a lovely thing to say – BRODERIE ANGLAISE and a blue/black chevron jersey.  I’m thinking Moneta for the knit – I have been impressed with recent versions from Sew South London and Navy Blue Threads. For the cotton, another Belcarra maybe? It would make a lovely shirt but I have button hole fear at the moment – to sit alongside my overlocker fear – what IS the matter with me?!

I hope you’ve got a nice glass of wine lined up for GBSB tonight – wonder what I’ll spot that I recognise this week?

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

 

 

 

 

A little tale of inspiration involving Margate, Isle of Wight and GBSB

 

The Great British Sewing Bee is dear to my heart and I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode of series three.  I felt so inspired to sew at the end of the second series I booked a workshop which offered to teach basic skills to enthusiastic beginners.  The Easter workshop, at Cloth Kits, Chichester was called Make your Mother proud; I think it more likely she would have been bemused.

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The workshop confirmed my new passion and I went straight to John Lewis and bought a Janome sewing machine. I then discovered sewing blogs and a whole new world of inspiration opened up to me: Scruffy Badger; Handmade Jane; House of Pinheiro; Lladybird, Dolly Clackett and Did You Make That.  With only basic skills I became a little like Catherine Tate’s character who always said “I could do that“-  only with me it was “I could make that”.  So, the beginnings of an addiction was born; following sewing blog royalty, I emulated choices and bought patterns and fabrics.  One particular post which inspired such purchases was this one from Did You Make That. I ADORED the fabric – it reminded me of my holidays as a child.  It was a tana lawn from Liberty and the design was called Isle of Wight.

imageI didn’t go to The Isle of Wight as a child; we always went to Margate. I have happy memories of going to Dreamland night after night after having spent my days making sandcastles and paddling; some of the illustrations in the print reminded me of those gloriously carefree holidays of my childhood.  My parents never went abroad (few did to be honest from the little corner of South West London where I grew up) but many years later I took my parents on a day trip to the Isle of Wight.  It was a really special day – my mum was so excited because she thought it meant she had finally gone abroad!  The last family holiday I had with my own children, before they decided they were too cool to go on holiday with their parents, was to the Isle of Wight so it is a wonderfully nostalgic place for me.  Having bought the fabric and pattern I put them in my wicker stash basket where they have languishfor the past six months.

By the summer I decided I too wanted to blog to share my sewing adventures and in early August 2014 Clarinda Kaleidoscope was born.  Retrospectively I realise I made a faux pas with the name because A. it is not easy to remember and B. it does not convey any sense that it is about sewing but, what can you do? In any case, I like it!

So I sewed, and blogged and got more and more involved in my new hobby – even making a running top for my other passion. Since I’ve been sewing I have not run nearly enough – both are absolute time thieves.

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So I’ve had my machine for about nine months now and when the GBSB aired this week I was astonished at how much I knew compared to last time; I recognised bodices, techniques – I can even put in an invisible zip which appeared to cause some consternation!  However, the thing I was most chuffed at was that one of the contestents, Amanada, whose blog I follow made her summer frock challenge in …. Isle of Wight Liberty Tana Lawn.  So, I abandoned my weekend sewing plans and decided to use my Isle of Wight to make Sewaholic’s Belcarra blouse.

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I was really pleased with how it came together and as I was feeling so nostalgic by this point, thinking of childhood and holidays of the past, and of course, my lovely mum, I decided to have a look through her button box to see if I could find anything which would go with my new blouse.

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The Belcarra doesn’t have any fastenings – it just pulls over the head so the buttons I put on are purely decorative. They are incredibly subtle, barely noticeable in the photos but the pleasure for me is knowing that they are there – a little reminder of the precious past.

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Overall, I think the Belcarra is super versatile.  It looks a bit boxy here – I usually go for a size 12 equivalent but went with the measurements on the packet and cut a 10 – I almost think I could go a size smaller.  I think this will look great with denim shorts in the summer and equally good with a work suit – adding just a little bit of fun.

So, there you go, a few memories, places and people who have inspired me, brought together in one sweet little top.

Have a lovely Sunday,

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

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Claudia the Calf? Where’s Gogglebox when you need it? Welcome back Great British Sewing Bee!

 

 

There was a real sense of excitement and anticipation at home last night – for me at least.  My menfolk were quietly resigned but they watched The Great British Sewing Bee and the endless comments proved that they were clearly engaged.  As our roast chicken supper was cooking, I snatched an hour or so to make another couple of Trixie Lixie knickers in some lovely Liberty Lawn I had ordered from Guthrie and Ghani.  I was SO impatient AND determined to have a sewing filled extravaganza of an evening that I sewed them up without matching thread – Shocking behaviour.

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I credit GBSB 100% for getting me into sewing and how funny a year on to see how much more I know about it all.  Was it a BHL Kim bodice I saw (two possibly?) in the summer frock category? The trousers for the first challenge – surely Sew Over It’s Ultimate Trouser with a tweak at the waist to swap facing for bias. Both currently in my stash!

imageThe Kim pattern is because I am taking part in the Kim sewalong – not that I am up to date with that of course.  The Ultimate trousers I made at a workshop a couple of months ago and immediately rushed out to buy some Black twill (?) to make super boring work trousers.  It is because of the super boring bit that the fabric has sat in my stash but I think I will make them up this weekend.  If the Sewing Bees managed it in three hours then I’m going to try and match that.  Regular readers will know that we have had a Sewing Bee at my work.  One of the Bees asked on Wednesday if we were going to follow along with the series – we all looked at her as if she were bonkers. But here I am, actually considering doing one of the challenges for this week.

imageWas one of the dresses made of this fabric?  I thought so but we didn’t get a close up.  It is a gorgeous Liberty lawn with lots of little seaside related illustrations on it. It’s waiting to be made up into a blouse/summer top of some description – hopefully with enough left over to make another pair of pants – they are VERY addcitive!

Finally, onto the contestants and the challenges. Why oh Why is Gogglebox not on tonight?  I LOVE Gogglebox – a glorious celebration of family and what it is to be British in our wonderful,l multi-cultural society.  I would love to know what Steve and Chris, Steph and Dom and Sandy and Sandra think of the garments, characters, challenges.  It is sad when someone has to leave – especially when you have barely been introduced but what a travesty to lose Annie so soon. Did you catch that glorious retort to Claudia when she told she had to leave: Don’t worry – I’ll still name a calf after you!

Have a great weekend sewing,

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

 

Week two of my coat making plus a dollop of naval gazing

At my coat making workshop last week, I became acutely aware that I was a nightmare student – as a teacher myself this is particularly embarrassing. There were only three of us which is an excellent ratio but even so I ended up with far more than my fair share of the tutor’s time because I was continually fussing. I really don’t know what happened but I became completely flustered and got myself into quite a state.  At the end even the tutor said she was surprised that I was so insecure  – she actually said that – as I could clearly do the work.  SO ….. I have spent a long time pondering about why I had been so needy and I finally came up with a theory: I am a control freak.  We were given all of the pattern pieces (three huge sheets) plus separate A4 packs for each week with associated diagrams of what was to be covered. I think I was so overwhelmed at seeing the sheer volume of what had to be done, I just kept asking and double checking.  Retrospectively, I think had I taken ten minutes to just sit down and read what needed to be done so that I least I knew where I was going, I would have been fine.

 

imageHaving felt so needy during the workshop I was determined to get ahead for the next week so I diligently threw myself into my homework on Saturday – it was extensive!  It took me five hours to finish cutting out the pieces and iron on all of the interfacing/lining, some of which you had to “draft” yourself.  The instructions said you needed to iron over a fine cloth but after pressing and pressing and getting nowhere, I abandoned my liberty lawn scrap and applied my iron directly to the interfacing and hey presto, it worked a treat.

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Last night we had the second workshop and I was much calmer which I think was a relief to everyone!  Three hours rushed by and all I really did was attach the pockets/linings – a really interesting technique and then, after a fitting, adjust the back.

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Needless to say there is a LOT of homework again this week: attaching the collar to the front facings and the coat back and constructing the lining including little dart pleats which I haven’t done before. All of which means I won’t get to do all of the other sewing I had planned!

imageAlong with many others – Justsewtherapeutic and Lazy Daisy Jones  – I am having a bit of a knicker phase at the moment; I bought these gorgeous fat quarters from Guthrie and Ghani in the new Liberty Lawn Alice in Wonderland designs.  Seriously, aren’t they gorgeous?  Having made a pair already I should only need an hour but I have to prioritise my coat so we’ll see.

imageWhilst as Sew Over It, I took the opportunity to buy some little goodies from the haberdashery (How I LOVE that word!); zips and threads for the Mortmain dress I plan to make in March and a funky little magnetic pin tray.  All of that lovliness AND The Great British Sewing Bee is on tomorrow night – Life is Good!

Hope you are all having a fun week, enjoying the snow etc.

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x