Elastic Rocks!

DSC_0151I own this skirt that I have had for years and years and years. Anyone who has seen me on my daily school runs will know that I wear it so often it’s almost like a uniform. It came from Cath Kidston. I don’t really buy her things often as they can be a little bit too floral for me (in a Cath Kidston kind of way) but I loved this barkcloth fabric so much that I bought the skirt in beige, black and a dress version too! IMG_20180913_133331Something I originally hated about it was the elasticated waist, which then turned out to be the thing that I love! As long as I wear it with fitted t-shirts and little 50’s style cropped cardigans (which I own a  lot of) you can’t see the elastic but gosh, is it comfy.IMG_20180913_133258So when my poor skirts began to fade and die, I thought the answer was to make some of my own (as CK don’t make them anymore).DSC_0150The fabric is all Outback Wife by Elaine Gold, which I first saw on Jane’s Blog. Gosh, all of that collection is amazing and now, sadly almost all gone. I think I hunted down the last bits here in the UK.DSC_0161I added some rather jazzy gold elastic and pockets (which the original skirt also has).DSC_0146Mistakes? Yes. I put more fabric in than the original and that was a mistake, it’s almost a bit too full and hints at 5-year-old going to a kids party when I wear it but then I’ve never cared much about how I appear so I wear it anyway. Also, with so much fabric it bulks up a bit too much on the elastic waist and so the elastic is a bit stretched and might need to be re-done in the long run.

I’ve still got the other skirts to make so I’ll learn from these mistakes and it was nice to sew something for myself, for a change, a very rare thing these days.

Gran’s Pouffe…

Continuing the ‘nibbling’ I thought it would be good to post some of the half-written blog entries; this one is from 2014 (!!???) and the reason it hasn’t been completed is that I never actually finished the inside of the pouffe so I kicked myself into action and got it done on Friday – hurrah! – another satisfying ‘tick’.



Along with my attempts to work on winter things, I am also trying to make a little time to finish projects for myself and the home. Some are long overdue, like covering this pouffe which is past it’s best. It belonged to my Gran and she used it in her bedroom; it had a loose cover on top, in fact, one that I made to match her curtains (I remember, with great guilt, that it took me forever to get around to doing this for her), what you can see above is what was underneath the loose cover and it’s in a bit of a state.


I believe Gran made it herself and in true sentimental ‘me’ style there is no way I’d ever get rid of it, despite it looking like a dog’s dinner. It has followed me around for many years from home to home (it came to me after Gran passed away) and at one point it had a Marimekko lose cover to match F’s baby room, but I’ve always planned to give it a more permanent finish.


These photos were taken in November 2012 (2018 – insert eye roll here as even I am amazed it’s been in production for so long!), so I guess that’s when I actually started to put my plan into action. I was up for doing the job properly, I had furniture tacks and everything and with scant memories of upholstery classes whilst doing my degree I was full of enthusiasm but, the honest truth is that the staple gun won in the end and did a very decent job too.


The fabric is Almedahls Mustard Körsbärsträdgården Scandinavian Fabric bought from Hus and Hem.


I’ve had is squirrelled away for quite a while, but, I really like it and wanted to save it for a special project, which I think this is. I like the idea of a bold, slightly oversized print.  I must say, I am slightly worried about sun fade damage, which I think will happen quite quickly (2018 – it hasn’t faded that badly, but then it’s not in direct sunlight and I’ve gone on to buy some of the same fabric to make a door curtain in our utility room to match the bright yellow rubber flooring).


The pouffe is built from a simple handmade wooden box, similar looking to a wine crate, that’s then covered in wadding and finally a layer of cream fabric.  All of this was base was in an ok condition so I kept it and simply covered over the top.


Underneath, the original rubber feet had started to disintegrate so they had to go and I replaced them with Kendrick Shepherd casters because I have an obsession with putting everything on casters.  I used some linen that also came from Gran via my Mum (curtains that were left in the farmhouse when Mum and Dad moved in there) and some badly attached bias binding to line the edges.


And this is where the pouffe got abandoned, as it’s easy to forget that the inside needs doing when it looks OK closed. So we jump to March of this year (we’re still in 2014 here, blimey I dragged this one out!), in the above photo.  I had forgotten I’d taken this, I tend to load photos into blank posts ready to add the words at a later date.  This is Smelly, my cat, I mentioned in an earlier post that she has been ill for a while and the vets couldn’t find out why, despite trying many things and spending a small fortune, sadly she didn’t make it and I had to have her put down at the end of the school holidays. Gutted. I’ve had her for 16 years and it was one of the many ‘pants’ aspects of the hols but, as I said at the start, let’s not dwell…(again, this is all from 2014 and we’ve had two other cats die since!! We also now have two alive and very healthy cats so it’s not all doom and gloom).


I wanted to copy the original cover as closely as possible, I’d already done the same folding on the sides, next I made a copy of the fabric handles.  I love the bird pattern and wanted to make sure the handles didn’t interfere with the continuity (I spent FOREVER getting the pattern in a good position for the main cover and lid to give maximum appeal) so I took the time to match everything up and I think it works well.


This is clearly as far as I got in both writing the post and the pouffe itself; it’s been sitting in the living room by one of the chairs where it has a lovely wooden chess board on top to stop anyone shoving a coffee cup directly onto the fabric!DSC_0082The hold up was the inside. I had bought some shot orange linen to sew a lining (similar to the original) but it just never got done and the idea didn’t sit well with me either. The original fabric lining was quite stained and dirty and the neat side of my brain couldn’t cope with the same thing happening again, I wanted something more practical inside and that could be wiped and cleaned, if needed.DSC_0087So on Friday, I bought a sheet of MDF and it got a permanent box lining instead. Today it’ll get varnished and then I’m attaching two brass chains on either side of the lid to stop it flopping back and toppling the whole thing over when opened.

Job done 🙂

Cushions and Curtains

I find it very difficult to make time to sew things for the house (or myself), these days, it feels like I’m ‘wasting’ my time when I have more pressing things to do, but I also get a bit down seeing daily jobs that need attention so I’ve really pushed myself over the past year to work through things from the never-ending list and I feel a lot better for it.IMG_20171109_092535Last week I took a day out to sew curtains and cushions for the living room. The curtains were desperately needed as it’s getting cold and the big square bay window can allow a lot of heat loss if not covered by a decent curtain.IMG_20171109_131320The curtains on this window are hung by an Ikea Dignitet wire. I don’t really do traditional curtains, in fact, I generally don’t do curtains at all as I prefer minimalist, modern coverings so most of the windows in this house have roman blinds (always hung outside the frame to allow for maximum light), but on this window blinds aren’t practical. The wire used to hang at the back meaning the small side windows allowed a lot of heat to escape plus it’s a bit creepy in the winter, I always imagine someone is out there looking in at me as I sit on the sofa in my pj’s, as you do. I moved the wire to the front and changed the curtain to one large one hung in a way that it folds neatly and mostly fits in the small side recess when closed, so you can barely see the curtain at all and it allows as much light in as possible. It’s hung oddly with the folds on the far side of the wire so that the curtain hooks show, which is probably not to everyone’s taste but I quite like this.IMG_20171109_131239I shrank the original curtains after washing them recently. Muppet. I’ve reused the fabric as it was expensive linen but I needed the new curtains to be washable and stiffer in order to get the neat folds I was after when closed, so I backed the entire thing in extra wide ‘Opera’ fabric from Tinsmith which has a canvas feel.Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 09.43.33It’s not something I’d normally chose but I really like the idea of it as a surprise backing fabric and it matched the pale green linen from the front perfectly, plus should I ever want to go floral I can reverse the curtains and have the birds and flowers on show instead of the plain linen. The curtain also has a thermal lining sewn into it and some regular curtain tape (purely for stiffness) sandwiched between the layers to aid the firm folds at the top. All the fabrics have been pre-washed and the curtain hooks are removable so it can be taken down and washed in the machine at home. IMG_20171109_093607I had some linen left over and it was a perfect opportunity to get some tapestry cushions made up that have been sitting on the spare bed for months. Everything has come from stock except the two pheasant tapestries, which I bought on eBay for pennies. I had planned to add piping cord but abandoned that idea knowing that these cushions will be heavily used and cotton piping tends to wear away quite quickly on the corners.IMG_20171109_131428In my mind they do look a bit ‘unfinished’ without some piping…or a twisted cord would have been nice too.IMG_20171109_131355But they are done and it’s another thing to tick off the list and that makes me VERY happy.

This weekend I am fitting skirting and painting, cooking Sunday lunch and baking the Christmas pudding! There is no rest for the wicked.

New Furries…

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 13.21.10I updated the shop, yesterday, adding its ‘Winter’ front page. I was slightly loathe to do so, as if feels like some of defeat, in that I haven’t completed the much-needed re-design, but time is running out to list any new stock for this year, so needs must. I’m now about to spend the day updating all the stock.

dsc_0144Some things, amazingly, have been made but have been unlisted for a while, such as these three, final, tweed bunny purses. By the date of the above photo, I was sewing these back in September of 2015 and even then, they have been cut out and dumped in a box for at least two years. I imagine I was hoping to take really good photos of the finished purses over the summer, as I don’t plan to make them again (big fail there, by the way, no photos were taken). As it is, I’ve just listed them with my original images.

dsc_0232dsc_0230iPhoto has a new thing where ‘related’ photos pop up when you look at an image, it was nice to see these photos of an original bunny purse from 2010. I’d made it for myself, to take to a party (hence the shoes and the weekender bag) and back then, you could fit a mobile phone in, as they were small; not a chance these days.dsc_0271Oh and the original line up of second generation bunny purses! See, now I’m getting all nostalgic and instantly want to make more, in fun colours. No, Beth, you will only find yourself swearing and trying to contain the tears of frustration when attempting to align the zips so they open and close smoothly (concealed zips on a tight curve are never a good idea!!!).img_20160911_085005Summer has been….interesting. We’ve had the drama/trauma of settling F into secondary school, which hasn’t been easy and is ongoing. He’s at a great local school, one we waited a long time for on the waiting list (as he was desperate to go there) but he’s struggled with the move, as many kids do; it’s a big change going from a small primary to a huge secondary school and with the added stress that F is a ‘quirky’ child who doesn’t do change very well, we’re all a bit exhausted at the moment.

I’ve been sewing blinds and curtains, hence the lack of blogging as they just aren’t very photogenic. I did take the above snap of my Sister’s cat napping on some curtains I’d made for her….Winston has definitely decided that they are intended purely for him to sleep on.frederickWe have (another!) new cat, this time from Battersea, called Frederick. We missed Tuppence a lot, so we decided to brave another. I’m hoping he wont get ill/break a leg/turn out to have caliciviris etc. I think we deserve to have a cat with no complications, although Birdie, our original RSPCA cat has never had any problems (fingers crossed!).img_20161013_190521Freddie also likes laying on curtains, apparently.

Right, I have to go check my stock levels and update everything, then finish some binding on new Christmas aprons so I can actually photograph and list them BEFORE Christmas. That’s the plan, anyway 🙂

Secret Cinema – Star Wars

Secret Cinema, for those that don’t know, is an events company specialising in ‘Live Cinema’ experiences, combining film screenings with interactive performances in purpose-built sets.  I have been on their email list for years and cry a little each time they put on a show featuring a movie I love, but that I can’t go to (I was quite desperate to see The Red Shoes and I’d have sold my children to go to Blade Runner ).  So when I heard the next film would be Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, I jumped online and bought tickets and decided I’d worry about getting someone to look after the kids at a later point.

DSC_0136I am a big Star Wars fan (see my house keys above!!), not in a crazy way, just in that it was the main series of films of my childhood (and I’m talking the original three here, naturally), if I ever had to commit to a top 10 list of my favourite movies they would be in there…probably in the top 5, and as anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows, I do love an opportunity to get dressed up (again, long term readers know already, but for any new folk my sadly no longer used degree is in Theatre Design, specialising in costume, so I can get a bit geeky when dressing up is involved), going to this kind of event was a no-brainer.starwars4

I bought the above book last year (Star Wars – Costumes by Brandon Alinger), but hadn’t really read it properly, so researching costume ideas was a good opportunity to geek out on all the details.  It’s such a good book, I had lots of fun deciding on which greeblies I would make.


Without giving anything away, when you register for the event, after buying your tickets, you are put into a ‘faction’, I had originally decided, in my head, that I was going to be a Mercenary (Han Solo costume here I come) but no, apparently, due to my being highly organised, my analytical mind and my leadership skills (????!!!! to this last one) I was given the role of a Governor of the Alliance.  You are then given a basic outline of the costume brief for your group, which for mine was pretty much a military style, white or metallic jumpsuit.  Now I’m quite lazy about making actual costumes, I find the cost of the fabric and the time involved often outweighs the time it’s worn, so I bought a very cheap sale jumpsuit from Warehouse and pimped it.


I can’t really wear off the shoulder, so I added some padded bits to the top and my oh-so-carefully-made *ahem* rank badge.  I was quite pleased with the result, actually.

DSC_0138This then left me with lots of time for the fun bits, which in my case involved deciding which false eyelashes I’d wear (still loving Paperself for crazy lashes) and how much glitter is appropriate for my attempt at space style make-up.

starwars2Lots of glitter, apparently.

starwars3I’m afraid there was no chance of a full length photo, this is the best I could get.DSC_0145I had equal amounts of fun gathering any bartering items needed (listed with your faction details) , my Sister (who I went with) laughed when I told her I’d tea stained my blueprints…hey, I have two kids in primary school, I spend half my life distressing and tea staining paper!!

I can’t say a lot about the show itself because it’s, well, a secret.  You are not allowed mobile phones or cameras inside (any ‘devices’ you have with you are sealed in pouches before you enter, I just didn’t even bother taking mine) but I can say it was absolutely awesome, one of the best theatre experiences I have ever been to and worth every penny of the ticket price, which I know has been quite grumbled about on the web.  You can enter into the spirit of it as much, or as little as you like, personally I think it’s more fun if you just go for it, we were very early in (which I recommend) and so found we had time to absorb all the details, and it really is all in the detail, a huge amount of effort has been put into the staging and sets, the atmosphere is great, we chose to do all the available interactive options which involve quite a lot of running around (it’s set over 18 acres, apparently, which I can well believe), dancing and being shouted at by various Rebel leaders and Imperial Guards.  I must say, a polyester jumpsuit is not necessarily the best option as you do get quite sweaty, but then full marks to those dressed in the full gear and big shout out for the girl wearing an amazing R2D2 dress.DSC_0141

I wasn’t expecting to buy anything from any of the stalls, but I fell in love with these stirling silver rings made by Iris Musel of Amygdalae Design (she has an Etsy shop here), sorry about the appalling photo but the rain is tipping it down here so the light is dreadful.

Do I have any other tips if you’re thinking of going along and a recap? (and do go, I really do recommend it and you can often buy late tickets for sold out days via the SC FB page from people who can no longer go)….arrive early, we were there for 5.15 and were amongst the first in, by which time the queue behind us was huge, they do have lots of great tactics to stagger the audience so everyone gets to make the most of each section, but it was nice being amongst the first group in.  Take your time and soak up the details, chat to any cast members you get the opportunity to talk to, it’s fun and they tell you things that lead to bits you might otherwise miss.  Make sure you do bring any items you are asked to, you will need your scarf and trading things.  It’s hot, hot, hot in there and you do have to move around a lot, they say no heals and I’d go with that as good advice.  You can’t bring in drinks etc (your bag is searched at the beginning) and any gadgets are sealed up for the duration.  It’s credit cards only, ideally contactless, I’ve read on the web that the food and drinks are considered a bit pricey, but we had a delicious chicken satay and I drank (rather a lot) of wine during the movie, the cocktails have a decent kick to them too, yep I felt it was necessary to try those as well, so for me, the price was worth it.  One thing I would say, I felt quite bad about not taking the boys, but apart from the fact it would have become a very expensive night out, had they come too, I’m really glad I didn’t bring them.  There were a few kids there and they were well included by the actors, but it felt like quite a grown up show to me. It’s hot, dark, and in places crowded.  You do genuinely get shouted at quite a bit and I think the boys might not have got some of it, or perhaps have felt a bit intimidated, and they would have been bored in places so I’d have had to concentrate on looking after them, rather than immersing myself, saying that the kids I did see where having lots of fun.

DSC_0196Well, that’s all, I guess.  One last photo though, this is Buster, the final animal to come and live in the Foster zoo.  We’ve had him a few weeks now, he’s a ‘proper’ stray from Battersea, a bit mangled in the ears and some nice scars on his poor face from his years of living rough, but a nice addition to the other two (pretty, young) girl cats and I was very happy to adopt an older, black cat as I know they are difficult to re-home.  He gets to appear here because I tried very hard to persuade the boys that Vader was a good name for a black cat, but they were having non of it and Buster was the only name we could agree on, so Buster it is.

I’m busy sewing blinds, which isn’t very inspiring for blogging, but come September I’ll be back to Linen Cat work so hopefully I’ll be back in blogworld more frequently 🙂

I hate Openreach….

Let’s just get to the point in the title.  We have an underground fault just near my house, directly after the main box, it’s basically a junction that some muppet tarmaced over some years ago and when it rains, the water gets in and loads of people lose their phone line and internet, I am the first house in line to it’s easy to pinpoint exactly where the problem is.  I reported the fault in December 2013 and fought a battle with various people, including management at the phone company and Openreach to get it fixed, but it involves traffic lights and a possible road closure and each time they apply to the council, the sun shines, the ground dries up and the computer says fault ‘fixed’ (I am told) and the proposed work plans stop.  Then it rains again…..


There’s a lot more to this story (I am the bane of my phone and internet company, they pass me around so they can each take it in turns to deal with me, I’m afraid the ‘project manager’ bit of me just doesn’t get why Openreach pour money into sending out engineers daily, but wont actually fix the fault, and insist that a temporary, intermittent service is acceptable, even after a year.  There’s also a whole bit about a temporary line to try and keep me happy that the wild rabbits keep chewing through, but that’s a whole other story).  ‘Chocolate’ and ‘teapot’ springs to mind.  Suffice to say, it’s been raining a lot and sadly we have been without internet and phone lines on and off for a while, but today – hurrah! – the internet, at least, is on, so I’m rushing out a quick blog post to say hello and try to do a catch-up.


Christmas was wonderful, one of the best in fact.  We were lucky to be invited out to France to stay in my sister and BIL’s chalet.  The boys and I had our first skiing lessons…..I’m a natural 😉 (ha ha, well I wasn’t awful, anyway) and we really loved it, so we will be hitting Chatham dry slopes to get up to standard, before we move permanently out to live in France (just kidding V).  My brother and his wife also came along, our first Christmas together since Mum died, it was really special to be with my siblings, I just wish we all lived closer together and could see each other more often.  I got my vintage glad rags on for the day itself and meant to take a photo but never did, this headshot selfie is the best I have.


I’m sorry the images in this post are quite ‘festive’ looking, I know that come the new year, everyone’s moved on from red and gold, but I wanted to show some of the things given and received.  Sneaked in at the top there (so you didn’t get too bored of my moaning about effing Openreach without a photo to soften the rant) is an Isak ‘Tingleby’ serving set, bought as a gift.  I love these pieces, I have a platter myself, bought some years ago, and I use my own little dishes daily.

DSC_0151Above, the genius fun gifts from BIL, involving a 1970’s quiz and relevant prizes.  I won a bottle of ‘Charlie Gold‘, which is hilarious and smells just as I remember (it’s quite scary, my advice would be to only spray it in large open spaces, we all nearly choked on the mix of that and the ‘High Karate’ which my brother won) and some Bazooka gum.  The sweet lip balms (bought via Amazon) are nothing to do with Christmas gifts, I bought them as pinata prizes quite recently but they are great fun, really do smell like the relevant sweets and I thought would be ideal cracker gifts for next year, if you’re making your own.banglesAbove, is a gift received, some beautiful celluloid bangles that I had on my ‘wish list’, from Passionate About Vintage.


I also got this Esther Williams swim suit (clearly NOT me in the photo!).  I already have it in red but this is the very best swim suit I’ve ever found for my *ahem* curvier figure, that also has a retro vibe about it and as I swim with the boys every week, it was right up there on my list.

DSC_0156Again, in given was this little bundle from the amazing Etsy shop Jurooma.  I’ve blogged about the beautiful felt work from here before, and specifically about the minimalist, but delightful packaging.DSC_0169 Inside is lots of felted goodness.DSC_0171 Including a poppy for my Aunt.  I have a similar one and always get lovely comments when I wear it on my winter coat.DSC_0176I’d originally planned to use the berries as part of the gift packaging, but then I thought it might detract from the fact that each piece is handmade and individual so I gave them wrapped in their original bags and ribbons.

DSC_0146 Finally, a couple of gifts from me to me, just because.  This beaded pouch, which now holds my make-up came from Anthropologie.  I got it on offer when I was buying other gifts to give, yet again it reminds me how hard it is to compete with mass marketed loveliness that is available out there these days.

il_570xN.694098073_sgr7And not exactly new, I’ve owned it quite a long while now but I know I’ve never blogged about it, a vintage, hand-knitted 1960’s jumper from Zest vintage.  I have shown a similar sweater, that also came from Zest, and which travelled to France with me this year, but I’m wearing this little number today as it’s a bit nippy.  I always get stung on the custom tax when I order from Zest (I don’t mind paying the tax, it’s the handling fee that gets me) but even with that added on, I really do think for such a beautiful hand knitted jumper, which I plan to own and wear for years, it’s worth it.

I hope to try and do some blog reading whilst the internet is playing ball, I haven’t opened the shop back up yet as I’m too nervous that I wont easily be able to process orders when it goes back off and with the forecast rain and snow (oh, yes please to the snow!) I imagine it will be a bit erratic for a while.  Wish me luck 🙂

PS, I should say, the phone engineers are all lovely, I’ve never met one that hasn’t tried to be helpful, it’s just the organisation that needs sorting out.  Seriously, they need a decent project manager on board…..wonder where you’d find one of those 😉

My Cupboard is Bare…

Rain, rain, rain….wind, wind…rain, rain, rain.  Even I (with my love of rain) am bored now.  Saying that, the sun is trying really hard to come out, as I type, so perhaps we’re due a break?  At least my house has electricity and isn’t flooded.


As, theoretically, in shop terms we are now in ‘spring’ mode, I figured it is time to remove all my festive stock and see what I have hidden away.

Not a lot apparently.


Oh dear.  I really am short of spring/summer stock.  I’m not sure I’ll continue making egg cosies in the future, although the magazines love them (some of these have been in Country Living, Oh Comely….gosh quite a few mags actually) they don’t actually sell all that well, they tick over nicely, but I’m not sure they deserve the cupboard space, so I’ve listed the last few and we’ll see how it goes.


Lavender bags I am almost completely out of, which is rare, as I normally have loads in stock.  I have no monster purses, no cashmere bears….only one cashmere girl bunny left….I really have a lot to do.  I’ve been a bit distracted by working on things for next Christmas (don’t judge!) it feels really good to know that come next September, when I’ll be doing the reverse of today, I wont open a cupboard, only to feel like old Mrs Hubbard.  I would like to organise my time better this year, maybe on Fridays I sew ‘winter’ things, or similar, so I can really keep one step ahead.  Saying that, I’d also like to sew more for myself, get the garden sorted and make time for some local trips to National Trust properties that the rest of the family aren’t interested in (bit random this last one, but our yearly subscription just renewed and it was clear to me how rarely we use it, considering how many sites there are near here and I quite like the idea of pottering around a nice house or garden with no kids in tow…maybe with a nice cream tea afterwards).



I changed my board over for inspiration….


and bought another little gem from Miss Bumbles….who’s shop I may be a bit addicted to.


Finally, this arrived late yesterday.  Oh how I agonised over the decision to buy a second machine.   I love my manual Bernina (1001), it’s done me proud for 20 years and I have no intention of giving it up, but whilst I had some money, I made the decision to buy a second computerised machine, I figured it’d be a nice way to spend the cash, on something that’ll hopefully last me for years to come but that I wouldn’t otherwise have bought.  I’m looking forward to playing with the buttonhole and fancy stitches….I’m worried I’ll be disappointed and prefer my nice manual buttonhole system on my ‘other’ (I refuse to say old as that would make me ancient) machine, I’ll let you know how I get on, oh and just for the record, if I were buying a single machine, there is no doubt at all I’d have gone for the ‘new’ manual Bernina 1008, but as that’s just an updated version of my own machine, the whole point was to get something a little different.

I haven’t even turned it one yet, I have a blind to make, once that’s done my reward will be to play on this beauty and get to know it, I quite like the anticipation, plus I really need to get the blind finished 🙂  Yep, I’m weird like that.


1940’s Suit: The Pattern…

I think that most people who read my blog, know that I have a bit of a thing about vintage.  I used to wear lots of vintage clothing when I was quite young and much of my normal wardrobe is vintage inspired, with quite a few original pieces thrown in.  On a daily basis I have become very lazy with my appearance, which is something I’d like to rectify.  I think I keep waiting to lose the weight I put on when I had the boys, and in doing so, to be able to wear the 80% of my wardrobe that I currently can’t fit into.  Although I am working on this (the weight loss), I have been making an effort to increase that 20% that I can wear by adding some new pretty pieces, ie. not just Chie Mihara shoes, but actual clothes.


On of my recent buys is this vintage suit.  I love it, but it does have a few problems.  Although it fits me on the skirt and waist, the shoulders are HUGE.  Basically, it has already been messed about with, the skirt has been taken in and there have been changes to the jacket, although these alterations are also ‘original’ I can’t wear it well as it is.  I plan to do some alterations of my own, if it was ‘pure’ vintage and had never been touched I would probably feel very guilty about this, but as is, I am happy to do so.


In the meantime, it got me thinking that I might like to make myself a nice 40’s suit that fits me perfectly.  I have a quite specific idea of the fabric and shape of my ideal version, this, of course, has lead to many hours of trawling the internet, trying to find a good original pattern and the perfect tweed.


I’m in love with this pattern (Advance 5399), how fabulous is that collar, the turned cuff and the scallop hem on the jacket?   Sadly, it is not meant to be as none exist even remotely near my size.


In the end, I bought a Hollywood pattern (1145) in a size 18 and a Mc Call in a size 40.  I would like to point out, just in case you don’t know this, that vintage pattern sizing is teeny tiny in comparison to modern dress sizes.  I am a 14.  I was a size 8 when I got married  – boo hoo!  I had assumed I’d return to nearer that size after kids (which is when I gained most of the weight), now I hope to land near a neat 12 if I keep up my current, very slow, weight loss up, maybe even a 10 if I’m lucky.  Oh and dress size is relative to each person, I am in no way suggesting that a 14 is large, it isn’t, but for me and my personal frame, I’d prefer to be a bit smaller.


Anyhow, if you want to know more about vintage patterns and sizing, plus learn some great sewing techniques I would suggest Gertie’s book ‘New Book For Better Sewing‘ it’s brilliant and also contains some great patterns.  I hesitated about buying this, as I tend to think I know quite a lot about sewing but in reality, I know about drafting patterns and historical design and construction, but reading this I realised there is so much I don’t know, especially about the kind of sewing I’m about to do.  A perfect example is Gertie’s (I write this like she’s my new BF – ha ha!) way to work out your vintage size.  She suggests you actually measure your upper bust measurement (directly under your arms) and use this for old pattern sizing, as the actual bust measurement (ie around the widest point) is all about  how busty you are and not about your actual frame size.  This way, the shoulders and arm of the pattern will fit and you should only need to make a simple bust adjustment, if needed.  So I’m between a vintage 18 and 20.  Whichever pattern I choose to use I’ll have to adjust it up or down, but this I am comfortable with.

Next came the trawl for fabric.  My initial choice being the dog-tooth check above, but it’s too heavy and a much bigger design than I’d realised.  I am not disheartened as it’s lovely fabric and will be fabulous for bags and purses, but that’ll teach me to get samples in future.  Oh and the other small check is for a skirt.  No idea why the new Donna Wilson catalogue is there, I think I just took the photo as, at the time, it made a neat little pile on my desk.


I decided on the Hollywood pattern, against my better judgement, the McCall was much easier to follow and the pieces were fully marked, but I fell in love with the peplum on the Hollywood one, so the Ginny Simms suit it is.  Also, my second order of fabric, this beautiful green/grey/blue/brown tweed is perfect for the job….and looks surprisingly like the image on the packet cover, I hadn’t noticed that until now.


I had ordered 4 meters of fabric, as the width is wider than those given on the pattern back (which I didn’t actually have at the point of ordering the fabric as it was coming back from the US with my husband), so the first thing I did was carefully lay out the pieces to make sure I had enough.  I did and actually 3 meters would have been perfect.  When I was at college, we used to lay our patterns pieces on the large cutting table so see how much fabric to order.  Always a good trick.


Next, I very carefully ironed the pattern pieces and copied them onto brown paper which I buy in long rolls (another old habit, I always use it for pattern cutting, even for my Linen Cat work).


I then spent the rest of yesterday obsessively marking up the brown paper versions so they made easy sense to me, marking in grain lines, darts etc and even the stitch lines – I pretty much only ever work from patterns that are drafted without seams included so I’m bound to forget if I re-visit this in the future.

I’ve stopped there, as I need to make a few decisions.  Do I wait to lose more weight before altering the pattern and making it up?  Or do I make it to fit me now.  I’m going to wait a while at least.  There is no hurry and I want this to be a keeper, after all 4 meters of tweed, lining and a vintage pattern don’t come cheap.


And now for a little eye candy.  I wanted to show you this fabulous purse I bought last Autumn from Sarah Culleton.  I’m sorry if I’ve shown it before, but don’t think I have and the image has been sitting on my laptop waiting to be mentioned.  It has had so many lovely compliments, I’m always a good girl and point out it isn’t one of mine.  The detail of adding a vintage brooch (which comes with the purse) is one I particularly like.


I couldn’t resist this as well.


Finally, as I just mentioned vintage jewellery, the brooch in the tweed shot above and this cute earring/brooch set (which I bought because I owned a similar one for dressing up with when I was a child) are from the UK Etsy shop Pearls Scarlet Vintage.  I’m really enjoying vintage brooches at the moment, it’s quite a nice and affordable way to cheer up an outfit. Our kitchen table needs some TLC doesn’t it!

Right, back to housework and refereeing the kids.

The Peony Dress…

There have been so many great versions of the Peony Dress by Colette Patterns appearing in blogworld, that despite my aversion to buying patterns, I thought I’d give it a go (the reason I don’t generally buy patterns is that I feel guilty I should draft them myself plus I HATE working from things with the seam allowance already added, it’s not the way I cut patterns and I also HATE flimsy pattern paper when I’m used to working in brown paper).  I also had my ‘big day out’ in London looming and wanted something special to wear that would take me through the day without feeling over dressed. I my stash, I had some cotton corduroy bought ages ago from Dragonfly fabrics (they have nice things, don’t blame me if you spend all your pennies when you hop over to the site 😉 ) in an ‘Aubergine’ shade that I’d planned to make into a skirt so figured I’d use this.  It costs quite a bit more than my usual ebay cotton corduroy but the colour is really nice; I must say here, though, that when I pre-washed the fabric before making up the dress it pilled really badly and faded a bit.  After making it up all the loose fibers had brushed off and actually the final colour is really nice, so I’m happy, it’s also had a couple of washes since and has settled down nicely in colour and fiber loss, so goes into the ‘winner’ list.

This is my final dress, shown with one of my pairs of Chia Mihara shoes and a brooch that I also wore.  I attempted to pop it on my Stockman dummy but since buying it, many years ago, I have *ahem* put on a few pounds so it’s not a great fit.  On me, as I made a toile in calico first to get the bodice right, it fits perfectly and is very flattering.  I struggled to get the pattern version in my size to work.  As mentioned, I did cut a calico version (toile as we called it at college) and started the process of pinning out the excess fabric but in the end, rather than mess about too much I drafted my own pattern to my measurements then out of interest compared the two.  Mine was a lot narrower in the back, by about 2 inches and the waist was lower (I have a long body), it was also much tighter directly under the bust to give a more fitted look and the arm holes were smaller.

I also need to confess that I didn’t follow the making instructions, but made up the dress as I would have from my own experience.  I did take some time today to read through the whole pattern and I actually think it’s great, really well laid out and easy to understand.  I can imagine it being quite straight forward for someone who is quite new to sewing.

I also took a dart out of the sleeves as they were a bit ‘baggy’ in the original version and as suggested added some piping cord, also in the corduroy around the neck and waistline.  Instead of doing the gathers as shown in the pattern when attaching the skirt, I opted for inverted pleats, as they sit flatter and so hide my belly without exaggerating it.  Bonus.

I lined the body and skirt of the dress in some Liberty Tana Lawn, again from my stash (I didn’t line the sleeves).  It’s seconds, and was quite cheap as the background colour has a yellow tint that would have made the fabric unusable for my shop products but perfect for this project.  I bound the sleeves and lining together at the shoulder joint using bias binding, which I also used it to bind the raw seam at the sleeve edge.  The rest of the seams were tidied using my overlocker.  I’m really glad I did line the frock as it looks very neat and tidy and somehow very ‘finished’ and it much nicer to wear.  The only down side of the whole thing, is that I hope to be at least a dress size smaller by next winter so I am wearing it as often as I can before it get’s too warm.

As I’m blogging dress making, I have become addicted to cruising the many vintage pattern re-prints out there, especially Vogue Vintage and I’m rather looking forward to making the above at some point (all bought from Jaycotts where they often run half price pattern sales). For loads of info and inspiration in vintage style dress making, and much better info on the making up experiences of  Colette patterns, you must go and read Jane’s blog Handmade Jane , I am always inspired to sew for myself when I visit, and Jane’s recent dress for a brilliant Mad Men challenge frock is one that I’m especially in love with.

Green Tweed Messenger Bag…

Recently, I have had a flurry of making things for myself and the house, or, not even sewing at all (gasp, shock, horror).  I find that this happens at certain times of the year, and as there is so much to do in the garden at the moment and it’s also the slowest time for the shop I am finding it quite liberating to remember that the world won’t collapse if I let my shop making slow down.  I’ve read a lot of blog posts recently about balancing the whole work/family/creating thing and also asking the ‘is it all worth it?’ question.  Like many out there, I sometimes question the profit I make in relation to the hours I work.  I imagine how clean and tidy our house and garden might be, if I weren’t always in my studio, but the reality is I would also be quite miserable.  I really need this bit of life that is ‘just for me’, it makes me a nicer person to be around and so a better parent and wife and I really can’t imagine not doing it.  I’m also quite aware with both boys in school now that I need to think about moving The Linen Cat up to the next level, I’ve built a good foundation and just need to decide in which direction to go.  But for now, I’m enjoying taking a few weeks out 🙂

Right, enough.  Time to show some goodies.

Last winter after making the boys these messenger bags from the ‘Little Things to Sew‘ book by Liesl Gibson, I knew I wanted to make one for myself.  It had to be in tweed, so after a little ebay searching I found some in green with a lovely blue fleck (which you can’t see very well on the photos, sadly).

While on the hunt for some linen for the lining, I managed to bag some Thumbelina fabric from the Far Far Away, Part 2 collection by Heather Ross in green (I struggled to take photos today as it’s very bright in the studio and I had to close the curtain, the actual background colour is more off a lighter pea green).  I love this fabric and wish I hadn’t been so late to the party, there was only a purple version left in the UK as her latest collection (Far Far Away, III) was out at this point so it was an  Etsy US seller  job hunting for the green.

I wanted something sturdier for the edging than the cotton bias binding I’d used for the boys’ bags, to match the weight of the fabrics, so I bought some green cotton herringbone webbing from Ray-Stitch.  It works quite well, I washed it first to soften it a bit and then ironed it in half before using it to edge the bag.  The only difficulty is there was quite a lot of movement so I did have to tack it into place before sewing it with the machine.  As always I use a very small zig-zag to hold the binding into place, catching both the front and back at the same time.

As with the original bags I used some heavy cotton webbing bought on Ebay for the strap (the book gives instructions for making the strap from fabric, which I’m sure would work very well) and I omitted the pocket flaps (as I did with the boys’ versions), I had intended to put them in but I honestly find the way they ‘fit’ a bit odd in that they are attached quite a bit higher than the top of the pockets and only overlap by a small amount, I’ve pinned them on here so you can see how they might have looked.

When putting the bag together, I used an iron-on Vilene Heavy interfacing fixed onto the tweed (Vilene H250/305), which stops the tweed from fraying as well as making it a little stiffer, I then sandwiched a heavy stitch-in interfacing between the tweed and linen layer on the front and back pieces (Vilene S13/313).  The sides only have the tweed, ironed on interfacing and linen, there is no stitch-in interfacing used here.

All these layers do make it heavy going on the machine, but I felt the bag needed this structure and it works really well.  I can imagine if you made it with canvas, as suggested in the book, it would be nicer left a little ‘floppy’ but this wasn’t the look I was going for.  My only advice here is make sure you use the correct needle (I use a 14 or even 16, both are for stitching heavier fabrics) and I trimmed the stitch-in interfacing back off the seams before stitching on the binding to remove some bulk.  Actually, whilst I’m mentioning needles, one of my top tips generally for sewing is to change your need regularly, I change mine for each new project, it makes a real difference.

Finally, I knew I wanted to add some removable flower brooches to the front, as I had done with the tweed bag I made for my sister-in-law for Christmas.  I had thought about a contrasting colour but as it has taken me sooooooo long to actually complete the bag (remember, I started this late last year when my working colour palette was all berry purples,reds and pinks) that I’ve been looking at a lot of images of Ariculas and have fallen in love with the many green versions so I opted for these.  I know they don’t stand out so well but I really liked the idea of a more subtle green on green, plus as they are brooches I can always remove them and add winter flower versions as the seasons change.

I’m really pleased with the finished bag and know already that it’s going to get a lot of use.  I am quite genuinely thinking of making it a little waterproof cover (in see-through plastic that can be kept in the back inside pocket (oops, forgot to mention it has a pocket inside) for hurriedly putting over it when it rains, as wet wool tweed is not always the nicest smell and I would hate it to get ruined.  Sad aren’t I?!  It reminds me of my Amy Butler Weekender Travel Bag that I use a lot and I realise, looking back at this post I nearly always opt for green tweed when making things for myself.  Creature of habit, or simply that I know what I like?

Right, the sun is shining, the garden is calling and we have some minor building work going on this week so I’d better get back to work, lots to do today 🙂