Farewell to all that …

Hello all,

I have been enjoying all of the end of year round ups and reflections. It prompted me to look at my own post from this time last year when I set myself five goals – see Here. Oh dear. Only one was accomplished but nevertheless I think it has been a successful year on the sewing front. There is no point beating myself up over what didn’t get done. One of the lovely things about getting older is that you care less about things which, on reflection, are not important. I had a complete meltdown at 40 but since turning 50 I would say I have entered one of the happiest phases of my life. I get so much pleasure from my family and friends and I think that that, and continued good health are worth celebrating.

My 54th birthday - somewhere in the bay of Biscay. Dress from ENVY Arundel

My 54th birthday – somewhere in the bay of Biscay. Dress from ENVY Arundel

So,  my year in review. I discovered the joys of cruising. Here I am on my 54th birthday feeling FAB – the only thing which would make this better would be if I had made the dress myself … but I didn’t so there you go – no point fretting about that either! Something to aspire to … maybe.

I was super lucky this year to go to three weddings and for each of them I made my outfit. This was an achievement I am proud of and it added to the pleasure of a wonderful day. First up the first of my thirteen nieces and nephews got married. Here I am with Summer Rose, my son Sam and two of my nephews.

Flamingo border Kim for my niece Sarah's wedding

Flamingo border Kim for my niece Sarah’s wedding

Secondly, a friend of mine, Andy married his beautiful bride Onuma in a beautiful village in Hampshire.

A BHL maxi Anna covered in parrots (lovebirds actually)

A BHL maxi Anna covered in parrots (lovebirds actually)

Finally, a really close friend, Claire got married the first week of the Autumn term. I had been involved in wedding dress shopping and the hen night and was just elated for Claire all day. As a bit of a cheesy joke I made Mr CK a matching tie – people who knew us thought it was really funny but for anyone who didn’t, I guess they thought we were right weirdos!

Mortmain and matching tie!

Mortmain and matching tie!

The only thing I did complete of my stated goals was to make a coat. To date this remains my sophisticated make and I am really pleased with it – although I don’t know if I could do it again.

1960's coat made at Sew Over It

1960’s coat made at Sew Over It

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Social media became an increasingly important part of my life – as well as a time thief! I find myself getting stressed if I get behind on my blog reading/commenting.  The last third of the year I haven’t blogged as much but have continued to contribute to Instagram and now have over 400 followers there. Through the sewing community I have met a number of on-line friends – people I feel I could literally meet and we would be able to start chatting as if we had known each other for years.  This has happened with the people I have met up with, firstly at the Fabric Godmother Open Day and then at the South Coast SewBees meet up – a little nucleus of half a dozen bloggers which I hope will grow next year. And I have a penpal too! One sewing blogger (who shall remain nameless so as not to embarrass her!) and I have developed a friendship over long emails. Our life styles are different but through sewing we found a connection and that has been one of the really lovely things about my year.

SewBees at Ditto Fabrics

SewBees at Ditto Fabrics

Other highlights were that I was nominated for a bloggers award; my Frida Kahlo dress won a competition organised by The Monthly Stitch and I participated in various photo-hop challenges “meeting” new people and getting lots of inspiration along the way.

My winning dress

My winning dress

I’ve decided not to make any pledges for 2016. I have not one but two new jobs to start and I expect that will keep me very busy. I have a ridiculous amount of WIPs so feel I should try and finish at least some of those before I move onto other things. WIPs: Francine jacket; gabriola skirt to match my Francine Jacket; Cigarette pants; Ultimate blouse in a flamingo print; maxi Anna with sequin bodice and brocade skirt.

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So, thank you for following along with me this year. Your comments and support are very much appreciated – being part of a wider community has been a real blessing, particularly in the latter part of the year when I was overwhelmed with other matters. Onwards and upwards! Wishing you all a very happy new year – I don’t know where the quotation comes from to credit it  but … May your bobbin always be full.

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outerwear, Underwear – it’s all happening here!

Yesterday was the first of my four coat making workshops at Sew Over It Clapham with super patient Julie who has already guided me through a lace dress and a pair of trousers.  The workshops were a Christmas present (obviously lots of careful hints) to my other half.

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This is my fabric – a beautiful (reversible) daisy wool and the polka dot is for the lining; both from Guthrie and Ghani. I got the gorgeous buttons from Ditto fabrics.

There are just three of us in the class – just as well as the class is labelled as Advanced and at the very best I would describe myself as Intermediate Beginner.  The others have chosen wonderful fabric/lining combinations so I am hopeful we will have a trio of quite dramatic coats to show off mid February.

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The style is 1960s.  Here is a rather unflattering photo of me wearing the sample.  It will be quite interesting to compare my final version with this beauty!

imageThere is a lot to do.  The session lasted for three hours and in that time all I managed to do was cut out the wool and pin the interfacing.  The construction process is carefully broken down into four weeks and there are detailed instructions for what needs to be covered each week during the lesson and separate instructions for what needs to be done for homework.  The homework is substantial – I would say at least a further three hours but I will let you know in my next progress report. Most of the pieces need to be cut out three times: fabric, lining, interfacing. New things I learned: there is a different type of interfacing (not the Vilene type stuff I have used previously) which is used for coats – it is actually woven and you have to cut it on the grain. This I have to cut and iron on for my homework so I cannot comment on if it is easier/trickier etc.  The other interesting thing is that a man in Soho is recommended to do our button holes.  I had commented that they looked great on the sample and despaired of ever being able to do anything like that and then we were given the recommendation.  I did wonder if it was sort of cheating to get someone else to do the final finishing touches but it would be a total bummer to have made your coat, invested hours and hours and then bugger up the buttonholes – which I would almost certainly do.  If you read my blog about the silk top you will know that button holes are my nemesis.

imageI DO love the studio.  It is such a calming (although I was anything but calm and that is going to be the subject of a future, navel-gazing style post), twee, girly space – all shocking pink staircases, pretty jars of notions and tea cup pin cushions.  Always there is lovely cake and tea on tap.  That was something else I learned – when you are sewing, your bladder ceases to function! I have a lovely little routine – established when I did the lace dress workshops –  I leave work and arrive an hour or so before the class starts (I am always a super punctual person and would rather arrive an hour early than with just two minutes to spare) and then sit in a little independent coffee house and use the wifi to catch up on blogs whilst having a couple of lattes. Then, at the studios, there were further mugs of tea and it was only when I got home I realised I hadn’t been to the loo once!  Anyone else get so engrossed they forget such things?!

So, I have made a start – there is much to do this weekend but I hope you found my first progress report interesting.

Just a quick thing to finish with – a pair of pants!

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I saw on IG that JustSewtherapeutic had had a snow day (no sign of any here) and had productively made three pairs of Trixie Lixie pants.  I am a shameless copycat and immediately bought a kit (bargain as it includes the pattern, elastic, fabric etc).  It really is the first time I can say “it came together easily”.  I knocked them out Sunday night – we were watching a box set of Spiral series one (on a colleague’s recommendation) but I found it too distressing so gave up and took refuge in my Janome.  I wore them on Monday and they were comfy too – hoorah!  I plan to make many more in Liberty lawn – specifically the new Alice in Wonderland designs.

Hope you are having a good week!,

Toodle pip,

Clarinda x