Sunday, 27 July 2014


I am totally baffled that it's July already.The back end of July too. Nothing has stopped or slowed down or relented since February and you, dear readers, have gone through so long without some interesting projects!

Truth be told, it's not happening at the moment. After the manic stitch-fest of April I had to swear off 'fun sewing' for May and June. I think it shows. The stash has doubled in size and once again those breezy summer fabrics may go another year unused.

With two weddings, the Edinburgh Fringe and a PhD graduation coming up, I'm forbidden from making any more pretty dresses. But even if the backlog of wishful projects is growing, I have managed to finish this:


I like my highland cow. Actually, it's not just a cow. It's a cow cosy. A tea cosy but big enough to be a kettle cosy should the need arise.

Squatting on a kettle, dangling toes

This guy is a belated birthday present for my grandparents. It's one thing to make a gift for someone else, but when it's for your grandparents you know you've got to get everything spot on.

Of course, with such high stakes (steaks? - beef joke? - no?)I found a model to copy. And then took a teeny bit of artistic licence.


 I drafted out a pattern with all of the detail that needed to be included. The useful thing about cosies, much like bags is that the pattern is simple. Just a bunch of different rectangles, wooo.

Most of his guts were nabbed from my stash, but the outer fabric had to be perfect. I was so lucky to find this boucle hidden in the back of the coatings in John Lewis Oxford Circus. £26/m. Yowch. Still, I only needed half a metre. Oh, but he will be such a pretty cow! I sighed

I couldn't not buy it.

The boucle is underlined with some cotton flannel, and there are two layers of batting before you get to the lining. The lining was a gift from JustSewJenna, thank you!

The construction took a whole weekend, and a huuuuuge thank you is due to B's family for letting me annex their sewing dining sewing room. They even let me get my hands on a Bernina for the first time!

The face was the only bit I hadn't planned in detail. Eyes are tough, they can make or break a character like this and it took 4 attempts to get them right. I handstitched all the face, definitely worth it, but still very difficult to get right. Everyone who's seen this guy has immediately cracked a big grin so I think he must be good enough ;)

I chose to leave a gap at the top of the lining and pull the whole thing through, just to keep everything as tidy as possible.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Oh, I'll admit it's predictable...


Let's start today with a quiz:

You are in Stockholm Arlanda Airport, you and your accomplice  need to buy dinner. You go to a Cafe Ritazza and order two teas and two sandwich baguettes. How much does that cost you in total?

Twenty. Three. Quid.

Thanks Sweden, I was worried I'd be stuck with a bunch of unspent SEK at the end of the trip!


Travel. There are few things better in life than a good bit of travel.

If you spend your time in a new town hunting for fabric shops and haberdasheries, chances are you're much happier to go off the beaten track, go where the locals go and see a lot more of the actual town than the standard attractions. You can just take an hour though it's normally the home of the friendly, talkative people who will show off their own projects to you. The latter will obviously take a lot longer. The other advantage is the lack of queues, touts and other foreigners in your way ;)

There are also some good recommendations for Stockholm here on Artisan Square and Tripadvisor  though I'm not sure how outdated they are now.

With that in mind, we found a few good stores in Stockholm that are well worth a visit.

First Stop: Yarn Shop
We had an hour to spare, so went hunting (in completely the wrong direction) for a fabric shop and stumbled across Ekens Garn instead. B, being the Crochet Kid, was very keen to take a look. He assures the quality and variety in here is absolutely excellent. I just like the pretty colours.

The owners are absolutely lovely, one is Swedish and the other is South African and is very keen to show off his sample garments and impressive projects. One was a crochet v-neck jumper that is totally reversible and has a different pattern on each side. Impressive does not cover it.

Ekens Garn, Ringvägen 64, 118 61 Stockholm. Tel. +46 (0) 8/642 00 13

The closest underground stop was Skanstulls, but there are buses and trams nearby too. You can follow the shop on Twitter and Facebook too.

We bashfully admitted to the owners that we had no clue where we were going and asked if they knew of any good fabric shops nearby. They in turn asked the other customers in the shop. Boy did they recommend a good'un. And they drew all the directions out on a map so we didn't get lost either, lovely!

Fabric Shops in Stockholm

I. Tygverket
This place is tough to find. Famously described as having an entrance that 'looks like a cave', we nearly gave up hope and missed it.

Don't miss it. The design on the sign looks like a tape measure. You'll spot it.

The shop has damn near everything under the sun. I can only imagine it's the fabric Mecca of Stockholm.

The garment fabrics take up the main area, then upholstery arount the edges and there's a corner dedicated to quilting at the back too. You will find the standard garment fabrics, but a lot of bold in uncommon weaves and textures too. It's fairly easily organised by fabric type, but it does pay to hunt around too. A word of warning: it's quite pricey. It's very nice stuff, possibly even designer ends, but you'll pay accordingly.

Sankt Paulsgatan 19, 118 46 Stockholm. Tel. +46 8 714 99 11
The closest underground stop was Slussen, their website is here but their full range isn't available online.

II. Tygverket Number 2
I didn't get a chance to head in here, but it's stocked to the nines with beautiful Liberty fabrics and fancy notions. Everything is beautifully organised and there may be extra space at the back for garments to be displayed too. I think I caught a glimpse of a few indie patterns through the doors too.

Sankt Paulsgatan 3,  Stockholm

Here's the thing, this shop is either vey new or a branch of Tygverket above. Having tried to find it on Google, it's in the location of the old Crumpler Shop.

The closest stop was also Slussen, this one is handily somewhere between the station and the shop above.

If anyone visits, let me know what you think!

III. Finally, Karmosin
An odd little shop, you'll spot it because of the remnant bins outside. All handily priced at 39SEK/m (the measures are not cut squarely into 1m so the price will vary). The owner, I think also makes custom pieces and there are a few beautiful projects on display. The man is up for a chat, and very keen on having a glass of wine on his balcony.

Östgötagatan 83, 116 64 Stockholm, Sweden

The nearest tube stop is Skanstulls as well, I walked away with some summery cottons you'll see soon, and you can see what to expect from Karmosin on its website.

So those are the ones we passed and managed to get to. There might be department stors around too, but if you have limited time in the city these are definitely worth a look!

The Next Challenge
I'll admit Tygverket was a bit overwhelming. Having just completed Q2's fabric stock-up, and knowing we were on a crazy time limit (15 mins), the thought of trawling through Tygverket's whole stock wasn't very inspiring. I really could not be fudged.

And so The Next Challenge was born. 

B and I would choose 1.5m fabric for each other to sew up. Feels a bit like Project Runway.

He's just started sewing, I didn't want to push him totally beyond his budding skillset, so I chose something quirky but fairly easy to handle. This is a soft, pure linen which would be great for tops and summer shorts/trousers. So 1.5m for B!

Of course, my comfort zone can take a bit of bashing and so B has the luxury of throwing anything at me. I was itching to see what was waiting in my bag...

A stripey velvet. OH HELL NO.

I'd better get know...slowly...


Wednesday, 2 July 2014



Naming this project has been tough. It was going to be my Hooker Dress

Why hooker? Oh, just because of the: HANDMADE CROCHET DETAIL.

I got B to crochet a sampler we thought I could sew with, I thought its texture would look good on a very plain and smooth dress, so added it as a welt pocket. It's just the right size for stashing things!

Then it was going to be the Flight of Fancy Dress. I bet you're wondering why...

What's that on the back? Oh no sweat, it's only a TINY HAND-EMBROIDERED PAPER AREOPLANE

I kid you not. I whacked a paper aeroplane on there. It took all of 20 minutes to do, and now it looks awesome.

Then it was going to be the Mods & Bogs Dress. It's only just another modified Vogue V8766 you spy. Bog standard, repeat pattern mod dress. The pattern's been done, there's a zip in the side. I backstitched some green highlights around the neck and the hems. Dark blue cotton sateen from Goldhawk Road.

Then it could have been the Twinkling Moody Blue Dress because the lining is silk and MADE OF STARS from Mood fabrics.

Instead it is called Jerome.
Because while I may be short of a Robson trench coat, it's the absolute perfect dress to wear when you're tap dancing with B Up On The Roof.


Take care!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A few words of warning

"Choose your battles wisely, my son
For not all can be won

History remembers hours lost and corners cut,
Unfinished projects and closet doors shut

Blood spilled on a sharp-point pin
Hundred of pounds, consigned to the bin."

Long and agonsing story short: I'm ripping everything up on this dress.

It will be a green dress (but not a real green dress, that's cruel).


*Not really 'anon', more 'me'. But 'anon' sounds more profound and worldly. No?

Friday, 6 June 2014

Money Saving Tips for the Frugal Stitcher (3/7) - Patterns and Construction


Guys, I am alive! Sans internet and sewing facilities outside of work, but alive. No projects to show you for now, though the #NYlon2014 dress still hasn't been blogged yet so you've got something to look forward to. But it's a bit rude to leave you hanging for so long, let's go back to something I've been mulling over a lot this year...

Back to the money saving tips we go...

There's a lot in this series dedicated to fabric, and saving money in those terms. We all know that there's a lot more to it than that and soon the gadgets, patterns and resources will catch up with us and bite us financially too. 

Look beyond sewing: what else can you find that does the same thing?
Okay, this is a bit of an odd title but when you're penny-pinching, it pays to think outside the box a little for tools etc. Think, brown paper, think design student French curve, think hooks. What do you have access to already that will help with sewing projects?

How I store sewing patterns
Swedish tracing paper, actual tracing paper, doctors' loo roll...could probably all do the same job too...

Vintage patterns? - why buy them?
Buying sewing patterns is a bit of a tough cookie to deal with. You're not buying a piece of paper that maps out your perfect project. You're buying the learning experience, you're buying the branding, you're buying history, you're buying (in the case of garments) one specific ideal shape of person. I'm not telling you this is a pure cost consideration because otherwise we'd all be buying everything on Big 4 $0.99 sales and not forking out £20 on indie patterns, or even more on vintage!

If you want the pattern, you want the pattern itself. Plus possibly the finished object, but you must want the actual pattern. What does this mean? Well, it means if you buy a Laurel or a Renfrew or an Anna, you need to know you want a Laurel or a Renfrew or an Anna. It means that if you spot a gorgeous vintage pattern for $100 but you only want a garment that looks like the cover, then you will need to take a step back.
Do you need that specific pattern? Can you alter something that you have already? Can you draft it? Can you find a similar, cheaper pattern? Can you justify the finished object? 

Bit of a silly one. Find something that looks like a French curve, steal shirt clips, learn to eyeball (and when it's a bad idea to do so), make a press cloth, find something else other than a point turner or a loop turner.

Don't buy one of these. At least don't do it if you're not at a street market in Thailand.

Resources - information, teaching, learning, help...
A lot of the sewists out there in the blogosphere seem to be self-taught, or at the very least haven't had much of a formal education in the matter. But don't worry! There are books and classes and webcasts and e-books and magazines and so much more! How can we not learn everything there is?

The secret to perfect jeans is only $20 away, come on, it's so easy! 

But there's a whole host of free resources out there you can rely on too:
Other blogs and tutorials
Silhouette Patterns webcasts
Library books (and stealing books from fellow sewists)
Leaflets and manufacturer websites (Janome, etc)
Sewalongs (major value-added for any indie pattern)
Asking someone else

Don't forget figuring it out yourself either. You probably can.

I love the whole thing of figuring it out on my own and solving the problem, which means I will almost never buy a teaching webcast, I rarely buy patterns outside of a Burda issue, I'm a gadget get the picture.

I don't want to bash these paid-for resources, they're incredibly useful for the people who use them. But if you know that you do want (need?) the Craftsy classes, or the Japanese tunic pattern book, the vintage piece of dressmaking history, just keep track of what you're buying. Of course, I'd like to convert people to the 'figure it out' mentality, it's incredibly rewarding, but if that's not your bag then that's cool too. You can do what you want when you sew! That's the point!

So there. Do you like figuring it out? And what sort of value do you see in the paid-for resources? Am I just being silly, and is it all about supporting the smaller independent sewing businesses grow?


Thursday, 22 May 2014

Stitch or Ditch - there's nothing like a good deadline hanging over you


With my existing clothing falling apart, a to-do list as long as the A1 and an impending house move, I've decided to act decisively.

The unfinished projects will be done!

The scraps pile will be reduced!

The Hated Projects (namely the infinity dress...) will be cut up and remade!

The old clothing will be copied or chucked out!

Frankly, it's a bit overwhelming. No fun or frivolous or complicated projects for a while. Just cutting quilt scraps and desperately salvaging garments. You can tell I'm not totally enthusiastic about this, dear reader. Any moral support will be much appreciated.

Not sure I can handle this...


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Leggings. Straight and swung.

Confession time. I know nothing about musicality. I can just about understand there's a difference between straight rhythm, swing, funk, samba...etc. But we stop about there.

In fact, if you were to ask about my sense of rhythm, you'd get pointed straight towards a dungaree'd Stephen Fry in this classic sketch.

So to help me remember the difference, my next projects have been two pairs of self-drafted leggings. One pair straight. One pair swung.

Aha! Not only is it a pun, but it's also educational! That's the best kind of pun!

The blue ones are standard self-drafted using these two tutorials (One Little Minute and So Sew Easy), the red ones are rip-off spiral leggings from Pattern Magic 3 by Tomoko Nakamichi. Both were made from a cotton/spandex jersey ready for the Spring Race Challenge, and a proof that I've actually been working up a sweat in them here are a few shots of some drills I've been practicing.

I'm super-pleased with the straight leggings. They fit, move don't ride up and are generally comfortable for lots of moving around. That being said, I keep forgetting to get a photo in them so you'll have to take my word for it...

The swung ones, I'm not so sure. They look edgy and avant-garde but they're very odd to wear. They move around, sag and shift. They might not be the greatest exercisewear. There are some sewists who have made these as 'workout' leggings, but I do wonder if they've had the same experience? Can anyone comment?

Saggy ankles...

Anyway, these are  my new straight and swung leggings. Hopefully they'll help me remember my rythm patterns. This probably means I need to make a samba pair, right? Any ideas?

Peace out,