Thursday, 28 July 2011

on holiday

(picture by Ken Ayres)

We are off on our holidays see you in a week or two!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

penpal request

My cheeky eldest son, aged 8, is looking for a penpal to email to over the school summer holidays and beyond. He has had a penpal from Mexico from school but that's now ended. He would like an email pal that is more regular (roughly weekly or so).

If you have a child of a similar age who would like to get in touch with a young Englishman with a love for nature, dinosaurs, rocks, fossils, bikes, sport, cakes and biscuits, music, films, books and just about anything else you can think of, then let me know.

He doesn't mind where you live (UK or beyond) and we can always use Google Translate if English isn't your first language!

He looks forward to hearing from anyone who is interested. Thanks. Claire

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Summer bike ride

Today we went for a bike ride on the South Downs, the UK's newest National Park. The weather was lovely, warm and sunny with just the gentlist of winds blowing.

My eldest son rode his own bike and the youngest relaxed on his dad's. (He even fell asleep at one point). There seemed to be more ups than downs. Or did the downs speed by and the ups drag on.

I never find the country side quiet, well not the South Downs way. It was choca-block with walkers, runners (there was a huge race on) and other cyclists.

We stopped for a picnic where the boys found ladybirds to be enchanted by. In fact the ladybirds were out in force today as everywhere we stopped we seemed to find some more.

It was great that we can all ride as a family. We had been debating whether to get a tag -along for our eldest but he could cope mostly by himself ( and we were out for just over 4 hours). We'll probably get one for our youngest.

I did manage to get stung all down both legs on nettles - it still hurts 6+ hours later. And I'm now very saddle sore as I'm so out of shape on a bike. But it was fun and well worth it!

I hope you had a good weekend too.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Thank-You Tote Pattern


I made this pattern last year for my son's teachers and sensationally failed to take any photos of my efforts. I got my act together this year!

Last year I used linen for my outer fabric, this year I used a cotton drill fabric. Any medium weight fabric should be good, especially if using a medium calico as a lining. This should give your bag the right amount of body and structure. He had 2 class teachers again so 2 bags have been assembled.

The pattern:
120cm x 65cm - Linen/ Cotton Drill/ Medium weight fabric - Bag Front
100cm x 52cm - Calico/ Lining fabric - Bag Lining
5 x 13cm x 13cm coordinating Patchwork squares

Cutting List:

Front of bag:
13cm x 52cm piece of linen,
32cm x 52cm piece of linen
4 x charm pack squares and 1 piece of linen/cotton drill that is embroidered (we did a simple heart - see above photo). approx measurements 13cm x 13cm
30x30 coordinating cotton fabric for inner pocket

Back of bag:
50cm x 52cm piece of linen/ cotton drill

2x 50cm x 52cm calico/ cotton -
30cm x 30cm coordinating cotton - pocket
2x 13cm x 110cm linen/cotton drill/ patchworked squares

Sew all the patchwork pieces together (I centred the embroidered square).

Sew the 13cm x 52cm to bottom edge of patchwork strip

Sew 32cm x 52cm to top edge of patchwork strip. This is the front of the bag.

Sew front of bag to back of bag, right sides together around the 2 sides and bottom (use 2cm seam)

Make a bucket bottom by sewing a triangle across the bottom corners (about 8cm from the point). Trim point off.

Add slip pocket to lining, this is now the RS.

To make a slip pocket, hem the top of pocket by turning it over twice by 0.5cm and stitching down. Turn in the other three sides by 0.5cm and press down. Pin onto lining and sewdirectly over where you have turned the three sides over by 0.5cm.

Repeat sewing the lining together, RS together - pocket needs to be on inside(BUT LEAVE A 10CM GAP IN THE BOTTOM EDGE FOR TURNING)

Repeat making a bucket bottom in the lining

Attach lining to main bag. Put the bag (right side facing out) inside the lining. You will see the wrong side of the lining. The RS of lining will be touching the RS of the bag.

Line up seams, and pin round at the top. Sew together (2cm seam) at the top edge.

Turn the right way round, by pulling the outside of the bag through the lining. Sew up 10cm hole at the bottom of the lining with a zig zag stitch. Press entire bag, top stitch 0.5cm from top edge to keep lining in place.

Attach handles by sewing them firmly on (I sew a square with an X inside at the top of each strap to the fabric - see above photo )

handle options:-

  1. Tough woven ribbon.

  2. Main Linen fabric - 13cm x110cm - sew together with 1cm seam, turn out.

  3. Patchwork handles
Trim all threads, press and your bag is ready to go!

dressmaking notions

I have been watching the lessons for the Sew Retro Bombshell Dress on There are a few tools that Gretchen uses, that I think would come in handy. She gives US links, but I've tried to track some of these things down in UK/ Europe.

Bracelet Pin Cushion
I have found it impossible to find anyone selling this fancy pin cushion bracelet in the UK but you can get it in France (except the postage to the UK is ridiculous! I could almost swim to France from where I live !!! Crazy) It's by Bohin - called a bracelet (dore) pelote velours. Here are some links : shop 1 & shop 2. Can anyone explain why postage to the UK is sky high from France?

If anyone knows of a UK shop selling these, please share! I have to say I think I would feel very professional wearing this as I sewed!

Tailors Ham

This is not as glam as the pin cushion, but probably more useful! It's for ironing curved seams on. Costs around £10. Link 1 and Link 2.

Dress Form
This is the biggest layout for any keen dressmaker. But what a brilliant tool. Great selection from here. I would love one of these. Expect to pay £100 - £150.

Waxed Tracing Paper
Gertie gets it from here. Not sure where you get this from in the UK. Have you ever seen it for sale? Following a thread on a sewing forum, people like the Clover Chacopy tracing paper. Get it here for £3.31 + p+p. You will need a tracing wheel/ pen as well.

Do you have any must have dressmaking tools? Or any that are a waste of time?

Monday, 11 July 2011

professional dressmaking course

We are still offline at home, but in my lunchbreak I've been catching up with Gretchen Hirsh's Sew Retro course on If you go to Gretchen's blog, she'll give you 50% off her course - you need her links or click mine!

I have to tell you about this course, it's amazing. I am a self taught dressmaker, so an intermediate sewer if you will. This course is showing me all the techniques I should be using, like trace basting, who knew about that? Also how to fit those Burda paper patterns together easily! Plus, more importantly small and large bust adjustments.

I can see a dress form is quite important for doing a good job with this style of dress. It's a fitted bustier style dress by Burda (the pattern is included as well as a download). Gretchen is also showing a few different skirt options, or making it as a top only.

Whether you want to make a dress in this style or not, the demostration of all the different techniques you need to make a well fitting garment is invaluable. For $29.99 you get 15 indepth classes showing you each step of the way.

I have watched about 1/3 of the courses and I've learnt quite a few new things. Even if you are a beginner sewer this course is great as you will be taught things that you may not know, or are yet to get to.

Once you have the course you can watch it and rewatch it indefinitely. Also you can add notes against the videos, and ask questions which Gretchen and others will reply to.

I do recommend checking out Gretchen's blog, as it's got loads of advice and interesting discussions on sewing.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Internet is down

Our router is refusing to route. So until we can fix it I'm ignoring
the computer!

Typical as I just bought Gertie's online dress making tutorial!

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, 4 July 2011

the two of us

This weekend it was just the two of us. My eldest son and I.

So I prioritised fun and mother and son time over everything else.

I planned a loose itinery for us to do which included: gingerbread men baking, swimming, picnic on the beach, DVD, 2 x art projects, bike ride, tennis. It turned out that we did not have quite enough time to do everything, but we had fun trying.

One of our art projects involved this Pop Up book that I bought recently. Pop-Up: Everything You Need to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book by Ruth Wickings and Frances Castle

I can't recommend this book highly enough. Inside are 4 scenes to turn into fantastic pop-up pages: a dragon, a jungle, a medieval castle and Frankenstein’s laboratory. There are some brilliant pop-up tricks that you try out. And you don't even need glue (every piece has sticky back plastic attached. Genius!

We also watched a film; How to Train Your Dragon, which was a brilliant story. We both really enjoyed that. And from that my son decided he'd produce his own book about Dragons. Each page had a dragon on it (some from the film, some made up) with information about the dragon. I helped with some of the drawing and writing, but that is our work in progress.

We also played on Beatles Rockband together, which was a great laugh.

On a sadder note, I went into Habitat for probably the last time. So sad it's gone into administration. I've bought some gorgeous things from there over the last 20 years. I have many beautiful vases from there, my everyday crockery (I went and picked up some more to cover breakages), bed and table linen, furniture. Sad times. Unfortunately IKEA, and all the supermarkets have been selling homewares in a similar style and a lot cheaper than Habitat do. However Habitat was always more original, more interesting and it used to be better quality as well. Hard times.