Ring the Changes

The last few months have been absolutely manic with work – 50 hour weeks being the norm and lots of travelling spending most of my week nights in various hotels which is not good for the figure or my  sanity. Sewing and crafty stuff has been confined to the weekends – mostly Sundays as Saturdays are spent catching up on washing and general household chores. I have been busy  making stuff but it comes down to a choice between making things or blogging about them and the former usually wins.

However, I have a week’s holiday now and am off tomorrow on a narrow boat on the Grand Union Canal (I know – must be mad in this weather) for 3 nights but thought I would drop ina quick post just to let people know that 1. I am still alive and 2. I am still crafting.

As you may already know I am always keen to try new things – something will stimulate my interest and I want to have a go. The last few months I have gone from flower making which provoked an interest in beading – french beading in particular then to corsages, bouquets and then jewellery making is the latest interest. Perhaps later posts will include details on my journey to where I am now but I wanted to share these simple nested rings with you.


The one good thing about spending so many nights in hotels is time to spend on YouTube where I can easily become distracted for hours. I do not propose to show how to make these rings as there are loads of video tutorials on YouTube but this one was my favourite:

Wire Wrapped Rings

To  make these rings you just need some 20 gauge wire (0.8mm), some beads, a pair of round nose pliers and a pair of flat nose pliers as well as a ring mandrel. I had a couple of false starts but once I got the hang of it I could knock one out in about 5 minutes.

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I started with a single bead and then progressed onto a 3 bead ring as shown above in the right hand side of the image.

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I then experimented with nesting 3 beads for a real knuckle duster of a ring – known as a cocktail ring but certainly something that can’t be missed on your finger!

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These are great ideas for a fund raiser as they are very cheap to make and very effective.

Flower Obsession

It started with a book ‘Kanashi in Bloom’ and then became an obsession. During the last couple of weeks flower power has hit the sewing room! I have probably made around 60 odd flowers, each one a learning curve and then taking me in new directions. If only they had a perfume my sewing room would be a fragrant, floral haven.

It started with Kanashi which is the fabric origami equivalent. Kanzashi is a traditional Japanese art form of folding and stitching fabric petals for use as beautiful decorations. You can buy all sorts of makes from companies like Clover but there is really no need as it is quite a simple method to make without any additional help.

Kanzashi1I made these flowers using a variety of different Kanashi techniques – these are great for stash busting all those odds and ends of fabric that we all have lurking. Not enough to make a garment from but too much fabric to throw away!

My interest now moved on to other ways to make flowers from fabric so researched the internet and my many sewing magazines and books to find other methods. I then produced these which are similar to the Kanashi flowers but do not require any folding:

Fabric BloomNice but still moving on I found a great tutorial on YouTube for flowers using the ‘burnt’ method. That was it I was off to QD to purchase a plethora of tealights.


Burnt1Aren’t these pretty and so much fun – these were used with leftover lining material. I then moved on to roses:


By now I really had the bit between my teeth and then started making loads with different themes, using jewellery and bits and bobs from the sewing room – combining flowers to make corsages, adding wire for floral displays etc. Some of these are, in my opinion, a bit tacky as the gold material I used is a bit strong but this was just for fun and kept me amused for hours and hours!




Finally I had the great idea of combining a few to make a fabric corsage:


Sewaholic – the Davie Dress

My journey with knits continues ….

My wardrobe is full of knit dresses. I love them because I am prone to yo yo with my weight and a knit dress is very forgiving of the odd extra pound or two – oh let’s be honest and say it is the odd half a stone or two. I love the way that the fabric seems to stretch with you although like elasticated waists on trousers it can lead you to a false sense of security and a feeling that there is no immediate rush to do anything about those extra pounds – what extra pounds – my dresses fit just fine!

Anyway I digress – I decided to pick something simple for the next chapter in my knit adventure and after much browsing of the internet came across the Sewaholic Davie dress. I have never sewn a Sewaholic pattern before although I had heard through the blogging grapevine that they were particularly suited to pear shapes like me. The dress looked very simple and I especially liked the floaty hem at the bottom – I like a bit of girth in the hem department.

Davie Dress Pattern

Davie Dress 1

This was a really simple dress to make and I made no adjustment to the pattern apart from extending it slightly around the hipline because there are pear shapes and then there are my kind of pear shapes which are slightly larger than the average.

I used my overlocker for the whole thing and it was very quick to make up. I put bias binding around the armholes which were a touche on the large side for me – I don’t like the side of my bra showing when I lift my arm – but wasn’t too bothered as I always intended to wear a cardigan with it.

I missed out 2 design details – the first was the keyhole opening at the neck simply because I have no idea how to stop and start my overlocker mid seam so if anyone can point me in the right direction I would be grateful! I tend to let my overlocker just run away with itself. It took me ages to summon up the confidence and courage to sew a sleeve in using the overlocker. I wasn’t sure how to end so just let it veer off course when I reached my starting point.

The second was the top stitching of the seams as I  am not sure how you top stitch an overlocked seam – there seemed to be no point to it. Am I  missing something?

On the whole I am really pleased with how it turned out.

Davie DressIt is a nice little wardrobe staple for the office – this photo was taken at the office by my 21 year old male colleague who is such a sweetie – he is now my official photographer. Would you believe that we have a new dress code at work which is wear what you like. So I am now surrounded by staff wearing jeans and trainers. Yesterday someone came in wearing shorts and flip flops – I asked if he was going to the beach. I am sooooo old fashioned. There is no dress code at all now so I am thinking of turning up for work in my pyjamas and fluffy slippers to see if anyone complains. I guess it really is time for me to retire (if only I could afford it!)

Vogue 8819 – a tale of two cardigans

I have always been scared of sewing with knits – I don’t know why but I had the impression that they were difficult. This year I made it my sewing resolution to conquer my fear of knits and venture out of my sewing comfort zone and have a go at some more ‘difficult’ fabrics. I started with Vogue 8819:



This is a Very Easy Vogue pattern. I decided that matching stripes may be a bit daunting on my first attempt to sew a knit so chose a very stable knit with no pattern matching required and I also just cut a size 16 without any muslin first – to be honest the first fabric I selected was bought in a sale and so cheap that I thought it worth a sacrifice if it didn’t work out. Actually I was very impressed with my first attempt and using my overlocker made the actual making up of the garment very quick although the collar did pose a period of head scratching before I cottoned on to the construction technique of attaching one collar before the facing is applied. I was really pleased with my first result:

DSC00574This is me wearing this with no styling – I did think about applying a fur collar to it but the fabric is, in my opinion, a bit lightweight to carry this off. The only alterations I wanted to do after was to raise the waistline on the front an inch. The other criticism I have on this pattern is that the sleeves are a bit tight – I have a long sleeved t-shirt under this and the cardigan did feel a bit tight around the sleeve and I don’t consider that I have fat arms (fat butt maybe but not arms!).

Anyway, inspired by my success I thought I would have another attempt with some more expensive fabric and try a bit of pattern matching so purchased some jersey fabric from the fabric godmother (sadly no longer available). I don’t normally buy fabric online but my jersey stash was non existent and my local fabric shops did not have anything I liked. Here is my second attempt having forgotten to raise the waistline doh!


I was quite pleased with the pattern matching and the final attempt. I am not sure if I will make this again but it was a great start to my knit adventure.

I am now inspired to go on and try a few more garments using knit fabric. I am considering a wrap dress but not sure if this is a step too far.

Waxing Lyrical …..

I came across this interesting video on YouTube for creating decorative candles using plain wax candles and napkins/serviettes (whatever you want to call them). It is really simple and very effective.

I had a go with a few napkins and odd candles I had lying around. I think they are very effective and I could easily get carried away here!

Learn from my experience and don’t do it over your ironing board otherwise you will end up with blobby bits of wax on your ironing board cover and make sure you clean your iron properly when you have finished!! I tried it with my miniature iron which did give more control and was easier to clean. Here are my efforts below – everywhere I go now I see lovely napkins that would look great with this technique applied. Although a bit early I think you can make some great Christmas Candles.


Following on from Basics

Following on from my previous post and the mission to get a return on investment with my pattern selection I have taken New Look 6356 a step further by deciding to lengthen the top into an A line tunic/shift dress.
One of my favourite items in my wardrobe is a dress I purchased many years ago from Wallis. It is comfortable, easy to wear and hides a multitude of sins which I really need following the walnut whips!
I took this dress as my base for lengthening the body of the dress and the sleeves. I measured the circumference of the dress, the length and then measured out a point on the pattern.


Point A is the length of the dress as I wanted it indicated by the blue line, the green line is the original length of the pattern and the rather wavy pink line is the new length where I calculated the width as ¼ of the circumference of my original dress. As you can see this is rather a simple pattern! I did the same for the back and used the same principle for lengthening the sleeve where I took the length and sleeve circumference from my original dress. This is not very complicated pattern drafting by any stretch of the imagination.
I also designed my dress as I wanted to learn some new techniques – welt pockets and exposed zipper.


What do you think of my drawing capabilities? Don’t be too impressed as I purchased this wonderful title from Amazon:


This sketchbook is packed full of croquis just waiting to be your muse! There are a variety of on-trend poses and a garment encyclopaedia. The good thing is the outlines disappear when scanned or photocopied. Of course the figures have fashion industry proportions and certainly bear no resemblance to normal women especially ones who have a diet packed with walnut whips!
Anyway cracking on with the dress I found 2 excellent sources on YouTube for exposed zipper and welt pockets which I will share with you:
Sewing an Exposed Zipper
Double Welt the Pocket
Anyway here it is:


Looks just like my sketch doesn’t it :)
I had some issues with this dress – firstly the exposed zipper. I ironed on some fusible interfacing before putting in the zipper as instructed in the video but when I turned my zip over a lot of the interfacing was exposed outside the zip on the front of the garment so then spent an hour or two unpicking it – not the easiest or the best job in the world!
Secondly the collar was a nightmare from start to finish – it did not sit well and when I put it on it was too short as it didn’t match in the front which was a surprise as it was the same pattern as my previous top but then I think that putting in the exposed zipper had lengthened the neckline but to be honest I could not be bothered to draft a new one so I left it and put in a brooch to cover the gap. The collar does not bear close inspection as it is wavy and has been stitched to the dress in a last ditch effort to get it to lay flat. In retrospect I wish I had just abandoned the whole collar thing.
The only other thing is that I wish I had made the welt pockets a bit longer as they are a bit lost in the expanse of material but I was really pleased with my first effort at doing a welt pocket.
Well that dress looks like an old sack on my dress form so here it is actually on me:


The photo was taken at work – yes I actually wore it out in public – by my friend Isobel although why she made me stand in the corner to have it taken is anyone’s guess!


Me and the original drawing/vision well we could be twins!!!

Back to Basics

I had such good intentions this year to keep my blog updated on a regular basis. Unfortunately I have had nearly 3 months of back pain caused by a herniated disk pressing on my sciatic nerve which has made it impossible at times to sit down let alone do any sewing.  The pain was intense – worse than childbirth and that was bad enough. It has been a challenge to work let alone do much else but lay prostrate on the sofa eating walnut whips and catching up with the box sets.

I was inspired earlier this year by a blog post by Sunni of Fashionable Stitch on basic patterns. I don’t know about you but I have a lot of patterns – most of which I will probably never get around to making up. Every time I try a new pattern I have issues with fit and spend a lot of time making a toile and adjusting fit – this usually takes more time than the final construction of the garment. If I want a return on investment of time then I need to be able to make several looks from one basic pattern which makes sense to me.  When I thought about it there seems to be quite a lot of different ways you can change the look of a pattern by simple adaptations, choice of fabric, embellishments etc. If you are interested in finding out more then Sunni also has a pinterest board where she has collected a series of basic patterns which lend themselves to this ethos.

With this in mind I selected New Look 6356 as it has a variation on necklines and I was intending to lengthen this to create a tunic dress. I also wanted to try out some new sewing techniques but more of that later.
New Look

My first challenge with this pattern was to make a basic top that actually fitted me well as a base for further adaptations. I also chose to add a collar in black leatherette as my first new sewing technique challenge.
I chose to make a basic shell but elected to add a collar to the top. Bearing in mind my recent failures with commercial patterns I measured up and chose the size according to my upper bust measurement and attempt my first full bust adjustment (FBA). I am very narrow across the shoulders and back but a bit sticky out at the front! I have struggled with commercial patterns for this reason. Up until a few months ago I had never heard of an FBA but thanks to the wonder of the internet I have learnt a lot about fitting issues.
Some time ago I bought the Threads archive and went with the method in a special fitting issue from May 2009 – Issue 142.
I went to my well thumbed Aldrich book on metric pattern cutting for drafting the collar.


Aldrich recommends overlaying the shoulder seam by 1.5 cm at the sleeve side when drafting the collar. Do you see the additional bits I have stuck on at the centre back and front? That is because I forgot to add on the seam allowance first time around! I could not work out why my collar was too short – attention to detail Gill!

Working in the leatherette fabric was a challenge due to trying not to use pins. I tried to pin inside the seam allowance but also used magic tape where a pin was inappropriate plus the fabric was really slippy but I am pleased with the result. I used the top fabric for an undercollar.




The collar is a bit bigger than I would like but I can live with it. I haven’t got any photos of the garment on – not warm enough yet plus I put on a few pounds with all those walnut whips and haven’t been able to get into my black trousers lately.

If you are interested then I have a pinterest board myself with 75 pins for shift/A line dresses which I think are all doable from this one pattern with a few adaptations. I have already created 2 dresses from this pattern but more of that later – hey one post in 3 months – count yourselves lucky!!