Saturday, 29 May 2010

Genius cushion

I have just made a cushion for a friend who doesn't sew. She brought a vintage curtain and asked if I could make four cushions for her. We found some plain backing fabric in a charity shop. I sewed the first one up last night and took it over this morning to check it was okay before doing the other three. She now thinks I am a genius! Yes, she actually used that word, "genius" - let me tell you it was a square 46 cm cushion with an overlapping back. Now, anyone who sews will know that a square cushion cover is a bit of a no brainer to make, and of course, it is nice to be called a genius and to receive praise, I am not moaning about that! But I am telling you this, not because I want your praise for my "genius cushion", but because I think it shows how far removed many people in our society have become from making stuff themselves.
She was really stunned that I made the cushion cover by myself in a relatively short time period while watching TV. Now, am I right in thinking that 40 years ago or even less it would not be so amazing to sew a cushion? I grew up in a house where my mum reupholstered furniture and sewed cushions, curtains etc. Was this unusual in the 1970s and 80s?
I take my daughter to playgroups and I often find conversationthere involves talk about shopping, clothes from supermarkets and Primark are very popular (I am not dissing these here) but with my charity shop clobber and me made clothes I feel more and more dislocated from these conversations. For me to say I am concerned about the level of pay people receive for making cheap clothes or the waste of clothes going to landfill marks me out as a strange killjoy hippy. I feel more and more like I don't fit in at these groups but I keep kind of quiet as the main purpose is for my daughter to enjoy herself playing there, not for me to fit in with the other parents!
People who don't know me think it is a bit odd or eccentric to sew my own clothes. Those who do know me often relate it to the fact that I did an art degree - maybe this has something to do with it.... I don't know. I am loving making clothes as I have a deep love of textiles and patterns and all these things and this activity makes me happy. What can be better than that?

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside skirt

I made this skirt - we went into the fabric shop a couple of weeks ago and I spied this seaside themed furnishing fabric. I do like a seaside themed fabric. I only had enough money for half a metre- so I used the polka dot fabric to hem and as waist binding. I just used an exisitng skirt as a guideline and drew around it with tailor's chalk onto the fabric. I had just enough scrap left to make a pocket. (I love a pocket) and I now like one pocket asymmetry.
I have found this fabric creases quite a bit, but I still like it - I feel this is an ideal skirt for summer holidays, eating ice cream and building sandcastles. I hope to test this theory next week as it's half term and I plan a trip to the seaside.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

oooh I made a dress

Here is my new dress - made from Built by Wendy pattern for Simplicity (3964). Like most of the Built by Wendy patterns you can make a dreess or a top or a tunic and she gives you two sleeve options. This is a great pattern for using some smaller scraps of fabric, and a good Stash-bustin exercise. The yoke pieces are replicated onthe inside and I used up scraps of some Amy Butler fabric I made my Lovely S's ruffle top with.

Unusually for me I bought some "proper" fabric in a sewing shop to make this with money my mum sent me for my birthday. (It is Kaffe Fassett cotton for Rowan) For the yoke I used some embroidered table linen. I have been collecting these little embroidered cloths from charity shops for a while now, toying with the idea of how to use them and this pattern suggested a great way to use one. I couldn't quite get it to be totally symmetrical as you can see in the bottom picture - but I tried and tried when placing the pattern paper on it and I just couldn't get it - I like a bit of wonkiness. The yoke and insert is quite a jigsaw to put together - you make one for the outer garment and another for the facing.

The embroidered yoke/bib reminds me of the vintage linens my mum used to collect back before vintage stuff became fashionable. She has small handkerchief size cloths called "Modesty Panels" that she says women would pin inside the front of their dresses or blouses to cover up any cleavage on show. I am going to visit her next week and must try and have a hunt around for some of them to photograph (or to scrounge from her!) I did google "modesty panel" a while ago but didn't find any references to what she was talking about. Maybe they have a different name?

Anyway - the dress is super comfy to wear - I made a marching fabric belt as well so I don't have to wear it so billowy and loose. (I have a slight aversion to wearing things that make me look pregnant when I am not!) Dresses are my new clothing /sewing obsession - so easy to wear and a bit of a no-brainer in the mornings. However, I did take this dress in at the side seams by about an inch each side after I had put it together. as it was too much fabric for me. I also did use the sleeves in the pattern - they are kind of cap sleeves but they looked really silly on me so I took them off and left it as a sleeveless dress. I wore it yesterday with leggings as it was a bit chilly in the morning, and after a day's trial run, I decided I really want pockets on this dress so I am hoping to fix some today as I have just enough fabric scraps to make two pockets, I've just got to go to playgroup first .

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Out of the old routine

It is good to have some time out from the old routine and last week we had a couple of days out. Firstly we (me and Little I) went to this place with an old friend. We went initially to see the Matisse papercutouts exhibition. Of course I hadn't read the info properly and it was in fact lithographs of the original papercutouts - but apparently very high quality prints approved by Matisse himself. They were fab, and the colours and clean lines, simple shapes really cheered me up. I don't know why but I felt enriched by seeing these - there is eomthing great about art that I like for purely formal and aesthetic "gut" reactions. I guess this is art I like with my heart rather than my head? I also love the fact that Matisse had the passion and energy to engage in creativity in his old age. There were some images of him using a broom handle to reach his works up on the wall when he was unable to be mobile.

In the picture here is Little I doing her best "photo face" alongside a glimpse of Matisse. and in the top picture she has just discovered the great noise you can make by stamping on art gallery floors. (those are binoculars in her hand - of course a necessary item for gazing at art works)

In the contemporary gallery there was an installation by Sun K Kwak called Untying Space - wow - it was great and I liked it much more than I expected to. She makes huge images on the walls from black masking tape and they flow over bumps, round corners, over light switches etc. They are kind of like a giant splash of black paint or a giant enlarged woodblock print and reminded me a bit of the images you can get by enlarging black and white photos over and over again on a photocopier till you are abstracting the image to a pixelated state. It was a great counterpoint to the Matisses which in their original incarnation were also large scale wall based works and it would be fantastic to see her work juxtaposed or at least in closer proximity to his. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of it and on the Walsall Art Gallery website the images of her work are not the same as the actual work in Walsall.

We also saw a witty exhibition by Adam Dant - based around alcohol, satire, they are huge pen and ink drawings with amazing details. They made me laugh and made me think too. Then we spent some time playing in the children's gallery - art galleries are much more child friendly than when I was a kid!
Meanwhile at home the dust grows and the fridge was a bit empty -how to be a very bad housewife? Spend the day at the art gallery - much more fun than housework! I have a postscript that as a result of a day out on the wednesday, thursday morning found us in tesco at 8am (yuk!) because I had neglected to buy food for my son's school packed lunch as I was too busy drinking coffee and wandering round the gallery. ooopps

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Happy top

Here is the dyed duvet top - I am so pleased with how it came out. It is much, much better and I feel I have learnt a lesson here - I no longer feel like a huge tent when wearing this top so maybe a big white top just makes me look bigger?? I cannot tell you how much happier I am - when I first wore this in its white incarnation I felt grumpy and fat - wearing it grey I feel happy and not fat - I know this is ridiculous but there you go - it is true! It is in fact a bit scary how much what I wear can affect my mood, I am obviously very shallow.
I have been uploading my Me Made May images over on flickr - I have missed a couple of days out when I was wearing repeats of previous days. There are some great and interesting discussions going on in the group - I love this group - what am I going to do when May ends?? (well, of course I do have a list of things to do)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Yesterday was my birthday - yippee!

After being woken up by Little I at 5am - (birthday lie-in what's that??) my kids opened my presents for me and look at the fab necklace my friend Lovely Sarah sent me. Can you tell it is a seagull holding an anchor? I loves it. I was also sent the green cardy you can just see here by my sister. I like birthdays!

I went with my daughter Little I who is three and a friend to wander round Shrewsbury. We drank coffee and ate pain au chocolat, looked in lots of shops. The first thing I did there was to take my poor old sewing machine in for a service. It is a 1970s Elna that my mum gave me and it has recently been feeling the strain a bit and a few things have fallen off it. The sewing machine shop there is fab- it is really small, old fashioned and unassuming from the outside but the staff know their stuff. I had a quick glance at some shiny new machines as I may save up one day for a new one. They look very impressive but seem to lack the character of my reliable Elna (I am not usually attached to inanimate objects but I am in this case).

I then confirmed my status as middle aged by spending part of my birthday money on kitchenware but ooh look it combines several obsessions in one set of items -
firstly they are storage bowls (made of tin!) with lids (slightly seethrough!). They are lovely bright colours (I am a big lover of bright colours)and they also can stack inside each other like Russian nesting dolls. The other great thing was they were cheap as chips (I loves a bargain). See how fab they are....I have been working hard trying to get our house more organised and am as a result ever so slightly obsessed with storage. I am also on a mission to stop using
clingfilm and plastic food bags in an attempt to reduce our waste output and to be healthier. These storage tins are great for storing left overs or for picnics. Left overs and picnics both feature very largely in our house. OK, I promise no more kitchen pics. Instead I give you ...ta-dahhh, my nautical skirt finished. I made it with a ribbon insert . I used the skirt pattern from the Built By Wendy Sew U book. I am just waiting for it to warm up so I can wear this as part of Me-Made-May The fabric is from my mum's uber-stash.
Finally, I have just taken out my dyed nursey-nursey tunic out of the machine. It looks so good - Iam inordinately excited and will photo it when it's dried and post more. I dyed it "Antique grey" by Dylon. It was a very dark grey on the pack but as it is a cotton poly mix it came out a shade lighter.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Me made catch up

7th May - I said at the beginnning of this challenge I would wear two MM items on fridays - just to up the ante for me personally, so here it is da-dahhh, me made red t shirt and tea cup skirt. Love the skirt and the t shirt was really comfortable.

8th May - not so successful - I wore my duvet cover top and while no-one did scream "OHMIGOD she is wearing a duvet cover" the whole big white tunic was not comforatble as I kept thinking I was wearign a nursing smock - I really did. I also sewed the sleeves too tight so I plan to take them out, re make some new ones and dye the whole ensemble a darker colour. The circles are embroidered on so they should still show through to some extent. I also felt kind of huge in it, and as if I looked possibly pregnant, lookign pregnant when you are not is not a good look.

9th May outfit and T had to get in on the act. I love this picture - me trying to be a serious poser and him larking about. I have to accept I am never going to be a serious poser! Anyway outfit was Amy Butler tunic and Gap charity shop jeans. I tried the tunic with the matching
belt but think it just made me look lumpy...hmmm...sack of potatoes springs to mind. Am off now to clean my sewing machine as I have had some trouble s with the poor old thing.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Me Made May

4th May outfit Clothkits car print skirt, brrrmm, brrrrmmmm - it was sunny but cold so I am having to think how to wear my skirts without freezing. Look at me - doing my housewifely duties!

5th May outfit - me-made t shirt with ruffle trim. My first t shirt attempt. It now boasts chocolate icing stains and paint stains so I am considering applique to cover these or dyeing it a darker colour. I thought the stains were very faint till I glanced in the mirror in the M& S toilets ( very exciting life I lead) and saw them,

Here is 6th May outfit. Amy Butler tunic in grey with added pockets - it's cold here so I am wearing it with leggings, long sleeve t shirt and cardigan. I really like it but think it's a tad too short - am going to try and let down the hem after today.

An unexpected benefit of this challenge is it is making me get out of my "jeans with everything" rut. It's very easy for me to just wear jeans especially with a little kid to chase after. I am starting to feel more like my old self which is odd as I hadn't realised how far I had travelled away from that person. Check out the Flickr Me-Made group - there are some amazing creative people out there - it's great fun to see what they have come up with and inspiring too!

Monday, 3 May 2010

My Mum - style queen

I wish I could look half as great as my mum in this picture. This is her outfit for arriving in New York in the 1960s, having sailed there on I think the Queen Mary. I can't help thinking if I were arriving the states I would probably be wearing jeans - not so good.

Me Made May

Over on Flickr there are some great pictures in the Me-Made-May group pool. I am in awe of the wonderful garments people are making.
So anyway, the first day of May and I was sooo was a very long and unusually busy week and I was tempted to wear pyjamas all day but insteadpulled myself together and wore this ruffle top (Simplicity 2599) with charity shop Gap jeans and an old cardigan. We had some little friends round to play in the morning for a belated brithday get together as Little I was three on thursday. Then I spent part of the afternoon digging up nettles in the garden. Aaahh, the unrelenting glamour...
Then day two I wore my much loved dress from Simplicity 3835 (Built by Wendy) Too cold to wear it on its own so I added my skinny jeans from Gap (Gap again, is this a pattern?) via Ebay. I realised I need to do something about my photography if I am going to carry on with this challenge. Hopefully it will improve by the end of the month. I hope to manage to brush my hair too.