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End of year 2019

So the big thing I managed to do this year was move house. Which if you are reading this and in rental you may be like, that’s no big deal, we do that all the time. But we were trying to sell a one bedroom flat, in the middle of the fun Brexit mess, at a time when first time buyers were rather thin on the ground, & solicitors are getting increasingly nervous of leasehold properties, & so fussier and fussier about dotting every I and crossing every t in the contract.

So all in all it took us nearly 2 years to sell the damn place. It was not too bad from a sewing perspective in 2018, we put the flat on the market in May, it was only on the market for 3 weeks so within a month I could get back on with my sewing while the sale car crashed for 6 months, it fell through just after New Year 2019.

After that I came down with the most dreadful series of colds and illnesses I’d had for a very long time, with hindsight I was probably run down with the stress.

The flat went back on the market in March, this time it took 10 weeks to sell (thanks to Brexit the few first time buyers there were out there originally had evaporated into thin air) so there was literally three months when I couldn’t sew. After that things moved very quickly and we were out by mid November.

I haven’t been able to sew since. We exchanged our one bed flat for a three bedroom unfurnished rental house, & despite the addition of a load of furniture from Jon’s grandfather’s house we’d inherited when he died, there was nowhere near enough furniture to go round for the rooms we needed.

I left my cutting table behind when we moved as I used to use the kitchen island, my fabric wardrobe needed reappropriating to become an actual wardrobe, my sewing table was completely the wrong shape for the new room and our aged Ikea Billy bookshelves didn’t survive the move. So I need entirely new furniture for my sewing room.

So we’ve ordered a load of stuff from Ikea, which arrived on New Years Eve, and even though we’re constructing it as fast as we can, it’s going to be 3 weeks at least before I can sew again.

So I’ve literally had 5 out of the last 12 months I’ve been unable to sew, & another 3 months on top of that when I was just way too ill.

So it’s pretty much a miracle I sewed anything frankly.

So here we go.

A top I made for Jon’s Mum in January

The set of ten cushion covers I made from Sam Wilson fabric (5 of them are in our living room and the remaining 5 have gone to live in my parents summerhouse)

My Iolanthe designer fabric dress

My sheep goddess dress I made for Fantasy Forest festival,

All blogged or partially blogged.

Also this yellow high necked jersey dress

And this Tarot card and floral fabric dress I made from a Vogue pattern just before we moved.

Neither of which have been blogged yet.

Which brings the total to 6 (or more optimistically 15 if you count the cushion covers separately, but I’m seeing them all as one rather large project) which is about half my normal total, but considering the fact the blue fantasy dress and it’s accessories and the cushion covers were both monster projects that took a lot more hours than the stuff I sew normally do, and considering I only had 6-7 months I could have possibly sewed at all and I spent 3 of them ill, I’m counting this as a reasonable achievement.

Next year I am intending to be much more productive. As soon as I have my sewing room up and running again, I can’t wait to get on.

I have a unicorn print jersey from Stoff and Stil already cut our ready to become a handkerchief hem frankenpatterned dress, & I am planning a Dear and Doe Belladonna out of this fabric…..

Which I have been sitting on for years waiting for the right pattern idea to come along.

After that I want to make a few floaty prairie dress inspired numbers, and I desperately need to overhaul my midsummer wardrobe – the combination of extreme heatwaves in this country pretty much every year and Jon’s mum having emigrated to Mallorca, I desperately need linen or viscose dresses to wear when the temperature hits 40 odd as my usual summer collection of jersey dresses or cotton a-line skirt dresses is just completely unsuitable.

I have a similar problem with my midwinter wardrobe. In the coldest part of the year I tend to live in my sweatshirting Tilly and the Buttons Coco dresses and a couple of similar shop bought ones. I only have about 5 and 2 of them are properly showing signs of age/cheap fabric (buying most of my fabric as high street deadstock from a market stall sometimes means it doesn’t have quite the longevity you would expect if you bought it first hand (this actually Massively pisses me off! – the idea that some high street fashion is produced and the fabric is only designed to last less than 10 washes, let alone when you get to the stitching, is totally awful for the environment!)).

Anyway, this would all be fine if it was only that cold for two weeks in January, but now we’ve moved to the country it is colder than London, & it’s been a miserable autumn, so I’ve ended up wearing this small range of dresses a lot more than I expected to be wearing them. So I desperately need new ones.

All of which is going to keep me very busy next year. To say nothing of my long term ambition to start making my own coats.

Also the local lewisham market stall is sadly no longer local, there is a stall in Hitchin but it’s nowhere near as good, which means I will no longer have easy access to 2 and 3 quid a meter fabrics. So I’m going to have to work my way through my stash. This is actually not a bad thing though as it was growing somewhat out of control.

So anyway, Happy New Year, hopefully next year will be a lot better for us than the last few years have been.

Goddess of the rabid sheep part 1 – simplicity 8866

So I’ve been absent from here for absolutely ages but I have a genuinely good excuse. We’ve finally moved house! 🎉🥳 It is a years rental so not our final destination, we need to move somewhere permanent next year, but it’s already a major improvement from London in terms of my health and quality of life. At the moment the contents of my sewing room (I have an actual sewing room now!) is largely in boxes, but after Christmas we are doing a massive Ikea order and I will have everything sorted to get on with my life/sewing again.

However I need to catch up with what I made over the summer. As I previously mentioned we went to a festival called Fantasy Forest. It was pretty much the nicest festival I have been to in years. The setting (Sudeley Castle) was beautiful, the music was very much my thing (folk rock bands like Incubus Succubus and The Dolmen) and the effort everyone put into their costumes was amazing.

So I’m really glad I decided to put a bit of effort into mine.

The moment I saw Simplicity 8866 I knew it was my thing. I love sewing with jersey and I love medieval fantasy costumes so it was going to have to be made. Ideally what I want is a black jersey goth princess version, but I needed to make a mock up first as I’d never made the pattern before and being a new pattern at the time there were no reviews on the internet, good quality jersey can be insanely expensive and this pattern is a fabric hog, I can’t remember exactly but it takes 7 or 8m, but I was lucky to pick up 7.5m of blue and white snakeskin stretch fabric off the fabric stall for £2.50 a meter which is the sort of stuff you use for swimwear or sports fabric but for the purposes of a mock up was ideal. As I only had 7.5 m I couldn’t do the version with big dangly bell sleeves, but in the end I think with such a busy fabric that would have been overkill.

The pattern was very straight forwards and fitted very well and was easy to follow. Except that my copy of it had a major flaw when it came to explaining what to do about the hood.

The hood is basically a rectangle shape and the pattern said to gather between the dots, which were on either side of one of the long sides of the rectangle, which made it look like you just gathered one side. Actually what you gather is the other three sides of the rectangle apart from that side. I’m guessing if you have a lot of experience doing gathered hoods that would be obvious, but it took me a while to figure out.

In the end as the pattern wasn’t clear I winged it slightly and ended up extending the sides of the hood down the princess seams at the front of the bodice. This looked awesome but wasn’t quite the way you were supposed to construct it.

However I wasn’t as assiduous as I should have been at making sure the centre front of the dress lined up where it was supposed to at the top, you need to take time and get it level at both sides, mine was a little bit lopsided. But it was nothing that the right jewellery couldn’t fix.

Other than that I was delighted with the result.

I made jewellery to match and decorated a pair of rams horns for my hair (which will be the next post) and did cool makeup and wore an AliExpress wig for the festival.

Didn’t take many pictures at the festival, but took a load in my mother’s garden before we left.

And here’s two with the hood up I took a few weeks earlier when I was trialing the makeup.

When I was at Fantasy Forest I entered the costume competition but although my costume wasn’t embarrassingly bad it was nowhere near good enough to win a prize. There were a lot of insanely good costumes, some of the people who entered had traveled from the continent and make costumes as a serious hobby/instagram job.

I was really proud of myself for entering though as I get terrible levels of stage fright and I had never tried to enter something like this before.

Realistically if we go again this year with all the house moving that is going on I won’t be making a new costume, I’ll be recycling an old one, but I really want to make a better one for a future year. I am already planning it. 😈

Tripping Hither, Tripping Thither. The psychedelic Iolanthe dress

So about 18 months ago I found a Russian site on Etsy that purported to sell actual designer fabric. I bought some D&G playing card fabric off it, that while absolutely lovely for what I used it for (This very simple skirt here) I wasn’t sure quite how authentic the fabric was. However when I saw they had panels of jersey with an art nouveau print of a late 19th century play bill for the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Iolanthe, I took the risk again and bought the four they had left.

When they turned up I’ve got to say it was the nicest quality jersey I have ever seen and I wanted to be very careful with what I did with it. On the one hand I wanted to show off the print, but on the other I wanted something a bit fairyish to complement it (one day I will grow up and stop seeing themed dresses as cool, but that day is not today). So I sat on it for a few months (not literally) until I had finished my Strawberry Thief dress and realised that actually exactly the same pattern (a Kitschycoo patterns lady skater dress with an elongated skirt and added bell sleeves) would look quite elegant with this fabric.

So I made it in about March when there was still snow on the ground…… and absolutely hated it!

It looked nice enough on the hanger….

But every attempt I made to accessorise it for winter looked horrific…..

With white leggings and a white thermal- basically just nope!

But as the temperatures rose I acquired a pair of khaki jeggings from Evans * and a couple of friends persuaded me to give it a try again.

So I did, & was over the moon with how it looks….

So I wouldn’t say I’ve worn it a lot since then, but it has become part of my summer wardrobe, & I was feeling the love for it enough that it was what I wore on the second day of Fantasy Forest Festival, a new fantasy themed festival at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire that I went to in July. (Whet I wore for the first day is coming up and is truly spectacular if I do say so myself)

Pictures taken in my parents garden before setting out for the day.

It goes through the washing machine and dryer very nicely, and although I don’t wear it often it’s something I am quite happy with now.

I’m still not sure the colour scheme is me though. I don’t really feel comfortable in lemon yellow, & I’m really not sure that the paler cream band round the waist is in any way flattering on someone whose stomach bulges outwards. But I absolutely love the fabric, & despite my reservations I expect I’ll get a bit of use out of it anyway.

* incidentally it’s one of those things you don’t think of when you are thin. It is virtually impossible to get cool coloured leggings and tights if you are plus size. When I was looking for these leggings I found endless pairs of lovely ones on Asos and marks and Spencer but were there any in my size? Hell no! So in the end jeggings has to do as they were the nearest I could get. I still haven’t been able to track down a plus size khaki long sleeve top or thermal!

The curse of the never ending cushions.

I don’t usually make home decor stuff. The last time I made cushions was several years ago, and I wasn’t very adept at it, zips looked sloppy and the finish wasn’t very professional, but our collection of cushions over the years had been getting rattier and rattier and we’ve been seriously delayed moving house, so I needed something to re-engage me with our flat, so I decided to give cushions another try.

Now near my parents in Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire is a shop called Sam Wilson Studio (website here ) where the lady who runs it (Sam Wilson obvs) designs the most beautiful folksy rural screen prints which she prints into fabric and homeware. My intention when we got a new house was to splash out and buy loads of stuff from her, but it would involve saving up as her stuff is very expensive and we don’t have room in the flat for more stuff right now.

However when I was in there earlier this year, just to browse wistfully really, I spotted two pieces of two of my favourite fabrics as remnants, one was 90cm and one was a meter and they were cheaper than usual, I can’t remember exactly how much, but the materials including backing and zips for the entire project came to about £100, so I’m guessing about £30 each. And the fabric amount was small, but the pieces were really wide.

  • So yeah, they got bought.
  • So then I nearly had a panic attack about how much I’d spent, especially since my track record with cushions isn’t great. But I got back to my parents and had a good look at the genuine Sam Wilson cushions they had and realised they were actually fairly simple. The zip was just an invisible zip and the backing was a contrasting plain of white linen look fabric. & actually they should be quite straight forward to replicate.
  • & then the wheels in my head started turning and I realised if I made cushions with a plain backing too I could get 6 out of each piece of fabric instead of three. Assuming of course I could get a suitable backing. & luck was on my side. Mum took me down to The Fabric Hut, the home furnishing store in Stratford-upon-Avon (whose website I cant link to because safari is throwing a tantrum because for whatever reason their website isn’t secure enough) and in the sale section for £15 a meter was a perfect woven stripe effect plain cream fabric. It’s a slightly denser weave than the Sam Wilson stuff but it worked perfectly. So I bought two meters. & ordered a job lot of white and cream invisible zips off the internet.
  • So then I had to make the damn things.
  • I didn’t get off to the best start. I made the first cushion cover upside down with the zip at the top rather than the bottom 🤦🏼‍♀️
  • So that one went to a friend at knitting group as I only noticed after I’d finished and because it’s an invisible zip I’d have had to rip the entire thing to pieces to correct the mistake.
  • But in the end I got 11 functional – indeed pretty damn near perfect cushion covers out of the fabric. The grey ones are 45cm I think and the pink ones are 40cm as there was slightly less of the pink fabric and both pieces shrunk by nearly ten centimetres when I’d prewashed them.
  • So here are pictures of some of them…..
  • The grey ones with hares on them….
  • Top: the first three that were finished including the one that didn’t work
  • Bottom: all the surviving ones
  • The fabric I used as a backing.

    Three of the pink ones – I didn’t get photos of all of them together.

    And the 5 we are keeping for us on the sofa and chairs in the living room – excuse the dodgy photoshop job on the wall behind the sofa, it needed a new lining paper at the time and what was there before I blurred it out was even more distracting.

    So yeah, we’re keeping 5 for our sofas. I bout the cushion pads of amazon and they are dreadful. I am really pissed off actually, cuz they will need replacing very soon and it’s such a waste. I have since been reliably informed by someone who does this semi professionally that apparently Dunelm Mill is the place to get cheap decent quality cushion pads. We have one very near us, so at some point I’ll go there and replace the damn things.

    The other 6 are going to be given as gifts at some point. & I am really happy. All told the materials cost £100 which is a lot of money but I got 11 functional cushion covers out of that, and finished ones very similar retail on the Sam Wilson website for £40 , so it’s actually a massive saving , & if I’d spent the same money on finished cushions I’d only have afforded two and a half.

    Anyway, I am still unable to sew because the flat is still up for sale 😢 We are going anyway whether we sell or not in a couple of months as we can just rent the place out, but it’s most frustrating. Typically at the point when I haven’t got access to my machine a ridiculous number of my clothes have given up the ghost and need mending. I’m also reasonably well at the moment so I’d welcome the occupation.

    btw: when I’ve previewed this it’s coming up with some weird bullet point thing. I have no idea where that cane from or how to make it go away. It isn’t showing up on editor so I’m very sorry I have no way of fixing the formatting.

    Odds and sods

    So this week I’m going to post about two things I made that don’t really warrant an entire post by themselves…..

    Firstly last year I adapted a lolita dress I got very cheap to fit me when it was originally far too small. It took me till well into this year to get proper pictures though.

    I’m not sure what the formal name of this dress is (lolita dresses tend to have names- often fairly random and highly imaginative ones) but it is by a Chinese brand called Infanta. It’s several years since it was released and I clocked it pretty much immediately as a dress I was very interested in (I saved it on my tumblr back in the day in several iterations) but it was a lot harder back then to get Chinese lolita dresses sent to the uk and I couldn’t justify paying full price for something I was clearly going to have to rip apart to fit me.

    But I was overjoyed when I found it on the lolita sales community last year for not very much money in really good condition.

    So this is the front, this is just what it would look like anyway, you can’t see any of my adaptions on it…..

    It’s worn with a bell sleeves top and necklace I made myself, the wristcuffs were a free gift with a dress I purchased and the flowers are probably H&M from back in the early 00’s when H&M for about 3 years was the place to go for cheap good quality silk flowers. The headband is Topshop, also several years ago.

    & here’s the back, this is the bit I altered…

    It’s hard to see because helpfully I’m wearing black with black, but there is a panel of shirring in the centre back. I unpicked the side seams of that and inserted panels of a matching crepe backed satin on either side, making the gathers at the back of the skirt looser to fit.

    So now I’ve done that successfully I’ve got another two lolita dresses lined up that I intend to adapt the same way.

    The other thing I made that doesn’t really warrant its own post is yet another Sewaholic Renfrew Top, this time in Liberty jersey for my husbands mum.

    This is it on its recipient…..

    I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t slightly too big, I ended up taking measurements about a year before I got round to making it , but Jon’s mum said she likes it so that’s ok.

    I have about 4m of this jersey left, in two different pieces. I’ve ended up acquiring three lots of it, all from different places, but it all seems to match. I’m not sure what to do with it though. In comparison to other liberty jerseys, like the one I made this dress out of, it is very very thin and drapey. It’s quite hard to work out what to use it for.

    The staring eyes.

    A few months ago I posted about this top , made with Stoff and Stil jersey with eyes on it that ended up in my mother’s wardrobe not mine because as the jersey had pretty much zero stretch, it ended up way too small.

    Well eventually, after mucking around for several months having zero enthusiasm for the project, I remade it. I added about an inch to each side of the pattern and under the arms. (sewaholic Renfrew incase anyone’s wondering. I have made this many times before – hence the over confident cock-up with the first one)

    It fits fine but it still feels a little close because of the non stretchyness of the jersey….

    So I’m really happy to have that back. You can’t really see that much difference with the first version, but it doesn’t ride up at all and it feels a lot more comfy…

    As well as the top though, I’d like to talk about the skirt I am wearing in most of the pictures.

    This started out life as a Violet Fane Oracle skirt. Well it still is, except it’s had a new waistband out of heavy navy cotton in order to fit my measurements (which are somewhat larger than was required to fit into the original skirt) I removed the purple and gold bow from the waistband and I had a load of navy crochet lace left over from my Strawberry Thief Dress so I wacked that round the bottom to match the new waistband.

    Here are some pictures of the skirt with a better outfit…..

    Sweater was Topshop nearly ten years ago now, base top is probably Laura Ashley, the galaxy cat necklace is Curiology and the Lapis and purple Pearl necklaces were made by me.

    To be honest I haven’t got round to doing a lolita co-ord with this skirt, its fitting rather well into my everyday wardrobe and it washes ok, so I’m just wearing it for casual.

    After the disaster trying to sell last year our flat is now back on the market, which means no more sewing for me for the next couple of months. However I’ve got loads of knitting and jewellery making lined up to keep going with.

    I’m also months behind on updating what I’ve sewn on here so I’ve got plenty to keep posting anyway.

    Me Made May and Who Made My Clothes?

    So every year for the last ten years there’s been a challenge called Me Made May in the sewing community, started by Zoe of the Sozowhatdoyouknow blog, where the aim is to pledge to wear your me made clothes as often as you can – from some people pledging that every item they wear should be handmade to others pledging to wear handmade three or four times a week, depending on circumstances and the size of their handmade wardrobe. A lot of people document what they wear on Instagram and it’s a good way of taking stock of ones wardrobe and working out what the gaps are and stuff.

    However in recent years it’s become massively a bit of an Instagram tradition, & has become one of the main ways one connects with new friends on Instagram through appreciating each other’s sewing styles.

    I’ve taken part the last 2 years and really enjoyed it however this year I’ve been agonising over whether to take part or not. On the one hand for reasons outlined below I really don’t want to, on the other hand it’s throwing away a massive chance to interact with sewing community to not do.

    Now the reason I started sewing was because I put on weight really quickly due to some medication and was absolutely appalled by what was available in the shops at the time for larger women to wear. Shapeless tunics, overcutesy pastels and the ubiquitous 50’s style rockabilly look seemed to be the only things plus size people were supposed to want to wear.

    I’d always been a bit of a glam rocker and a goth and nothing that fitted my particular aesthetic was available to me. Basic things that were the height of fashion for regular size people would not pop up in plus size until several months/years later than everyone else – a classic example is this Black velvet skater dress I made 4 years ago.

    Autumn 2015 they were everywhere in the shops, but could you find one in plus size?could you heck! So I made my own.

    So even though I enjoy the social aspects of Me Made May I’ve never had a time when I don’t wear what I make on a daily basis anyway.

    However in recent years the situation for me in regards to high street clothing has improved dramatically. A lot of high street brands have extended their normal ranges up to a 20 or 22 – which puts me just back into their size range (Which makes me privileged cuz ladies who are size 24+ are still screwed) Brands like Asos and Simply Be do actual fashion conscious clothes for plus size people, & I’ve been very lucky with second hand shopping, on apps like eBay and Depop, but also in local charity shops finding pristine condition clothes by brands such as Colectiff and Seasalt that I’d not be able to afford first hand.

    I am also fortunate because the town nearest my parents has a large branch of Laura Ashley and a Marks and Spencer both of which are legendary to me for having all the size 20/22 clothes left in the sale for insanely cheap prices. – last time I was up I picked up a £70 Laura Ashley dress for £15!

    As a result my wardrobe is completely heaving right now with beautiful good quality expensive looking shop bought clothes that I didn’t pay very much for.

    And I barely wear them. I much prefer wearing my handmade stuff instead!

    Which leads me to the other online fashion blogging initiative going on this month

    #whomademyclothes

    Started by Fashion Revolution a campaigning group for greater sustainability and better working conditions in the fashion industry. The aim of the initiative is to question your behaviour as a consumer and try and do what you can to shop more ethically and minimise your impact on the environment.

    So obviously making your own clothes, especially as I do where a lot of my fabric is deadstock (stuff that would otherwise be thrown away by big garment manufacturers) from the market stall on lewisham market, is a good way to not exploit people and the environment.

    Also I would like to think that because I make it myself and also because as a plus size person making a good wardrobe has been more difficult I don’t throw away clothes or only wear things once or twice and I mend things and look after them and at the end of their life I pass them on to someone else or at the very least the recycling bank.

    However I’ve got all these beautiful shop bought clothes I’m less enthusiastic about wearing. I could work on replacing them with stuff I’ve made myself, but there’s really nothing wrong with them. & even though it would give me a sense of satisfaction having a 100% me made wardrobe it certainly isn’t doing my bit for sustainability or the environment or honouring the amount of work that went into making those clothes in the first place just to discard them – even if I gave them all away ethically, what the planet needs is people consuming less it doesn’t much matter if you bought them or make them yourself.

    So I’m not sure about Me Made May this year. Cuz actually for my personal wardrobe development what needs a good airing is the ready to wear not the handmade. But I doubt anyone would be very impressed if I hijacked the #memademay hashtag to do that, & I’m a millenial damnit, it goes completely against the grain to not join in on social media challenges.

    So I’ve decided next month I am going to try and wear things in my wardrobe whether me-made or shop bought that don’t get an outing as often. Obviously if at the end of the process they are uncomfortable or impractical or I just really don’t like them I’m not gonna beat myself up about giving them away. If the stuff I wear is something I’ve sewn it’ll get a Me Made May hashtag, if it’s shopbought it’ll get a Who Made My Clothes? one.

    & I probably won’t get as many new friends as I would if I just did Me Made May, but I’ll actually be doing something productive for the environment. & taking selfies and dressing up in pretty outfits is always fun!