My Ramblings 2024

Welcome to my ramblings, my version of a blog. I intend to update it just to tell you what is happening craftwise in my life.

May’s Dressmaking

09-06-2024

Yes, I know its June and I didn’t finish the project till June, but most of it was made in May!!! June on my planner was always the empty month, with no project pencilled in, this was the catch up with dressmaking, end of term, go on holiday, busy month and I knew that I hadn’t time to do one project in June.

So, back to May’s project, I also didn’t want to post about it, till after it was finished and Laura had worn it for the Colonel's Review – Trooping of the Colour.

If you have read my other Rambles about my dressmaking, there has been a saga with this pattern New Look 6749 and me making it!! When I got the pattern which was for me, something different from my shirt dresses (which I am going back to – I prefer them!!!) but Laura really liked it and wanted me to make her a longer version.

I bought two lots of Rose & Hubble cotton poplin when we were in Devon at Trago Mills and gave Laura the choice, she wanted the grey colourway, I made mine in the blue.
Laura is the same pattern size to me, so that makes it easier, but she is 6” – half a foot - taller than me, at over 5’ 9”!!!! Also Laura is a bit bigger in the bust, so this shape of dress actually looks really good on her. I got her to try my dress on to see how it fitted and whether she still liked it – which she did.

This is the difficult thing with dressmaking and a new pattern, whether once you have spent all that time making it, it will actually suit you!!! And you like yourself in it. Its not as though you can go into a shop and try it on. I think all of us that have made clothes, have at some time, made things that we don’t really like when finished, either because they don’t suit us or sometimes because a fabric may look lovely as….fabric but once made up, it just doesn’t work. We all end up with a favourite pattern, I have a few my Vogue wrap dress and shirt dress ones!

I needed to make a few changes to the pattern for Laura, the main one was to make the skirt a lot longer, by 13” actually. I drew the original skirt patterns out onto dressmakers paper and made them longer, this made it easier to put the pattern pieces on the fabric and cut it all out. By the way I cut out the old fashioned way of a pair of scissors – I keep seeing posts about scissors versus rotary cutting for dressmaking!!!

The rest of the changes/fitting was done on Laura. With v-necks, shirts, waistcoats, jackets and fitted things they don’t lay flat and properly on Laura as her shoulders aren’t straight, she is wonky!!! This is because Laura has scoliosis at the top of her spine, which has caused rotation of her shoulder joint and making her shoulders uneven.
When Laura tried on my dress it gapped on the problem shoulder. As I had made (and got confused with) this pattern before, I knew how it went together. It meant that I would have to tack the whole top of the dress together, without any alterations, make the alterations and unpick most of it to stitch it back together in the right way with the facings and lining!!

I got Laura to put it on and then adjusted and pinned the shoulder line to lay flat and fit properly. Unpicked the shoulder and tacked it again and got Laura to try it on again, it all laid flat and fitted properly!!! I then had to unpick most of it, and make it!!! More work but it has meant that it fits properly.

I made the top of the dress, minus the sleeves on the Tuesday of half term week and then on the Thursday I did the sleeves, usually I can get one sleeve in perfectly and then have problems with the second but this time I had problems with both!!! It was the gathering!!! Tacked, unpicked, tacked and then finally got them in evenly. I also put the skirt together and attached it.

This dress has a lot of gathering, at the shoulders, underbust, sleeves and on the waist of the skirt and so it is one of those garments that I have to spend time getting right and tacking!!! No quick short cuts….

That left the hem at the bottom of the skirt and also the buttonholes. There are a lot of buttonholes on this dress, even on my shorter version but as Laura's is a foot longer, it needed even more!!!!

So, on Thursday, I hemmed the bottom of the skirt, that was easy. And then started on the buttonholes. My main sewing machine has managed to decode the automatic buttonholer again, its not really a problem. But rather than setting the button size and just pressing the button to start on the machine and letting it get on with it, I have to actually physically watch and stitch the right size buttonhole. I couldn’t use my other sewing machine as it is at work, and I couldn’t be bothered to unbury and set up my original Bernina!!! I wasn’t happy with two of the buttonholes and so unpicked them!!! Then I started on sewing the buttons on.

I really don’t like hand sewing buttons on, one or two ok but 18!!!! Luckily my sewing machine stitches buttons on – but I am always, slightly terrified as it does the first few stitches – will it go through the holes, or hit the button breaking the needle or the button?!!!! I started and after six buttons broke the needle as it hit the button, put in a new needle, rethreaded the machine and…..broke the needle again. I was getting frustrated and hungry – I really wanted to finish the dress before lunch but….. I walked downstairs, made my lunch, calmed down and then went back to the machine. Stitched all the rest of the buttons on, tied off and trimmed the threads, pressed the dress, searched for threads I had missed and hung it on Laura’s bedroom door.

And on Saturday, Laura wore her dress to the Colonel’s Review – Trooping of the Colour, to which she took her Dad. The dress code is smart and they both looked very smart when they left.

As I have said earlier in this Ramble, I haven’t pencilled in a project for June. But I will be back to it in July, I made a list of patterns and fabric I want to do – there is the Savannah dress from Minerva Crafts in a nice French jersey, two long shirt dresses Simplicity 8014 in blue floral cotton fabric. And I also have a few other lengths of cotton poplin that I haven’t decided which pattern I am going to use them for.

And then thinking ahead, longer term 2025, I am going to make Laura some new clothes, summer dresses and nice properly fitted shirts (seen a couple of patterns I need to get for her), another couple of her Edwardian walking skirts (if she wants them), waistcoats …..

April’s Dressmaking

06-05-2024

My aim of finishing one dressmaking project a month is not going that well, April’s project which was originally March’s!!!! Is finally finished in May. Ok, it is only just May but still I only finished the dress on the 2nd May. So, I am behind on my aim of one dressmaking project a month.

The dress said Easy on the front of the pattern, so….it should have been a straight forward to make. Easy on a pattern to me means something that a beginner could do. Easy was cutting out the many pieces that made up the dress, and I jumped into that at the beginning of April, on one of the days that I had marked in my planner for dressmaking. All cut out and ready to go.

I had in the planner pencilled two other times for dressmaking. The first arrived and I got the project bag out and took it down to the kitchen, I tend to work on the counter top, standing up when doing dressmaking, I find it easier to lay the pieces out and pin on the worktop, and I set up the ironing board behind in front of the oven. I started, I gathered between the notches on the shoulders and underbust, and that’s where I stopped. I read the instructions and looked at the illustration and …. I couldn’t make sense of it!!!

I have never been taught dressmaking, I first started making clothes about the same time I started patchwork (which I did go classes for), when I got my first sewing machine of my own. My grandmother had made all her own clothes when younger – I have her Dreadnought pattern system books, full of beautiful clothes of the 1930’s and earlier 40’s, tailored suits, dresses & coats – how you take the pattern from the books and make up a full size pattern that works for you, I have no idea!!! But as I was saying my Grandmother made her own clothes, but that was before I was born, I can only remember her sewing soft toys, bears and a Mother & Baby dressed rabbit. My Mum could dressmake but she rarely did. I sort of learnt by trial and error and asking when I got stuck, but mostly I just figured it out myself. I even made my own wedding dress, Mum made the three bridesmaid dresses for my nieces. They each chose their own style of dress, so each one was different, the only thing was they were all in peach (yes peach, it was 1992 and that was fashionable!!!)

For a few years I made things, then I stopped, for about 15 years or so. I came back to dressmaking about 10 years ago, when I couldn’t find things that I liked or fitted, I made loads of shirt tunics and wrap dresses and then for a few things only made two or three things a year. I am now back to making more things, for me and Laura.

What I am saying, is I am self taught at dressmaking and I muddle through, usually ok, but this dress confused me!!! And it was meant to be easy, the instructions – which are always limited to a few lines on patterns and the drawings – again very basic small drawings didn’t really make sense. This is a dress that you baste pieces, add linings, sew and turn, and the days I had pencilled in to make the dress, I just didn’t have the brain power to work out all the basting, turning etc!!! My brain wasn’t in the right place to do it, it was all gobbledy gook!!! Both days I gave up, I was only going to make a mess of it!!! And went and did some patchwork!!!

I really can understand why my friend Rachel, goes to a sewing classes. She learnt to dressmake in her teens from her Nan and recently she decided to pick it up again and joined a sew class. She has made some lovely things – her shirt was stunning. I certainly felt with this dress I could have done with some help.

But I have got there, on the 27th April, while Tony was at work, I finally tackled the dress top, worked out all the basting, pinning, stitching and turning. And then went and did a load of class prep, which I usually do on a Monday but by doing it on the Saturday, I managed on the Monday to put the sleeves onto the dress!!! And then on Thursday the 2nd May I made the skirt and attached it to the top of the dress and did all the buttonholes down the front. And attached the buttons - I love (and I’m scared at the same time!!) that the machine can sew buttons on!!!

All done, it’s a pretty summer dress and I will wear it, but I won’t make it again for me, I like it but I feel the v of the neck is a bit low, its back to my favourite shirt dresses for me!!! I will be making it for Laura, this was always the plan, I would make it for me and then if she liked it for her. Laura tried it on and she liked it, I have got to make it a lot longer as Laura likes her dresses and skirts long, plus I am going to have to fit the shoulders and bust area to work and not gape because of her uneven shoulders caused by the scoliosis and shoulder rotation. That’s the next project – May’s going into June probably!!!!

For a so called Easy pattern, it made me confused and feel very thick, but now I have made it and understand the pattern, making it again shouldn’t be so difficult, even with the changes. Also there are a couple of ways of making – the skirt and pockets bit that I would make in a different way – easier for me to get it to fit together.

Creative Spark - Time

28-04-2024

Time, the one thing we all seem to run out of!!! There never seems to be enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to!!! The hours, days, weeks and months just disappear – can you believe we are already in the fourth month of the year!!! And almost at the end.

So, the one thing in everything I have read about being creative, living a creative life is that you need to give to it TIME and yet time is often the hardest thing to find.
And for all that we live in an age where things – well domestically speaking are said to be easier and labour saving – from washing machines to dishwashers, online food ordering and air fryers!!! We all still live busy lives, filling the hours with ….life.

I know I am very good at procrastination!!! I do tend to get side tracked, fall down rabbit holes and end up doing other things!!! It’s not things a lot of other people get side tracked by like social media, Instagram/Facebook/YouTube or watching TV – I tend to end up looking up odd things – the other day because of Laura I ended up looking at the history of the home darkroom and how to process film and create prints!!! (Laura would like to clarify that this was actually for her work and so not as weird as it sounds!)

Other times, like just now domestic life intervenes – the washing machine was beeping (annoyingly) to tell me it had finished, I hung it out in the sunshine on the line, ‘talked’ to the tortoises and petted them, put the next load of laundry in and made a cup of coffee ……and now I am back.

Whichever way, ‘time flies’ and you need to make time to do something – I am not just talking about being creative, as making time applies to so many things in life, from healthy eating, going to the gym, going to an exhibition or museum. It’s very easy to say ‘I will do it tomorrow’ but tomorrow never comes!!!

Set a time, put it on the calendar, make a date…if you really want to do something, then you have to make it happen. Only you can do that for yourself and that is what comes up time and time again in all the bits I have read.

I look at it in a slightly different way, I gift myself the 10 minute drawing in the morning and the half hour stitching, tapestry or cross stitch, these are projects that are mine, for me and if I didn’t make time to do them then they would just sit at the pile waiting till I had time. But I would never have the time, other things would always be more important to do. A lot of my time is given over to doing things for the family, working on ideas and projects for teaching, developing ideas…. Out of the day, 40 minutes is ‘me’ time.

If you feel that it’s a bit selfish to gift yourself time, think of it as selfcare, this was what my Winter Mindful Stitching project was definitely about. I find winter very difficult months to get through, the miserable grey days, low lights levels and just the whole Christmas expectations thing! The whole project came about because we had bought Laura the TOFT advent calendar, and it got me thinking. Originally I thought about doing an advent stitchery but then I decided to expand it to be a Winter project. The start of it was the 31 embroidered Trees to do each day, in December, it was lovely finding a quiet time in the day to sit and just embroidery, the world dropped away for those 20 or so minutes. That peace, quiet, mindful time was lovely and I felt more able to cope. For me, it was about selfcare, knowing what I need for me. I can then give care to my family and everything else that I do. So no, making that time was not selfish, it was selfcare.

The other thing that goes hand in hand with making/creating Time to do whatever it is you want to do, is creating the HABIT.

Apparently, and I am not sure where this comes from but it was quoted in a number of things I read, to form a habit it takes 66 days on average. But we are all different and I guess depending on the habit that we are trying to form it could take a lot longer.

Forming a habit, whatever the habit, its about also creating time and a routine to do the thing, I have heard and read this so often, from Motivational Speakers during Online Conferences that Tony had to listen to during Covid, to Dr Micheal Mosley books I have read and ones on mediations and sleep (or rather trying to sleep) books, to textile artists and forming daily habits of stitching. They say set a time, a routine, if you are going to do exercise, go to the gym, do that on set days, at a set time, sticking to that routine and time can be difficult, actually they say for something like starting exercise or going to the gym the worst time actually to start is January. Emotionally it is apparently the hardest month to get into a good habit, most New Year Resolutions will fail in the first two weeks. I guess the cold miserable weather makes a lot of us want to curl up and hibernate, not get up and go out to the gym!!! or go out running in the sleety cold rain. They say that the best month to start an exercise habit, especially going to the gym is actually November and December, they are the quietest months at the gyms, and so you can find your feet and get into your routine before the New Year resolutioners arrive.

When starting a new habit, they say tell people, whether that is your family, friends or the online community – by telling them you are doing this - stitching for 30 minutes a day, drawing for 10 minutes….whatever you want to do, apparently you are more motivated to do it. Also by showing/posting things it is meant to help keep you motivated.
I guess that is why #100daychallenge is so popular, by posting about your daily thing on Instagram you are making yourself accountable, showing the world what you are doing and getting support. And 100 is a nice round number and in theory you should have really got into the habit by the end of 100 days.

If you prefer a paper method of recording and tracking that you are doing your habit every day, then a journal or planner with tracking section is brilliant, you can create your own or buy a ready made versions. A few years ago these where all the thing – people seemed to track anything and everything!!! I have a little tracking section at the bottom of my weeks planner, this is my craft/creative planner (not the housework one), its not very big but it works for me, I use it for my 10 minute drawings and 30 minute daily stitching and also my hand quilting – I do an hour minimum a week. Its just the right size and in the right space for me to see and use to mark with pretty coloured pencils when I have done things.

When forming a habit, its finding the best time for you, sticking to that time, tracking it, enjoying it, this is for you! It takes time…..and discipline to do. On the reverse its very easy to lose a good habit, a few days without doing it and ……you forget, put other things first.

Must get back into the habit of rubbing Burt’s Bees cuticle cream into my cuticles….

Creative Spark

14-04-2024

Creative Spark or What you need to be a creative according to everything I have found!!!

If you remember back at the beginning of March I wrote a Ramble that turned into not the one I was going to write – well here is what I was going to write about!!!

I fell down a rabbit hole of wondering about Creativity, living a creative life and found lots of inspirational things about finding your spark/creativity, what you need and should do etc. I started making notes, incidentally in a Canon notebook with ‘empowering a new generations of storytellers’ on the front! And reading more things, as I found it all rather interesting, from a personal point of view but also because I teach and hope that I inspire others to be creative and I want to share what I have read, discovered, learned ….

Creativity isn’t a static thing, it constantly grows, changes, builds and I feel that the more time you spend being creative the more it becomes a part of yourself. Look at any famous artist, look at their early work and then later ones and you can see the growth and influences and then their style. For me, my creativity, and this isn’t just the quilt making but all the stitching, textile art, painting and drawing, gardening & baking, & even writing these Rambles, all of this make up my life and influence each other in some way, it is part of a whole. At this point let me say the amount of time that I actually spend making/creating can vary massively each day, but as a minimum I try to have 10 minutes drawing time in the morning and also half hour stitching time during the day, usually before I go and cook dinner.

My life is creative and I have times where I can make, and I am talking more about making for me, the bits I want to do for me or the family. Yes, there is often a cross over to what I teach in class or develop for selling the patterns, because its impossible to keep both sides separate, they are intertwined. There are things I need to make or do creatively for class each week, to be ready to demonstrate, and these come before the stuff I want to do for me. But I have to balance this with life – running our home & garden, cooking breakfasts, lunches and dinners – making the best and healthiest food I can for them, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, gardening, caring for Tony & Laura and also my father-in-law, I go round and clean his house and do his garden. All this comes first, I hate those quotes that say things like ‘Clean house is a sign of a broken sewing machine’ or ‘why clean it just gets dirty again’ …….for me, and its just how I am, the house & garden come first, its my way of caring.

But I do need my creative time, I need to step away from life and have that time to focus on making, this is ‘me’ time, I am not being selfish wanting that time, it is about having time/space for my own mental wellbeing. As I have gotten older I have found I need that space more to allow me to cope with life, or maybe life has got more complicated, but I feel that I have become less able to cope without the ‘me’ time. It’s a time I can focus on something that is good for me, helps me cope with life, allows me space – basically my form of Mindfulness.

So, I try to live a creative life.

And as I said creativity doesn’t stand still, it changes. For the last nine or so months I have been drawing – yes I have drawn for years, but that drawing was designing drawing – rough sketches, more detail drawing of quilts, quilt designs and postcards. But I have never thought of myself as someone that actually draws – an artist, and I still wouldn’t call myself that – sketcher? Doodler? I guess that changed slightly when we did the books and Tony insisted I drew panels to go on the Contents page. I really wasn’t sure about it, I had never put my ‘drawing’ out into the world. Then for the fourth book, I needed to do drawn versions of the postcards to give an understanding of how they are – these were good versions of my rough sketches.

With all that and me keep on seeing the 100 day challenges, I started to draw, daily, just five minutes 2½” square sketches in pen. And occasionally I would play with watercolour pencils. Slowly, I started to see the importance of these drawings, this time each day to practice, learn, challenge, grow in a different creative field.

These daily drawings, now take about 10 minutes, I have the Color Cubes by Sarah Renae Clark, each day I use a card from it, to inspire my drawing, they are still only 2½” square. Other than 6” x 4” – postcard size, I seem to be drawn to doing things as 2½” squares!!! Look at my Winter Mindful stitching project that was also 2½”!!!

This growing and developing a new area might have been what promoted me to start down the rabbit hole looking at the thinking behind finding your creative spark and good working practices and I have certainly fallen down it and wandered around, as there is a lot written about the subject, along with how creativity helps with mental health. Also I kept seeing things about finding your creative spark/your creative self on social media.

And so all I thought I would share, probably over a few Rambles, as this one has already got fairly long, what I have found out, what I have personally found interesting, and useful. It will be my view point, my condensing down all that I have read.

And I will start with Time…..in the next Ramble….see you soon.

March Dressmaking

29-03-2024

My plan at the beginning of the year was to complete one garment a month. Well….that’s going really well!!!

I never finished February’s dress, as I didn’t have the right elastic, I have now got that. When we were away in Devon, we went to Trago Mills and among the bits we bought (including a dragon garden ornament!!) I got the elastic and two more lengths of cotton poplin fabric for another dress pattern!!! I will be finishing off February’s dress, hopefully over Easter, possibly Good Friday as Laura is home and I could do with her help to get the elastic right and the hem length!!! Tony’s not very good at dressmaking help!!!

Unfortunately, I am also not going to finish the March dressmaking project!!!

I had the pattern and the fabric and on Sunday 17th March, as both Tony and Laura were at work I had pencilled in to start. I took the pattern, fabric, dressmakers board etc downstairs to the kitchen, got it all set up and organised and then…. Opened the paper pattern envelope.

To find that the paper pattern inside, was wrong!!! Well, it was the same number pattern but not the pattern on the envelope. Both were N6749. I wanted the new pattern, the envelope was the new pattern – the ‘easy to sew button front dress….fitted bodice with front midriff’ and the paper pattern and instructions inside were for the old N6749 ‘sleeveless dresses with variations’, that had been discontinued last year.

There was nothing I could do, I had got the pattern back in September!! I never thought to check that the pattern inside is the same as the outside envelope, I have never come across a problem before or heard of it. But then when the companies used to recycle discontinued numbers it was years between them being used!!! I have learnt my lesson I will from now on check the pattern inside is the right one.

So, I packed everything away and did other bits on that Sunday.

We re-ordered the patten, it arrived on the morning that we were going to Devon, Tony was waiting to leave and I could have left Laura to check the pattern but I did it – pulled the nicely folded paper pattern out and unfolded it, checked it was right and then badly folded it and run and put it on my desk for when we came back.....as Tony was waiting to go!!!

I had pencilled in today, Tuesday as a dressmaking time, no classes today as its Easter Holidays for me. I took everything downstairs and I carefully cut out the paper pattern. Pressed the fabric and laid the paper pattern on as in the instructions and cut it all out.

Then I have tidied it all away, I will start making it another day, this is not a project I want to rush. I know the pattern says Easy to sew, but I haven’t made it before and it has to fit right and so I don’t want to rush. It won’t get finished in March, as only a few days left and most of them are Easter days. Hopefully I can do some gardening and either or both Tony and Laura will be home. Dressmaking time is when they are both working and I can quietly get on.

So, March’s dressmaking project is sliding into April, April’s dressmaking project was pencilled in as the same pattern but for Laura, making the skirt a lot longer!!! As when I bought the first pattern, Laura liked it as much as me and so I said I would make it for her. It will look different as different fabric and Laura is 6” taller than me.

I haven’t pencilled May’s dressmaking project into my planner, I have a number of patterns and fabrics to use. But I am thinking that maybe I will leave May as a free/catch up month….

Connections & Landscapes

02-03-2024

Oh dear, I was quietly rambling along, getting on with life and I fell down a rabbit hole…..

Rabbit holes are something that Laura and I regularly full down. Rabbit holes are when we are researching/doing one thing and we suddenly find ourselves following a different thread. With Laura its usually history related!!! She will be looking at some person in history and the next thing she will have fallen down the rabbit hole of interconnections and family trees and travelled years!!!

With me, it can be anything, from a person - historic, current, designer or maker, from fabric, to how something is made, to following a design thread, recipes, literally anything can spark me researching, trying to find information. I fall down a rabbit hole and tug on a strand of thread and from there I will follow where it leads…. No wonder my brain is full of very strange facts!!!

So, I have fallen down the rabbit hole of creativity!!! Or rather how to find your creative spark, what is needed. On this wander around trying to find information I have followed many threads and read different things. I have come across a lot of information, there is a lot of interconnection, the same or similar ideas or range of ideas, but what I also found interesting is the range of terms and words used.

I am now going to wander off, a long way off from what I was originally going to write about, oh well!!! I have certainly rambled down some different lanes!!! So, since I have gone down this path….words and language. I notice the words that are used and how some things crop up, recently there has been a number of things I have read and seen that are … food/cooking based words used for creative textile work.

In one a maker said that she has a number of pieces of work on the go as she leaves ideas to simmer!!! Simmering – that’s definitely a cooking term!!! But it is also a great way to describe what many off us do. I will have an idea and yes I will leave it to ‘simmer’ for ages before I start it or I may start it and then leave it to ‘simmer’ or mature while I work with other ideas. It is a really good way to describe how I work on ideas – I let things simmer…

Mature is another food related term – you let cheese, wine, vinegar…all mature!!

Another thing that has suddenly appeared on my Instagram fed is #fabricrecipes, now a recipe is something I associate with cooking, I follow recipes or don’t as the case may be – I often tweak recipes when I am cooking to either suit our tastes or dietary needs, and there I go wandering off in a different direction!!! So, fabric recipes? On further investigating this is the way that @jayneemersontextiles uses to describe how she teaches and works as part of her @norulestextilesociety, and why I have suddenly seen it, is that during February she does a month of prompts under the title #fabricrecipes to give creatives of all levels permission to play.

A while ago there was a, I think, knitter, that rather than saying ‘this is what you need’ used to write ingredients for her makes. This using food terms may be because so many of us cook, we provide food and so its just part of our life and thoughts and it spurges over into other areas of creativity?!!!

This got my thinking, I call these writings a Ramble, and I go on creative wanderings and journeys – I often talk about starting the creative journey and we are all on creative journeys, at different stages and how we can’t compare our journey in life or creatively with other people, we can’t walk in others footsteps, each journey and landscape is unique to us. I also talk about how the landscape of our creativity changes. The words are about movement and also landscapes – I have often thought about creating a textile art piece that is in the form of a map illustrating the creative journey – The Plains of Procrastination…..

Possibly as I am constantly inspired by the landscape, especially forests, meadows, moors and hills, trees, gardens, gates…. that this all feeds into how I reference my creativity and the way I think about it. And then how I describe it when talking about creativity.

Another word I use a lot is threads, I follow the threads of an idea!!! But that is possibly by the fact that am surrounded by thread, I constantly work in one type or another, it’s a simple strand of fibre but it has so many uses and can create so much, and it comes in so many forms and there is so much connected to our fabric heritage, the threads that connect us to the history of patchwork and quilting, and embroidery.

As for falling down Rabbit Holes, well you can thank Lewis Carroll for that and Alice In Wonderland!!!

What words, descriptions, language do use to describe your creativity?

And no this wasn’t the Ramble I started out writing, I will write that another day!!!

February’s Dressmaking

24-02-2024

I will start at the beginning, we go on P&O cruises, they have Black Tie Evenings, where you dress up smartly in evening wear. I have worn the same couple of dresses for each of the Black Tie’s, I have a long black crushed velvet wrap dress that is great for the winter cruises and then I also wear one of two other dresses either a floor length black one or the calf length dark blue.

There is a story behind these dresses, when Laura had her sixth form prom, she asked me to make her dress, she choice Simplicity 1154, wrap, twist and tie dress, it’s one of those that can be worn in multiple ways just by wrapping, twisting and tie-ing the long ties!!! Laura went with a silver grey jersey for it. Actually making the dress isn’t hard, it’s really very straightforward, what takes more time is the cutting out.

We have to clear the table and chairs from the dining side of the kitchen to make enough space, the whole area is covered with every self-healing cutting mat I have, old, new, every size – then the fabric, metres of it get laid out, the pattern gets weighted down and I have to carefully cut it all out with a rotary cutter – hence all the self-healing cutting mats on the floor!!! The ties and hem of the dress don’t get hem finished, so the cutting has to be perfect. As I said the cutting takes longer than the making!!!

Laura looked lovely in the dress, it was a brilliant dress, doesn’t crease, washes well but I couldn’t borrow it as I made it floor length for Laura, she is just a bit taller than me!!! Only 6 inches!!!

So, when we decided after the first cruise, that we would carry on, I needed some smart evening dresses and originally I had the wrap dress, then I decided to make two more of the wrap, twist and tie dresses – a black one that is floor length on me and the dark blue one that is calf length. Laura has worn both of them, they are just shorter on her!!! They still have loads of life left in them it’s just….

I wanted something different, don’t get me wrong, the wrap, twist and tie dresses are brilliant but I always wear them with a bolero, I am not comfortable with my shoulders or tops of my arms showing, and I had gotten a bit bored.

But my requirements are particular – floor length, ease of movement, black, comfortable and expandable so that I can eat without feeling restricted, easy care & covers shoulders and upper arms. It’s no good me trying to buy a dress, I can’t find what I like, I’m not a sparkly sequins or bright colours type or the fit is not right and I enjoy making clothes. I started hunting for a paper pattern for something that would fit my requirements. When you look at the dress patterns labelled ‘special occasion wear’ they are lovely but not me, I can’t imagine me in them, I haven’t got that confidence to stand out – I really don’t want to stand out!!! No thanks…. One of the costume Youtubers that Laura follows made a dress that absolutely matched her living room wallpaper so she could blend into it, it was a beautiful dress and beautiful Chinoiserie wall paper, and I want something like that, that I blend in with.

The dress pattern that I kept coming back to was New Look 6751, described as an easy to make pullover dress, after some thinking I decided that I would go with this pattern and also plain black jersey knit fabric from Minerva’s Core Range, and it got listed at the beginning of the year as my February make.

And so, as it was half term and I didn’t have classes, I spent Tuesday dressmaking. The first job was to work out which size I wanted, paper dress making patterns aren’t the same sizes as clothes you buy in shops. They give the body measurements and you go with the one nearest yours, for New Look and most other of the big manufacturers Simplicity, Burda, Butterick and Vogue (I haven’t used McCalls so I don’t know for them) then I am on their sizing a 14. I checked the back neck to waist measurement and also the finished back length and all of those were fine. Most of the patterns are designed for someone about 5’ 3” or so, which is great for me, being that height but with Laura I have to lengthen them. Once I was sure I didn’t need to make any changes, I cut the paper pattern out. That done it was on to cutting the pieces out of the fabric. Both those went smoothly and I soon had it all ready to sew. Now the fabric is a jersey stretch knit fabric, when I have used this fabric in the past I have just overlocked the seams, but as I hadn’t made this dress before and I was being good, I went with the instructions on the pattern – which said to machine the seams as normal on your sewing machine – obviously using a jersey or ballpoint needle, not that it said!!! Then once the seams have been stitched to zig zag or overlock.

I began to follow the instructions, and realised that I really don’t like working on black, particularly on a day when the light levels were low. It didn’t make any difference putting the main lights on in the kitchen, where I cut, pin and overlock – the sewing machine is upstairs in the workroom, black is hard on the eyes. Hence why there are no photos as black doesn’t photograph well for me!!!

My aim was to make the top by lunch. As I was doing it, I began to worry, it was a lot of fabric and the way it was constructed I was worried that the V at the neck was going to be low and gape on me. This is a problem that I have encountered lots of times when trying on dresses with V necks, I need a 12 in shops as I have a broad back but I’m not 12 on the front, I am what you call small on the boobs front – which doesn’t bother me but does mean that dresses can and often gape or feel big on the front. And I began to worry that this dress would, the V in the diagram and photo on the pattern envelope doesn’t appear that low!!! When I tried it on my dummy I could see I may have a problem, so I did move the crossover a bit. I then joined the waist section.

The top was made, but I hadn’t finished the sleeve edges, I was sure I hadn’t missed a stage, I read the instructions through again and nowhere did it mention finishing the sleeve edges for View A, for B which are totally different it had the instruction and picture. I took the instructions through to Laura to get her to check, no I hadn’t missed them. I did a small hem the same as the neck!!!

After lunch I put the skirt together, then decided I really needed a walk. When I came back I stitched the skirt to the waist and put the elastic through. I used elastic I already had, but it is too soft and stretchy. But at least it allowed me to try the dress on, sort of finished and see what it looks like and whether its ok, I still wasn’t totally sure and went down to Laura, once she had tighten the elastic up, it had more shape. But because of the wrong elastic it wasn’t very easy to get out off, Laura had to help!!!

And that is where my February dressmaking project is up to. Sort of made but not finished, I need to go and get the right type of elastic, take out what I used and put the right type in. Once that is right and fitted properly, I will tidy up the waist section, a bit of an odd way of putting in the elastic and I feel I need to tweak. I will then probably stitch shut the cross over at the V neck to make sure it doesn’t gape. And then finally I can do the hem at the bottom.

Will I wear it? – yes

Am I happy with it? – I will be once I have tweaked the odd bit, it will work for the Black tie and I can dress it up, with jewellery and I could even add a decorative belt, possibly a homemade one?!!!

Would I make it again? – possibly, not sure.

Sorry there are so few photos but black fabric on a grey day just wouldn’t photograph and there are no finished ones – as it isn’t finished!!! Once it is I will post it or maybe I will post some when I have ‘dressed’ it up on the cruises!!! – so in July sometime.

March’s dressmaking is a summer dress for me!!!

From Trousers To Skirt

27-01-2024

One of my aims for 2024, is to a dressmaking project each month, January’s was to make a skirt from a pair of denim jeans.

One day in November as I was looking through my wardrobe trying to find something warmer to wear, I thought I really could do with a denim skirt. Every year I go through my wardrobe and tidy, sort, recycle, last time I did this I got rid of a number of skirts, they were miniskirts, they were well past their best and I had had them for years, they had been my everyday skirts but other than being old, I know longer feel comfortable wearing miniskirts even with leggings underneath. It left me with just two skirts, which till the autumn hadn’t bothered me, as I wear tunics or shirt dresses in the warmer months.

But that day in late November I looked at my clothes and realised that I hadn’t got a skirt that I really wanted to wear and went with a lot of my tops. I have never had a denim skirt!!! And in my tea break I had a quick look online, I knew I was going to Lakeside shopping centre in early December to do the Christmas shopping, so if I saw anything I liked online I could have a look in store.

M&S had a couple I liked, I could have ordered them online but I find with certain clothes – coats, trousers, skirts it is better to actually look at them and try them on, as I find fit can be a problem. Fit is one of the reasons that I make my own clothes, followed by getting clothes I like!! That are my style (& Laura’s!!!). The skirts in M&S, were on the model mid calf, I didn’t want mini, above the knee or on the knee, nor maxi, BUT I couldn’t find the length of the skirts on the website just the model is 5’8” wearing a size 10!!! Well, that’s a lot of help!!!! The skirts are mid calf on her, but how long is the skirt? Because the model could have a long body and short legs or the other way round, it is a bit irrelevant her height, the actual length of the skirt would be a lot more use. Looking at the skirts, I thought if she is 5’8” it’s going to probably be far too long on me, as I am 5’3”, another reason to actually go and look at it.

When we went Christmas shopping at a very busy Lakeside in December, I have said it before and I will say it again – I don’t like shopping!!! Especially when it’s really busy!!! While we were in M&S getting other bits, I searched for the denim skirts – in a shop geared for Christmas, with extra displays of lounge/sleep wear, glittery Christmas clothes and present ideas!!! Ahhh….eventually I found one of the skirts I had looked at online and immediately it was a no! It was definitely too long, it came to my ankles and this was advertised as a midi!!! Plus the split at the front was long…. At this point I decided to give up, I wanted out of the shops and to go home!!! And we had only been out shopping for about half an hour!!! Laura had to pick up some bras she had ordered online and as we were waiting in the pickup area, I noticed the other skirt I had looked at, so wandered over to it…..Tony trailed me to make sure I didn’t get lost!!!

I know this sounds odd but apparently I have a habit of wandering off looking at things, I did it in the M&S foodhall when trying to find the jam, got sidetracked by the biscuits which in fairness I was also looking for as part of a present, ….. I also do it in museums, something catches my eye and I wander away.

So, the second skirt….this was also as long as the first one I looked, otherwise it was a nice skirt, in colour and design but it was far too long, I want an everyday skirt that I can wear, not one I am going to trip over, it was ankle length with boots on, if I took them off it would be floor length!!! Not practical for me!!! And I am not going to buy a skirt and then have to alter the length by about 6”!!!

As we carried on with the rest of the shopping, I thought about the skirt. I hadn’t seen one on any of the other websites I looked. But I wanted one….then lightbulb moment….make one from a pair of jeans, I had thought about doing it years ago but never got round to it, after seeing the instructions in a Burda magazine.

Fast forward to the beginning of January, I had put skirt from jeans as my first dressmaking project of the year. I had had a quick look on YouTube for ideas and had found the old Burda magazine for the instructions. And I had gone through the jeans I have in my wardrobe, I don’t often wear them, as I live in black leggings but I do have a few pairs. I had pulled out an old M&S bootleg pair that I thought would work well.

Late one afternoon, after I had finished everything on my list for the day and had a bit of spare time, before I needed to start cooking dinner but didn’t feel like starting anything else. I started to unpick the inside leg seams, this isn’t a difficult job, just a bit time consuming, because of the way the seams are constructed. 45 minutes later the jeans were unpicked.

I had written in my planner, turning the jeans into a skirt on the Sunday when Tony & Laura were both at work. First thing to decide on the length, I didn’t go long midcalf as I wasn’t sure I would have enough fabric, so I decided on 27” long. I marked and cut the bottom of the legs off.

Working the front was easy, lay it out, pin the curve of seam flat and then insert the fabric from the bottom of the legs into the V shaped gap, I realised that the piece I had cut off the bottom would fit best if I turned it sideways, so the side seam of the leg became a feature in the V shaped panel. It was then pin and stitch it in place. Trim off the excess fabric from the inside and tidy up the seams. I was really happy with how it all went.

Next was the back, I didn’t want the curve of the trousers on the back, I thought this would look odd, and the skirts I liked, those in M&S, had straight back seams. Trying to get the straight back seam was a bit more fiddly and I ended up pinning, trying on and adjusting it a few times to get it to lay flat and look right, but I got there. I know how to do it now, so next time it will be quicker.

Finally it was time to decide what I wanted to do with the bottom hem, a lot of the denim skirts just have a couple of lines of stitching and are left raw, to fray. I thought about it while drinking my tea and decided I would hem the bottom, fold, press, stitch, done!!!

A quick iron and I had a finished skirt!!! Something I was really happy with, its comfortable to wear, helps its stretch denim, it’s a good everyday garment, that will work with my tops and shorter jumpers (those that I wouldn’t wear with just leggings) and will look good with my aran style cardigans! I can wear it over my leggings with my sheepskin boots in the colder days, but it will also work in the Spring and autumn. I can see this skirt getting a lot of wear.

And maybe I will make another skirt or two with the pairs of jeans sitting in my wardrobe not being worn!!!! I could embroider on it………

2024 & Looking Forward

13-01-2024

My hope for 2024 is to find a balance between housework, cooking, gardening and my creative life!!!!

That is probably easier said than done!!! But I am going to try. There have been a few things I have kept in place and I have added a few others to help. In my planner is a small weekly tracker and l use this to, well keep track of certain habits!!!

I am continuing with the ‘habit’ of my five minute quick drawings, I usually do these as soon as I sit down at my desk in the morning, as I am waiting for my laptop to start up. These drawings have been just done with a black pen but I may going forward expand and play with other ideas, using coloured pens, colouring in with one of my many sets of colouring pencils!!! They may become ten minute drawings!!!

I also have continued with having half an hour for cross stitch, yes I have caught up with the cross stitch version of my Nine Patch quilt, but there will be more squares that will need to be stitched and when I am not doing them, I will stitch one of the many cross stitch or tapestry kits I have sitting around. I have a Bothy Threads one half done from the middle of last year which will be the first to finish.

I am also adding to the tracker doing a minimum of an hour of hand quilting a week, if I can do more than that will be brilliant, but rather than pushing myself and saying I must do half an hour a day, I am saying an hour sometime in the week, either as a whole hour or as two half hour sessions.

I know that I am task driven, if I say that I want to do something – like half hour quilting a day and then can’t do it, I get angsty, and then I start to feel that I am failing. I am a huge list writer and if I don’t manage to tick things off, then I feel…. I am not getting anywhere. I have learnt not to put too much pressure on myself. Try to be realistic in my aims and hopes and this will help with trying to find the balance I need, especially in the winter darker months, when it is easy to give up and do nothing or little, hibernate!!! Like Patch the tortoise.

One of the jobs on my list for December and has been something that really needs doing for a while, is to sort out the fabric cupboard. I usually do tidy the colour draws between Christmas and New Year, but I just haven’t found the time, plus it is a big job and everything needs a really good sort – especially the small scrap boxes and bags – a whole shelf that did start organised into colour boxes but has ended up as ‘just shove the scraps, anywhere I can fit them’!!! I have decided that rather than do it all in one big job, I am going to break it down into smaller jobs and add it to my household tasks on a Wednesday. I do this with cleaning all the kitchen cupboards, a few times a year, I do one cupboard a week, till they are all done. And now I am going to do this with the fabric cupboard, I will start at the bottom and work up towards the small scrap top shelf – which may take a few weeks to sort out!!! It’s that bad. Organise it and then start to use it all up!!!

I will be carrying on with my policy of use up as much as I can, and only buy essentials, which looking at the list of what I will be teaching and also what I would like to create is basically Blenders – mostly white on white ones. And I need some more sky blues for landscape postcards!!!

On using up, I also have a stash of fabric for dressmaking. I really enjoyed making another of the Edwardian walking skirts for Laura for Christmas in a lovely blue Rose & Hubble cotton fabric. And I enjoy dressmaking, I get (and so does Laura) clothes that fit and are my style. My plan is to make one thing a month, either for me or Laura. Starting with a denim skirt for me….that will have its own Ramble I am sure.

Add that to the list, write more Rambles about what I am creating!!! Which means I must remember to take photos as I go along!!!

I am still working on the Nine Patch Blocks/stories and patterns, I will have to start to consider properly making up backs to each of the squares from my stash – using up fabric pieces and then layer and quilt the two completed large nine block squares.

And I am working on my Winter Mindful stitching project, the hand embroidery of the 31 trees is finished, through January I will be adding patchwork borders and joining them all together, to in February and early March hand quilt the project.

I will also need to factor in time to make Quilted Postcards, I have a lot drawn up that I want to create and then there are ideas that I want to play with, trying new things/directions/techniques. I do all the hand embellishment in the evening, along with my couple rows of my knitted blanket but I still need time in the day to make up the fabric layers and machine stitch them. I think half a day every couple of weeks?!!! Possibly or maybe that is underestimating.

I would like to have time to research and play with ideas, to grow ideas but I would also like to finish off some of the projects that have been sitting in bags for years and I mean years!!!

But first of all I will just start off with what I have decided

• 5-minute drawings each day
• Half hour cross stitch a day
• 1 hour of hand quilting a week
• Sort out fabric/stash cupboard
• One Dressmaking project a month
• Nine Patch Block/stories/patterns/quilt
• Winter Mindful Stitching project
• Quilted Postcards
• Teaching work……
• Write Rambles & of course Social Media!

As I said it’s going to be a balancing act and I need to be disciplined and organised and realistic about what I can actually do in the time I have.