Twenty years on

About 20 years ago my family went on holiday to Switzerland. The four of us (my mum, my dad, my sister and myself) had an amazing time walking in the hills, pretending to be Maria Von Trapp running from the Nazis and generally having a right old laugh. I always remember it as my favourite ever family holiday.

Switzerland

I’m on the left. I blooming loved those shorts.

Anyway, one of my profile pictures on Facebook is from this holiday, with myself and my sister sitting on a log in front of a cracking view of Jungfrau (an impressive mountain near the Lauterbrunnen valley). To my surprise, and delight, a friend that lives in Bern surprised me yesterday with a modern day photo of that very spot:

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I can’t believe how little the view has changed in 20 years when so much has changed in my life. Excellent work Nature, really excellent work. And amazing work Dorian, a truly brilliant surprise.

Unauthorised absences

I’ve been away for a while with no excuse other than the sun’s been out and I’ve been having a lovely time. It’s much easier to just have fun, than to have fun and then go inside and write about it. But anyway, I’m back! To sum up the last month or so, there has been…

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A graduation and a home made bow tie

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Lovely walks in real Welsh sunshine

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Lots of Pimms and paddling pool action

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And even a day at the Royal Welsh. Horses and sheep and (absolutely massive) cows, oh my!

There has also been quite a lot of sewing going on that I am itching to share. Here’s a sneak preview, more to come!

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Victoria

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Hazel

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Purses

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Hazel II

Life drama dress drama

If things only go wrong in threes then I should be fine. Events so far this week include:

1. Monday evening: Fall over in busy petrol station (possibly due to giddy happiness of finding Haribo half price).

2. Still Monday evening: Exhaust falls off car on rickity-rackity one track road.

3. Tuesday morning: Take car to mechanics… Forget purse. Stomp around all day in self-induced grump.

So, to counteract the life drama here’s some drama to add to dresses. (And sigh with relief).

This is my new favourite thing. It was made with a little help from this tutorial from Rock ‘n’ Roll Bride. I LOVE their version with rainbow ribbon edging but decided to go for a single colour for this version.

It has 3 metres of tulle per layer and despite only having two layers still does the trick. Voluminous skirts galore!

This was the moment my neighbour turned up. Undressing a mannequin in the middle of your garden is normal in these circles. Right?

The first step is admitting you have a problem…

It’s no secret how much I love the Elisalex dress. In fact it’s getting a bit embarrassing now… I’ve gone and made another one.

I still maintain that each of my Elisalexes (plural?) has their own special place in my wardrobe. Number one is the ‘Everyday Elisalex’ for work to pub, shopping to dancing and almost everything in between (I’m wearing it right now!).

Number two is strictly weekend material, and mostly after dark. Made for dancing and for when I’m brave enough to get those legs out.

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Number three was a present for my sister, so technically that doesn’t even count. Work with me here…

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So. Number four. The formal Elisalex for the rare classy do that I’m invited to. The Lady in Red.

This one is mainly a light (and bargainacious) linen-y type mix from IKEA with side panels made from some Anna Maria Horner quilting cotton I had in my stash, underlined to hold the shape.

I lowered the neckline slightly and opened up the tulip skirt just enough to squeeze a matching tulle underskirt underneath.

The Red Elisalex will have its debut on Friday at a Graduation Ball (read ‘fancy dinner for the students that we are crashing whilst trying to pretend we are students again’). Objectives are to dance the night away and immerse myself in gin and tonic. Shouldn’t be too hard…

Tova Tova Tova

It’s birthday season in Stirling-town. For my mum there was no question when it came to which pattern to turn to:

The lovely Wiksten Tova. Each pattern of the Tova is handmade and beautiful to behold I’m sure but for those on a budget a PDF version has also been released. Boo for all the printing and sticking but yay for the instant download gratification.

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I used a very soft light brown Swiss Dot for most of the top, with a deep pink for the inside of the collar and as an additional lining to the inset.

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The pattern was very easy to follow but I had trouble with the corners of the inset. The seam ripper made an appearance multiple times and I still don’t think I did it right but I’m happy with the result for now. Practice makes perfect I guess!

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Oh hello French seams! Possibly my favourite part of the entire top. I’ve never made French seams before but now I don’t think I’ll do anything else. So very satisfying and neat.

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All in all it was a success! So much so that the next participant in birthday season is getting one too. This time I’m going for the sleeveless dress version in this floral polycotton:

Come on Spring – I need you for this one.

Don’t worry ladies, help is at hand!

Are you always knitting things for your male significant other/friends/family members only to have them thrown back in your face?

Want to knit up a storm but wish there were some guidelines to help your little lady sized brain?

Then you need…

Knits Men Want

The 10 rules every woman should know before knitting for a man.

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Plus the only 10 patterns she’ll ever need

Yup, I think you know where you can stick those knitting needles Bruce Weinstein.

Twinkle twinkle little bat. How I wonder what you’re at.

After the success of my sisters Lizzy House Elisalex I couldn’t resist a Lizzy House dress all of my own. Anyone with a sister will know that however alike we may be by chance – there’s no chance of us being alike by choice (meant in the nicest way Liza!). So, it definitely wasn’t an Elisalex for me. This is by no means a slur on the By Hand London ladies – I’ve got three Elisalexes in my wardrobe already!

When payday came I took the plunge and went for 2.5 metres of Twinkle Twinkle in blue, and oh my days it is lovely:

Obviously to do this print justice I had to find just the right pattern. I ooh-ed and ahh-ed over plenty of dresses out there in blogland until I came across honigdesign and the lovely Elise. Not only has she an impressive portfolio of a gorgeous handmade wardobe but she’s made a pattern for a dress and has put it out in the world for free! Generous much??

The lovely Garden Party Dress comes in two versions and quite obviously works in all seasons as shown by Elise herself: summer and winter!

It was the classic design that drew me to this dress. It’s simple enough to let the fabric do a lot of the talking but has the little details such as the pleated skirt front and notched neckline to make it stand out from the crowd. This was the one for me.

First attempt with the self timer. Not so successful.

First attempt with the self timer – not so successful.

Being terrified of cutting into my Twinkle Twinkle I decided to do a cheater’s muslin first – aka sew up the lining and make the changes from that. No wasted fabric and any needle holes/unsightly marks well hidden! The lining in question being a bargain yellow polka dot polycotton to make those yellow stars sparkle even more.

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The bodice was really straightforward to sew up and only needed a couple of fitting alterations – the apex of the darts were moved down by 1/2 inch to allow a bit more bosom room and I added an inch to the bodice length for the same reason, whilst moving the zip round to the side. The neckline wasn’t quite as flattering on me as it was on Elise’s pictures (jealous!) so I opened that up a bit too. Much less altering than I usually have to do, so I was pretty chuffed!

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With the pattern altered I plunged into the Twinkle Twinkle without a second thought. The skirt went on without a hitch – I really liked Elise’s reminder in the instructions on which pleats should line up with the bodice darts, it’s these little details that make everything look tip top and Bristol fashion (that’s a saying right?).

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So, no more faffing – I love it! The pleats sit beautifully and add just enough room for an excellent swirl factor. I was going to repeat the six pleats on the skirt front on the back (as opposed to the normal two) to add more umph but unfortunately didn’t have quite enough fabric. Even so, with a cheeky tulle underskirt underneath there’s certainly enough volume going on behind me.

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I can’t wait for summer evenings on the seafront in this one… *swirls away in manner of Grace Kelly*

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#GBSB

The world is ablaze with the Great British Sewing Bee!

Well, my little heavily sewing influenced world is. There’s lots of things I like about GBSB: the gorgeous converted chapel, the rolls and rolls of fabric, Patrick.

However, I think there’s one thing that I like most of all. I feel that a lot of people have two visions of dressmaking: you’re either a 1950s housewife or a die hard fashionista. We know full well that this isn’t the case, even if we do take inspiration from both parties.

Dressmaking, for me, is about wearing what I want to wear. Yes, this does include an element of snootiness in the fact that no one else will be wearing what I am but it mostly comes with the knowledge that something fits me well and I am confident and happy wearing it.

It’s simple really: confident in what you’re wearing = more confident in what you’re doing = all sorts of winning.

Back to GBSB and a conversation between Saville Row tailor Patrick Grant and Wolverhampton mum Sandra on her dress’ floral collar in the first episode:

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P: No dress is complete with a bit of prettiness is it.

S: Well, as long as you’ve got the plain bit to flatter your figure.

P: You’re being true to yourself and you like it and that’s the important thing.

I think it was the sincerity on Patrick’s face throughout this conversation that said it all to me – coming from someone who does this for a living and no doubt keeps his work as current as he possibly can, he still identifies with, and respects, the core of making your own clothes. Whatever you’re making, you’re doing it because you like it and that shouldn’t be questioned.

More of this please GBSB!

And before we all get too serious, lets not forget this moment:

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TV GOLD.

So we’re down to the final three – I constantly swap my allegiance between team Sandra and team Lauren (sorry Ann!). Today… hmmm… Team Lauren. How about you?

An Elisalex for Lizabeth in Lizzy House

Sometimes things sound like they’re going to work together and they don’t. Bummer. However, sometimes they do!

For my sister’s birthday the order came in for an Elisalex dress in a geometric fabric. After an extended search for fabric via many many many emails (I’m in Aberystwyth, she’s in Manchester) we settled on Supernova in purple, part of Lizzy House’s Constellations range.

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There were two challenges to overcome:

  1. Supernova is a quilting fabric, 100% cotton and so soft I could cuddle it all night – not likely to hold up the showcase Elisalex skirt.
  2. My sister and I are not the same size, like AT ALL, and I had never made anything fitted for anyone other than myself. Tensions rising…

To combat a floppy skirt (when unwanted it’s truly the worst) I decided to line the skirt in addition to the bodice. To really ensure those pleats stayed as sharp as GBSB Patrick’s suits I applied fusible interfacing to the lining and basted it to the skirt along the waist. This was done once the front and back pieces had been sewn together but more importantly before the pleats were folded. The lining/interfacing/outer sandwich was then treated as one piece and the pleats folded in. Attach to the bodice and job done!

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So the pleats worked, hooray! And the skirt doesn’t crumble under it’s own weight, even more cheers! AND, it looks pretty nice too…

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Lined with IKEA’s BRITTEN – one of my absolute favourite prints and very soft to boot.

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A bit of Timeless Treasures Sketch for the sleeves.

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More Sketch bias binding on the neckline and a hook and eye from my Grandma’s sewing box (8p for 20. How’s that for value)

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I am the only one that loves slip stitching? Hems, zips, binding, anything.

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Like a good sewist (I’m not usually a ‘good’ sewist), I made a muslin to check for fitting issues. After a trip back home and a few pin stabbing incidents, by accident obviously, a little was taken off the shoulders and the arm scythe – thankfully nothing too drastic. The minor nature of the adjustments didn’t stop the eternal panic of whether it was going to fit – one of my main methods in sewing is constant trying on, probably more for my peace of mind than the necessity of the sewing process. Luckily being a good sewist paid off:

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Quote: “I feel like a princess!”

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Phew!

As always this pattern was a dream to sew and I can’t wax lyrical enough about Lizzy House’s Constellation range. They’re billed as quilting cottons but I think they need to be shown off. Constellations dresses for all!

(I’ve got one on the go for me too!)