Sticks, knives, sewing and our souls: Looking forward to 2016

Sunday, 27 December 2015

This post is about sticks, knives and our souls.
But have no fear, a little sewing does creep in...
And so does my beautiful boy - who is making a rare appearance on As it Seams.

We've just enjoyed a calm and lovely Christmas, with time together as a family. And at last a few calm moments to write this post.

I wanted to share some thoughts, something I've been thinking about a lot. And it was about a month ago, as I sat down for two whole afternoons in an autumnal farmyard  next to my boy, that  those thoughts came together.

This is my boy, with his stick, and a sharp knife. It was a moment of complete simplicity. For hours he was absorbed  by the movement of the blade against the soft green wood.  I joined in, sitting next to him, attempting to carve a wooden spoon and a butter knife.

We were guided and supervised by this man, Dom, who exuded a calm confidence which he passed to this small group of children. I watched this little girl, aged about 10, using this axe with skill, boldness and a sense of achievement. It was a powerful thing that Dom was passing to his young pupils. 
I'm sure this is really important for our children, helping them to feel bold, empowered and forge real connections between their hands, their imagination and the materials, whether it's wood or fabric. Don't you find that if you give children confidence and freedom their creations are limitless?

As we sat together in the farmyard with the calm of our knives and wood, we talked and listened to each other. 
And I pondered. 'What is it about making stuff that is so good for us?'
Why do I want to make a wooden spoon when I could buy one for pennies in the local supermarket? 
But a supermaket spoon would have no real value? I wouldn't respect it, understand it, or remember an autumn afternoon in a farmyard.
It would be just another 'thing' taking up space in my cluttered kitchen, made by a machine in a far-away country, by people who are paid too little, using the earth's resources.

I whittled, and thought, and pondered. and made this little butterknife.

I think it's the same with sewing. When we 'create' we gain much more than the thing that we make. We gain space in our heads, skill in our hands, connection with the people who create alongside us.

And we gain connection with what the world, right next to us, has to offer. 

My boy spent hours whittling and creating. He made a sword and a butter knife to add to his  whittled arsenal. I'm not too keen on weapons in our house, but feel a bit differently about hand-made swords, bow and arrows.  

One day I'd like to be able to create something as beautiful as Dom's pile of handmade spoons. 

This is my kitchen spatula, it's  a bit rough, but I'm still rather fond of it.

Christmas has just seen us celebrate by bringing a load of new toys into our house. We had a lot of fun, My boy loves his new Lego, Missy her new dolls' house. But these are not things that we really 'value'.
In 2016, I'm going to hang on to the lessons of those afternoons whittling. That it's real connections and creativity that are the truly valuable

Japanese Sewing Week - an 'Alice in Wonderland' blouse

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Giveaway, giveaway alert! Scroll to bottom if you're in a rush!

It's the first ever Japanese Sewing Week! 

My contribution to JSW, organised by Sara at Made by Sara combines two 'inspirations'; a Japanese pattern and Alice in Wonderland.
I know, that's a bit strange, the link will become clear.

The details

Pattern - Pintucked blouse, Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids by Tuttle publishing
Fabric -  Vintage embroidered table cloth

Firstly an apology. If you are also heading into the gloom of November, sharing beach pictures seems almost cruel. And now it's blatantly obvious just how long it takes me to get round to blogging!

But my new mantra is #slowblogging.
I'm trying to do things which minimise stress, and while I had a zillion ideas for Japanese Sewing Week, in the end time defeated me, and I'm showcasing this as-yet-unblogged beachy blouse instead.

Be assured though - there is more Japanese sewing in the pipeline!

It doesn't feel that long ago that Missy was playing on this beach, in this little blouse. I tried to take photos of her as she was playing, rather than get her to pose. 
And she was just so completely, perfectly happy on this day on a beach in Wales. 'No posing' is also part of my no stress #slowblogging approach at the moment.
 I hope you can spot the 'sewing details' though!

Japanese Sewing Week is hosted by the sweet Made by Sara, who seems to have a knack of coming up with great ideas. Back in the summer she also invited me to sew for her 150th Anniversary tour of Alice in Wonderland. 
And that really fired my imagination - I set about a little sewing mission, inspired by Alice in Wonderland's eccentric tea party, and made two dresses from vintage table cloths. And I wrote 'chapter one' of my Alice in Wonderland sewing...

I picked up a huge bundle from my local vintage market and among my haul was the sweetest hand embroidered table cloth. 

It was destined for my 'snip, snip' Alice in Wonderland scissors and I transformed it into the pintucked blouse from Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids

I've made this blouse before, as part of my Paris SewSocial sewing, and loved the simplicity of this pattern, the elegant touch of those little pleats, and the bias trim neckline, elasticated only at the back. It's a simple, perfect beach cover up.

But making it out of this table cloth created a few headaches.
I wanted to keep the lovely hand-threaded edge of the table cloth, which saved me hemming.  That meant I had to make the side seams dead-straight, rather than flared, which has slightly changed the shape. And I had to really, really think about how to cut this. I wanted to make the most of every corner, every flower, and there would be no second chance.
Aren't those flowers beautiful? I hope whoever spent hours embroidering this doesn't mind that I cut this up!
And of course - I did stuff it up. I mistook a sleeve for the back, and cutting a long story short (almost literally) I ended up slightly weepy, and then had to piece the back together.

The side seams needed a slightly different construction, to keep that embroidered edge. They are almost flat-felled. Let's just say I improvised... You can also see the tucks (just) in this picture.

Now, I love Japanese sewing, the fabrics, the patterns, the simple aesthetic. I love the way many pieces are gender neutral, and there's no fussy, girliness.  Forgive me for many, many photos, but this little blouse was perfect for a day of sand, swimming and sunshine. I'm enjoying my memories of a little girl, and those special days of being five years old..

I've made quite a few Japanese pieces, mainly from Akiko Mano's Linen, Wool, Cotton Kids, and also Sew Chic Kids by Tuttle publishing.

Here's my little collage. There's a 'Japanese pattern' label over on my side bar to track these down on my blog.

There are some gorgeous posts to discover in this series, here's the full line-up.

Do take a minute to click around!

And this series is also being sponsored by Tuttle publishing with an incredible giveaway with three prizes to be one, in the raffle copter below.

- One pack of 2 two Japanese Sewing books from Tuttle Publishing
- One pack of 2 two Japanese Sewing books from Tuttle Publishing
- A $40 fabric voucher from Urban Sew 

To enter, click through the rafflecopter below, open until November 25.
And we'd love to see your Japanese pattern creations. Sara, over at Made by SaraMade by Sara is hosting a link party as a showcase. All the details of JSW and the giveaway are over here.

Tutorial: Adding BiasTrim. A Hand-illustrated Guide

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Want  a bit more colour on a collar? Or a pocket? Or a cuff?
Bias trim is the new piping!

I like the flatness of the finish, and the almost 'military' stripes it can add to a dress, like this newly finished Tinny dress, blogged here.  

Before I go straight in to the Step-by-Step, here's a few thoughts.

 I'm not a computer whizz... new stuff takes me ages. I have no idea how to draw computer diagrams, and I forgot to take photos of each step (I sew at night, anyway, so the light is awful)....
But I can draw... And I can draw a collar much quicker than I can figure out the computer. So this is my first hand-illustrated tutorial. I'm hoping this will start a trend for 'slowblogging', after the Slow Food Movement... I'm taking a rebellious stance against the relentless high pace of the tech-world. My emphasis is on quality and process and  the things we forget about, like pen and paper....But I digress, here we go...

Adding Bias Trim - A Step by Step Guide...

1. This tutorial is to add bias trim to the collar of the Tinny dress, by Straightgrain. It would work with any pattern, however I will be using Straightgrain's pattern instructions (eg seam allowance) as a point of reference. If using another pattern, with a different seam allowance, adjust instructions accordingly

2. How wide do you want your bias trim to be? The width of your bias needs to be four times the width you would like visible. Eg, a 0.5cm (1/4 inch) trim requires a 2cm ( 1nch) wide bias binding. 
These instructions are for adding 0.5cm visible wide trim. Your bias binding should be pre-folded with 0.5 cm tucked under on each side

3. Fold the bias binding in half lengthwise and iron, to create a centre crease.

4. Cut out the collar pieces, and pin wrong sides together. The Tinny dress collar has a 7mm (1/4 inch) seam allowance. We need to stitch the collar pieces together just slightly more than that. Stitch with a 1cm (3/4inch) seam allowance

5. Trim away the 7mm (1/4 inch) seam allowance

6. Open up the bias binding and pin it with lots of pins -  many more than in this picture - all the way around the collar edge, matching the edge of the bias to the edge of the collar. Stitch at 0.5cm, in the fold of the bias binding.
6. Now, fold the bias around the edge of the collar with the central crease of the bias matching the collar edge. Iron really well, pushing out the curved seam, and ensuring it lies flat

7. Now, turn the collar piece over and pin the loose side of the bias trim to the collar underside, again with lots and lots of pins. Hand stitch the bias in place, using an invisible slip stitch. Alternatively if you don't mind visible stitching, the bias can be stitched in place carefully using a sewing machine

8. Repeat for the other collar piece, and then follow the pattern instructions as normal.

Tinny dress

I used the same technique on this modified collar for the  Sunday picnic dress  by Sewpony. I loved the Liberty bias trim so much I just had to show it off!

I'd love to see your bias trim creations! Do share them with me and let me know of any new places to add extra bias!

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Pandas, playing, and pausing to breathe...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Hello! I'm back! Anyone remember me? 

It's so long since I posted here that I'm playing catch up. I have many things sewn and not blogged.

Like this little panda tunic.

This wonderful fabric was a gift from one of our Paris Sew Social sponsors, Alles fuer Selbermacher. She was so kind and thoughtful - a half metre of this stunning panda knit, in the cutest bag, all with named labels. 

The fabric is gorgeous - it's a heavyish knit with those quirky pandas designed by Andrea Lauren. It's special stuff - and I treated it to my very amateurish knit-sewing.... oops..

And this is My First Ever garment sewn with knits (yes, it predates the Aster cardigan blogged here, that's how slow I am being about blogging stuff).

Sometimes I can be a very careful, painstaking seamstress. And other times I just launch straight in with the scissors, thinking 'what's the worst that can happen?'
My attitude was, I'm only going to learn how to sew knits if I dive in and give it a go. So that's what I did. 

The pattern is the Rowan Tee from Titchy Threads, another kind gift from a Paris Sew Social Sponsor. It's modified a lot though! I cut the body as long as I could, given the fabric length and also flared it at the sides. The sleeves have become full length too.

I was flumoxed as to how to finish the neckline - having never sewn knits before. You usually use ribbing right?

Well, I didn't have any. And there is nowhere locally that sells any, and I certainly wasn't going to faff around online. I cut up an old t-shirt and made a kind of bias binding, and finished the neckline with a reverse bias trim, and a zig zag stitch. It won't pass any sewing exams, but it works...and I like the merest hint of that teal blue bias on the neckline.

 I used the same t-shirt fabric to trim the hem and a little pocket. It's not neat - but it is cute.

And this is exactly the kind of thing that a playful little girl likes to wear.

They say panda's struggle to reproduce - but I think this one is likely to spark a new generation of 'wearable knits' for my little girl... Look out for more!

Blogging is the only thing I've been doing slowly. Everything else in my life feels like break-neck speed.

I feel like I'm running the wrong way up an escalator most of the time. I've just increased my working hours (temporarily I hope) and am writing more and more for the newspaper. 

Also term time routine is in full swing. I'm dashing from work to school  to driving a child to a violin lesson or football match, in between trying to cook dinner and get the laundry put away....
Sometimes I struggle to feel like I can breathe...

Does this sound familiar? I'm desperate for some simplicity and authenticity, and I guess that's partly why I have managed to keep on sewing. It's a moment of calm in the non-stop world. 

But any other tips on how to maintain Working Mum Sanity would be gratefully received!

Madeit Fashion Week - How an umbrella saved the catwalk

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

It's fashion show time!

Welcome to Madeit Fashion Week, showcasing the new Fold2 collection of patterns designed by the Madeit duo, Olu and Anna.

And prizes and discount! Scroll to the bottom if you're after the goodies!

Now... ta, da!

Welcome Missy to the Madeit catwalk, wearing the Pocket Fold skirt.

The pocketfold skirt is such a clever design, with unique origami inspired pockets.
But to begin with I wasn't sure about this skirt, it's a bit of a departure from my usual style, I guess because it's so chic, rather than 'pretty'.
But after sewing it and persuading my awkward Missy to wear it (after declaring boldly "I don't like yellow"), I have fallen in love with this skirt.
Teamed with her red boots she looks so stylish, a bit of a 1960s London vibe I think.

It's sewn in cotton twill that hovers between lime green and mustard yellow in colour. This was cheap fabric from my local store.
But those inserts on the other hand - oh my word - I cut into one of the most precious fabrics in my stash for those little panels.

The striped pockets are made from the divine Anna Maria Horner fabric, Volumes  in Matisse. I have two metres of this I'm saving for something special. But when I placed those stripes next to the lime green they seemed to be a match made in heaven. 

Cutting the contrast pieces out of my precious fabric was like playing an extreme version of 'Tetris'. (Am I revealing my age? Do you know what I'm talking about?)

I wanted the stripes and colours in exactly the right place in this skirt. But, because of the origami style pockets,  I deserve a mathematics prize for getting this bang on. And when I decided to add flat piping to the V-seam at the front and back, keeping it symmetrical and the coloured stripes continuously flowing through the pockets, well, I think my Nobel Prize is now in the bag...

Mary Poppins?

Apart from messing around with stripes and flat piping - this skirt is quite straightforward to make. And the finish is beautiful - these photos, fresh from the kitchen table, show just how lovely all the seams are, inside and out.

Olu and Anna, of Madeit, know their stuff, and the instructions 'hold your hand'. And it is quite exciting! One minute you're holding a couple of pocket pieces, staring at the instructions, and then a moment later there's a little epiphany, a moment of 'Ah Now I See Where this is going...'
It's all a little journey of discovery. Having been lucky enough to meet Olu at the Paris Sew Social in April, I know how funny she is, and her sense of humour shines through in this fun pattern.

The skirt was a little big on her waist, so I've overlapped the snaps at the front more than intended , which spoils the line of the V slightly. But I'm hoping I can move the snaps in a few months as she grows. Instead of 'hammer' snap fastening, I used sturdy snap - fasteners, which are easy to move. The pink buttons are purely decorative. 

My snaps and buttons aren't perfectly placed - I'm going to move them - but sadly I just HAD to take these photos in the moment that presented itself...for the following reasons....

As I was sewing this, my moody Missy declared "I don't like yellow". "I don't like that skirt" and I knew that this stubborn little girl doesn't change her mind easily.

And then after a very busy weekend, I suddenly found myself with only one possible  'ten minute' photo opportunity slot., which just happened to be in the evening after I  finished work on Monday. 

I started walking home  from the office in the rain, pondering the puzzle.
"How do I persuade Missy to pose in the yellow skirt she says she doesn't like?
 "Oh and it's raining ...."
With minutes to spare I  had my own 'epiphany' - an umbrella!
They were literally about to lock the door on the shop as I walked past... and dashed in to buy this umbrella...

And of course! Missy loved the umbrella! I took photos (in ten minutes in fading light) and she happily danced in her yellow skirt, declaring she loved the 'secret' snap fasteners, the pink buttons and the pockets....

Ah my Nobel Prize is truly deserved.... An umbrella and sewing maths....I am officially a genius.

Giveaway Time!

There's 20% discount on the FOLD collection during Fashion Week, with this code:

And everyday Madeit are giving away a pattern. Check Madeit's Facebook or Instagram page and be the first to answer the question of the day. The answer can be found on one of today's blog posts for Madeit Fashion Week. How fun!

And for the chance to win a  €50 NOSH voucher... leave a comment on Needle and Ted on day 7 of Fashion Week, Sunday 6 September, about your highlight of the Fashion Week. It's going to be a tough choice. There are some seriously gorgeous creations. Here's the line-up:

Monday 31 August

Tuesday 1 September

Wednesday 2 September

Thursday 3 September

Friday 4 September

Saturday 5 September

Sunday 6 September

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