Sunday, 7 May 2017


A few years ago, I ran a few workshops from home, all sorts of creative stuff. I was wanting to do a few more, but workshops at home are tricky due to space.

So instead I talked to a few friends at my church and came up with the idea of a Crafternoon. We're running our first one later this month in Morpeth. I know this is not a new idea, but it will give those who like to create opportunity to meet and chat and of course there will be cake.

We hoping that this will be the first of many. Each month we hope to be able to offer a demonstration/ talk or workshop on a creative technique - covering all types of crafts, but it is primarily a group where people can bring what they are working on, chat and get to know others who enjoy doing some similar stuff.

In our first event we will be haing a get to know your sewing machine session; this will be run by myself and my friend, Kirsty, who used to be a pattern drafter and sample maker. We will also be on hand to offer advice about fitting and following a sewing pattern.

If you are in NE England and would like to join us, please come along.

What type of creative techniques would you like to try?

Sunday, 23 April 2017

London Baby

Yayoi Kusama The Passing Winter - Tate Modern

I spent pretty much the whole of the first week of the Easter Holidays sewing. but the second week has been far more cultured. John & I decided to spend a couple of days in London (without the kids).

So on Tuesday we dropped the dog off with my mum and the kids at my mother in law's and early on Wednesday we caught a train to the capital. We made the decision to travel really light as it costs soooo much to leave bags at coach or train stations, so armed with one small rucksack we were ready to go.

Monet, The waterlily pond - National Gallery
Our train arrived at 10am and we headed straight to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. It takes me a little bit of time to get my bearings and then I'm pretty good at navigating the capital, although the distances sometimes fool me! We went for the 18th Century onwards exhibitions - looking mainly at the impressionists and more recent work. Although we did spend a little bit of time looking at some of the Holbein and Vermeer work. Some of the early icons were also impressive.

Just time for a quick browse at liberty before lunch.

Anish Kappor - Ishi's Light - Tate Modern

Lunch was a rather overpriced, but tasty Chinese meal and then it was off to the Tate Modern. I really enjoy exploring the tate, but it is huge and you just can't do it all in one day. As were were getting ready for a sit down and coffee, my sister called me.

She works in London and had an hour to spare before meeting a friend. We met up at the embankment park and enjoyed and hour's catch up in the sunshine before heading off for some tea. This time we headed for the Tokyo Diner. Probably my favourite meal of the trip, and reasonably priced!

Tokyo Diner

The it was back to the south bank for our evening's entertainment. We'd booked to see Twelfth Night at the National Theatre. I've never seen a production of this Shakespeare play before and it was brilliant! The set was stunning and the actors were brilliant.

Well known british Comedy Actor Tamsin Grieg was just hillariously funny. One of the best shows I've seen!

It was a late finish and after the show we headed straight to our hotel. Just a travelodge, but it was clean and comfy. its safe to say my feet were aching after the 27,000 steps we'd done that day.

On Thursday we'd booked a tour around the west part of Highate Cemetery. It was such an interesting place, and our guide had lots of stories about the history of Highgate and stories about some of the people in it. We also explored the east side and John had his photo taken at Karl Marx's grave. This is the most visited grave in Highgate. The west side is overgrown in many areas and the self-seeded trees have made many of the monuments unsafe, so the public are only allowed to visit as part of an organised tour. If you are in London and do want to see something different I can highly recommend visiting here.

Higate Cemetery  - west.

After a quick Lunch, grabbed from Herman ze German (Bratwurst and chips), we headed off to the Tate Britain to see the David Hockney exhibition. This was a fantastic retrospective of his work and includes recent pieces too. it's safe to say Hockney has really moved with the times, from Angst ridden art student paintings to the iPad and filmed landscape work he has produced in the last few years. I've even downloaded the same iPad app so I can have a go.

David Hockney
David Hockney
David Hockney
 Above is a selection of Hockney's work on exhibition at the Tate.

by Cerith Wyn Evans, Tate Britain
As we were coming out of the Hockney exhibition this work caught my eye. It fills such a vast space and the shapes created change depending on your viewpoint.

Back to Soho for food and then the train home. Two very tired people with very tired legs, but a great time was had!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter madness...or how I sewed my way through the first week of the school holidays.

I have been procrastinating.
When I procrastinate, I sew.
I'm not even going to talk about what I should've been doing, but I will talk about the sewing.

This week I made
4 dresses and finished off one jacket.

Dress number 1 - I made a dress from my own self drafted Vivienne Westwood inspired pattern. I used a floral scuba fabric and virtually sewed it all on the overlocker. I do still need to do the hem. pictures to follow when it's finally finished.

Late Feb my hubby bought me Gertie's latest dress pattern - all the way from America. I planned, plotted and decided which fabrics from my stash would make the best dresses.

Dress number 2 - Butterick B6453 view B for my daughter. I had just over 1m left of this fab shot fabric that my sister bought for me at Christmas and that I used to make this dress in January.

I made her bodice in size 8 and skirt graded to 12 at the hip. I did make the mistake of taking the side seams in before adding the facings which meant the top is a little tighter than I would like it to be.

Dress number 3 - The same view for myself - using up some cotton from my stash. There was barely a metre of this and so i had the sew the facings in a different fabric. I cut a size 10 bodice and graded the skirt out to a 14 at the hip.

When I made my muslin the 10 bodice seemed really snug at the waist so I added a couple of mm at the side seams. I wish I hadn't as in both dresses I made I ended up taking the sides in a bit and they could still be a bit tighter. I did pinch out excess at the armscye and under the bust to improve shaping. I ended up having to increase the curve in the front armcye for comfort and also pinched out about 5mm under the bust on the princess seams to help the shaping.

I made fixed straps, as I don't really see the need for sliders on a dress. I know I won't use them. I also sewed the vent at the back like the one from Gertie's pencil skirt from her first book. I also used an invisible zipper as I had one the right size and colour in my stash.

Dress number 4 - Butterick B6453 view A. I sewed this up in a very light weight cotton I picked up in a market in China last summer. It's my last decent sized piece of fabric in my stash. As the fabric was so light I used cotton muslin fabric to underline the bodice pieces. I was going to add it to the skirt too, but thought it would add too much weight and I didn't want to add any strain to the waist seams.

The same adjutsments were made to the bodice as for dress 3. I didn't cut the skirt pieces from the pattern. I just used the full width of the the fabric for the front and the same for the back, adding a CB seam. I also omitted the pockets due to the lightweight nature of the fabric.

I sewed the lapped zip, following Gertie's instructions on the sew along. The finish was great, but I feel like it sticks out a little. I need to work on getting it to sit a little more flush to the dress. Maybe my interfacing was too firm!

I wore this dress today with a petticoat, tights and my favourite black shoes. paired with my red cardy. It was a bit to cold to wear on it's own as it was only about 7 degrees this morning! It will be a fab dress in the hotter days of summer and I'm sure I'll wear it loads on holiday.

The final make of this week was a refashioned wool jacket. Motorbike style, made from a long purple wool coat. I'd been working on this for some time as a gift for my friend Alli. It was her birthday this week, so I had to get it finished. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos so Alli said she'd take some and let me have them later.

Next up - repairs to the curtains. the dog has managed to catch and undo the hem - they are currently in the wash, then will be stitched again.

After that - My Hubby's suit jacket muslin. I've made myslef a jacket, but I'm not too hot on the tailoring techniques I need to use - Back to Gertie's first book! I also need to get on with my next piece of art - experiemental work at the moment.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Trousers Toile Take 3


Do you like my fabric?
It's all I could find in the stash that I wasn't planning to use for anything.

Anyway on to the pattern making. As you can see I've made some changes and I hope this will be my final toile. My draft now sits just below my natural waist, which I think is much better proportioned for my shape. I have along torso and small waist compared with my hips. this can lead me to looking like I have short legs if the waistline is too low.

The side seam is true, I think there will always be a bit of excess fabric behind the knee as I have quite an extended calf. These still feel a bit snug on the thich and calf when I sit, which would lead me to allowing a few mm extra if making up in a non stretch fabric

The back is much better, I have added length to the CB seam and scooped fabric at the crotch seam to improve fit. there is still a bit of fabric under the butt so I've1.5 wedge now taken out here. I don't want to take too much as I need to be able to move in the trousers.

I now need to adjust my draft for design. I'm thinking that slant pickets on the front; welt pockets on the back; a front fly and curved waistband. I think this would be best in a stretch woven. They don't have anything I like at my local fabric shop.
I would like plain (exception for polka dot) and either red, navy or black for my first pair. I'm looking for a reasonably priced fabric as I know I may still need to make adjustments.

I don't often buy fabric online as I like to feel the fabric to assess handle, stretch and general feeliness!

Recommendations of good options for slim trousers gratefully accepted. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Trousers Toile Take Two

So after the horror that was my first attempt at fitted trousers, I decided to draft my own. I used metric pattern cutting for women's wear by Aldrich.

I compared my measurements with the size charts. My hips are two sizes bigger than my waist. So I just used my own measurements rather than going from the chart. I used the instructions for the close fitting trousers and jeans (please excuse the foreshortenting on the photos, my legs are not this short).

The first attempt was better, but I'd sewn wrong sides together and ended up with some seams inside out. There were still some issues.

The fit at the front was better, but the sides at the hip were too big and the waist at the back was also too big. Not to mention the large amount of excess fabric in the back. Initially I pinched out a wedge under the butt, but decided to look at the crotch curve first.

I scooped out more room, both on the front and the back, using some trousers that fit me well as a template. The fit seems to be more comfortable.

You can see that there is still some fabric under the butt and the back waistband is too low.
You can also see that my calf is quite extended this is causing some of the issues in the back.
The waist is still a bit big, which means the front is slipping down a little, which doesn't help the front crotch line.

I pinned out the excess under the butt and folded this out of the pattern.

I also pinned out the vertical excess in the back thigh and transferred this to my pattern, keeping the calf at the original width.

I slimmed the side seams just a little and think I need to draft a curved waistband to accommodate the large difference between my hip and waist and my swayback.

You can see some of my adjustments here.  My draft is getting closer to the silhouette that I'm after, but I'm still not there yet. I think I need a pants fitting book to help with the fine tuning. Looking at getting 'Pants for real people', what do you think about this book?

Ready to make the next toile, think I might make a wide leg draft too - when I've got this one sorted.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Trouser troubles


Well Sewists. I need your help.
Sewing skirts and dresses is something I can do well, but pants (trousers) I have only sewn very lose culotte styles in the past. I am determined to get a slim fitting pant pattern that I can use as a base. I really liked the look of Burdastyle Magazine 02/2014 #129. (I sewed 38 at the waist to 40 at the hip and leg. I added 1.5cm SA, but ended up sewing the allowance at 1cm)
This is a pattern drafted for fabric with some stretch. I made my draft in a cotton twill with absoluetly no stretch at all. The muslin is almost identical in measurement to a pair of jeans I have that fit, but are snug. But Denim has a bit more give!
I'm certain if I had made these in a fabric with stretch they would be wearable, but I'd like a pattern that fits really well and I need your advice to help get the best draft from this starting point.
I'm sure there are those of you out there who sew trousers a lot and could offer some advice to help me adjust the pattern for non stretch fabric.

So, what are the issues? (those I can Identify)
Too tight in the lower thigh, just above my knee.

Too tight in the butt.

Too Tight over the calf.

Side seam pulling backwards and gaping pockets

I think there might be some Crotch issues as well, but some of those might resolve with the width issues.

Question is - do I just add at the side seams/ inseam? or do I need to do some slash and spread of the pattern - if so where?

I'd really appreciate it if you could offer any insight to help me resolve this.

Monday, 6 March 2017

It's been a while...

Since I posted. November in fact.
I didn't intend to leave it so long, but hey, life happened and I was busy living it rather than writing about it. Christmas and new year came and went.  and here we are at the end of February beginning of March, Today the sun is shining and last week was the first day of the year when I went to work and arrived home in daylight.

It's now a week after half term and I had a bit of me time. Its been hectic over the last few weeks.
So what have I been up to?

Way back in September, My Daughter and I joined the local Pantomime Society. At the end of January all the hard work came to fruition in a week of performances of "Cinderella in Panto Land". It was great fun and we are both keen to take part again next year.

For Christmas my sister and brother in law bought me this stunning fabric. I had to make it up straight away. I used the Audrey Hepburn inspired pattern from the little black dress book.

 The drafting of the princess seams was a bit out and there was a lot of ease in the back, but a muslin later I had a workable bodice, to which I added a full circle skirt. I still have about 1.5m of this fabric left, so I'll be planning what to do with that (New Gertie dress maybe?)

I also used the pale blue/green double gauze I had from Fancy Moon last year to make the Asymmetric blouse from the 4/2014 Burdastyle magazine (this issue is the very best ever, IMHO). There was enought left over to squeeze a sorbetto tank out of. I love the sorbetto and wear the ones I have loads.

My Hubby also bought me burdastyle's digital drafting course, which uses Illustrator. I'd dabbled with Illustrator before, but not very successfully. This course covers the basics of Illustrator as well as drafting and grading using the programme. I've been spending quite a bit of time doing this and now have a workable t shirt pattern - more on that at another time! I'm also using the skills I've learnt to create a digital version of one of my drawings for a banner for church.

I have plenty of projects in the planning stages -a suit for my hubby; a refashioned coat; trousers and jeans. A dress inspired by one I saw last summer and of course party dresses. Too much cake, but I just can't help it.

I've also been working on a proposal for a participatory arts project. I'm still in the early stages of development but can't wait to get started.

My daughter is studying GCSE art, so we had a painting day yesterday (well 1.5 hrs), we did a bit of portaiture work. the proportions aren't great, but it was more about the technique than details. It's ages since I worked like this and I have a tendency to over work paintings. I need to know when to stop. but i'll use it as a demo piece for my students. I think my daiughter is really pleased with her version and I think she'll take it to school next week.


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