Friday, 27 December 2013

Merry Christmas & A Happy, Healthy 2014

To you and yours

From me and mine

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and wish you

All the very best for 2014




Thursday, 28 November 2013


We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK but I am absolutely chuffed to have been at my baby brother's wedding last week.
And as it was in America, here's my Thanksgiving photo.
It was a joy to be part of such a fab day -
and I got through my reading without weeping ... or at least I can pretend I did, as you can't see my face!

The groom is my brother Yoda, the best man is my brother Qui Gon Jinn - I just might still owe him
a dressing gown!

 Now you'd be forgiven for thinking nothing gets made around these
here parts but here's a 'twofer'

I finished the Princess Bride cross-stitch that I made for a wedding present -
we were banned from buying gifts but handmade is better :)

Please excuse the flash, in the current dark weather I couldn't seem to avoid it.

And I'm not the only crafter around here either - these are the personalised cufflinks my husband made as a gift
He spent ages taking apart a vintage typewriter (it really was beyond repair) and cleaning
everything up to make these for the wedding party , I think they turned out brilliantly

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Postcard from San Francisco

There has not been much time for fabric shopping, what with being here for an actual wedding. These have been on the hoof, flying visits squeezed around other commitments.

There may have been purchases!

One more sleep until the wedding and a change of hotels today.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Baby Shower Sewing

Last Sunday I went to my first ever baby shower, my DD's friend is having twins in the New Year. This has not been a straightforward journey for her and I am delighted that she is having a little girl and a little boy, very exciting.

Well, here is the young Mum-to-Be in the maternity dress I made for her, when she was at the height of  'all day sickness' and feeling terrible ...

... and now you can see why the fabric choice was perfect for her! She loves this dress and I am so pleased to have been able to make such an individual dress for her.

I'd never made baby shower gifts before so I kept it simple:
I had bought some clothes and hooded baby towels so I made drawstring bags to put them in - I thought they'd come in handy for storing nappies or as laundry bags for the babies.
And a couple of matching tag blankets. I've seen these about (they hadn't been invented when my children were born) and I made sure to use ribbons of different colours and textures. Everything is very securely sewn, just to be on the safe side, and I used flannel on the back to give another texture.
I know they're simple but S was really pleased with them.

The fabrics were from my precious stash bought in Japan last year, both of theses were from Yuzawaya. I only had a metre of each - all I have left is scraps :)


Saturday, 9 November 2013

What should you take to Sewing Club?

The correct answer is 'a planned project' not 'everything but the kitchen sink', which was pretty much my approach! 

A while back I very excitedly replied to Rachel (House of Pinheiro) because she'd posted about the possibility of having a local sewing group. Fortunately for me the suggestion was to meet in Rochester and that's not far from where I live at all - result!

There's been some planning over a cup of coffee and a piece of cake and finally last Sunday we got together for the first time to actually sew.

Going around the table, clockwise from the left: Polly, Emmie, Rachel and Cris. Polly's mum, Julie is also a member of our group but unfortunately was double booked last weekend, although she did keep us updated with photos of dessert!

Honestly, I didn't know what to take with me. You get used to having all your stuff around you at home - I tried to plan but, in the end, kept throwing stuff in my various holdalls 'just in case'. I thought bags would be a good idea, something simple to complete, so took the pattern (and the 2 larger sizes I've tweaked a bit) that I downloaded here. I've made it lots of times before, although I don't tend to make it reversible, and I like a zipped pocket and a closure of some sort. But it is totally brilliant for adding your own touches too.
I didn't get that much done! 
I thought I'd do loads in 4 hours - I had 4 bags cut out that I took with me - totally unrealistic.
 There's definitely a knack to sewing in a group and it's totally different to sitting at home on your own - I might not have been terribly productive (I'm about finished on 1 bag and half way through a second)but it was really inspiring. 
Emmie forgot her sewing machine power cable - despite the fact that she and I had managed to fill the back of my car with stuff and nearly gave ourselves a hernia trying to get it all to the venue! On the plus side she had pdf patterns to put together and cut out so she got loads and loads of prep done. 
Rachel's experienced at group sewing and she didn't get much done either (so I felt a bit better!) but she was absolutely right, it was a really good day for swapping ideas and thinking creatively, I'm really looking forward to future meet ups.

Polly had the right idea - she took one project, that she'd done all the prep for beforehand, literally everything cut, bagged up and ready to go. Isn't it super? It's a quilt top she's secretly working on for her little boy. She got all of this done in the 4 hours we were together.

And Cris was recovering chairs, with no pattern as such - she made great progress too despite literally having to make it up as she went along :)

I think I might need something like this - before I do myself a mischief trying to cart my machine around but my heart yearns for something more like this ...
.... which is far less practical of course but it is covered in dots! I've been reading reviews (and frightening myself with horror stories about the damage you can do to your machine if you transport it!). 
If anybody has any recommendations I'd be glad to hear them :)

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Fabric Shopping in San Francisco - Recommendations Please!

 I am delighted that my brother Yoda is getting married (this is a photo of us at my wedding in 2005)
He and I have always been very close and his partner is wonderful and they are going to be very happy :) The added bonus is that Yoda lives in San Francisco so Paul and I get to visit again - I love that place.

Now, here's the thing ... last time we visited I was not sewing stuff. I bought bits and bobs for card making but I was not in the market for fabrics, patterns and trims. This time clearly I am!

I have been very good - I committed to not buying patterns this year unless they were about £1 - which pretty much guaranteed they were from charity shops and/or vintage and therefore I was either (a) supporting a worthwhile cause or (b) saving them for posterity!
I mean, I even passed on an absolutely corker of a costume pattern in July.

Obviously my priority is the wedding but I've come up with a shortlist of 'must visit' places and the truth is it's not terribly short!

The place I'm desperate to go to is Alameda Flea Market but it's not on when we're there (honestly, rubbish wedding planning - I have complained!). So that's one less option. Serendipitously we're in a hotel literally round the corner from Britex. And my brother's house is a stone's throw from Stone Mountain & Daughter. If anybody has any recommendations I'd be glad to hear them - I've got to make the most of my limited time!
Jacq x
PS - The photos are the patterns I have happened to pick up in the last week - sum total spent £4.75, total bargain. Of course I don't need them, obviously ...

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Yarny Progress

Well that's the front finished, only 3 more pieces to go! I'm really enjoying working with this pattern, there's just the right mixture of repeats and need to concentrate which mean it isn't boring AND I can watch the tv at the same time :) x

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Do you want a cake with that crochet?


If you're in the UK you'll know the 'Duck' weather's pretty much settled in - at least for a couple of weeks. 

There's nothing for it, best to stay in and make stuff, interspersed with tea and cake.  In fact, if you're really dedicated to this approach, make the cake too. 
This is where I would post the photo of the rock cakes I made this weekend ... but we've eaten them!  We don't mess about, we're throwing ourselves into this, proper commitment is what you need!

Sam left the following comment after my last post and rather than just email her an answer I thought I'd stick the reply here :)

On the subject of crochet - can you recommend a nice,
easy crochet blanket pattern?
A friend of mine wants to make one for her first
grandchild, due early next year.
Obviously this is just my opinion but I've taught a few people to crochet this year and these are some of the patterns I've made, or the other beginners have had a go at, with pretty good results.  Here are 4 that are really easy and look lovely.
Most importantly, your friend really needs to sign up for Ravelry Sam, then she's good to go ...
This is the Tiramisu Baby Blanket by Alicia Paulson -
beautifully modelled by my god daughter's little boy.

The pattern is a free download on Ravelry.
The pattern recommends worsted weight yarn - I used double knit with no
problems - I just used an appropriate size hook.

It's handy if you don't know if the baby is a boy or girl because you
can make the blanket in a neutral colour and add the
ribbon of your choice at the end.

Note - the pattern is written in US crochet terms so 'sc' is UK double crochet -
and that's pretty much what you use all the way through - very simple!

This is Elmo guarding the beginnings of a Ripple Baby Blanket,
the pattern is from the brilliant Lucy of Attic 24 link here.

I have made this pattern a couple of times - funnily enough on the
second occasion for the little chap above - once he'd outgrown his baby Tiramisu
I made a Ripple for his cot.

The pattern is a bit more complicated but, once you get going, has
a real rhythm to it and is interesting enough to not get boring.
The first one I made had 4 colours and a set repeat,
the second was random - both looked fab.

Lucy explains it expertly on her blog, with a detailed
photo tutorial.
This pattern uses UK crochet terms.

Kenzie's Ultimate Ruffle Edged Crochet Baby Blanket
I don't have a picture of this one - and I don't want to copy the photos on Ravelry but it's worth popping over to have a look.
My DD is making this at the moment, it's only the third things she's
crocheted and it's looking really lovely.
The pattern is free - written in US terminology.
It's really repetitive and grows fast.
My DD is using Hayfield Baby Change DK

I don't usually pick variegated yarn but this looks
super crocheted up and makes a very
simple pattern look more complicated than it is
which is really satisfying for a beginner.


Bobble Stitch Blanket
You can find this pattern at Tales From Cuckoo Land blog, here.
I've made this before, and my DD has too - frankly no idea why we don't
have a photo. 
It looks far more difficult than it is - basically you're working
UK double crochet and then just adding bobbles which are
super easy once you try them - and beautifully
explained in the tutorial.
The really important thing is the yarn.  I don't think there's any point in being a yarn snob for baby blankets - they are going to be put through all sorts and will need to be washed regularly and dried fast.  On that basis I would use acrylic yarn every time. 
The following is just my opinion, for what it's worth:

Just a snapshot of my Stylecraft Special DK stash :)

I started using Stylecraft Special DK (as recommended by Lucy above) and it's brilliant stuff and comes in a huge range of colours.
I don't have a local stockist that has more than a few of the colours available so I order mine from Masons - I've always had really good service from them and their prices are good and P&P reasonable.
Hope that helps

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Feeling Yarnish

I think it's the weather, Sam mentioned exactly the same phenomenon a few days ago, that's she's knitting rather than sewing.   Mind you, as she's made a very beautiful wedding dress she might just need a little break!
Of course, I can't knit particularly well so I thought I'd make something for myself using a crochet pattern.  I've been looking on Ravelry, searching Amazon for crochet books, popped into the local book shops. I even started a couple of things, but nothing was quite right and I've been busy frogging and rewinding the yarn.
I've spent the week driving around the county for one thing or another - I don't like to pass up the opportunity to look for a crafty shop.  During my lunch break on Tuesday I struck gold and stumbled across a proper old fashioned wool shop, 'Hours Knit & Stitch' in Sittingbourne.  It would have been rude to leave empty handed!


Doesn't this bowl full of yarny goodness just make you feel cosy?

I bought 2 patterns too, the tiny little shop had a much bigger range of crochet patterns than I've seen elsewhere. 

The blue (which is more of a Teal IRL) is for the pattern above
I can't decide which view to make - I think I'm veering towards the version with the collar

So, I decided to make this jumper first, I'm using the variegated Americana for this one

I really like the wavy pattern
I'm using a 4.5mm hook rather than the 4mm they recommend, I've a tendency for things to come up a bit smaller than expected, obviously my tension.  It's not really a problem with blankets but I'd be a bit miffed if I finished a jumper and it didn't fit!
I've made a start already, just getting into the flow of the pattern, it always takes a couple of repeats before I can do it without thinking about it at all.
Oh, and the 3 balls of olive green are 'just because' - it's a lovely soft merino and a favourite colour of mine, I think it will be a snuggly scarf - and it was reduced so much I got all 3 balls for less than the price of 1 - bargain!


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Nice weather for ducks

View from the dining room - not the weeding weather I was banking on

Hello there, long time no speak, I'm not entirely certain how we got to mid October this quickly ... I think it's my age, my Nainy always said the years whizz by as you get older ... moving on ...

All the lamps on at 10 o'clock this morning - not a bright and sunny day
I've been beavering away with my cross-stitch projects but I'm officially working on Secret Santa stuff so (just in case family members stumble across the blog) I can't share photos.
I am loving rediscovering cross-stitch, very satisfying - and perfect to complete in front of Strictly Come Dancing.

Dave Myers 'owns' Strictly with bizarre paso
Dave Myers and Karen Hauer - Photo - BBC
Speaking of which, I'm usually all about the dancing, smarting when a good dancer goes because a "people's favourite" is kept in by the viewers.  But laughter is good for you - that's official.  I think Dave Myers' paso doble might be the funniest thing I have ever seen (and I sat through lots and lots of dance competitions when my DD was younger - there were some interesting routines). 

I so hope he doesn't go out too soon, I'm not sure how he'd top the paso but I'd like to see him try!  You can see it here - enjoy!

Right, enough of Strictly (with which I am very slightly obsessed - I think it's the costumes) ... I actually did some crafting today ... well preparation for sewing but as I can't abide ironing, pinning and cutting out are my least favourite bits of the whole process I thought I'd do a batch and get it out of the way. 

Plus I need to cut out on the dining table otherwise I have no end of bother with my back (getting hit by a car will do that to you) - doing a whole heap of cutting out in one go means the table won't be out of action for months days - I'm so considerate!

I'm also testing to see if it means I'll manage to sew in the short timeslots I seem to have available to me lately.  I think it's worth a try, I'm conducting a very scientific experiment - I'm looking at my productivity over the last month (practically zero) and seeing if it improves, shouldn't be hard to measure - I like simple maths :)

Revisiting an old friend - in case you've been under a rock somewhere for about 3 years,
the free pattern is available here

I spent last weekend sorting out my wardrobe and identifying gaps.  I'm not a keen clothes shopper so decided to see if I could make as many outfits as possible with what I have.  It's glaringly obvious I need some simple shell tops to go with skirts for work.  I like sleeveless tops under cardigans (and I love cardigans).  I laid my skirts out, raided my stash for the fabulously small amounts of fabric a Sorbetto will take and got the scissors out.

I love this print and I think it will go brilliantly with a couple of grey skirts I have.
I have 75 cm length, it's 145 cm wide and I paid £6 for it at a craft fair last September

So this is the first one ready to go.  I just about squeezed out self-drafted neck facings (I'm not that keen on bias necklines unless it's made from the main fabric).  Not a scrap left for sleeves (that's fine) but I did manage to make it 2" longer, which I prefer.  So all cut out and ready to go when I move on to 'sewing up' phase.

This is the second Sorbetto I've cut out.  I got this remnant at a craft fair in June 2012 (pre-blog),
It was £4, I have a paltry 65cm of 145 cm wide fabric - again it's a lawn

I tell you this one was very tight for fabric, I couldn't even squeeze the neck facings out of matching fabric, I'll use a plain scrap of something else.  I did get the all important extra 2" length in though. I love all the different colours in this one, lends itself to different accessories, shoes and most importantly cardigans.

I had planned a Sorbetto out of this one but I don't have nearly enough
Despite the fact that the Sorbetto is so brilliant and will squeeze out of tiny amounts of fabric, I couldn't manage it this time.

I love this fabric, lots of my favourite shades in it. 
However, whilst I have just over a metre in length it is a vintage piece,
consequently only 36" wide

I bought this at the same craft fair in June 2012 where I picked up the blue piece above.  This was £4 too.  As I can't manage a top I had a rethink and this is my plan ...

The plain black is from my stash too so I'm going to make a dress,
with patterned top and plain skirt.
Having searched through my patterns, given the amounts I have to play with, I'm going to use Butterick B5450 again, as I did for my Autumn in Tokyo dress.  I love the fact that the dress will contain black and brown - I think it's going to be easy to mix and match with different accessories to vary the lookI'm hoping it will look different enough because of the 2 fabric combo.  So a dress cut out and ready to go too.

With that in mind, I decided to tackle a refashion too.  Yonks ago (when I first started to try and sew clothes in early 2012) I tackled the free Coffee Date dress that I found at Burdastyle.  Now, I have seen some brilliant versions of this dress but mine wasn't one of them - total disaster just about sums it up!

I was gutted because I'd wasted some of my favourite fabric that I bought in Swansea at Lee Mills Fabrics - I love this shop and my DS is at Uni up the road - very handy!  Because the Butterick pattern above takes so little fabric I hoped I might be able to recut and rescue my mess.  Brilliantly, it worked, with a bit of juggling and a bit of a 'free and easy' approach to the grainline!

The 2 top back pieces from the Coffee Date Dress skirt backs

I've had to do away with the centre front pleat but that
means I can squeeze this out of the previously cut Coffee Date Dress skirt front

And because, not having decided on a pattern when I bought it, I had 3 metres of this gorgeous green polka dot fabric, I have managed to cut the skirt from the untouched leftovers.  So this will be version 3 of the same pattern but, without the centre pleat it's not a direct copy cat - I have my fingers crossed I don't start looking like I'm wearing a uniform!

This is what's left of the Coffee Date Dress - I'll take it to pieces and use it
for patchwork.  Poor dress :(

So that's 4 garments cut out - I guess I'd better get on and sew something in the near future.   I'll let you know how I get on with my scientific experiment - perhaps an old dog can learn new tricks :)