It's here! From My Mother to Me...#1

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Happy Mother's Day! Or at least it is if you're here in the UK! And that also means it's the very first post in my new series, From My Mother to Me...celebrating the sewing gifts and more from mothers to daughters.
I'm kicking off a seven-Sunday series, leading up to Mothers Day in the USA, Australia and all kinds of other places on Sunday May 11.

Now I've been looking forward to this post so much! Not least because I get to share these glamorous photos of my mum. Check this out, my mum in a lilac angora jumper, knitted herself;


My mum, Christianna Jean, grew up in Manchester from where her father was a baker and confectioner  and her mother worked long hours running the bakehouse and a shop and cafe. Her mother, my gran, was a great seamstress, but never had time to sew with her. The bakery was still open when I was a child and I remember  helping myself to cakes and seeing the tired, flour-dusted faces of the women who worked the long hours there. Here's my mum and my grandmother .


So, without her own mum around,  my mum turned to the other women around her to teach her to sew, the women who came into the cafe, and also in the neighbouring shops. In particular this lady, the appropriately named Miss Taylor.

Miss Taylor ran another shop, a ladies' drapers as it was called, selling underwear and stockings. She taught my mum to sew. Here she is with my mum, who is aged about 16 and is wearing a cream wool boucle coat that  she made herself, under Miss Taylor's guidance. It's a Vogue pattern complete with black leather buttons.  Miss Taylor taught my mum lots of things - how to make bound button holes, buttonhole stitch ( a kind of twisted blanket stitch for hand finishing button holes), how to cut properly and mark everything with tailor's  tacks.
In those days, the late 1950s and early 1960s, everyone was smarter and clothes were more expensive. So my mum made beautiful tailored pieces like this coat, which required really perfect sewing skills.
She also made some pretty crazy things. Like this dress.


My mum's family emigrated from Germany to England in 1910. She had two older brothers, and in the early 1950s they drove to Germany in an old Bentley car, I guess to visit relatives and re-trace roots.   The brothers came back from Germany with some gorgeous printed cotton, and she used it to make this traditional Tyrolean outfit!
And she's also kept things. (Sadly not the Vogue cream wool coat!)

But she has still got this gorgeous floral dress she made aged about 15. It has a beautiful v-back and an amazing full skirt. It is, however, absolutely tiny. It has the most miniscule waist ever!

My mum moved to Edinburgh in 1963, where she met my dad, and her sewing moved from the 1950s feminine to the funky 60s. She made trouser suits and evening dresses and Mary Quant style shift dresses and more. Sadly photos are few and far between, (and you would not believe how much work this post has required from my dear dad and his basic technology skills/equipment - searching for photos, scans, emails etc. If I ever get hold of the 60s photos I'll do a follow-up!).
In the 1970s she started sewing for me and my sister. And sewed everything for us... (from my school uniform, to my sister's wedding dress). She was also quite 'cutting edge.' We didn't wear 'pink' or frills. For instance, I love the graphic stripes on these seersucker pinafores (me on the right). Sewing for us was still due to financial necessity...

So I grew up not being 'taught' to sew, but watching her sew in the evenings. And as a teenager I sewed dresses and waistcoats and bits and bobs (I too still have my teenage creations - but I'll save them for another day).
Now, when I'm spending evenings sewing for Missy, these are the sewing 'rules' I've inherited from my mother

  • An iron is the most important sewing tool. Never be far away from your ironing board when you're sewing. I am often too lazy to get the ironing board out and usually regret it.
  • Cutting is crucial. And never, ever, cut anything out late at night. (I break this rule a lot). I remember her cutting my sister's wedding dress fabric - seven metres of gorgeous silk damask. My dad, brother and I were ordered to leave the house. She said she couldn't cut it with anyone else around..
  • Don't waste your energy and effort on cheap fabric. When I was 17 I made a hand-embroidered 'new-romantic' velvet waistcoat. It took hours. Then I bought the cheapest nylon lining fabric for the back. I clearly remember my mum sending me straight back to the fabric shop, maybe with a little money in my pocket, to buy some decent fabric. I still have the waistcoat.
  • Sew things to last - with growing room. This used to drive me crazy! My mum made me shorts for wearing for sports at school. I had one pair that lasted from age 5 to 11. Also nightdresses that had endless tucks in the hem so they could be lengthened. She added extra patchwork to maxi dresses to make them longer. But much as I hated it as a kid - I'm doing the same now! Everything I now sew for Missy, I think how can I make this so it can be altered?
  • Perfectionsim. My mum notices things. She can see when stripes don't match across a seam, or a facing doesn't lie flat. It would bother her, and she would unpick. There are moments when I look at something, and think 'mum would unpick that' and I reach for the seamripper.
I love the photo of my mum in her Vogue coat with Miss Taylor. I love to think that when I slipstitch a hem (as taught by Miss Taylor to my mum...) something of this old lady that I never met lives on....

And what do I hope Missy, and Torin, will take from watching me sew as they grow up?

  • That you don't need to buy things, you can make them
  • Don't be a consumer, be a creative
  • Never, ever, use Mummy's sewing scissors to cut paper!

From my Mother to Me series continues with the most amazing line up over the coming Sundays.
Look out for An from Straight Grain here next Sunday!

Shark, Elephant and Boa-constrictor - The zoo has re-opened!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

There's a sewing challenge running right now over on Project Run and Play to tap into our animal instincts...
The theme for the week is 'Put me in the Zoo.'
Now I'm feeling a little smug with this one - been there, done that...
A few months ago I wrestled with a shark, elephant and a boa constrictor to create an outfit, so forgive me for reviving that post this week for the Put me in the Zoo challenge. 

I was inspired by the Secret Squirrel, he's skipping around sewing blogs on his way to Straight Grain's blog,  offering a monthly challenge and this is my 'sew along' version. It's my second  Secret Squirrel outfit, the first is here .

The Secret Squirrel themes, suggested by I Seam Stressed (the Little Prince, Green, Bias, Great White Shark and Zooey Deschanel) took me right into zoo territory.

My sewing brain went into overdrive with shark's teeth and this illustration from the Little Prince forming the basis for my vision.

Grown-ups looking at this picture see a hat, says The Little Prince, but this is actually a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant. 

The vision materialised into this white blouse, adorned with a yoke of 'shark's teeth' pintucks and green bias hand-made piping (Kerching... that's shark, green and bias all ticked off, phew). But getting this blouse to fit, and realising that this required some serious ironing, led me to question my sanity!

Of course the blouse had to be white. I just couldn't bring myself NOT to have white shark's teeth. 
But it was a nightmare to photograph. I hope you can make out the detail. 

AND this blouse has only been worn for five minutes for the very first time in these photographs, and it ALREADY has a smudge on it...What was I doing to myself with this idea?

But doesn't it look pretty!
Mr As-it-seams said it's a bit 'flouncy choirboy'. I was aiming for more 'cute peasant'. Like everything I make, it's big on Missy, particularly the bouffant sleeves. If I can find a last ounce of emotional strength I may refashion them. But overall I'm chuffed. I love the structural effect of the sharks teeth.

Basically they are pintucks, snipped and ironed in place as alternate triangles, then over-stitched with a zig-zag. It was simple but required  industrial style ironing and every pin in my tin. 
I stumbled on this tutorial, and I've done my first ever tutorial over here! The pattern for the blouse is loosely based on the Sunshine Blouse, which in turn is adapted from a Burda pattern. The yoke is lined in muslin, and it closes with a single mother-of-pearl star button and handmade button loop.

This blouse was actually pretty straight-forward, but I made it late at night and kept messing up, particularly the fit. Because of the shark-teeth yoke, the neckline couldn't sit too high, or too low and I kept stuffing up. 

Now. What about that elephant in the boa constrictor? Well this shark's blouse is teamed with a pair of bubble shorts which could not have been a more different sewing experience. I whipped them up in a couple of hours using Do Guincho's bubble short pattern
 After my blood-sweat-and-tears blouse, this was A BREEZE. It felt like Marta from Do Guincho was practically threading my sewing machine, with her detailed instructions! I made them in the softest brown corduroy, and lined them in - ta dah - elephant print cotton lawn! 

Missy LOVED this print, so much that it was almost a shame to hide, so I added pockets. 

The blouse might have been the most ludicrous garment to have sewn for a three year old, but the bubble shorts were the opposite. 
Wearable, fun, so cute and yet practical. As you can barely see them under that flouncy blouse, I took some extra pictures , to give the shorts the show they deserve!

Shark, elephant, boa constrictor - yep, I reckon I can just about open a zoo over here!

Announcement: Calling all Mothers!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Some announcements:

Firstly; I haven't blogged any sewing in a while, but that's not because I haven't been sewing.
I simply haven't been able to document it, because my camera has disappeared into camera-heaven. 
But, hurrah, I now have a new camera,  poised and ready for a new spring season of sewing. And just in time. Because....

Ta Da... 2nd Announcement:

As-it-seams is preparing to host some really wonderful ladies for another New Series!
Can you believe it?  Straight Grain, Petit a Petit, While she was sleeping, Sewpony, Nat and the Gang, Compagnie M - will be taking a Sunday blogging journey from Mother's Day in the UK to Mother's Day in the USA and Australia!

Last summer, yes it was that long ago, I was totally inspired by Suz at Sewpony's series When we were young, where guest bloggers recreate outfits from their childhood. It set me on a whole journey. I looked through old photos with a new eye, and talked to my mother about what she sewed, how and why and asked, did she run into the same problems as I do now...(like cutting things out late at night...etc...etc)...

And that got me thinking about how sewing can be a gift from women down the generations, how it is part of our heritage. It can be a skill which binds us to the older, wiser women who cross our paths, whether that's mothers, grandmothers, older sisters, aunts or neighbours.

My mother has just visited me from her home 300 miles away and we spent our last evening together with me quizzing her on how to mark and cut the pattern pieces for my next sewing project (a shirt for Mr As-it-seams. Have I totally gone crazy?). I was sad when she left, especially that she can't actually stay here for another week and mark the tailor's tacks for me!

I digress...My idea about sewing generations, has led to a series From My Mother to Me, with seven wonderful bloggers agreeing to share the best of their mothers' wisdom, or the gifts from grandmothers, aunts or other inspiring women.

Over seven Sundays, from Mother's Day in the UK on March 30 to Mother's Day in the USA and Australia on May 11,  we'll be celebrating and sharing the best of motherhood and the gift of sewing here at As-it-seams. Perhaps you have some little gems, sewing techniques or methods that always make you think of your mother. I'd love to hear about them. Email me at victoria_temple[at] or comment over the coming weeks and I'll do a 'round-up' here. And if you sew anything 'mother inspired' even better!

It's making me feel excited and sentimental just thinking about it!

Mad Men dress #2... and sewing blues

Friday, 14 March 2014

We're half way through March and the sun is (sometimes) shining.
So last Sunday I packed up a picnic, loaded Mr As-it-seams, Missy and Torin into the car and headed off into the sunshine to one of our favourite destinations, a 5,000 year-old Neolithic burial chamber, known as Waylands Smithy. It's a very special place; stunning views and a sense of timelessness. The children climbed and played, pretended to be cavemen. Eventually we headed home...
I lost my camera.
Perhaps I left it on the grassy slopes, perhaps (and I don't like to think about this - someone 'helped' my camera walk off from our picnic spot).

If I think about it too much , I get too sad. And  this could be  a lesson not to look at life through a lens.

But this is making me feel like my blogging 'right arm' is missing. Especially as tomorrow is Mssy's 4th birthday. 

Instead of making cakes and tidying the house ahead of her party tomorrow afternoon, I've been putting the finishing touches to her birthday dress, and party cloak.  I'd love to take photos, but they will have to wait until I have a new camera, and then I fear it will be a birthday dress embelished with birthday cake and chocolate smears.
And I'm trying not to think too much about having no camera for that 'blowing the candle' moment.... 

Experience the moment, not the viewfinder, will be my mantra!

And what has also cheered me up is Marta at Do Guincho's fantastic 'sew along' with the Take One Dress Series. She's sewn her a wonderful dress inspired by Miss Holloway's  Mad Men  dress. Isn't this so chic! Click over here to Do Guincho for more details.

I'd love to see your sew-alongs! Perhaps Jenya's vintage nautical dress in the March post of the Take One Dress series is inspiring you. Let me know! Add them to the Take One Dress Flickr group. Or like me, wait until April to see where it takes Suz of Sewpony...


Take One Dress 3: Do Guincho to While She Was Sleeping

Sunday, 2 March 2014

It's the first Monday of March, and that means that it's time for the next stop on the Take One Dress  journey. 
And I am so thrilled to have Jenya from While She Was Sleeping to take up the challenge posed by Marta from Do Guincho in February.
Jenya lives in Australia, but I really wish she didn't! We stumbled upon each other last year when we were both  new to blogging and she's been 'holding my hand' ever since, offering endless friendly encouragement. And some awesome sewing!

 She produced this beautiful dress inspired by some tricky Secret Squirrel acorns (passed on to her by none other than it Seams). And, amazingly, she said 'yes' again to the Take One Dress challenge! Over to you Jenya...

Hi guys, my name is Jenya. I blog at While she was sleeping, and I am super excited to be here today.

When Victoria first mentioned her idea of the Take One Dress series I thought it was brilliant! Seriously, how often do we see something that gets our creative juices flowing? So the idea of inviting a few ladies to get creative as well as provide a source of inspiration for each other - who would say no to that? Not me.

Natalie from La Gang a Nat kicked off the series with this gorgeous creation.

Last month Marta from Do Guincho created a beautiful dress for her daughter inspired by the dress presented by Natalie. Marta also chose this dress as a point of inspiration for me and anyone wanting to sew along:

I think this dress is absolutely stunning. I want one for myself! However the challenge was to create an outfit for my daughter. So While she was sleeping I made a new dress for Little Monkey inspired by Miss Holloway's dress.

I 'borrowed' the timeless shape of Miss Holloway's dress, the neckline detail, the detail on the skirt and buttons.
 I used Debbie's Birthday Dress pattern, only changed it a little. You can see the dresses I have made using this pattern previously here, here and here. I chose Debbie's Birthday Dress pattern again because of it's timeless shape.

I live in Australia and even though it is the end of summer for us, the Aussie sun is still very harsh. I added faux cap sleeves to the bodice of the dress to help protect Little Monkey's delicate skin from the sun. I can't believe I have not attempted this earlier! I think next time I will shorten the sleeves by 1 - 2 cm.

Apart from the shape of the dress, Debbie's Birthday Dress has a Peter Pan collar option which is perfect since I wanted the neckline of Little Monkey's dress to stand out, just like that of Miss Holloway. This was my second attempt at sewing a Peter Pan collar, and I admit I need more practice before I get good at it.

OK, maybe my collar is not perfect, but the pleats are pretty darn good! Why pleats? Well, Miss Holloway's dress has a gorgeous statement detail on the side of the skirt. I thought pleats would be the 'statement detail' that is appropriate for a three year old. Look at Little Monkey dancing away in her new dress!

Oh, and buttons! Miss Holloway has buttons on her dress. Little Monkey has two cool square-ish vintage buttons on the front of her dress, and one in the shape of a flower on the back. I did not realise the bottom yellow button was crooked until after the photo shoot! Oops!

Have you ever made something that is not perfect, but you still loved it? This is how I feel about this dress. However what is more important is that Little Monkey absolutely loves it! She squealed with joy when I showed it to her. She asked to put it on straight away and didn't want to take it off when we came home from the park. Not only does she like the buttons and colours, she loves the fact that her dress looks like her 'mummy's dress'. By 'mummy's dress' she is referring to a top I made for myself out of the same yellow fabric. Yeah, I like this subtle matchiness too sweetie ;)

Making a dress was nowhere near as difficult as picking an inspiring dress for Suz from Sewpony, who is next in line to create a dress in the series. I know Suz loves vintage pieces, however at one stage I considered offering her an ultra modern dress as a point of inspiration, for something different. That was until I saw this dress on Pinterest and loved it:

Suz, I hope you love this dress as much as I do. I can't wait to see your creation. I am certain it is going to be gorgeous!

Thank you very much for having me over Victoria. I am looking forward to seeing what other ladies participating in the series and those sewing along are going to make.

Thank you so much Jenya for sewing and taking part. I love your dress. Those box pleats are just lovely. Such simple flashes of colours, and great structure. It has the structural look of the Mad Men dress, yet perfect for a little girl. And of course... I should have guessed there would be buttons for Little Monkey! And the inspiration dress is great (collar, pockets, nautical, so many ideas..) I'm very much looking forward to seeing where it leads Suz of Sewpony, guest-posting here on Monday April 7.
And - keep your eyes peeled on Do Guincho over the next few days - rumour has it a Mad Men sewalong is in the pipeline!

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