Monday, 21 July 2014

New dressmaking patterns by Lisa Lam - blog hop and giveaway

I'm delighted to be taking part in a blog hop showcasing Lisa Lam's new dressmaking pattern booklets as not only is Lisa a talented designer/maker but she also happens to be a good blogging friend of mine. There was also an added incentive in having my own little miss to stitch for!
 
Lisa Lam new dressmaking patterns
 
back cover dance with me dress

Lisa has designed two booklets featuring Summery designs for girls - the Happiness Halter Playsuit and Dance with Me Dress. Each booklet includes 3 simple variations to sew - a playsuit, dress and top in the Happiness Halter booklet,  and dress, tunic top and bag in the Dance with Me Dress booklet.

The format is very user-friendly - a magazine-sized booklet with a sturdy card cover and the instructions inside over several pages - no need to open out unwieldy sheets of paper. A pattern envelope on the back cover contains the pattern pieces on a sheet of dressmakers' tissue. Beautiful photography and  details like the showcasing of designer fabrics on the pattern sleeve make the booklets a pleasure to leaf through.

pattern envelope

If you've ever tried your hand at sewing any of Lisa's bag designs, you'll be familiar with her clearly written style and fantastic step-by-step photography, and the patterns certainly don't disappoint on this front.

step-by-step photography
 
I'm a big fan of photography rather than diagrams for illustrating unfamiliar techniques as seeing the actual fabric and pattern placement makes more complex steps so much easier to follow! The patterns don't assume any prior dressmaking knowledge, and Lisa walks you through each step of the process with helpful tips along the way.

The patterns have clever little touches and attention to detail which makes the designs very wearable - I particularly like the wide elastic casing waistband on the happiness halter dress, comfortable and practical for little ones. Finishing techniques like the binding on the pocket opening edge also give the finished items a high-end look.
 
happiness halter dress variation

It just so happens that I have a ready made little mannequin of my own to stitch for, so I decided to stitch up the happiness halter top, as who can resist a nice ruffle?

happiness halter top ruffle detail

happiness halter top

happiness halter top back detail
 
The size 4 happiness halter top was a perfect fit for my diminutive little miss, with the elastic channel in the back making for a nice neat finish, with no gaping. The length is great for wearing with a pair of shorts, though I would probably cut the pieces a bit longer to make a tunic-length top for wearing with leggings.
 
Happiness Halter top

My littlest was thrilled with her new top, and eldest, who is just in to double-figures, has actually said she fancies one of her own, so how's that for versatility? Whilst the patterns are for ages 2-6, this style lends itself well to being sized up for older children, so my eldest might just get one stitched up for her.

If you fancy trying your hand at any of the patterns, I have both pattern booklets up for grabs - just leave a comment on this post by the end of the month to let me know what Summer stitching projects you are planning for a chance to win! I'll draw a winner on Friday 1st August, so do check back to see if you have won as blogger doesn't always provide me with email addresses to contact winners directly.

To follow the rest of the blog hop, click on the links below, or pop over to Stitch Craft Create for more details or to purchase Lisa's patterns.


JUNE:
Fri 27th – A Spoonful of Sugar
JULY:
Tue 1st – Pistons and Polish
Mon 7th – Kitchen Table Sewing
Wed 9th – Kitchen Table Sewing
Mon 14th – Sew Maris
Tue 15th – A Stitching Odyssey
Fri 18th – Scruffy Badger Time
Sun 20th Sew Mama Sew
Monday 21st Angharad Handmade
TBC  House of Pinheiro


 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Anyone for lemon tart?

My children have developed an obsession with lemon tart. Even the boy, who considers most other desserts and cakes to be frankly inedible. I have been in search of a good recipe for lemon tart for a while, but was finally spurred into baking by a surfeit of lemons in the fruit bowl and a small unopened tub of crème fraiche in the fridge nearing its use by date. It's surprisingly hard to find a recipe for lemon tart that doesn't involve real cream (something which we never have in the fridge as none of us like it), but as ever, the BBC Good Food site came up trumps, with this recipe for The ultimate makeover: lemon tart, which purports to be both low fat and delicious.

Lemon tart
short-lived lemon tart
The only change I made to the recipe was to make the sweet shortcrust pastry by rubbing 60g of unsalted butter into 140g of flour, stirring through the 1tbsp of icing sugar, then binding together with the leftover egg yolk (from the filling) and a bit of cold water. Otherwise I followed the recipe as on the website.

Mine doesn't look as immaculate as the one on the website, but it was speedily demolished by the children, which is as good a vote of confidence as any; they're pretty particular when it comes to their lemon tarts.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The scrap quilt reveal

Brace yourselves ... I've only gone and finished something!

scrap quilt

Project name: Scrap Vomit (or Technicolour Yawn if you're going for the sanitised version)
Size: 70" square (big enough for me to be completely hidden behind it when holding it up to be photographed!)
Started: May 2011
Finished: May 2014
Batting: Warm and Natural
Backing: Moda extra wide Dottie quilt backing in grey
Quilted: By hand with Gutermann hand-quilting thread in dark grey and Clover gold-eye quilting needles

hand-quilting
I signed up to a quilt-along for this scrappy quilt, led on by the enthusiasm of Katy over at imagingermonkey. That was almost 3 years ago - I think Katy has actually completed around 90 scrap vomit quilts during the time I've taken to make my single one, which shows me up somewhat, but then, she is a superhuman quilting machine. This quilt was begun in England and completed in Wales, so has dual heritage just like my 3 children. I was sneakily stitching blocks in between house viewings, which may not have been the best way to ensure the house was tidy, but it was a welcome distraction.

The blocks themselves came together really quickly. I kept the A-blocks as 7 x 7 blocks of random scrappy 2.5" squares but adapted the B-block for a single colour of contrast (dark grey) in a diamond pattern which would criss-cross over the whole quilt.

B blocks handquilting

(oops, missed trimming some threads!)

A blocks handquilting
I started quilting it by hand in May 2012 (aren't blogs terrible for providing incontrovertible proof of how long you've been working on something!), with diagonal lines following the diamonds on the B blocks and segmented circles on the A blocks. I think it was the quilting really which did for the prompt completion of this quilt - all those overlapping seam allowances to stitch through! And so I let it sit, for around a year, only to pick it up again this Spring and realise there wasn't much left to do. So with only 6 circles left to quilt, I picked it up in the evenings and after work and found it came together really quickly. I was saved from procrastinating and deferring decisions over the binding by the fact that I had bought an extra metre of the dark grey solid fabric - I didn't really want anything that would compete with the scrappiness of the quilt, and it also helps to draw the eye to the diamond pattern and save it from getting lost in the multicolour madness.

backing and binding
I've gone as far as removing the erasable pen markings for the quilting, and trimming away (most of) the loose threads, but the quilt hasn't even managed to make it into the washing machine yet and is currently residing on the arm of the settee in the living room, ready to be appropriated by whoever comes along and wants to make a den or a bed for their teddies.

I feel a bit bereft at the completion of such a long-term project - I definitely need to get stuck in to another quilt!







Sunday, 4 May 2014

Five go to the Legoland Hotel

Legoland hotel

If you asked me to name my favourite childhood toy, it would be Lego every time. Even though I had the usual 80s suspects like Tiny Tears and Sindy dolls, I definitely spent the most hours playing with my lego sets. So when I managed to book a super cheap deal to stay a night in the LEGOLAND resort hotel in Windsor, I was just as excited as the children. The trick is to book when the park is closed, when the rooms plummet in price - for us, the park being closed wasn't a problem at all, as we used to live just a few miles down the road, so the children have been several times over the years. In any case, had we been visiting the park too, I'm not sure we would have got nearly as much enjoyment out of the hotel itself.

legoland hotel frog prince safe

We stayed in a standard Kingdom-themed room, having thought about a pirate room until the 3-year old developed a sudden fear of the swashbucklers a few weeks ago. The theming in the room was so effective - from the shields 'carved' into the children's bunks to the lego crown by the bathroom mirror. Most exciting of all was the locked safe with a huge frog perched on top and a note directing the children to solve the clues within the room to find the combination to unlock it. This was definitely one of the highlights for my brood, especially when they found a little lego set each inside on opening the safe.

legoland hotel children's bedroom

The layout of the room itself was ideal - a separate bunk bed area for the children, with a pull-out trundle bed for the third child, along with a tv playing various lego-themed programs. Next came the bathroom with its lego toiletries, including a lego brick soap. Then there was the main bedroom with the usual tea and coffee making bits and pieces, as well as a second tv. There was so much attention to detail, with the theme even carried through into the carpeting. This continued outside the room too, with each floor having a separate theme.

legoland hotel kingdom room
legoland hotel bathroom
legoland hotel bathroom

Elsewhere in the hotel, there were chatting lifts, bathroom mirrors which told you how nice you were looking today, and a whoopee cushion carpet. The children were likewise thrilled with the indoor and outdoor play areas, as well as the brilliant swimming pool and splash playing area with slides, see-saw and water jets to soak your family. There is so much to see in every area of the hotel, from a huge display of minifigures behind the reception desk to giant lego people and a model skyline in the bar. It's all been so well thought-out, we were completely won over! And apart from anything else, the room was pretty good value. With a buffet-style breakfast included, the children made the most of the opportunity to fill their tummies - Littlest came away with a babybel cheese, mango, pineapple, mini croissant and mini muffin, Middlest went for crunchy-nut cornflakes, followed by a full English breakfast including around 6 eggs-worth of scramble and a dessert of raisins and peaches, whilst Eldest went for a more continental style with a plate filled with pastries, and a token offering of fruit.  I can't think of anywhere else in the area where we could get a family room to genuinely sleep five for under £100 (the usual 'chain' hotels tend to offer family rooms for 4 only); I would thoroughly recommend it.

legoland hotel indoor play area

This is not a sponsored post, just a genuinely enthusiastic one. We came away singing 'Everything is Awesome' in the car, and resolved to keep our eyes peeled for the next bargain deal!




With apologies for the interruption to normal service - posts about unfinished sewing projects, things I might be thinking about sewing but haven't quite started yet, and aspirations to be a generally more productive maker will soon resume.


Monday, 21 April 2014

UnFinished Objects

My study-o has been in drastic need of a sort-out for a while now. There are more UFOs in there than in area 51. Poor old scrap vomit has been sitting in there for almost 3 whole years (more chronic heartburn than projectile vomit). Then there's the quilt my sister commissioned for my nephew around 6 months ago. And a baby quilt top, finished but in need of backing and binding. Before starting anything new, I resolved to embark on a Spring quiltathon to get these three finished, buoyed on by the arrival on the weekend of a newborn niece, for whom the baby quilt top is destined, and the necessity of first finishing the big boy bed quilt for her big brother.


scrap vomit quilt
scrap vomit


baby girl quilt top
baby quilt top
So first up, the big boy bed quilt. This one was all but finished, but I'd been procrastinating over binding choices. Polka dots, my go-to binding choice, had been ruled out, so what to do? Solids, stripes, checks or patterns? I'm not good when faced with too much choice. But then I stumbled upon this lovely denim-coloured narrow stripe fabric by Makower over at the Village Haberdashery, and bought a metre with a view to cutting it on the bias for a candy-stripe effect.

binding fabric
pinstripe binding fabric
 
It really is an ideal fabric choice for binding a child's quilt as it's super soft - much more so than usual with quilting cottons. Annie has it in 6 different colourways, so I might just have to add a few more to my stash (especially coveting the lime green and red pinstripes).

I cut 2 1/4" binding strips as I find 2 1/2" just a bit too wide usually, cutting on the bias. Having machined the binding in place to the right side, I spent a few hours later that evening handstitching the binding to the reverse of the quilt whilst watching some recorded episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee with my eldest girl. Binding and mother-daughter sewing-bee viewing was a great bit of distraction while waiting for my husband to return from the hospital with my son, who needed his chin gluing back together after an argument involving a bike, a boy, and a subway wall.

Sewing Bee binding evening
Great British Sewing Bee bindathon
 
By 4am, I had a fully repaired boy, a finished quilt binding, and an urgent appointment with my duvet. All finished just in time to drive up to visit my sister and her partner in London the next day and meet my lovely new niece! Luckily she's not quite old enough to realise her aunt has been too remiss to finish her new baby quilt yet.
 
 
big boy bed quilt
 
finished quilt and robot
Robot softie stowed away in the package and elicited a very excited 'wow' from my nephew.
 

 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee

Oh Great British Sewing Bee, you have a lot to answer for. In showing those contestants artfully draping fabric and stitching seams week after week, you have made me think I might be able to make an actual wearable item of clothing for myself.

We have been down this path before. I've made plenty of clothes for the children, but never seem to pull-off adult sized garments. I think the problem lies in the fact that basically everything looks cute on a small child, whereas on a full-grown adult, handmade can easily translate into twee or homespun.

Still, I'm throwing caution to the wind yet again, and armed with a few metres of this pretty green cotton floral from Ditto Fabrics, as well as Wendy Mullin's Built by Wendy Dresses, I'm all set to stitch up a Summer frock. Or a floral smock for the children's dressing up box, depending on how it all works out!

Dress fabric
 
Built by Wendy Dresses 
If you have any dressmaking resources to share, please leave a comment - I need all the help I can get. I'm really enjoying The Sewing Directory's week by week guides to the Great British Sewing Bee, which provide everything from links to fabrics used to sewing skills tutorials.

Do you have a favourite online supplier of dressmaking fabrics in the UK? I'm not so keen on using quilters cottons for dressmaking as I don't find them drapey enough, but I really struggle to find a decent selection of lighter-weight cottons online. My current shortlist of online stores includes:


The holy grail, of course, would be a bricks and mortar fabric emporium close to home in South East Wales, Gloucestershire or Bristol. Had we still been living in Slough, Fabrics Galore would have been top of the list, but having moved back to the South Wales marches, I'm not really sure what's on my doorstep.

I'm deeply saddened that the Sewing Bee is now over and done with for this year, just as I'm getting up my enthusiasm for dressmaking. On the whole, I think the challenges were a lot harder this year! What did you make of last night's verdict?



Sunday, 30 March 2014

Spring forward

I like a bit of rain, me - after all, hailing from the South Wales valleys, I am semi-amphibian. I must admit, though, that this Winter has been a bit of a long (and wet) haul. But now, at the tail end of March, it feels like Spring has finally sprung, the clocks have gone forward, the sun has been shining, and we've blown away the cobwebs in the great outdoors.

Untitled
The winks taking in the blossom on our way out to lunch today

It's mother's day today, and the google doodle seems especially apposite as we've been out cycling the past two weekends.


It's been so lovely to get out on two wheels again. Last weekend saw us cycling along the Wales coast path through the Newport wetlands. Next weekend, we hope to try the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal. Hopefully sticking to the towpath rather than the waterway, obviously.

Untitled
Lighthouse in the distance at the Newport wetlands
 
Hope you have been enjoying a bit of Springtime sunshine too!

 
 
 
 
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