Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Another jacket

I bought this Japanese pattern book specifically for the jackets on these pages. I have fallen in love with the shape of both jackets, but more specifically their collars - from the beautiful shaping of the Peter Pan collar on the left, to the sweet simplicity of the round neck line on the right-hand jacket.

I have delayed making either, partly because it seemed indecent to make another jacket before the last jacket that I made had even seen the daylight, but also because I couldn't find quite the right fabric.

However, my balloon-sleeved jacket has now had several outings and yesterday I found a delicious fabric. I took my Mama out for lunch to celebrate her birthday in a lovely town about an hour's drive of the shops there has some random bolts of fabric in amongst the bags, blankets and ready-made clothes that they sell and we found this beautiful wool fabric...and despite the fact that it was her birthday, she bought me a metre and half of its loveliness. It is incredibly thick and is just as pleasing on the reverse side, which is important in an unlined jacket.

I'm undecided as to which jacket I'd like to make yet, but intend to make a muslin using something ugly, so that I don't waste any of it.

The cooler weather seems to bring endless dress-making possibilities and only adds to my love of autumn.

Florence x

Monday, 27 September 2010

One last thing

The amount of posts revolving around the Anna Maria Horner 'Square Dance' fabric panels is now bordering on the obscene - if the panels were a person they would feel stalked and almost certainly overwhelmed by the amount of sewing time I have given over to them. I have several remaining squares, but they are now carefully folded and stored away at the back of my fabric drawers and I'm not allowing myself to use them again until next year. So this quilt is something of a Square Dance finale for me!

It is horribly difficult to photograph this quilt in today's gloom, but even in bright sunlight its size doesn't seem to be easily accommodated by my camera screen. It is bigger than a standard single quilt as I made it long enough to cover the pillow at the head of the bed (due to my strange feelings about pillows being on view discussed in this post). The batting is Quilter's Dream Puff - I used this when I made our own double quilt and it is so warm and light that I'm a committed convert. Gone are my Hobbs Heirloom days.

The only difficulty I found with this quilt was the use of squares - which would be so much better on a double quilt (which is also square). Using a central square on a single rectangular quilt means that the subsequent bands of fabric surrounding the square have to be cut at double the width for all bands going across the quilt, so that the quilt can become longer and thinner, while still allowing the central square to look normal (does that make sense?).

You may remember that this quilt is the first one I'd planned using my computer - I think I'd try it that way again, but I'd go one step further and install a grid on the screen to represent the size - this would have meant that I could have worked around the above problem before cutting into my fabric. As I made the quilt I fell in love with the fabrics all over again and so started started self-imposed rationing of their use, thinking of the summer dresses I might make with them next year: each fabric has been used very sparingly.

As always, creating the quilt patch is one of my favourite things. I have it in my head to also make some new cushions for Zebra-girl's room too, but that can wait for a while as with all the birthday gifts now sewn up I have a couple of patterns that I'd like to write, as well as some winter clothes that I can't wait to make.

It has finally been cold enough to wear the autumn jacket that I made in mid-August (what was I thinking?) and it's making me think of all the other lovely wintry things I'd like to make. I'm wondering if anyone has come across a tutorial for drafting and installing a coat lining - I'd love to make a proper lined winter coat, but the lining (which will be a different shape to that of the coat if one wants proper facings) is foxing me whenever I think about it...I'm thinking that I may like to hand-sew it in afterwards, but there's still the shape to negotiate.

Florence x

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Clock make-over

Yes, it's another item featuring Anna Maria Horner's Square Dance'll be relieved to know that I've only ever been in possession of one panel of this fabric, so there's a limit to how long I can sew exclusively with it. However, rather than hiding it away I wanted to share this one with you as it was such a happy upcycling project (actually, I really dislike the word sounds like one of those awful buzz words that men in advertising use. Sometimes I think I may need saving from myself or just my keyboard confiscating). The clock frame and hands belong to the very pink Laura Ashely clock that my mother bought for Zebra-girl when she about three or four. However, yesterday I took it apart and re-covered its face.

I used a beautiful blue, slightly iridescent, fabric for the base and some bright metallic turquoise thread to sew the numbers with.

I used a protractor to mark out the placement of the numbers (each number is 30 degrees apart) and then drew them in disappearing ink before sewing them with a closed zigzag stitch on my machine.

Next I appliqued the flowers from the Square Dance panel on to the centre, before cutting a hole for the clock workings to poke through.

I then stretched the fabric over the clock face, using masking tape on the back to hold the fabric in place. And finally I mounted the clock hands, trying very hard to remember in what order they were meant to go on, placed it back in the frame and then kept my fingers crossed that the clock would still work - and it does - hurrah!

It's now safely hidden from view ready to be wrapped up for Zebra-girl's birthday next week...I'm so excited about giving it to her, even though I'm feeling a little guilty that she's receiving her own second-hand things for her that wrong?

Florence x

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


The white gloves of the last post are now safely back in the drawer and the curtains are open. While I wait for some more voile to arrive for the binding, I've been making the patch to go on the corner of the quilt - there are flowers appliqued in two opposite corners, framing the message (or they will, once the message has been stitched).

I was sad to find a couple of days ago that Bloglines is closing at the end of this month (for those that don't use it, it's a feed reader - a place where you can find the new posts of all the blogs that you've subscribed to). I have over 1600 blog posts to read stacked up in although it pains me to think of what goodies I might be missing out on, I've found it liberating to make a fresh start with Google Reader. Importing all my subscriptions from Bloglines took less than 2 minutes and I'm enjoying the 'next' button that I've installed on my desktop that actually allows me to read the posts at the actual site of the blog, rather than through the reader, which removes all the personalisation of the blog header and sidebars.

What I found really interesting about the closure of Bloglines was one of their reasons for closing - that being that they feel people tend to receive update notifications in a more social way now, such as Twitter and Facebook, rather than an automated notifier. I only signed up to Twitter a few months ago, and can appreciate the benefit of its instantaneousness and its ability to open up a wider, ongoing conversation (although I worry about the possibility of being sucked in and living more of life online than offline and so don't allow myself to spend very much time on there). But I can't immediately see the reasons for being on Facebook too...can someone who knows explain?

Tell me - how do you use Facebook as a blog reader or a blogger? Do you go there just for updates or if it's conversation then how does that work differently from commenting on a blog? What's the benefit of it for the blogger and/or the blog reader?

So many questions, so much to be confused by...

Florence x

PS. I think I've mentioned before Mr Teacake's disapproval of Twitter...I saw a fantastic t-shirt in French Connection which reminded me of him. The text across the chest read: 'This is the man. He does not tweet. He does not twitter'. I asked him if he would like me to buy him one. He said no as apparently the first line implies supremacy. I love that he actually thinks these things through (although now wonder what his thoughts are around the t-shirt that he owns which is covered in stars and the faded words 'big dippers'...)

Monday, 20 September 2010

Quilting with the curtains closed

I have finally got past the tiresome piecing stage and begun the happy task of quilting. The voile is a slippery eel to work with repelled the masking tape needed to hold the stretched backing to the floor and was eventually only stilled by sticking pins straight through its layers into the carpet beneath.

Its lively nature does of course give even more cause for donning the strange quilting gloves that help to grip the material...they make me feel as though I'm in the midst of carrying out a crime I closed the curtains (in the very unlikely event that a binocular-carrying quilt-spotter was out and about) and carried out my quilting crimes unwatched: a low-key affair that has, so far, only involved whizzing up and down the quilt in straight lines, devoid of even the smallest mishap or expletive.

So it would all be going swimmingly if only I had enough suitably coloured voile left for the binding...unfortunately, I don't. I will think about that tomorrow.

Florence x

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Bag Making Bible book review

Before I begin this review, I should say that I consider Lisa, the book's author, to be a dear friend. However, I happily put my name down for a review copy as I'd seen the book in its pre-publication format in April, and knew that, friend or no friend, it's a book that I'd want to share with you.

Books like Lisa's are hard to find...the book market is now saturated with sewing books and yet often they all feel pitched directly at the seamstress making her first uncertain stitches, offering little for those who yearn only to consume sewing literature that sits comfortably within the geek-girl category. I feel if a writer/designer is competent enough then a pattern should be accessible to both novice and old-hand without alienating either. Lisa's book does just this: it has complex complete bag-making patterns that are so clearly explained that a first-time bag maker will be able to produce something exquisite without saturating her fabric with sweat or tears, while the more experienced bag maker can branch out into drafting ever-more intricate bag designs, dipping in and out of the book to garner the wisdom needed to carry off the technique that she wishes to use to incorporate a feature into her design, be that a piped bag bottom or an internal bag divider.

This book is to bag making what Vogue Sewing is to dressmaking (without the slightly fusty pictures): a compendium sourcebook featuring all the individual techniques one might need (as well as some patterns that bring many of the techniques together...meaning that you can use it exactly how you wish).

It hurts my head to think of how the structure of this book was decided upon for it works like this:

It has sections that cover the big issues: structure and reinforcement; linings; closures; handles and straps; pockets etc and then within each section there is a complete bag pattern that fits nicely into its section (such as The Cocktail Ruffle Clutch, a very structured bag that no doubt demonstrates some of the reinforcement issues covered in that section)...then to either side of the complete pattern there are all the individual techniques around that issue that one might need to create their own bag pattern. For the reader it all fits together seamlessly in a logical way, but I can only imagine that for the writer (and her lovely Editor, Ms Fox) it may at times have felt like trying to align the squares of a Rubik's cube (I've never managed that myself).

So that's my view of the book as a bag-maker. As a friend I'm completely delighted by it too - she is such a very clever bean and her warmth and loveliness floats off the pages. One of the production aspects of the book that I found most fascinating to hear about was how the book was photographed...and the conundrum of Lisa's nails. On the few times that I've needed to include my own hands to demonstrate a technique in a tutorial, I've always tried to find another way of doing it, as my hands suddenly appear to be exceptionally ugly when disembodied. It was a delight to hear the lengths that Lisa went to, having experienced a similar hand-shock...I include the second photo in this post, partly to demonstrate the book's content, partly because she has succeeded at the impossible...her hands look really quite lovely. This book is indeed a triumph in every way.

You can find The Bag Making Bible on Amazon...with eleven five-star reviews!

Wishing you a lovely weekend,
Florence x

(The photo at the bottom of this was taken at the start of the summer on the day that we sat in Le Pain pouring over the pages of Lisa's sound to be printed book. I had to be back early that day, so I left Joanne, Lisa and Helen (who was about 38 weeks pregnant in this photo) mid-shop in Anthropology. After hugging and kissing them all goodbye, I trotted up the stairs, but turned around when I reached the half-landing. This was the sight that greeted me...three lovelies standing in a row waving, somehow knowing that I'd turn back. This photo makes me smile.)

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


This is one of the gifts that I've made for Zebra-girl's birthday recently. Earlier in the year she decided that she wanted to get rid of a lot of her childhood toys so that she could afford to buy a laminating machine and vast amounts of stationery as well as some filing systems. The latter have yet to be implemented and the trays sit almost empty, aside from the filing done on the day of their purchase, so her bedroom still resembles that of a mad professor with piles of paper everywhere and books stacked where they no longer fit on the shelves.  With such a big part of her moving into Big Girl territory when she asked for some clothes for her bear for this year's birthday present, I decided to make a few more things to go with the new wardrobe. A long time ago I made a sleeping bag for another little girl's bear (which was temporarily borrowed by Zebra's bear for modelling purposes at that time), so I decided to rustle one up to match Zebra-girls new, yet-to-be-finished, quilt.

I enjoyed making the sleeping bag and seeing how the voile handles when quilted...but the fun of making this failed to tempt me into working a little faster on the quilt for Zebra-girls own bed. I now realise that there's a reason why I normally make such simply-pieced quilts and that's because I take so little enjoyment in the piecing's the pinning, quilting and binding that I love.

This is not a complex quilt...but I'm procrastinating over it and it's sitting on top of my fabric drawers taunting me each day: in my head it has become a giant sheet-like beast (because in its unquilted form it is really just an enormous sheet) the finishing of which stands between me and some more dressmaking and handfuls of other things.

Florence x

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Making pencil cases

Firstly, thank you so, so much for the warmth of your comments and emails in response to my last post - they were so much appreciated.

A new term, new pencil case post seems a little late for the 14th September, but I enjoyed making them so much that I want to share them anyway (I also love the idea that in years to come Zebra-girl might scroll through these pages and see a forgotten pencil case that accompanied her through a year of school life and be reminded of something of the 'feel' of that particular year). The fabrics and colours are all her own choices. Since last June we'd talked of a new pencil case that would be blue and yellow...but when she spotted the cake fabric in my fabric drawers the fact that it was pink became irrelevant. So as well as using the cake fabric as it was, she picked out her two favourite cakes and I appliqued them on beneath the place where I had embroidered her name in red thread.

She then chose some red polka dot fabric for me to make a ruffle with and a turquoise zip to stop the colours from becoming too saccharine. As usual, I learn a lot about colour from her - my first through was to put a red or pink zip on...but the turquoise she suggested brings the colours to life far better.

Inside is some of Rosalie Quinlan's lovely Grandmother's Flower Garden.

Last week Dinosaur-boy came home and said that many of the other children in his class have pencil cases (the school don't request that they take them in until next year, which is why I didn't automatically make one for him too). He said that he was happy to take in the one that I'd made him last year to use at home....but I love that 'new-term-fresh-stationery' feel so much myself that I wanted him to have something devoid of old pencil sharpenings.

Yesterday I shopped for new rulers and pencils for him in the morning and made the pencil case in the afternoon - yes, that's a self-indulgence to spend the whole day on a pencil case for one child...but I'm missing him during the day.

Paperchase have in stock lots of sharky writing paraphernalia that inspired the applique I made from plain grey cotton.

Inside is one of my favourite fabrics: it's sputnikky. I've added a velvet zip pull in dark charcoal for him too...good for stroking in the midst of a wobbly-bottom-lip maths moment. His name is also machine embroidered on the light grey section. My machine doesn't actually create the letters for me (as it's rather basic), but it's easy to write on fabric using a closed zigzag stitch in exactly the same way that you might go about applique - just write on the fabric with disappearing ink first - you can see a small sample of it in the second picture down at the top of this post.

Wishing you a happy Tuesday,
Florence x

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Wintry summer fruits

This summer has been an incredibly sad one for us, and that has eventually led to an unintentional blogging break for me over the last couple of weeks. It just stopped feeling right to continue to talk over the frivolity of all things fabric: too surreal and too far removed from what has happened in real life.

I have counted back and realised that it is 17 days since I last posted anything...something of a record for me. So I break the blogging ice with these frozen Scandinavian berries. I think I have blogged about them before, but these ones were the best we'd ever tasted*. We got up early this morning and went fruit picking and then turned the freezer to 'Quick Freeze', laid the berries on a tray lined with non-stick paper and left them to harden. After lunch I heated double cream and chunks of white Milky Bar chocolate over a pan of boiling water for half an hour, until it was piping hot. The sauce is then poured straight over the plates of frozen berries and dusted with icing sugar. The heat of the sauce defrosts the berries by just the right amount and the contrast of hot and cold, sweet and fresh is not to be beaten. We sat around the lunch table hardly talking. It's that kind of food: so good you can barely speak. The recipe comes from The Ivy in London and can be found in their wonderful cookbook.

Florence x

* Yes, that perhaps means that I think I may have produced a better version of the dish than The Ivy...that's quite a claim, I know. Unfortunately I think it had everything to do with the freshness of the frozen berries and very little to do with my culinary prowess, It is, after all, a stunningly simple dish.  I last tasted it there over a decade there could be memory issues too...I wonder whether it still appears on their menu?

And...thank you so much to the lovelies who noticed my lack of posts and wrote to ask if all was well...I'm so sorry I haven't replied yet - my laptop has been mostly off, but I'm hugely appreciative of your kindness. x
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