Monday, 31 March 2014

Sewing Revolution

Although I've been a bit distant here, I've been trying to do a bit more social media and have started tweeting a little (@SiwanH in case you want to know!) and have one of this year's contestants has been tagging #sewingrevolution.

So last weekend, I took inspiration from the 'revolution' and got on with it. Having finished the kitchen blind to complete the collection (most of the job was DIY as I'd done most of the sewing already).  Once that was up, I braved a new concept for me - upcycling.

I've never been all that confident at altering clothes, so the thought of somehow reusing the fabric from a garment to make something completely new was rather daunting.  But having been brought up by two war-time children, I find it difficult to throw something out that may have a 'second life', and I've been piling up DH's worn out work shirts for a while in the hope I'd be brave enough to make something out of them.

Not wanting to start too big, I opted for Colette's Sorbetto top - a popular pattern from what I've seen online and a favourite of Lauren from last year's Sewing Bee - and also my first foray into online patterns.  Having taken my own measurements, compared them to the chart with the pattern, I traced the correct size onto tissue paper.  Not as difficult as I'd expected :-)  I then made up a toile out of some left over curtain lining fabric (or something) to see how it suited.  And apart from being a bit loose, it was ok.

Ok, I admit, I did have a bit of a melt-down with DH because I couldn't work out how to alter it to stop the armholes gaping.  But a cup of tea and a hug (or two or three, or four!) later, I retraced a smaller size and started again, with a better result.  The fit still isn't perfect, but it is at least passable.

So, on to the Real Thing.  I chose a shirt and tried fitting the pattern onto it.  I knew that the pleat at the front may have to be sacrificed, but in the end I opted to keep the buttons/placket and move them to the back and have a plain front.
trying to decide which binding to use

Almost finished (except for some girly buttons)
So, now it is onwards and upwards.  I'm certainly going to give the pattern another go, although I'm going to try and alter it slightly by moving the darts to a better position for me.  So it is just a question of which shirt I should upcycle next?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Commission update - Snowdrops

Along with everything else in my life recently, my commissions have taken a bit of a back seat.  But with the New Year, new-found energy (if it lasts!) and getting rid of my back-log of odd jobs, I'm getting determined to get back on track with the last commission of 2013.

My last update about it was months ago.  So HIGH time for me to be getting on with it again.  Over Christmas I was, at least, able to touch base with the commissioner, and I think they were rather surprised that it was as big as it is.  In fact, I suspect they hadn't expected me to go to quite so much trouble with the border (which is going to be quite prominent).

Progress has been slow until fairly recently, but I'm now fairly happy with how it is coming along now. Getting the first corner right was a little complicated and took longer than I'd expected.  I had made two versions of the chart to see which looked best, but even so, when it came to stitching it, it changed slightly. I'm a little disappointed that there isn't more of a contrast between the fabric and the white of the snowdrops. I'll have to see how it goes, but I may end up outlining them so they stand out more.

I'm expecting the stitching of the poem in the central space to be quite a quick job after the wide border though.  Let's keep our fingers crossed!

It is a good feeling to have turned a corner (excuse the pun!) and realise that I'm over half-way through the border now.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

House tour - part 2

Following on from an earlier post, here's more on our renovations.

Downstairs, or the reception rooms is where the majority of the heavy work was done.

Originally it was four rooms - living room, dining room (or study, as the vendors had it), breakfast room and kitchen.  The kitchen was pretty small and dark.  I later discovered that the kitchen would originally have been three rooms - a (very) small kitchen, a pantry and an outside toilet - that had been knocked into one.  But for us, it was still too pokey, so we decided to knock the wall between the kitchen and the neighbouring breakfast room down to create one large room.

The original kitchen
The breakfast room
The work in progress!
This was a huge job and took quite a lot of time, but eventually it was ready for the new kitchen units and appliances.

It faces north, so I was concerned about light in the room and opted to go for light units and light wall tiles.  Not a common combination these days, but we'd seen a very similar kitchen in New York and it looked great.  It was MUCH smaller and also had light floors and work surfaces, but we decided to go for a bit of contrast to vary things a little and chose a wooden work surface (which hopefully reflects the floor boards in one half of the room).  We decided that the 'work' end of the new kitchen, which had been the original kitchen, would have a tiled floor and that way we would also 'show' a little of the house's history by delineating the two rooms we'd knocked into one.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you will know that one of the earliest 'house' posts was about the blinds I made for the kitchen, which were recently altered to suit the new windows installed last spring, so it now looks like this.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Great British Sewing Bee - series 2

I am so thrilled that this series has returned.  I'm falling in love with it all over again!

And I'm getting itchy (treadle) feet again and want to get back to making my own clothes.  It has been YEARS since I made any clothes for myself, so this may well be just the ticket to kick-start things again (once I've finished the million and one other tasks and WIPs on my ever increasing list of course).

I don't know if any of you have ever bought Sew! magazine.  It was new to me and I was drawn to it by the free pattern (New Look 6144 in the current issue).  I was even more tempted when I read the item inside about the Liberty print version they made - at about £14 per metre (may sounds a bit dear) - actually means the dress would come in at about £30.  A LIBERTY DRESS FOR £30!!!!  Even DH was convinced when I pointed the figures out to him :-)

Now, being of an insecure disposition, I'm wary.  Do I take the plunge and buy fabric and go for it?  Or do I 'um' and 'ah' about whether I should give it a go. Will it suit me when I've made it?  If it doesn't it will be wasted time and money and I'll feel miserable that I won't have a lovely new dress at the end of it after all, and feel even more insecure to boot.  I suppose I could compromise and make up a toile before taking the plunge properly.  But then, you can't easily adjust the fit on yourself (and there is no hope of getting dear DH to help with something like this!).

That has always bothered me about sewing your own clothes.  You buy patterns, fabric and all the notions.  You spend time and effort cutting out, tacking, pinning and sewing together and then when you're all excited, you try it on and the fit isn't right or the style makes you look like a sack of potatoes.  It would be so much easier if you could try it on before you buy.

If only May and Patrick and all the Sewing Bee gang were on hand to help!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Reading again

The other day I was updating my reading list, wracking my brains trying to remember what I've read over the past few months, and I realised I hadn't let you all know how I've been getting on with it either.  And you deserve a sign of life from me again!  And looking back over it, I've left it some time too.

So here are the additions to my first and second lists:
The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (I last read this at primary school, but wanted to refresh my memory before watching the first installment of the film trilogy.  I'm glad I did - the film was so long, at least I knew which bits had been added so I could pop out to powder my nose without missing anything crucial!)
Wessex Tales - Thomas Hardy (I fancied returning to an old favourite, but picked something I hadn't read before)
The Phantom - Jo Nesbø (another go at reading a Harry Hole novel.  It went a bit better than my last attempt)
Heartbreak Hotel - Deborah Moggach (A gift from my MIL.  We watched Best Exotic Marigold Hotel together and were joking that Deborah Moggach should write something about a hotel in Wales ... and she must have been listening!)
Hanas Gwanas - Bethan Gwanas (a Welsh writer and broadcaster.  This is her autobiography - it made me laugh and cry - fab)
Dyddiadur Gbara - Bethan Gwanas (I then went on a bit of a Bethan-fest didn't I? She spent two years after uni doing VSO in Nigeria.  This is her diary of her experiences)
Yn ôl i Gbara - Bethan Gwanas (S4C filmed her returning to the village in Nigeria where she lived 20 year on - this is her diary of the journey)
Byd Bethan - Bethan Gwanas (this one and the next are some of her columns for the Welsh Herald)
Mwy o Fyd Bethan - Bethan Gwanas
Ar y Lein Eto Fyth - Bethan Gwanas (The book to accompany her S4C series about following various 'lines' around the globe - this one is the Equator, but she's also done the longitude of her home town, Dolgellau and from pole to pole)
My name is Red - Orhan Pamuk (This was about Istanbul in the time of the Sultans.  He won a Nobel Prize for Literature)
Istanbul - Anthology (another gift from MIL for our holiday last year in Turkey)
Death comes to Pemberley - P. D. James
The White Queen - Phillipa Gregory (I had to read this trilogy in preparation for the TV series)
The Kingmaker's Daughter - Phillipa Gregory
Tulip - Anna Pavord (the history of tulips)
A Commonplace Killing - Siân Busby (Siân was a member of our choir and grew up in the same part of London as DH and set this book there too.  Very moving as she died shortly after completing it, but before its publication)
Innocent Traiter - Alison Weir (I have an obsession with Jane Grey, so I had to read this)
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel (I was on a bit of a history fest!)
Cathedral of the Sea - Ildefonso Falcones (inspired by our trip to Barcelona in November)
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow - Peter Høeg (As I'm rather partial to Scandi-lit, I thought I'd give this a go, but struggled to stick with it.  I don't think I'll bother with anymore of his books)
The Follies of the King - Jean Plaidy (I felt I need to know more about this period after we saw David Tenant in Richard II.  I hope to track down the following novels in the series before we see Henry IV parts 1 and 2)
Aderyn Brith - Rhiannon Gregory (based on the life of a Breton miller's daughter who rose to become courtesan to a Prince and then wife to an industrial mogul)
The Kashmir Shawl - Rosie Thomas (a lovely story connecting India and Wales)

Goodness - I've just realised that it is more than a year since I filled you in on my reading escapades!  Sorry!  Count yourselves lucky that I had a bad autumn for reading, or this post would be even longer. ;-o

I must really get back to some books that I've started but haven't managed to finish now and let you know how I get on (if I don't get distracted by other books!):
A short histoy of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
From the Holy Mountain - William Dalrymple
Y Trydydd Peth - Siân Melangell Dafydd
Eine Frau in Berlin: Tagebuch-Aufzeichnungen vom 20. April bis 22. Juni 1945 - Anonyma (the diary of a German woman living in Berlin as WWII comes to an end and the Russians flood in. Fascinating, but hard going, especially in German.  It caused such an uproar when it was first published, that it was published anonymously)
The curious gardener - Anna Pavord (this is a 'dip in and out' type of book about stuff to do at various times of the year in the garden.  Maybe now that there are signs of life in the garden again, I'll start dipping into it again.)
Life of Pi - Yann Martel (I'm not sure why I didn't finish this!  LOVED the film though.)