News from the frozen north – WARNING – Picture heavy post!

I came back from Northumberland on Thursday, but I have my dear old mother-in-law staying so not much sewing yet.

I feel almost guilty (but only almost) for showing you photographs of an exhibition at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle which I stopped at on my drive up to mums house. I had been online previously when I saw that they had another exhibition that appealed and saw that I could drive up on its last day. Boy was it worth it.

The title was ‘Bird of Paradise’ (Plumes and feathers in fashion) and it celebrated the work of the plumassier – yes, I was surprised there was an actual title for the person who works with feathers too. Anyway, I wont bore you all with how excited I was to be there – just feast your eyes on these.

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I thought that the wonderful black dress in the last three pictures could perhaps be inspiration for some of our more adventurous bloggers. Carolyn, Ruth, and Rhonda – I am looking at you ladies!

I feel less guilty showing you these pictures as I can now give you advance warning of the exhibition I actually went to the Bowes site to get details of. From 11th July until 25th October the Bowes have ‘Yves Saint Laurent – Style is Eternal’ (Details HERE) .

The museum is a little gem I wasn’t even aware of – despite having been brought up not far away – and is well worth including on a visit to the area. The area around here is lovely too – but if you are feeling adventurous carry on up into Northumberland where you can enjoy a fabulous coastline, and possibly even a very tasty ice cream like my sister and I did in Amble. I do have to qualify this suggestion by saying that the weather we enjoyed was very unusual for the area, and time of year, but don’t let that put you off!

I ‘liberated’ a couple of the guide books (sadly, no pictures) but if anyone is interested in the details I will post them out. I have already booked my ticket for YSL. Can’t wait!


Swimathon done!



Yay me! I managed to swim the required 64 (yes, 64) lengths of the pool to complete the distance for the Swimathon. I was told that I could carry on for as long as I needed for my ‘swim down’. My what? I presumed she meant time to cool off but thought I would just try to carry on to 70. I miscounted and managed 72 lengths before staggering out of the pool for my shower. (I only know how far I swim by using a Swimtag that does the counting for me!)

I was pleased to feel fine the following morning – prior to my lessons I would have barely been able to move my neck after 10 lengths. For the sharp eyed (and date aware) among you I can report that we ‘adult improvers’ were allowed a session all to ourselves midweek so we wouldn’t be intimidated by ‘good’ swimmers.

I can also tell you that I have been working on the first pair of trousers/pants from the Sandra Betzina ‘Pant Fitting Techniques’ class from Craftsy. More on that next weekend – I wont be sewing this week as I am abandoning The Management’ to visit my mother for a few days. However, I will say that I hope if you are sewing it is going better than this. Harrumph.

Tidying loose ends – and making jeans

I don’t know if anyone else will hold their hands up to this but I can procrastinate at Olympic level. Probably gold medal Olympic level. One of the things that is guaranteed to sit me down with a magazine and a cup of tea rather than doing what I am supposed to be doing is chaos. You know the stuff – the pictures of garments from magazines for your wish list, repairs/alterations that shouldn’t take long (once you actually get down to it), projects cut out – or even started (UFO’s) and sitting awaiting attention.

Well, in two separate magazines I have read recently had articles about/by  Gretchen Rubin who is a happiness guru. Who wouldn’t read that? She has written a book called ‘Better Than Before’ and what was detailed in the article I read was very interesting – and eye-opening. She identifies the sort of problems that I certainly recognise, but then suggests ways to correct them dependent on what category you fit. One of the main things to stop you being effective/happy is just that – chaos. So, how to improve?

There are four categories to choose from  – Upholders (self-directed, follows rules easily), Questioner (needs to know why they should do something), Rebel (do I need say?), and Obliger. Guess which I fall into? Yes, obliger. The sort of person who can hit deadlines, demands, and responsibilities – just not if they are for themselves. The doormats of the habit world. Humph.

Ms Rubin suggests that we can all be better by making things into good habits rather than choices. Makes sense, easier just to do something than to decide if you want to do something. As an obliger I can improve my chances of actually doing what I want for myself by committing to accompany someone (exercise buddy, class or such), or announce my intent.

Following reading the article I have gone back to writing myself an achievable ‘to do’ list daily which includes something for myself daily. That may be to go for a swim, or to sew something that will make my own life better. Stress the my own as opposed to family – which I know I would do anyway.

Velvet Jeanius

Gargoyles of the world unite…

Velvet Jeanius

Not a bad rear fit.

Progress? I found two pairs of velvet jeans which had been cut out in January, prior to my client flurry, which I knew fitted as they were from my Jeanius pattern. Since they counted as clutter/UFO’s I decided to get stuck in on those.

I hadn’t cut the pockets and zip guards/facings so I had fun riffling through the scrap bag to find suitable innards. I thought these looked pretty.

Great 'scrap' inners

Great ‘scrap’ inners

I am glad to shift this long standing project. Velvet jeans. Just in time for spring. Perfect. Despite the bad timing I am happy to have them done and feel a blockage has been shifted so I can get on with other stuff now. I promise, no more Jeanius for a good while – we are all getting bored with them (despite them being such a good addition to my wardrobe).

Another result of reading the articles, and thinking about how I intended my life to change somewhat now that I am reducing the amount of client work I intend to take, is that I have decided I really must reduce my stash. I had a fair amount of fabric left from when I stopped trading as The Material Lady and I don’t want it all hanging around. When I get things sorted into what stays and what goes I will list some of the ‘fabric to go’ for sale on this blog. Not all will be ex-TML fabric – I have to confess to buying more fabric than is reasonable for longer than I can remember so there will be all sorts of things. Probably even some Linton Tweed.

On another note, I have been taking ‘adult improver’ swimming lessons (I have only wanted to do this for about a year….). Yes, I am a scuba diver but actual swimming was never my ‘fun’ activity because my neck was always so sore afterwards. Janet Street Porter identified the style as swimming like the Loch Ness monster recently! Anyhoo, I am now better and have signed up for a swimming challenge next week to swim 1.5 km and raise some money for Marie Curie Nurses. Wish me luck!




More haste, more disappointment

Yet again I have rushed work for myself – with predictable results.

I had a mad busy February, with almost all of my time taken up with two long standing clients with big orders. I couldn’t have predicted this – and my decision to reduce work (mainly by not taking new people, and pulling my telephone listing so I am harder to find!) could have made no difference to this situation. I love working for both these people so I just had to get stuck in.

I had planned to make myself a few new things before going on holiday to Lanzarote a couple of weeks ago. I even bought the fabric well in advance to ensure I was all sorted. And then I ran out of time and rushed the job. Rats. The Management has pointed out that no-one but me gets such poor service, and that I would never rush a clients order the way I do my own work. I know he is absolutely right. Welcome to the world of the professional dressmaker.

Anyway, the sorry details.

First up is a pair of leggings in white scuba lycra. Intended always to be worn with long t-shirts/tunics I thought they would be a great advantage to a holiday wardrobe.  This was lovely, thick, opaque, lycra fabric – there is no way I would have considered leggings in white if it hadn’t been so nice. I realised it didn’t have quite as much stretch as the other fabrics I had made my pattern up with so I added a quarter inch onto the side seams. ‘What about along the length?’ I hear you say. Yup, that was the problem. They fit OK across the width but they could do with a bit more body length. And I always intended them to be above the ankle. Honest. Wearable, but only just. No photos as I couldn’t bear to show such a scew up.

Odd looking on Bessie, sorry.

Odd looking on Bessie, sorry.

A bit lumpy over the tum.

Next was that wonderful Vena Cava dress I made before. It was such an amazing dress even made up in such tatty fabric that I was delighted with the scuba lycra I got that looked almost like a cloque. And it is orange! You all know I  can’t pass up orange fabric by now. It didn’t seem very thick, handled beautifully, and sewed up in a flash. Perhaps I should have stood back a bit off the pedal and tried this on a couple of times before sealing it up. Again, the lycra clearly didn’t stretch quite as much, and the fabric was a bit thick to be persuaded into all of those tucks over my tummy. I still like the dress, and can (and will) wear it – but it would look better if I lost a few pounds. Again, no photos of me but I persuaded Bessie into the dress.

There is no-one to blame but myself for these flops, and whilst I might seem as though I am having a whinge (and I suppose I am a bit) I have fessed up to this so that anyone else thinking that they have fouled up because of lack of experience can see that even someone who should really know better can do it if they don’t give things enough attention. I am determined that the next project gets full attention, and I can finish something I will be proud to wear.

Stone tower

Stone tower

To finish, a nice picture of a tower of stones which were all over the water front in Playa Blanca where we were staying on Lanzarote. Anyone know why they do this?


Jungle January


I know I am late! Please don’t slam the gate to the water hole Anne – my zebras are here! I have watched in awe in previous years at other peoples garments made with animal print fabrics for Anne at Pretty Grievances ‘Jungle January’ and thought this was the year I really ought to take part. Fabric bought in December, although I did but the second fabric only a couple of weeks ago, and pattern at the ready so I thought this would be done early January. Humph. Anyhoo, I bring you…..(mental drum roll)

Jungle January - Zebra dazzle

Jungle January – Zebra dazzle

Jungle January - Zebra dazzle. And our local 'big cat' Boot.

Jungle January – Zebra dazzle. And our local ‘big cat’ Boot.

Zebra dazzle! Yes, this is one of those fabulous Funkifabric offerings. Just after I ordered the fabric for my daughter they announced a 20% off sale. Who could resist? I ordered more but that isn’t Jungly. The leggings pattern was made from the Kristina Shin book (post here), but I decided to add the back zippered pocket which is so useful in RTW running leggings.

The pattern alteration involved drawing the pocket shape in the back piece (don’t forget the elastic turn depth to guide how deep you want the pocket) and tracing this off using the CB seam as a straight of grain guide. By straightening the top of the pocket I ended up with about 4cm extra back length which didn’t worry me as I had felt I needed a bit more there anyway. Cut two pocket pieces and fit the zipper into a letterbox shaped hole (Edited to clarify – think bound buttonhole so you press back the fabric to make a rectangular hole).I drew the rectangle onto the fabric with the wonderful Frixion pen.

Draw the pocket shape on the back piece.

Draw the pocket shape on the back piece.

Layout with pocket - just fits 1metre of fabric!

Layout with pocket – just fits 1metre of fabric!

You could use a cotton or something to support the area whilst you sew in the zip but I found it went in pretty easily just as it was. I sewed both pockets together, with the underneath fabric right side up so it is still pretty when you open the pocket, before sewing it into the ‘hole’ in the back left when the CB seam is sewn together. It doesn’t look as though it will fit but it goes in well with the stretch in the fabric – you could put a few balance points on the pattern pieces to help but I just had CB. Almost all of the construction was done with 4 thread overlocker, but I used a 3 step zig zag to anchor seams where I wanted to prevent rubbing. Another fairly quick and easy make.

I plan to debut these at Parkrun in the hope that they will make me run like a zebra rather than the asthmatic donkey I usually resemble.

Jungle jammies fabric - not sure where whales fit into the jungle

Jungle jammies fabric – not sure where whales fit into the jungle

Very comfortable for bedtime reading

Very comfortable for bedtime reading

My second offering is another TNT pattern (First shown here). I felt I needed new PJs and when I was in Birmingham I found this glorious brushed cotton. I’m not sure where the whales fit with the jungle animals but I thought it was so good I wasn’t splitting hairs! The pattern is known to be comfortable, has pockets for you bedtime snacks, and buttons on the front to help orientate when really tired.

Phew! I made it. Just in before the gate slams for another year. There have been some fabulous offerings already this year – and some people have made loads (yes Ruth, that would be you!). If you are new to the jungle go check them out. Just make sure you are very quiet…….

BP (or Before Pinterest)

Whilst I was sorting photographs after Christmas I found a batch from a visit we made to Hughenden, a National Trust house that was once lived in by Benjamin Disraeli, way back in September. It was a lovely place to visit but on the way round I found a copy of a scrap book made by Mrs Disraeli in which she plans her wardrobe. Clearly the idea that ladies in the public eye have to make a particular effort is not a new one!

Mrs Disraelis scrapbook

Mrs Disraelis scrapbook

Pictures had fabric scraps for reference

Pictures had fabric scraps for reference

Lots of pictures and notes

Lots of pictures and notes

This one please!

This one please!


Because this book was a copy I was able to spend quite some time looking through it. I enjoyed being able to read the notes (presumably copied from an original) which gave an insight on how it must have been to have lived then, and also to have been a person of note. Or at very least a person of notes wife.

I have just joined Pinterest and am intending to make much use of the facility this year. Just imagine how useful it would have been to Mary Anne Disraeli!


2014’s hand made Christmas gifts

This house believes

A bit late I know but I can now show you what I made for my friends and family for Christmas.

Damson gin!

Damson gin!

Bottled and ready to go.

Bottled and ready to go.

I started months ago with an unreasonable amount of damsons given to me by a friend. At the end of an hour pricking them (that bodkin will never be the same again!) they were all popped into a demi-john, covered in gin and left to soak for a considerable time to flavour the gin. I probably took longer than was necessary to decide when I had put enough sugar in to sweeten the gin but I can confirm that it tastes great. Not one to waste food (and those damsons sure seemed too good to waste even though they tasted terrible as they were) I also made jam with the strained fruit which tastes wonderful – but I forgot to get any photographs. As you can imagine from the bottle label the jam had ‘Eat Me’ instead but looked very similar! I am told that the gin has now been drunk but that the jam may last a little longer. Opinion is divided as to whether it is ‘Drunken Damson’ or ‘Boozy Breakfast’ jam. If anyone wants the recipe I used let me know.

Granny's Cardigan

Granny’s Cardigan

Continuing my knitting for pleasure around client sewing I was able to knit this cardigan for my delightful mother-in-law. This is The Cosmopolitan Cardigan from Vogue Knitting. It was knitted in a lovely thick, soft yarn called Elegance. I had made this model for my MIL before so I knew it was a hit and would fit. Thankfully I was right – and she loves the colours. It isn’t clear from the photograph but there is a tiny metallic twinkle in the yarn.

Gryffindor hat

Gryffindor hat and sweater – bear sized

Gryffindor hat

Gryffindor hat

Following that, Jess made a request months ago for a Gryffindor hat. Once again I went to Ravelry and used the St Mungo’s simple hat and added the necessary stripes. Now, many (many, many) years ago Jess was given a lovely snow white teddy bear for Christmas. He is now fairly aged, a bit grey, and somewhat slimmer due to lots of hugs – but still very much loved and I knew that  he would also look really spiffy in his new hat and sweater set.

PJ's for The Management

PJ’s for The Management

Despite having to use the sewing machine (and not getting paid at the end!) I knew that The Management would appreciate a new pair of PJ’s. Self drafted pattern already tucked away (TNT now), fabric in stash – sadly not silly this time!- so a good afternoons project. I can confirm that they have been worn and declared a success.

At the beginning of December I received a tweet with this picture saying this would make the DREAM leggings. Brilliant – except that this is just a picture – not a link to some fabric she had found. Supermum into action.

Embedded image permalink

Find this fabric!




Plain blue supplex, and the space leggings!


She had a happy face – but no make-up and hair not done so….

You can’t get a tweet like that and not act on it. After some time searching the internet I remembered that Melissa and Winnie had both used and recommended Funkifabrics. If you are going to click on that link can I suggest that you make yourself a drink and get settled for a long time – there are a gazillion wonderful patterns which are printed to order. I panicked a bit when the fabric arrived as it had a large plain white border and I was concerned that I hadn’t taken that into account when I ordered. Panic unnecessary – the patterned section = the size ordered. Magnificent. She was pleased – I think that was what the scream when she opened them meant.

All in all I think that was a very successful Christmas – even more so as we were able to spend the morning (after a walk in the Wyre Forest) on our balcony in the sunshine with a bucks fizz and a mug of tea.

Merry Christmas from the wine balcony !(Bewdley branch)

Merry Christmas from the wine balcony !(Bewdley branch)

It wasn’t until I looked at the photograph later I realised that I was wearing my Larry sweater, snaky jeans, and hand knitted socks.




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