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Happy New Year (somewhat belated)! I hope you had a good festive season. I see it is over a month since I posted last. Oh dear. I’ve been finding the dark evenings difficult to cope with – I get home from work and curl up under a blanket on the sofa – and as a result I’ve done very little crafting. I’ll be back with some posts about what I achieved last year and what I hope to achieve this year, but for now I thought I would share some photos from a trip to Bath.

It is Mr GiW’s birthday in early January and we always try to do something special to celebrate. This year we spent a few days in Bath. We’ve been once before a couple of years ago, and we liked it so much we decided to go back this year. The visit was spent wandering, browsing, eating and drinking – all very relaxing! I managed to get to crafting shops, vintage shops and the Fashion Museum (I have a very patient OH).

I went to Wool (recommended by a friend) where I bought some Erika Knight for Regia sock yarn to make some toe up socks for Mr GiW and some Regia sock yarn blended with angora to make some cosy socks for me. I liked The Makery Emporium, although it was smaller than I expected. They have a very friendly dog called Rufus who greeted us enthusiastically and then sat on Mr GiW’s feet so he couldn’t move! I stumbled on Fashion Fabrics as we were wandering around. It has bolts of fabric piled from floor to ceiling, so you have to be prepared to rummage, but I came away with some Italian wool blend fabric in a navy and black dogtooth design which I’m going to use to make a winter skirt.

We did the usual tourist spots (Roman Baths and Pump Room) on our last visit, so this time we went to the Assembly Rooms and the Fashion Museum. The museum has some stunning pieces, but my favourite outfit was a 30s tweed suit styled with a 40s handbag and a headscarf – so elegant! There is a dressing up area where you can try on replica Victorian clothes. Naturally I was all over that! The dress was really heavy. I’m not sure this is quite the look for me…

We ate and drank very well during our stay. We had cocktails one evening which were fun and have led to me developing a taste for Hendricks gin. One of my colleagues used to live in Bath and he recommended visiting Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms. I was in heaven! The interior is decorated with pieces from the 30s and 40s which have been collected by the owner.

I had a pot of Earl Grey and a slice of lemon cake which was AMAZING. The tea comes with a little timer to tell you how long to let it brew in the pot :-) You can’t see the detail in the photo, below, but the tables are covered with vintage embroidered tablecloths.

In a corner there is a cabinet containing a 40s tea dress which I loved. The waitress saw me admiring it and went downstairs to fetch two more vintage dresses which the owner had bought recently. One was hand sewn and one had a hand printed fabric.

On our last day, we spent some time around Pulteney Bridge before regretfully catching the train home.

It was a lovely trip and I have a feeling we will visit Bath again and again.

On Saturday I went on a jaunt with two friends to a fabric shop. I’d been told about this shop by several people, but it doesn’t sell online or do mail order so you have to visit in person. It’s located 30 miles away from where I live, right out in the sticks, so it felt like quite the expedition.

Added to this, the weather was atrocious on Saturday. We’ve been experiencing heavy rain in the UK over the last few days, which has resulted in terrible flooding in some areas. I drove out into the country in torrential rain, past water logged fields and rivers threatening to burst their banks. Talk about dedication to sewing!

Anyway, it was worth the journey. The shop has a fantastic selection of quilting cotton, a variety of dressmaking fabrics and a small selection of yarn.

It was easy to feel overwhelmed, but I had gone along with some projects in mind so I concentrated on buying fabric for those. I bought 2m each of navy wool blend fabric, grey wool blend fabric and black/white dogtooth fabric in a poly/viscose blend. I’m going to use those to make some skirts, using Simplicity 3688. Also, I bought 4m of navy crepe to make a Vogue 8829. I’m not very happy with the red moss crepe I had planned to use to make the dress (more on this another time).

I’ve pre-washed the dogtooth and the crepe in the washing machine. I need to test some squares of the wool blend to see if it will cope with a cool handwash. I wish I had more sewing time, there are so many garments I’d like to make.

Despite the weather, a fun day was had by all.

On Saturday, I caught up with Karen’s posts for the Apronalong. I decided to use some fabric from my stash and I chose some lightweight cotton with a Cath Kidston-esque floral print. I’m using blue for the main apron fabric and cream for the contrast fabric. It was £3.49 a metre from Fabricland. I bought 3m of blue and 2m of cream ages ago. I had no idea what I was going to make with it, but I thought it was pretty.

I had prewashed and pressed the fabric already. I cut out the tissue pattern pieces for view C. I trace patterns normally, but the pieces for the apron are one size with the exception of two waistband pieces. These are easily adjusted to the right size by folding the tissue. Next, I lightly pressed my pattern pieces and then cut out my fabric. The next blog post in the apronalong is on how to do tailor’s tacks, but as I know how to do them already I went ahead and thread marked my pattern pieces. I’m feeling virtuous about having caught up!

Recently I’ve been busy / tired / ill and I haven’t had much time to sew. In fact I went two weeks without sewing a stitch and I missed it a lot. Instead of waiting until I have a few hours clear for sewing, I’m trying to sew in small chunks of time, half an hour here and there, making time for sewing (or other crafting) every day. It’s better than not sewing at all. It’s strange that when we’re under pressure, the things we enjoy and which help to relax us are often the first things to go because they aren’t “essential” (well, this is true for me anyway). Actually, they are the most essential activities of all because they make us happy and help us cope with the stresses of every day life. Sarai wrote an interesting post on this topic on the Colette blog recently.

Bonjour! As you saw from my last post, I’ve been to Paris. OH and I booked a last minute trip a few weeks ago. We stayed in a budget hotel in the 7th arrondissment, near the Ecole Militaire and 5 minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been to Paris once before and I loved it, so I was excited to go back. To me, it is the most magical of cities.

On our first day, we took the Metro to Montmartre so I could seek out the fabric shops located near the Sacre Coeur.

After a splendid breakfast in a cafe, we went to Les Coupons de Saint-Pierre. The fabric outside the shop is €5 for 3 metres, which is pretty bargainous.

However, I didn’t find anything I liked outside, so I went for a rummage inside the shop. It’s divided into sections for different types of fabric (cotton, wool, silk, etc) and the fabric is piled high on tables. It felt a bit like a jumble sale, to be honest. I bought 3 metres each of the following: blue and white gingham; white broderie anglaise; blue and white polka dot cotton and lightweight grey floral cotton. There were no prices on the fabrics I chose, so I assumed they were all €5 each. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case and the fabric cost €50 instead of the €20 I was expecting to pay. Derp. Still, I don’t think (just over) €4 a metre is too bad for nice fabric?

After that we went to Tissus Reine, which I liked a lot. It was more expensive, but they had a good range including lots of Liberty Tana Lawn (swoon). The fabric isn’t pre-cut, so you have to attract the attention of an employee (they roam around the shop with metre sticks) to cut your desired length and give you a receipt to take to the till. I bought some Michael Miller Eiffel Tower fabric in black and white. I know it’s cliched to buy an Eiffel Tower print in Paris, but I’ve been looking for this fabric for this colourway for ages. Plus, as it was the end of the roll I got some fabric free, yay!

With my fabric buying impulses sated, OH and I walked up to the Sacre Coeur. It was hard work getting up all the steps, not only because I am terribly unfit, but also because it was scorching hot. It was a relief to go into the cool, quiet interior of the church for a while. We wandered around Montmartre afterwards eating icecream and looking for some shade.

On Wednesday, we went to Disneyland Paris. OH and I are big kids, so we had great fun going on Star Tours (twice), Pirates of the Caribbean, Phantom Manor and other rides. I’m a wimp when it comes to scarier rides, so I didn’t dare go on Space Mountain or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

I was hoping for plenty of hugs from Disney creatures, but the only one we saw wandering about was Timon from ‘The Lion King’. OH took an ace photo of Timon and I sharing a moment (but I’m not going to post it here!). We wandered out into the main section just in time for the 7pm parade.

I’ll be back another day with the second half of my Paris adventures…

Thank you for all your advice on linings. I will come back to what I’ve learned in a later post. For now, I’d like to say sometimes I hate sewing!

Do you remember the Crescent Skirt I made? Gosh, I was proud of it. It’s finished neatly inside and out. It fits me perfectly around the waist and it’s roomy enough at the hips. I’ve worn it a few times and it’s soooo comfy. However, I was getting undressed last night and, as I went to hang up my skirt, I noticed a white stripe running down the back seam.

On closer inspection, I found that the seam has been pulled open slightly through wear and this has exposed white threads in the fabric. I was hoping this skirt would be something I could wear time and time again, but I don’t fancy walking around with a white stripe down my derriere. I don’t know what to do to fix the problem.

Waaaaaaaaah! Why is sewing so hard?

Now I’ve finished the denim Crescent skirt, I’ve moved on to making a Ginger skirt in a fabric described as ‘cotton drill’. I’ll want to wear it all year round (with tights in colder weather) so I’ve been thinking about linings. I know, not an exciting topic, but it’s something I need to learn about to finish my garments off properly.

Handmade Jane posted about lining her apple print Ginger skirt here and this is the technique I plan to use. I wasn’t too sure how to sew up the back seams of the skirt and the lining so I emailed Jane to ask how she did hers. She replied the next day with an email containing detailed instructions and photos illustrating what do to. How generous was that!

So, I know what to do, but I need some lining fabric to do it with. The most commonly available fabric seems to be 100% polyester anti-static lining, but I would prefer to use a fabric made from natural fibres. If I’m wearing the skirt in warmer weather polyester might feel a bit hot and clammy? Although given the summer we’ve had in the UK so far, this may not be a problem.

I had a look at the linings used in the high street skirts I’ve bought. The better ones (from Monsoon and White Stuff) use thin cotton fabric rather than polyester lining fabric. I’ve never had a problem wearing them with tights (that horrible feeling when the skirt wraps itself around you until you’re imprisoned in a leg binding cocoon of static fabric) so perhaps that’s the way to go?

Also, I’d like to make linings more interesting. I plan to make a few skirts in plain fabrics as wardrobe building blocks for work, but it would be nice to have ‘secret’ details inside like fun lining fabric or trims to make the garment feel more special. That’s one of the (many) great things about making your own clothes – you can add in little details just for you.

Do you have any favourite lining fabrics or trims that you’ve used on garments?

Thank you for all your comments in response to my last post on clothes sizing. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who has problems getting high street clothes to fit. I’m learning to ignore the numbers of sizes and just go for what fits me, as sizing varies so much from shop to shop.

Anyway, I’ve worn my denim Ginger for a few days now and I’m pretty happy with it, so I’d like to use the pattern to make some more. I know, I’m a glutton for punishment! I hope it will be easier next time (although I’ll keep the gin on hand, just in case).

I’m planning to make a-line skirts in basic colours I wear a lot (navy and grey). I hope they will be the building blocks for a whole range of outfits in my handmade wardrobe. The pattern recommends “[m]edium weight fabrics such as poplin, twill, silk dupioni, wool challis, garbardine, suiting, crepe” but I have no idea what to choose. I don’t have many fabric shops near me and I’m confused by the range of fabrics available from online stores.

I’d like to use plain fabrics which are suitable for all year round. Ideally I want to line the skirts so they can be worn with tights and without. I don’t want to spend too much money because I’m such a beginner I might mess up. Being realistic, I’m not going to get around to dry cleaning, so it needs to be washable. Can anyone suggest a suitable fabric or fabrics?

I have bought some fabric for a summery Ginger. Doughty’s were having a sale on Rowan fabrics, so I bought 2m of an Amy Butler quilting weight cotton I’ve liked for a while. I love grey and yellow together, plus I’ve got several grey tops and cardigans I’ll be able to wear with it (yep, I’m Mrs Exciting-Wardrobe).

It was only when I clicked ‘buy’ that I realised it’s a busy print and I might have to do some pattern matching? I’d like to make it with a grey lining, although that’s assuming I can get my head around lining a skirt… Also, I might tackle the invisible zip that the pattern recommends as the cotton is a lighter weight fabric than my denim version. Eeeek! There’s nothing like challenging yourself, is there?

Image credit: Doughty’s Online.

I went to week 2 of sewing class last night and I thoroughly enjoyed it again. Unfortunately, we took a detour on the way there (again). This time I knew where I was supposed to be going, but I was on automatic pilot and I started driving home after work which is in the opposite direction to the sewing class. Oooops.

We were asked to bring along a project for this week, so I took my McCall’s skirt pattern. I bought some fabric from Fabricland – a navy lightweight cotton with a cherry print for the main fabric and a red lightweight cotton for the contrast fabric. Also, I got matching thread, lightweight interfacing and a 7” zip, as instructed by the pattern.

Fabricland is the nearest fabric shop to me and they have some bargains – the navy cotton was £3.49 a metre and the red cotton was £2.20 a metre. I don’t want to spend too much on fabric whilst I’m learning otherwise I will be paranoid about messing up.

I had no idea what I was doing, but the tutor showed me how to read the pattern instructions and cut out the pattern pieces. I pinned them onto the fabric and then cut out the fabric pieces. Gulp. As we have only three weeks left on the course, I’m going to tack the fabric pieces together at home so I can use the class time for more complicated (for me) things like fitting adjustments and inserting a zip.

It’s so great to be sharing this sewing journey with my lovely friend. The other people in the class are nice too. One woman is making what looks like a full length satin dress with a net underskirt. The tutor asked her if she was making it for a party and she replied, “oh no, for wearing down the pub”. And why not.

The tutor asked last night if any of us would be interested in a follow up class after this one has finished (we all were) so she’s going to enquire if she can set one up. I would definitely sign up. I’m so excited to be learning this new skill. I want to absorb as much knowledge as I can.

Incidentally, I ordered a skirt from a high street store last week. I checked the size guide on their website carefully and made sure I ordered the correct size for my measurements. When it arrived, it was so tiny I could barely fit the skirt over one of my legs. In the past I would have been miserable and berated myself for being fat. However, sewing is giving me a new perspective on clothes sizing. So I packed it back up and I decided to spend the money on fabric instead.

ETA coincidentally, the excellent Retro Chick has published a blog post today on clothes sizing in high street stores. It is a very interesting read if, like me, you struggle to buy clothes that actually fit.

Image credit: Fabricland.

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