Thursday, 29 December 2011

Full circle skirt with a twist

And the twist is: it isn't a full circle skirt, it's a Meringue from the Colette Sewing Handbook. But it is a full circle, because the first thing I made this year was for a challenge. And it was a skirt. So I start and end my year with a skirt.

This skirt is my end of year celebration piece for sewweekly. OK, so it was going to be my "free for all" piece for last week's challenge. I didn't finish it. (Special note for my sweet friend Judy I am trying to do a one hip thrust out look especially for you. See, I look arthritic not alluring!)

This is what happens when we try to take photos, by the way - a pitch invasion:

The skirt took ages to make. Ages. And ages. In theory it should have taken one evening or so but I seem to have a special skill in making stuff take a long time. I did do some extras:

The rouleau pocket was completed a couple of weeks ago and was inspired by this tutorial on the Colette Patterns website.

Then I was persuaded by the ever optimistic Kate (my weekly sewing teacher at the Design Studio) that I should do something called "bagging it out" to the skirt. This makes the inside look lovely and was a great suggestion if I hadn't manage to make a right hash of it and have to unpick it before getting it right the second time. Still, here's the inside of my skirt:

I also fitted my first ever invisible zip (ironically my first ever zip went into that first skirt) which was a revelation.

I topstitched the scalloped edgeand there it was: my back to the beginning skirt. I had such fun this year. Hope you did too xxx

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Miss Mia quite contrary

Mia firmly rejected my mixy-matchy idea for white buttons from my button tin and decided on the blue buttons (even though blue is for boys) because they match. So, my first doll cardi is now finished:

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Valley of the Dolls' Clothes

Great things about knitting dolls' clothes:
  1. really quick results
  2. you only need a small amount of yarn
  3. your little girl loves the results, even if not perfect
  4. you can do it in front of the tv
  5. if you make a mistake it's not much work to start again
  6. if you make a mistake the doll won't complain about your shoddy workmanship (workwomanship?)
  7. you can practise stuff you are no good at like sewing up your item
  8. did I mention the quick results?
The cardigan is not being modelled yet. This is because Baby Annabell is shy. Only kidding, Mia won't be parted from her, they are both in bed. (In fact I have had to serve the doll meals ever since Santa brought her).

I used this doll pattern book:

Last summer I went to a jumble sale at the church hall in a village near here. I bought a knitting folder which was someone's collection of patterns mostly cut out of Woman's Weekly magazine in the 70s and 80s. I only bought it because I wanted to give them money for something (they were fund-raising because the lead from the roof had been stolen). Also I was concerned about why the folder was in the sale - but then I thought the previous owner would prefer me to buy it than for it to be thrown away.

Anyway I was scouting about for a simple knitting project after my snood success and found this booklet, dated 1978, in the collection. It's quite a fun booklet, the "fashion dolls" include this rather scarey "Farrah" (Fawcett?) doll:

I have an extensive collection of knitting needles, upwards of 75 pairs as my Aunty Peg (aged nearly 90) gave me hers. I also had a random ball of white yarn with no band on it. I think it's 4ply rather than the called for DK (fingering not sportweight, US knitters?) but the cardi seems ok.

I won't bother to block the cardi  - it's for a doll - and there are no buttons on it yet. I don't have 3 matching white buttons but I daren't put on the pale blue ones that I have in case Mia declares it a "boy cardigan" and therefore useless (!). Mia and I will pick out mixy-matchy buttons from Aunty Peg's old tin tomorrow, it's a very good button tin indeed:

None of the buttons in it match but they are fun to look through.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Reindeer food - it could be magic!

Mia and her friend Charlotte made magical reindeer food this afternoon. This is to sprinkle on the drive so Rudolph and his friends will see where to land.

If you want to make this (maybe next year?) you will need:
  • porridge oats
  • sparkly stuff like glitter (whatever you have)
  • wooden spoon per child
  • big bowl
Erm, that's it. Put a couple of handfuls of porridge oats in the bowl. Add glitter (or silver balls or whatever). Stir. Obviously you will have to do the magic spell to make it work. Personally I stir it and wave my hand about and make up a rhyme. This is a bit embarrassing because I made it up on the spot. This is what I said "Stir the food nice and slow, show the reindeer where to go". I tried to look mystical.

The magical food has been sprinkled outside, we have put out two carrots and the mince pie is on the mantel.

Bring it on Santa!

Merry Christmas! xxxx

Thursday, 22 December 2011


I did a lazy thing. I made our Christmas cake from a kit. You know, all you need to make your cake in a bag. Looks ok though.

I normally ice the sides but there wasn't enough in the kit for that. Mia helped me decorate the cake. We used Aunty Peg's old robins and a skiier (not really vintage but two of the robins were very old and beaten up. Mia didn't seem to notice). Then we put on some edible glitter and a frill around the side.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Quick Christmas recycled make

Not last Christmas but the one before Mia had a long-sleeved Christmas vest (the sort that has poppers underneath, I think it's called a onesie in America) that I really liked. Last year I tried to cut the poppers off and hem it to make a t-shirt as Mia had grown and the crotch was a bit short.

But I didn't know you needed a ball point needle for jersey fabric! So I made a right pig's ear of it.

Actually, this is a good example of what I have learnt in a year. I dug it out of the scrap bag and used a ball point needle and a zigzag stitch to make it into a little decorative cushion. It's stuffed with toy filling.

Tah dah!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Lopsided but made with love

I knitted a rabbit doll. From this book by Nicki Trench (plus bunny in progress):

Based on this experience whenever I see knitted things at craft fairs they are far too cheap. OK, I am a slow knitter. So slooooooowwwwwwwww. But this small doll has taken ages. Just the sewing up took a couple of hours tonight, but I did embroider Mia's name on the dress:

This was mostly because you are supposed to decorate the dress with French knots and I can't do them. This is daisy chain.

The doll is slightly lopsided so squint at this photo:

But it does look quite like the one in the book:

It is to poke out of the top of Mia's stocking. I hope she doesn't notice it's wonky. If she does I am going to blame drunken knitting elves. Hic!

Assimilate: resistance is futile

Spent a very enjoyable morning crafting with Mia, her friend Emily and Emily's sister Lydia. Basically last year's Christmas cards, glitter, glue and scissors. Oh, and egg boxes. And some jam jars. And a ruler.

I am determined that the younger generation will craft!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Knit me baby one more time

I have been very inspired by the Crafty Christmas Club started by Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons. Crafty types are posting their Christmas makes there. In particular, one post was about a super easy knitted snood. This snood keeps popping up all over recently - the pattern is quick to knit up and looks very effective. I have made three. one for me and two for presents:

I used Sirdar Indie yarn, bought from ebay. You can make a snood from 2 balls if you stop about a row short. I also made a white scarf for my sister-in-law, the yarn has a sort of frosty effect you can't see in the photo but which is very wintry. No pattern, just ridiculous large needles (12mm), stocking stitch and 9 stitches to a row. Knit until you have finished the ball of yarn!

Here is a snood being modelled and the scarf too:

I am looking forward to another evening of knitting in front of the tv.....

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Rouleau Pocket: done

I am making a Meringue skirt from the pattern in the Colette Sewing Handbook. This is a very easy pattern and would have been super speedy had I not decided to make a Rouleau Pocket following this tutorial on the Colette website. Basically, first make bias binding. Then sew it into shape. Then put up with alot of daft comments from the others at your sewing class about your change falling out of your pocket.

I am pleased with it though, this is it attached to the skirt front:

I will sew up the skirt next week at class, I am a bit distracted this week and have lots to do.... but I have a feeling the pocket will have taken longer than the skirt to make....

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Party frock: I Made That Look. Sort of.

Once upon a time I saw a dress I really liked in Monsoon (a British chain store I really like but that is on the pricey side, for me anyway) that was too expensive. I wrote to Mena on her website as she does a spot called "Make This Look" in which she explains how you could make it yourself at home. She featured my dress! (note for British readers: I felt like Jim'll Fix It had actually Fixed It for Me!)

 Of course, I bought the pattern and the fabric and then did nothing. No dress. No nothing. Slight guilt pangs. Bigger guilt pangs.

But now I have Made That Look: Tah da!

The more alert and eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that it has now moved away slightly from the original. It is the same dress, honest guv'nor.

But obviously I made it in a blue taffeta. I am wearing shoes from Monsoon so that must count for something, surely? They are blue suede shoes, so I had to have them.

I made a blue dress because it was one of my Fall Essentials Sewalong colours, on the mood board I made.

The dress was supposed to be similar to the one on the top right of my board. If I am honest, I probably should have made it without the sleeves. They were a bit tight and impeding.

I wore my new frock last night to my work party, we went out for a meal and disco combination evening. I have no photos of that because I always dance like a loon and get sweaty and embarrassing at these events, especially during the eighties music section..... so much fun.

So here's another photo with my princess instead:

Monday, 28 November 2011

Christmas cardi and hat combo

More it's not sewing it's knitting news....

Mia is a lucky girl. My friend Louise's thoughtful and talented mummy Lynda has knitted her a cardigan and hat set to be worn at Christmas. The cuffs and pattern around the bottom of the cardi and hat make me think of a snowflake. Thanks Lynda xxx

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The first mince pies of the festive season

Off topic loveliness: Mia and I whipped up the first festive treats of the season today, yummy. Pebbles one of our cats looked on.

Still off topic but if you don't mind different sorts of needles I have been knitting with monster sized needles, very easy indeed. I was inspired by Sarah who has started a Christmas Crafty Club for people crafting their Christmas gifts. I thought I'd left it a bit late really but I found some frothy white yarn with a frosty sparkle and I am making a scarf for my sister-in-law to be.

While I was looking for needles I found a couple of items I had crocheted a couple of months ago to give as Chritams gifts, I rather like this skinny scarf.

So if you are on my Christmas list, scarves it is then!

One more thing, you may have noticed my new button:

I, Charlotte Tilley, am taking the #seamlesspledge until end of 2012.

The rules are (directly quoted from Elana's seamless website):

The rules

  1. No buying new clothes for the duration of your pledge. By new, I mean any new mass-manufactured clothes.
  2. You can buy second-hand manufactured clothes – so be prepared to get to know your local charity shops awfully well.
  3. Vintage clothing is a-ok!
  4. Anything you’ve made by hand is definitely allowed. Get your sewing machines and your kntting needles out, because handmade is definitely in!
  5. Get involved! Join in on the Flickr group and like our Facebook page. I’ll be looking to feature pledgers on the blog in the future. I’d love to see your second-hand finds, refashions and hand-made creations!


Thursday, 24 November 2011

I made bias tape! And I didn't have adult supervision....

I want to make a rouleau pocket to go on a skirt I am making. I saw the idea here on the Colette Patterns website and fell in lust immediately. But it requires bias tape which I normally just buy but because I want to match the pocket to the lining I decided to make it.

I used a tutorial in the Colette Sewing Pattern book. Here's my square of fabric, in this case Amy Butler quilting cotton:

And here's the bias tape pinned into the shape I want the pocket to be:

I heart the Colette Sewing Handbook

Do you know the saying "stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea"? On the one hand I hate reviews that are just big sucky up love fests and on the other hand I cannot find one thing I dislike about the Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mitnick.

You only have to take one look at her website to know you are in for a whole world of loveliness.

So this is not a review. It is a simple statement: I LOVE this book. Here are some things I already love:

1. The patterns are printed separately not all on top of each other in a big jumble.
2. The sizes go up to US size 18, really very generous.
3. The book including 5 patterns cost £16 and some change from (no P and P). Normally Colette patterns are £12.50 EACH plus P and P. This book is a bargain.

My first make from the book has been started. This book is a feast for the eyes. Buy it now!

PS I got so excited about the patterns being printed in a sensible manner that I took a dreadful photo of a pattern sheet. Mental.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Design Studio

I go to a lovely evening class every Tuesday in the interestingly named village of Anton's Gowt, Lincolnshire. Lovely Joanne has The Design Studio there and Kate is the very talented sewing teacher.

Joanne has updated her website, she is very proud of it. See it here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Shhhhh! I'm reading....

......and planning and plotting and getting excited again. First some lovely sewing friends responded to yesterday's blog post in such a supportive and kind way with great suggestions.

Then guess what the postie brought me today?

Yep - another sewing book! And one I have been waiting for with enormous anticipation:

I am thrilled. So excuse me, I have reading to do.......

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

It's not you it's me

OK, I have a confession. I'll say it quietly: I'm not that inspired by the new Burdastyle Sewing Handbook. It's lovely, well set out, lots of ideas, pretty things and beautiful pictures. But I can't think what I would make out of it.

More confession: I am having a bit of a dry sewing spell. I have also not managed to join in a couple of themes: orange (I did look through my entire stash and I discovered that I have no orange fabric. Maybe I have an aversion.) and pin-up. I didn't join in pin-up on the grounds I thought I'd look like a big wally.

So Burdastyle Sewing Handbook the conclusion is: it's not you it's me.

Sewing classes continue and I think I know why I am having difficulty committing to new projects. My sewing teacher Kate, the most patient and optimistic woman alive, convinced me I could handle a Vogue AVERAGE pattern. Just by the iron on a pin-board there was a pic of a jacket I really liked. After weeks of looking at it I bought the pattern and some rather nice fabric (note: FESA colours):

Only now I have pattern fear. Since I started the jacket I have wasted one two hour session of sewing class copying the pattern. The following week I continued dithering and basically spent the whole time drinking coffee and looking through pattern books. Tonight I have actually started a muslin (Kate calls it a toile) so we do have progress! I am feeling alot more positive and feel like I might be able to handle it after all.

The next challenges are up on sewweekly and I can feel my brain getting back in sewing mode..... maybe I'll flick through that Burdastyle book one more time.....

Sunday, 6 November 2011

An entirely British production: Debi made my pattern!

This week on sewweekly, Debi made a gorgeous 1950s shirtwaister dress. See it here.

She made it from a pattern that I took to the sewweekly meet up and pattern swap in London. The pattern was one that I acquired last year as I embarked on my recent vintage sewing journey. A lovely older lady on freecycle called Marjorie was giving away what she described as a shoebox full of vilene interfacing. When I collected it we talked about my vintage sewing ambitions and she gave me a whole box of her own patterns from the fifties onwards - she said she had given up sewing now and just wanted to see them used.

How generous.

However they were too small for me, as I am a larger sort of person. Mostly they were 34 inch bust. So when it came to the swap, even though I was reluctant to part with any of Marjorie's patterns, I took a couple along because she wanted to see them used and I though it was the right thing to pass them onto proper sewing people.

So you can imagine how pleased I am to see Debi has made the pattern! And, in the true spirit of Marjorie's gift, she is giving it away on her blog.

Debi also says she loves Style Print patterns, of which this is one. I have been through my stash, and as a sort of thank you to Debi, here are the Style Print patterns I have:

Two from the sixties, one of Marjorie's on the left (look at the great skirt) and one I bought from ebay (I think) on the right.

Two earlier ones, both from ebay (I think, my memory is pants), the one on the right might be slightly earlier, even though it is not my bust size I have taken to rescuing patterns that are not really selling on ebay that I just love, pretty isn't it?

My final pattern is one from my original Marjorie stash that is far too small for me, but really pretty. 

It is another shirtwaister, the envelope is tatty but it seems to be all there.

Thanks Debi for making the dress. If you want this last pattern it is yours!

Friday, 28 October 2011

This Colette pattern is a real treat, no tricks here

About 6 or 7 years ago, when I didn't have a rugrat to keep me busy, I used to watch a dreadful tv programme called "Celebrity Fit Club". In it, overweight "celebrities" were humiliated into losing weight and made to weigh in each week wearing the same outfit they first started in. Anyway, one of them, whose name and identity completely escapes me (I didn't know who she was then either, but I know one thing, she wasn't very fat), weighed in each week in a dress that had me drooling. I just loved it. In the end I sent a begging email to the tv company asking where she got it. I expected no reply - after all, it was a bit weirdly stalky to send emails asking about the clothes of this contestant. Amazingly, someone nice from wardrobe let me know that the dress was available from a Brighton boutique called Get Cutie. This was the dress I fell in love with:

The dress is still available now from their shop. It costs £130. At the time I didn't have £130 to spend on a dress, I didn't have a sewing machine, I didn't have the skills to make a dress and it didn't even cross my mind that I might one day.

Fast forward about six years to May this year. The dress was forgotten. (Just as well because although I probably have £130 squirrelled away if I spent it on a dress Mr T would do his nut. Just like a squirrel, lol) But I went on a lovely meet up and fabric shopping expedition in London with girls from and saw a similar fabric I liked. I bought enough for a dress. I took it home. Stashed it. Until..... the Hallowe'en challenge this week on sewweekly! (to be honest I forgot about it again until now - it must be my age)

I chose this pattern, recently acquired and winking at me seductively from my sewing table

It's one of three new patterns available from

So I made my dress, six years later. My lovely friend Gemma was a good enough sport to take some photos outside the 14th century church in my village. Even though it was a bit embarrassing.

Stuff I like about this dress:
The pattern is super easy. It took me about 6 hours including tracing the pattern, cutting out etc etc. I made it mostly at my sewing class although I didn't need any help - it is such an easy and clear pattern. I even made piping and put it around the neck and waist:

Stuff I will do differently next time:
I may go a size down on the bodice but do an FBA. I'll stick to the same size skirt. There will be a next time, I love this pattern.

Happy Hallowe'en!