I’m back (again)

I’m not even going to try to apologise for the length of time it’s taken to follow my last post. I will, however, let you know why it’s taken so long.

At the end of the last post I alluded to having met another blogger. No photographs of this particular undercover treat – the lady we know best as Mrs Mole. We met and talked for so long I thought we would be put out as the restaurant set around us for that evenings dinner service. She brought me a wonderful piece of Devore velvet in the most adorable aubergine purple and I am still thinking of the perfect project to use this for.


Beautiful fabric – thanks Mrs Mole!

I have been having problems taking photographs of my sewing as I go. So many bloggers have fabulous pictures on their blogs. Mine always feel very rushed and a bit yucky. This has almost put me off blogging altogether. The Management isn’t ever going to be ‘a photographer’ on request (I’m pretty sure he fouls up just to prevent me asking again), and the tripod works ok but is a real pain to set up – and often the sun goes in/light changes so I have to move the blessed thing all over again. I know how much better things look on an actual body rather than just pressing Bessie into service so I will try harder to photograph as I go in future.

As you know I am no longer sewing for clients. Ahem, one of my favourites didn’t get the memo. He doesn’t come often but when he does it’s usually a very interesting project – and although he is exacting he isn’t usually any trouble. This order was for six silk shirts from a pattern I had already used. Shouldn’t be difficult -or so I thought. Inevitably this was the order that took more time than I expected. I was very pleased with the results but I really wanted to be getting on with other things because….

….I was going to Australia for almost a month! My plan had been to make a very organised travel wardrobe that would make the stay a well dressed dream. All of the blogs I have seen do this made it look very achievable – and well it may have been had I not been making shirts….  . Needless to say the whole co-ordinated look went right out of the window and I ended up with my usual dressmaker rush to fill in gaps and make what I already had more wearable. I have some photographs but I wanted to write at least one post before I choke my computer with all of the photographs I took whilst we were away! I was really lucky to be able to meet another two of my blogging ‘friends from afar’ – the wonderful Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and Lesley from Sewniptuck (more on those meetings in another post). We got back yesterday and I have been playing catch up on my blog reading but not making many comments. That will get back to normal soon.

When I have sorted the photographs and found the pictures of the few things I made to go I will blog each garment. Some were winners, some well…..

So until I get that done I will finish off with a promise to try to be a better blogger now that my amazing holiday (which had been planned for ages so I had no excuses not to be better organised!) is over, and I don’t have client work BECAUSE I’M RETIRED.  Please feel free to remind me of that if I slip. So, nothing in the way of sewing and blogging (except maybe Chri….. I can’t even say the word yet).

Back soon



Nell’s Done!

Actually Nell was finished almost two weeks ago but I have been in Northumberland again visiting the mothers. Sadly during the time I was there I was unwell, and the weather was cold. No, COLD – so I’m afraid I wanted to be more wrapped up than Nell offered and didn’t get a photograph. More on that later, but just for fun here are some nice cows (and yes, that is snow on the tops).

College Valley cows

College Valley cows


Can you see the face and ‘girls’?

We did do some nice things during my visit – one of which was a visit to the College Valley. It is truly beautiful there, and as there had been snow the previous night we had truly lovely views of Kielder with snow on top. Sadly there had been lots of rain prior to our visit so walking wasn’t quite as good as it could have been. We did also visit Northumberlandia later that week (also very cold) and got close for the fist time despite passing her on many, many occasions.


Anyway, Style Arc Nell. I had intended this to be a project I could be proud of, but one that wouldn’t take too long. Why do I always seem to complicate things that really don’t need it? You may remember that the quantity of the fabric I chose was really insufficient to make up this pattern, it was also a textured wool that I thought would benefit from being lined. I thought I was unbelievably lucky when I found a matching lining in stash, and when I came up empty on a binding trim I knew that I had some felted wool jersey that would do the job without fraying. Sorted.


Mounting the lining onto the pattern pieces (this is the sleeve/cape bit)

I went with a mix between mounting and lining (mining?) as I knew I didn’t have sufficient fabric to even cut a small allowance on the edges that were to be bound which would have enabled me to turn them neatly. This did cause a few problems later, and the seam where the ‘sleeve’ is sewn in and the main coat bound isn’t quite as tidy as I would have liked (no, I’m not showing it – if I pretend it’s not there I’m fine with it). Making up a full lining and turning the whole shebang through on itself would have solved my problems entirely and if I make this again that is exactly what I will be doing.

The instructions don’t include the lining so if anyone really wants me to I can do a description of how I achieved this – but more likely, how to do it with a ‘full turned lining’. I really like this cape – I wasn’t sure I would – but it has already got a bit too cold to wear it comfortably here in the UK. The gorgeous wide wings sleeves do flap in any sort of a breeze, and since they open up into an armhole it can be a bit nippy. It would be absolutely perfect for a night out (where you weren’t going to be outside much) but not so much for a day out tramping round town.

There is a lovely deep back pleat which makes movement very easy in this, and I loved having pockets (although if I make it again I would probably use a ‘warm’ fabric rather than the lining fabric for them). I did wear this out a couple of times but mostly I was just grateful to wear it round my shoulders in the car where I could easily take it on and off as the need arose.

I’m not absolutely sure when I will make this again as it is pretty distinctive, but the pattern is great and fitted straight off the press (though in truth it only really needed to fit on the shoulders!) but I would be pretty happy to recommend it. The instructions could have been in Greek as I really didn’t use them, though there is a very nice picture instruction sheet which was probably more instructive than the words for me.

I have been catching up on client work again since we got home (diminishing nicely, thank you!) so I am really keen to start that fabulous green/yellow coat next week. Updates eventually.

I could just be the luckiest girl in the world

Just in case anyone wondered why I took so long to answer comments on the last two posts I can now confess that they were scheduled to publish whilst I was away in New York and Chicago. I know – how lucky am I! But it gets even better!

I had visited New York in 2001 with my daughter but The Management wasn’t able to come with us which was sad. He really wanted to visit New York, but we also wanted to visit Chicago because several people had said it was their favourite city – after comments like that you have to find out what its all about don’t you?

Anyway, just in case I have offended anyone by not declaring I would be in New York I knew I was going to have very little free time (The Management had pre-planned lots to do!) and I had to campaign fairly hard to get to visit the garment district and fabric shops at all. Because time was going to be short I took lots of notes from the very useful information Shams posted about her recent trip. Thanks Shams, it was incredibly helpful! We did spend a couple of hours wandering (and buying lunch, coffees and such) and I had decided to be very disciplined and only go to Mood, and if I couldn’t find anything I wanted there (as if!) we would go to Spandex House. Can I mention here that I had run in Central Park first thing (at 25°C, and humid) so I probably wasn’t on top shopping form.

It was lovely to see the iconic ‘button’ on top of the information bureau (closed when we visited) and the sculpture of the garment district worker. I hadn’t realised that there was a fashion ‘Walk of Fame’ and was delighted to see one of my own favourites almost first off. Claire McCardell is just a genius in my opinion.

We arrived in Mood Fabrics (Squeak!) and navigated our way round the stacks – and can you believe The Management found some fabric he rather liked for a shirt! He is fabric shopping ahead of me! (It was rather lovely). I caught up soon enough and added a nice pin striped denim to the order. I could have bought any number of more opulent fabrics (check out those zebras!) but I wanted to buy something I would make up quickly and wear lots – and I probably wear jeans more than anything else so this was perfect. Sadly Swatch was nowhere to be seen (perhaps they allow him to take Saturdays off). I was able to have a quick look in the Mood ‘schoolroom’ and rather wished I would have been able to take a sewing course there. It really wouldn’t have mattered what!

We both came away very tired, but very happy with our purchases. I wonder whose will be made up first?


On Sunday we transferred to Chicago by train, his choice rather than mine but I loved it! Being able to cross the USA at a fairly stately pace whilst letting someone else deal with the driving was lovely. We were in the sleeping coach, so had beds rather than a reclining seat in the main carriage, so it was actually quite relaxing.  I was looking forward to Chicago not only because of the fabulous architecture we were told to expect (and it is gorgeous), or the museums and galleries which could fill weeks rather than the few days we had, but because I have been nursing a wonderful secret. I was going to meet Rhonda Buss!

I can’t remember how long I have been tossing comments and e-mails with Rhonda but it’s a long time. I have made up some of her patterns, enjoyed her recipes, and follow closely if she recommends a book or designer as she has so many great suggestions. Her inspiration posts are magnificent – I’m very much looking forward to being able to incorporate some of the ideas into my work once I retire from client sewing. Anyway, if you aren’t already familiar with Rhondas blog I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

I contacted Rhonda way back at the beginning of the year to say I was going to be visiting, and if she had time would it be possible for her to give us a couple of hours for a locals tour of the city. She was so nice, and came back with an immediate ‘yes!’. When the time came she did that, but so much more than I had anticipated.

Yes, we got to see the city – but from her Cessna aeroplane! The Management has been interested in planes since he was a little boy and was thrilled to have been taken to the airport that the plane is kept at – I don’t think he would have been upset if we hadn’t even got off the ground. Far from that, Rhonda gave us a lovely flight along Lake Michigan with fabulous views of the city. We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant in another airport before putting the plane to bed.

After that we were taken to a fabulous temple that TM had admired from the air – it was truly beautiful and very peaceful. Rhonda did recommend the gardens as being very pretty, which they were. We were then fortunate enough to be taken back to her home and introduced to Mr Buss and the dogs. Gracie welcomed us by charging round the garden at high speed whilst Little Bit was more restrained but no less delightful. It was a real privilege to meet the whole Buss family, and not one I had expected when I made my initial request. We enjoyed a drink and a chat before a real Chicago deep pan pizza. If you thought you had eaten one of these in the UK I have to tell you that you are sadly mistaken. This was absolutely wonderful! It’s probably just as well I don’t live in Chicago otherwise I would be twice the size.

Rhonda was featured in the latest issue of Sew News with her Ginger jeans,which she also did a blog post about. If I hadn’t made the Jeanius pattern that now serves me so well I would be trying that pattern for my Mood fabric.

We are home now with wonderful memories of a trip that would have been a good one, but turned out to be a great one as a result of meeting two wonderful people – whom I sincerely hope to meet again. Thank you again Rhonda and Mr Buss for giving myself and The Management such a day to remember!

Catch up post

Confession time. When I published my last post I was on holiday with The Management in Croatia – the promised sunshine (although not technically Winter sun so maybe I can get another break on a technicality?). Unbelievably, although I wore both the yellow skirt and trousers there isn’t a photograph at all! As I take most all of our photographs there are rarely any photographs of me on holiday. He could take someone else and no-one would be any the wiser.

Anyway, if you did check on my swimming progress last week and wondered if I was on the bottom of the pool that is the explanation. I have been to the pool since our return so I think I may be back on track – I had fallen behind target slightly by the end of week 2.

On a sewing note I have taped the Paprika Jasper hoodie pattern together and copying that , and hopefully cutting out my fabric, is a job for today along with sorting out holiday photographs (which I have started).

I leave you with a Saint. This picture of Saint Lucy was in a church in Skradin where we stopped to have lunch. Whilst I found the eyes on a dish a bit gory I was intrigued by the cotton reels and what appeared to be a ball of yarn (or a pom-pom). This is Saint Lucy who is apparently the patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble. I imagine the lace makers of Croatia must have had occasion to have prayed to her for assistance. There are a few dressmakers I know who would be glad of her help on occasion too.

Saint Lucy with bobbins and yarn

Saint Lucy with bobbins and yarn


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?


Sometimes life needs to change.

I am not going to make any apology (this time) for having taken so long to post anything new – but I will tell you what has happened here Chez Material Lady.

Immediately after my last post I worked like a crazy lady (no sniggering in the back!) to clear the decks of client work before going on holiday with The Management. We had a fabulous time in the amazingly beautiful medieval walled city of Carcassonne. If you ever get an offer  of a holiday in this part of France take it – Carcassonne looks like medieval Disney. And is the home of cassoulet.

Beautiful Carcassonne

Beautiful Carcassonne

We had a fabulous time…..until I got food poisoning on a day out to Avignon. Big style. After almost a week on fluids and very little solid food I rather foolishly went on a trip to Gozo with some diving friends – I know I probably shouldn’t have done but this had been arranged for ever. The logic was that if I wasn’t well enough to dive then resting in the sunshine would be good for me. I confess that despite still eating very little I did go diving – and wonderful it was too – and very much enjoyed the rest in the sunshine. Lots of rest and back home to start work again.

The lovely bay in Xlendi, Gozo

The lovely bay in Xlendi, Gozo

Or not. My batteries were on empty, and for the first week back almost every time I sat down I went to sleep. Thankfully I had left little client work that needed urgent attention so I was able to just rest, but it did make me consider what I would have done if there had been lots as it has taken weeks to start feeling anywhere near normal again.

I hate to let anyone down, and I always try to ensure that work is completed well within a deadline just in case there should be a problem (I am glad to say that I can’t remember the last time I needed it). I have also been fed up with not having time for my own sewing – it is clear from my lack of progress in the GAM challenge that I am not attaching enough importance to what I would like to make for me. So…I have removed my listing from the Yell.com site and intend to gradually reduce the amount of work I do for other people. I have loved the 20+ years of professional sewing (so far) and intend to continue – but in a reduced capacity. Hopefully that will give me time to play a bit more.

Larry front

Larry front

Larry back

Larry back

During all the time sitting around doing nothing (pffft!) I have at least finished knitting Larry.This is a pattern that is available free of charge on Ravelry which I saw on ‘Pendle Stitches‘ and I fell in love with it. I know it was shown on Ravelry as a mans garment but I thought I would enjoy wearing it. I knitted it in Rowan Pure wool Aran which is so smooth it feels almost like cotton, but with the warmth of wool. As Evie said it was a wonderfully easy knit (despite the fact that she had some difficulties) and is a great pattern for clattering through whilst watching the telly, or listening to audio books (my new addiction – Overdrive app to access the libraries supply on my new Kindle. Brilliant!).I used the sewn cast/bind  off again around the neck and cuffs (the sleeve stitches are picked up at the armhole edge) and love the finish. I know I don’t look as good as Evies lovely hubby in my Larry but I love it and know I will wear it loads now that it is getting cold here in Bewdley.

I am still working on the pattern for Kenneth D Kings ‘Jeanius’ course on Craftsy but I am about to make a muslin to test the pattern. This has taken so long that I need to make good use of this pattern once it is right.

Don’t work too hard out there!

In which I show my ‘Backbone’

Well time has been running away again and you could be forgiven for thinking I am just settled in the garden with a drink enjoying the sunshine. I wish.

I have been sewing like a maniac to clear client work recently, and every time I clear some space more work arrives. Still, never complain when business is good  – but it makes doing any sewing for myself unappealing so in any ‘relaxation time’ (almost always late evening whilst watching mindless TV) I have managed to finish my ‘Backbone’ sweater.

Collar and back detail

Collar and back detail


Backbone finished!

Despite this pattern showing in my Ravelry search for what could be made with the quality and quantity of yarn I had I was a little concerned that the Rowan felted tweed DK yarn was going to be a bit fine for the project. Now it is finished I am very happy with the result which is going to be much more wearable than the original cardigan I knitted in this yarn.

As the garment is knitted from the top down I didn’t really want to have the ‘chain stitch’ finish you get from my usual knitted cast off so I used this sewn bind off. By finishing the edges this way it gives a much more ‘professional’ finish – and will confuse my mother when she trys to see how this was made! The other benefit of knitting the whole garment this way was that once the knitting was done there was very little by way of sewing together – just a little seam under each arm, and darning the yarn joins. Brilliant.


Backbone … back

If I am being honest life hasn’t been all work – The Management and I had a couple of days in London. We met up with Jess (the Darling Daughter) for a  day at Kew Gardens and Palace. This wasn’t anything like I expected – I thought it may be a bit regimented and stuffy but it was brilliant! We had a fantastic day there, which was helped by the magnificent weather we are having in the UK at present, and I discovered even Royal Parks get yarn bombed!

Yarn bombed tree at Kew

Yarn bombed tree at Kew

Big smocked tree - and little Jess

Big smocked tree – and little Jess

Does that look smocked to you too?

Does that look smocked to you too?



Whilst walking around I also spotted this tree. It was pretty massive so Jess (who is 5 foot 1″ tall) stood in the picture to give an idea of scale. Doesn’t the bark look like it has been smocked? I had to share that with you all.



On a total other subject, I think I have to adapt my ‘Garment a Month’ challenge to ’12 Garments in a Year’ since I have failed to sew anything for myself in June or July – and if I am honest August isn’t looking too promising! Still, I have high hopes of managing 12 garments in 12 months – even if they aren’t evenly spread.


I hope you are all managing to be more personally productive out there in blogland!