Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Spring For Cotton - My Plans

Hello I hope the week is being kind to you so far and that you all had fabulous weekends!
I certainly did, I spent mine giving my flat the spring clean of its life and absolutely wearing myself out in the process, (nodding off at work, oops!) but it was certainly worth it as there is nothing nicer than having a gleaming house, even if it will only last a few weeks (ok, days)! As well as cleaning like a demon, I even managed to fit in a bit of work on my project for 'Spring For Cotton'.



As you might have guessed, seeing as this is the first time I have mentioned it here, I decided quite late in the game to take part, the decision was really made for me once I received my Kickstarter reward from By Hand London. Along with the gorgeous patterns and other neat stuff, I also got 2m of printed fabric which I got to design!









I knew when By Hand London announced their Kickstarter plans for fabric printing I would have to help them out as there was a particular design that I had been dreaming of for years. The eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted where this pattern comes from. Here is a closer look.





Well the design is a little different to the original, I have moved a few things about a little and added some more buttons & pins and changed the background colour, but essentially its the design from the title pages of and Odhams classic from the 30's, a book many UK based vintage sewers will probably have come across.

The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft 1938, this is one of the first books I bought on ebay when I first figured out how to buy things on ebay many, many years ago. Once I saw the title pages I was smitten with the design thinking it would make the most wonderful fabric, It never occurred to me then that I should try to make it myself!


There is a little flaw in my beautiful fabric. I sized my pattern up to make a fat quarter, but sadly when printing, the pattern didn't flow, my error in my naivety at this pattern printing malarkey, so the 2m is essentially made up of slightly misaligned fat quarters, which is irritating, as it restricts the patterns I can choose, but its not the end of the world as I can work around this to a degree and heck I like a challenge!

So with my 2m of cotton fabric in hand next it was time to choose a pattern, initially I though I would make a simple 50's circle skirt as I figured that it would hid the flaws in the pattern due to all the swishy fabric. But then the weather got really warm and I remembered how much I love the cotton dresses from the 1940's, especially ones with sweetheart necklines (honestly if the shops started selling dresses with sweetheart necklines and peplums I think I would never sew again!)

This 1950's bodice pattern is available for Free Here! Kindly share by Miss Dixie O'Dare

So I went through my pattern stash to see if there was anything suitable, unfortunately nothing quite hit the spot, most needed some serious resizing, and with the ever increasing demands on me at the moment, I just knew I wouldn't be able to find the time to toile away the hours! So I decided to go with vintage inspired rather than true vintage and turned to one of the patterns I got in my Kickstarter reward, the Kim Dress from By Hand London.
























It was only when I slid the pattern out of its outer envelope that the second option of a dirndl skirted sweetheart neckline dress was revealed to me! So though it is a thoroughly modern pattern (aaaah, multi-sizing) its certainly one that has 1940's styling potential. It all seems very simple to make up so far the bodice is all but done and the simple dirndl skirt should mean that I can squeeze the whole dress out of the 2m of fabric that I have, fingers crossed!

Wendy x

Monday, 6 April 2015

Read it - TGBSB: Sew Your Own Wardrobe

I love books. If anyone asks me what I want as gift, nine times out of ten I'll point them in the direction of a book I've been lusting after, usually on Amazon. My poor billy bookcase is straining under the weight of the multitude of sewing, knitting, gardening, cookery and history books I have collected over the years.

That shelf is definitely sagging under the weight of all those words.


Having such an extensive library and not a lot of space, new arrivals have to earn there place upon my shelves. When I buy a book I like to know exactly what I am getting, if its going to contain patterns then I want to know exactly what patterns! Oddly this is not always so easy to find out, most reviews and online stores only show you snippets of what's included, a taster to whet your appetite but not necessarily inform you as to what is inside. I find this frustrating so I've decided to do a few quick reviews of some of the books I own in an effort to help those of you, who like me would rather have the full picture before making the decision to add this book to your collection!

Seeing as the The Great British Sewing Bee has recently been back in the limelight it seemed only right to start with a book from the series. Unconventionally I am starting with the second book as its the only one so far I have made something from so feel I can give you a more well rounded account. Right lets take a closer look!

The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe
By Tessa Evelegh with Forewords By Patrick Grant & May Martin
Published by Quadrille 2014
RRP £25.00


'An accompaniment to the hit BBC series presented by Claudia Winkleman and judged by Patrick Grant and May Martin, The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe is a practical sewing book brimming with fantastic projects, including a core of wardrobe essentials including a pencil skirt, easy T-shirt top and a wrap dress. Menswear and retro garments are also included, as well as a fun selection of designs for babies and small children.
Dress sizes range from (UK) 8 to 18 and the book is full of inspiring photography so you know exactly what you're looking for - and the included pattern pack, containing five full-size pattern sheets, makes creating your wardrobe even easier.' (Quote from Quadrille)

TGBSB Sew Your Own Wardrobe, is the second book in the series and was produced to complement the second series of TGBSB, which aired in 2014. The book has been broken up in to four chapters Basics, Fabric, Fit and Finish.

~ Basics ~
The first Chapter is 'Basics' which deals with the skills and techniques you'll need to complete the projects in the later chapters plus two self draft/no pattern garments.
~ A-Line Pinafore ~ Glorious Gown ~







 Also included are the sizes for all of the adult projects in the following chapters:

Men's:
Small: 34-36" chest / 28-30" waist / 35-37" hip
Medium: 38-40" chest / 32-34" waist / 39-41" hip
Large: 42-44" chest / 36-38" waist / 43-45" hip
XL: 46-48" chest / 40-42" waist / 47-49" hip

Women's:
UK 8: 31.5" bust / 24" waist / 33.5"hip
UK 10: 32.5 bust / 25" waist / 34.5" hip
UK 12: 34" bust / 26.5" waist / 36" hip
UK 14: 36" bust / 28" waist / 38" hip
UK 16: 38" bust / 30" waist / 40" hip
UK 18: 40" bust / 32" waist / 42" hip

The the remaining three chapters contain all the pattern instructions.  Each pattern has a difficulty rating and falls in one of four levels Easiest, Easy, Moderate and Tricky.

Fabric ~
~ Aztec Leggings ~ Men's (?) Waistcoat ~ Silk Tunic ~ Anorak ~ 
~ Teddy Pram Suit ~ Prom Dress ~ Easy-sew Short Skirt ~ Men's Shirt ~


Fit ~
~ Draped Top ~ Pencil Skirt ~ Shift Dress  ~ Full Skirted Dress 
1960's Coat ~ Wrap Dress ~ Men's Trousers ~ 1930's Blouse ~ Box Pleat Skirt ~




Finish ~
~ Simple T-shirt ~ Yoke Skirt ~ Baby Dungarees ~ Slip Dress ~ 
~Women's Bowling Shirt ~ Baby Dress and Knickers ~ Girls Dress ~


All the patterns for Fabric, Fit and Finish are contained in a separate folder, multi-sized and ready for you to trace of and get sewing. There is also a link HERE to Quadrille's page for the book where all the patterns are available as individual PDF downloads!








~ The Good Points ~
~There are a good range of patterns for all the family and there to my mind at least there are no pesky fillers! There are even 4 for patterns men, which is a lovely surprise and about time too! Though that waistcoat definitely has the buttons on the wrong side for boys!
~ The book is beautifully designed and photographed making it an inspiring book to have on your bookshelf and at your sewing station!
~ There is a section on taking your own measurements and checking your silhouette which is really very useful.
~ No annoying dust jacket! Is it just me who finds them frustrating on craft books, they always get creased and bent and end up looking tatty!
~ All the patterns are included full size in the book meaning you don't need to re-scale or download anything before you get started, just grab your tracing (or baking) paper and your good to go! Plus the fact that there is the option for PDF's, is a great addition!
~ Did I mention there are LOADS of patterns! For a hardback book with 24 sewing patterns its a bargain! The cheapest I could find in the UK was for £8.99 from The Book People! Which is a whole lot of patterns for under a tenner!



~ The Not So Good Points ~
~ The pattern sheets are a little confusing as the pieces are not necessarily all on the same sheet or in the same colour, but having having access to printable PDF's negates this somewhat.
~ You will need to jump about the book a bit to find all of the instructions for some patterns which can be a little confusing.
~ Some things just get a little glossed over and not properly explained (see my post about The Men's Shirt) and there are sections where the proof reading seems to have been overlooked, such a shame for a book all about precision. As long as you are not a complete beginner you will be able to muddle through the discrepancies in the instructions, keep youtube tutorials on standby people!
~ It would be really helpful if every pattern had good clear images of the garment, the arty photos are gorgeous, but from a practical point of view its not always that easy to see the construction of the garment that clearly.



 Verdict 
TGBSB: Sew Your Own Wardrobe is all about learning the art of precision sewing, sewing that May and Patrick would be proud of, which perhaps means that this book is not really aimed at those who are just starting out (despite it's claims). Most of the patterns are a little more difficult than basic so will be great for taking your existing skills up to the next level, but perhaps not so suitable for those wanting to dip there toe in the water for the first time, rather something to work up to!



The patterns in the book are all great, to my mind there aren't any fillers. The real stand out patterns for me are the Men's Shirt, the striking yellow 1960's Coat, the 1930's Blouse and the loose T-shirt, which looks lovely and simple to make plus very comfortable! Oh and the teddy suit for a baby is so adorable that makes me tempted to have one of my own, almost! I was lucky enough to get my copy as a Christmas gift, but I certainly think its worth spending your pennies on, the good points about this book certainly outweigh the bad and I really think it would make a great addition to any sewers bookshelf!



I hope that you enjoyed this review and if you have been pondering buying this book I have helped you to make a more informed decision!

Have you got this book, what did you think?

Wendy x

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Kitchen Front - Vegan Cocoa Cake

The healthy eating plan I put myself on early in the year, essentially allows me to eat most things in moderation apart from anything processed and anything containing refined sugar (which when you cut out processed foods you pretty much cut out sugar without trying, its in everything!). This actually is not too much of a issue as I have much more of a savory tooth than a sweet one, and the fact that I have had an issue with dairy for the last year or so means that I have already cut back on my Cadbury's consumption dramatically, now I only eat dark chocolate, which I am slowly growing to enjoy, slowly.

But Easter is a challenge, as chocolate is everywhere! I muddled through last year by having a small bit of chocolate every now and then so as not to feel left out, but this year with me actively seeking to avoid sugar (my skin is thanking me already!) this time no concessions, and certainly no Cadburys. So I  went searching for a replacement recipe, and this is when I found the wonderful Rachel Khoo's new website which had the very thing I had been looking for! Rachel is the wonder behind Little Paris Kitchen and she is adorable! 


Its a vegan, dairy free, gluten free, sugar free (well refined, natural sugar is allowed) cake, which is so full of healthiness, that you could almost say its good for you! I have made a few tweaks to the original recipe, as I am incapable of following the rules, so my version is below, for the original recipe hop on over to Rachel's website!

~ Vegan Black Bean Cocoa Cake ~

Ingredients:
20" Cake Tin & Greaseproof paper for lining
400g Tin of Black Beans - Washed and Drained
100g Dates Pitted
3 Desert spoons of Coconut Oil
80g of Flaxseed/Linseed
80g Cocoa Powder
2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
2 tsp Baking Powder
150g Maple Syrup
1tsp salt - I left this out as my beans were in salted water

Topping:
2 Ripe Avocados
4 tbsp Cocoa Powder
Maple syrup to taste
 Honey
Desiccated Coconut

If you wanted to make this recipe even healthier you could substitute:
- Cocoa Powder for Cacao powder (there is a lot of cocoa in the recipe so it may be a bit expensive)
- Dates for Medjool dates which are bigger sweeter and a little less pithy than thier smaller cousins.


1. Start by grinding up the flaxseed/linseed in to a flour. The easiest way to do this is to find the smallest container for your blender/food processor or coffee grinder (mine was a herb/spice attachment to my jug blender), this means there is less room for the seeds to escape to, so the seeds get crushed rather than just spinning around your blender like a vegan snow globe!

2. Drain and wash the beans (they don't smell very nice at this point, but don't be put off, it gets better, promise) put in the blender with the pitted dates and blend until smooth, this may take a while depending on the strength of your blender. If it gets too thick to blend properly, add a bit of the maple syrup to make it more liquid.

3. Add in the all of the dry ingredients and the maple syrup. Mix together until you have an even batter.

4. Line your tin and scoop your mixture in, smoothing as much as you can.


5. Pop in the oven for about 45 mins gas mark 5.

6. Once cooked, carefully tip out on to a plate so that it can cool. Be careful as the lack of gluten in this recipe means that it is dense but easily crumbly!

...Once cooled...

7. Make the topping. Put all the avocado pulp in to a blender with the cocoa and blitz till smooth, add the maple syrup to taste.

8. Spread the topping all over the cooled cake.
As my blender struggled to make the avocado as smooth as I would like (green chunks in your icing anyone!) I decided to add a sprinkling of desiccated coconut over the top to hide the green bits and then drizzled over some Manuka Honey to add a little more sweetness!



The verdict!
De-flipping-licous! Its gooey, chocolatey and rich, which is absolutely everything you want when craving an Easter sweetness fix! Whats also great is that by day 2 the flavours have mellowed a little and so it tastes even better! Whats more because its jam packed full of black beans it carries a hefty protein punch, filling you up for longer and curbing your sugar cravings!


 I will totally be making this recipe again, I think it would make perfect little cupcakes, though I will tweak the recipe a tad, instead of 80g of Linseed, I will use half ground almonds and half linseed, as it did leave a bit of an after taste (though not unpleasant just slightly unusual, though by day two it had dissipated).


So delighted was I with this recipe, that I rang my mum to tell her about it. After I had explained what was in it she was utterly horrified (I have never heard my mum say erghh! so many times before) she could not understand why I would even try it! Though I have a cunning plan that the next time she visits I am going to bake it as I am convinced that she will change her mind once she tastes it, though I won't be mentioning the ingredients until she's on her second slice!

Wendy x

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sew It - Passage To India

Today in London has been dreary, really dreary (come on spring where are you hiding). So to brighten things up a bit I though I would share a cheerfully bright gift I made for my brother especially for his recent trip to India.

I  feel that before you scroll any further I should give you a warning!
Due to the wild fabrics and floral curtains contained in this post (the only place with any sunlight at this time of the year is right in front of my living room windows, so your treated to my floral curtains, sorry!) those of a delicate nature should view with caution!

Passage to India - Men's Shirt

Pattern From: 
TGBSB: Sew Your Own Wardrobe 2014
 Men's Shirt  Pg. 102-107

Size Made: 
Men's Medium Body - Large Sleeves

Fabric:

When I got the The Great British Sewing Bee books at Christmas I showed my brother the Men's Shirt and he said he'd love a version of his own, so as a thank you for my gifts I decided to make one for him. I forced him to look at floral cottons on eBay hoping that he would find something he liked but expecting him not to really find anything, as it happens he found lots, so many gorgeous fabrics in fact that I was torn between making him a shirt or making myself one!

The fabric is all my brothers choice, he clearly has good taste (runs in the family don't ya know!).


Eventually we settled on this gorgeous cotton lawn covered in flowers and butterflies, in a green colourway for the body and we choose the blue colourway for the contrast detailing. On closer inspection we found that the fabric was located in India, there's a theme developing here! Buying this fabric was hard, I mean, how do I only by enough for what I need!


I ummed and ahhed for a long time and eventually decided to buy five meters of each colourway, so if I made any mistakes I could start again, if not, I'd have plenty left over for something for me, Mwuhhahaha! With the price per yard including free international shipping being so low I was convinced it was good to be true, so I sat back utterly convinced that the fabric would not arrive in time for his trip and that it would be poor quality.

How wrong could I be, it was a mere few days later, before returned to work from the Christmas break, that the fabric arrived! And it was, is, gorgeous! Its a very light weight cotton lawn which washes wonderfully with no colour loss and though it does crease quite easily it irons up a treat, not that I can see my brother ironing it any time soon!

So after a pre-wash (I do occasionally follow the rules) I set to tracing off the pattern and cutting out my pattern pieces, everything went really well, I did notice that the sleeves seemed on the small side, I double checked that I had cut the correct size and I seemed to be correct but they looked far too snug. As my mum was staying with me for her annual new years trip she decided to take the shirt back up to Liverpool on her return for my brother to try on.






Lucky she did as it was clear it was going to need bigger sleeves! She sent it back a few days later with her detailed instructions and I set about cutting new sleeves and widening the arm holes. This was actually rather easy, despite me having to completely re-do one sleeve as it got caught in with the fabric when ovelocking and so had a nice hole cut into it, oops! Everything that can be on this shirt is top stitched, which gives a lovely sharpness to the edges of everything, but keeping it even was perhaps my biggest hurdle.

Top stitched to within an inch of its life!
The the task I left until last were the buttonholes. I hate buttonholes, I'm pretty convinced that my sewing machine machine knows this and tries to make me loose my mind when using the 'simple' 4 step program. I made 6 of the 7 buttonholes beautifully, perfectly placed, sized and looking really neat. The seventh buttonhole was cursed, my machine suddenly decided it could no longer do buttonholes, nope, no how, no way!

S'cuse, the red chalk rotary wheel markings for the pocket!
No matter how many times I turned the machine off so the computer could reset, whilst I unpicked the latest disaster, it utterly refused, all I could get it to do was the end parts (wider zigzag on top of itself to lock the ends) ALL it would do! Now by this point I was under pressure to get this blighter finished, photographed and in the post, so what you see below is the result of a very sweary bodge job!




Pretty ain't it! No, well just look at that butterfly instead, lovely, lovely butterfly! I decided that I would have to leave it for now, it would function well enough, its just not very nice to look at, so when I next get the chance I will attempt to fix it, for now though it stays messy!


All in all this was a great little pattern to start my new year of sewing, though there are a few niggling negatives, which I really feel I ought to mention as they are worth being aware of if you are planning to make this pattern up yourself The pattern instructions are a little vague. OK, this pattern is not designed for a beginner the book sets it at an intermediate level, but I firmly believe a new or intermediate sewer can tackle anything if the instructions are clear and concise and these are not.
  • The button bands in the construction drawings and on the pattern pieces show the neck edge sloping downwards diagonally, but the photo of the shirt shows them going straight across.
  • The shirt cuffs have points on them on the pattern but the instructions for inserting them, skip to a women's shirt pattern for this bit, dose not refer to them at any point (no pun intended) at all, so there is no indication of where about you should line them up. I ended cutting them off!
  • The book pretty early in construction on tells you to double roll the hem and stitch, this as its a curved hem is a tricksy task, and could definitely use more explanation.


Despite these negatives, the shirt was a lot of fun to sew, was finished on time and promptly posted off to my brother a few days before his trip to India and his shirts trip home! (I like to think the fabric being an Indian native kept him safe on his travels) as you can see from the photo it fits and he loves it, job done! Now, what to do with the remaining fabric...

Wendy x

Sunday, 15 March 2015

My Sewing Space

Last year I found myself becoming constantly frustrated with my sewing set up, not my equipment mind you, my overlocker is a dream and my brand new Janome sewing machine (thanks mum and dad) is an utter pleasure to stitch with. No, it was more the location of my sewing that was bothering me, constantly moving things here and there was hampering my productivity and eating away at my enthusiasm. I knew it was about time that I got myself properly organised!


I used to have my sewing space sorted, those of you who have been following my blog for awhile will perhaps remember my old room back in Walthamstow, where I had my dressing table/sewing/computing desk. It was small, a little cramped and with poor light, but having a defined space actually worked pretty well.

But once I moved, despite the extra space, I could not settle on the best place for my sewing endeavours. I resorted to using the kitchen dining table, as the kitchen is the best room for natural light. This has worked quite well for the last few years, but there are problems with sewing in the kitchen. One being that each time I want to cook or eat something, I have to move all the sewing stuff out of the way, usually in to the hallway, and if I am lazy and don't move my stuff the smell of food gets into the fabric, which is not ideal.





Another problem is me. I am so easily distracted its quite ridiculous, I just can't concentrate on sewing or knitting when the flat is untidy, those niggling housework chores keep rolling through my mind while I am trying to work, so the kitchen with its dishes sitting in the sink screaming "forget that hem, wash me, wash me!", the washing machine gurgling and spinning away and a floor that can always do with another wash, was distracting me from my task.

Just before Christmas and before my morale sunk any lower (or my house got any cleaner) I started a bit of reorganising. It occurred to me that the best place to set up would be the bedroom, as there was some space under the window which was still just boxes.

I moved my old dressing table from the front room where Beau had commandeered it as his favourite sleeping spot, (he's boycotted the replacement) in to the bedroom where I have managed to whittle away most of the boxes that had been languishing there (via ebay, charity and reorganising) creating bit of free space. The desk is now in front of the window where I can make the most of the natural light, the sun hits this room in the early evening, meaning its the best place for a spot of after work, evening sewing.


My sewing machine and overlocker now have a permanent place side by side, which is honestly fabulous, though I do have to keep remembering to choose the correct presser foot. Also the desk being here means a bit more air can get to the wall, reducing the amount of mould that tends to grow up them (all outside walls are plagued with mould), that is why everything was kept in plastic storage boxes, to protect against the mould - its glamour all the way here folks!


The new location means in the warmer weather I can make the most of the breeze from the lovely big window and it gives me a good view down the garden, meaning I can keep my eye on the fury one, or should I say, he can keep an eye on me!

What C'ha doing?



One of the best things about my new arrangement is that I can shut myself away from TV temptation, can anyone really sew while watching TV? My multi tasking skills are just not that good.

I would struggle to absorb myself in my sewing with out some music, it has magic powers over my usually wavering attention span, so my beloved record player and my small collection of records, have now found a permanent home on my chest of drawers within easy reach of my desk. I've just got to remember not to open a drawer while its playing or I'll end up with scratched records.


I have dedicated the wall behind to my inspiration wall, its a work in progress!



My tailors dummy Vera has found a semi permanent home on top of my wool chest, which is full, no actually, bursting might be a more appropriate choice of word, I am on a wool buying ban until the lid doesn't have to be weighted down!


Alongside Vera are a few boxes of fabric, there are actually still three full boxes of fabric under the bed, I have even recently sold some off on eBay, almost a box worth! I would dearly love to have a shelving unit here to store all my books and fabrics but sadly because of the mould issue things would inevitably become blackened and ruined within a few weeks, so boxes it is, not as elegant but much more practical.



I decide to make use of my many head scarves by tying them to the back of my chair, its worked out really well as it has given a much needed softeness to a rather uncomfortable chair, plus they are really easy to untie when needed!


So thats my sewing space I hope you enjoyed having a peak at it, I know I love looking at other peoples homes and seeing how they organise things. I also know I am very lucky to be able to dedicate some sewing space like this, its actually a huge relief to have finally made use of this tricky area, I am even a little annoyed that I didn't think of it earlier, but there was a lot of boxes and stuff to work through so perhaps everything takes the time it needs, oh and please be thankful you didn't see the before photos!

Right I am off now to actually do a bit of sewing!
Wendy x