Thursday, 29 September 2011

SSS'11: Days 28 & 29

With the uncharacteristically glorious weather we've been having here in London Town, it would've been a crime not to break out the last of the summer frocks.  A welcome change too from spending the vast majority of this me-made-month in jeans and swing/sorbetto tops... (I guess that's one thing I've learned from having participated in Zoe's Self-Stitched-Sept - I wear jeans way too often).

day 28

Day 28: me-made 70s jersey empire waist dress made from this pattern when I was pregnant.

day 29

Day 29: me-made circle skirt, made from a 1950s pattern using two layers of cotton shirting.

They say the weather will even finer tomorrow, so I am determined to end this challenge on a high...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Swing Jacket Pattern GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate the imminent completion of my Swing Jacket (and my birthday this coming weekend), it is with great pleasure that I will be giving away to one lucky reader this delicious and delightful 1950s Swing Jacket sewing pattern!

image courtesy of Vintage Patterns Wiki

This is the pattern that I didn't use in the end - I had originally wanted to give away the McCall's I'm using, but after the mutilated mouse fiasco, I thought this one would be more appropriate... 

The image is courtesy of Vintage Patterns Wiki, so please ignore the size in the picture.  It is actually a size 14, bust 32.

To win this all you have to do is become a follower of my blog and leave a comment below, and I'll announce the winner at some point on Sunday 2nd October.  May the best seamstress win!

Paw-Print Pants

My son is having trouble adjusting to the fact that it is no longer shorts and t-shirt weather.  And every day when I tell him to get some trousers on, he reacts as though I'm suggesting he wear something as unreasonable and unbearable as a suit lined with razor blades.  So I cut up an old pair of my maternity tracksuit bottoms in the hope of making him a warm pair of trousers that he wouldn't find too offensive.

Enlisting the help of Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's Wear, I drafted a simple trouser block for stretchy knit fabrics, got chopping, overlocking, appliquée-ing, hemming, reattaching the waistband (made smaller of course, and getting carried away I sewed it back to front... but whatever, at that point I couldn't be bothered to unpick it and start over, and maybe it's even safer to have the drawstring at the back anyways...?).  

The result was a perfectly sweet pair of sweatpants for a very active little boy.  Cosy enough to keep him warm, comfy enough for him to enjoy wearing them, and cute enough (the paw print on the bum!) for him to actually want to put them on in the first place.  Success!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Practice Makes...

...almost perfect.

Due to my son's intolerance to dairy products, I am always trying to find the perfect substitute for butter in my baking.  Not the easiest task.  It's true what they say: it really is better with butter.  Dairy-free and soya spreads are ok for cakes and muffins, but I'm always a little put off by the almost curdled consistency you get when you beat in the eggs.  Having said that, I find the cooked confection to be fine consistency-wise, and passable taste-wise.  But when baking biscuits or pastry, soft spreads should be avoided like the plague - the dough is always too soft and greasy, and the biscuits are never firm and crunchy.  

Then recently I had a flash of inspiration while buying my son's favourite goat's yoghurts pots.  Goat's butter, of course!  Just as hard and firm as a cold slab of cow's butter, and still essentially, well, butter.

So to test it out, and practice for Halloween, I came up with a twist on a classic gingerbread biscuit...

~ Ginger & Chocolate Biscuits ~
yield: 45-50 biscuits

350g plain flour (+ extra for dusting)
50g cocoa
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
110g goat's butter
70g golden castor sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp rice syrup/golden syrup
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.  Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour.
In a bowl, sift and combine the flour, cocoa, bicarb, cinnamon and ginger.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Increase the speed of the mixer and beat in the egg and syrup.
Put the mixer on low speed and slowly add in the flour mix until you get a nice, firm dough.
Dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with flour and roll out your dough to about half a cm thick.
Using a cookie cutter, cut out your shapes and transfer to the baking sheet, leaving a little space between each biscuit.

Tip: to avoid breaking the delicate dough as you peel it off your surface, dip a palette knife in some flour and see how easy it is to transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet!

Bake for 8-10 mins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
Once cool, dust lightly with icing sugar.

The goat's butter proved to be a huge success.  The biscuits were perfectly biscuity and not a hint of goatiness, which I was a bit worried about.  Delicious.  However, there's always room for a little improvement so next time I might substitute the ground ginger for freshly grated ginger, and find a way to get some melted dark chocolate in there too... Just to really get the most out of the flavours.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sleepy Polar Bear Hat - knitting pattern

There's nothing quite like a cute, cosy hat for your kid that knits up super fast to make you feel like the queen of domestic productivity.  So good, it had to be shared.

~ Sleepy Polar Bear Hat ~

2 x 100g skein of bulky-super bulky weight yarn (I used some delicious local natural yarn I found in my favourite craft shop which was unlabelled)
scrap of brown yarn, to embroider the bear's eyes and nose
set of 5 7mm DPNs
3 stitch markers or scrap yarn
yarn needle

Gauge: 1" = 3 stitches / 4.5 rows
Size: Child, fits ages 2 - 4

k - knit
p - purl
st st - stockinette stitch
k2tog - knit 2 stitches together
st(s) - stitch(es)
rnd - round
cont - continue
rep - repeat
SM - stitch marker
CO - cast on
BO - bind off

Starting with the ear flaps ~

CO 4 sts.  Knit 1st row.  Turn.
row 2: k1, m1, k2, m1, k1 (6 sts).
row 3: knit.
row 4: k1, m1, k4, m1, k1 (8 sts).
row 5: knit.
row 6: k4, m1, k4 (9 sts).
row 7: k4, p1, k4.
row 8: k4, m1, k1, m1, k4 (11 sts).
row 9: k4, p3, k4.
row 10: k4, m1, k3, m1, k4 (13 sts).
row 11: k4, p5, k4.
row 12: knit.
row 13: k4, p5, k4.
Rep rows 12 & 13 3 times altogether.  Cut yarn, keeping sts on the needle.  Make another ear flap in the same way.

Hat ~

CO 7 sts.  Turn the needle so the working yarn is on the left.

Knit 11 sts from one ear flap, then bring in another DPN to knit the remaining 2 sts.

Turn and CO 14 sts, turn (again so you have working yarn on the left) and knit 2 sts from 2nd ear flap.
Take a 3rd DPN and knit remaining 11 sts from ear flap, turn, CO 7 sts.

Join, being careful not to twist sts, to begin working in the round (you will have 54 sts altogether; 18 on each needle):

rnd 1: purl, knitting the 5 knit sts in ear flaps.
rnd 2: knit.
Rep rnds 1 & 2 3 times, then cont knitting in st st until hat measures 5" deep.

Crown ~

Prepare to decrease like this:
k9, place SM, k remaining 9 sts from needle.  Rep this on each needle, so you have 3 SMs in the centre of each needle.

Decrease ~

rnd 1: k until 2 sts remain before SM, k2tog, k until 2 sts remain on needle, k2tog.
rnd 2: knit.
Rep rnds 1 & 2 7 times altogether, until 12 sts in total remain.
Cut yarn leaving a 5" tail.  Thread this onto a yarn needle and slip each st purlwise, pulling tight to close the hole.  Secure and sew in all loose tails.

Bear Ears (make 2) ~

CO 3 sts.  Knit 1st row.  Turn.
row 1: k1, m1, k1, m1, k1 (5 sts).
rows 2 & 3: knit.
row 4: k2, p2, k2.
row 5: k2, m1, k1, m1, k2 (7 sts).
row 6: k3, p3, k2.
row 7: knit.
Rep rows 6 & 7 once more.
BO, leaving a long enough tail to sew the ears to the hat.
Using the picture as a guide, sew ears to hat.  

Using your scrap of brown yarn, embroider the sleepy bear eyes and nose - either copy how I did it using the picture as a guide, or make up your own.

All done!  And now I might just make a whole family of these... And try out various ear-style possibilities...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Preparing for Autumn ~ part V

What began as a seemingly straightforward refashioning project as part of my Preparing for Autumn list, is now turning into a sewing adventure of quite epic proportions... Laden with obstacles and suspense, false starts and digressions, animal sacrifice and self-mutilation.

Above: my beloved cape.  Bordeaux wool, hooded, calf-length, bought almost 10 years ago from a 2nd hand shop in Portobello, and now, slightly decrepit and in desperate need of a loving overhaul.  

The Plan: to unpick, re-cut and put the pieces back together as Butterick's 5222 Swing Jacket.  This is a pattern I've had for years, but until recently I've not had the confidence to attempt such a garment, especially with unprinted pattern tissue and vague instructions.  So it was with determined enthusiasm that, one quiet afternoon late last month, having unpicked and pressed my sections of cape, I began carefully unfolding the delicate sheets of pattern paper... Only to realise that everything save for the lining patterns were missing!

After a mini panic attack and a good week of traipsing the internet for a suitable replacement pattern, I finally came across these two on Etsy... Which of course didn't actually arrive for another two weeks (all the good patterns I find are Stateside).  Eventually I settled on the McCalls (above, right), mainly because the sleeves are made from two pieces, making it a more efficient to cut while trying to get the most out of my limited, and already awkwardly shaped cape fabric.  I also much prefer the welted pockets and rounded collar.

I think I must have spent two days at least placing and repositioning the pattern pieces, trying out all sorts of combinations to figure out how, and if, I could cut every piece with what I had.  Turns out, I couldn't.  But only just.  All the major components are there - the fronts, the backs, the collar (upper and under), one sleeve... However, one sleeve back has been cut from two scraps sewn together, seam lines have had to be marked out as allowances have been compromised, and the front and sleeve facings have had to be cut from an entirely different fabric altogether.  

So after all that, months of planning, days of perfect placing and problem solving... And then the morning I had planned to start cutting and finally sewing, things took a turn for the sinister... I woke up to this -

What can only be described as an offering, a sacrifice perhaps - a perfectly beheaded mouse neatly sprawled on my pattern paper.  And two proud looking cats, preening each other and purring as if to say, "No really, don't thank us.  It's our pleasure.  Just like the time we left those toads in the kitchen for breakfast.  Or when you found that mouse, still twitching, at the foot of your bed.  We do it because we love you."  Brutal, savage creatures (said quite proudly).  

My son found the decapitated-mouse-in-mama's-studio hilarious, and I think he's finally starting to gain a little respect for our cats.

But the poor mouse wasn't the only one to suffer in the making of this jacket.  A slip of the hand with a rotary cutter and I carved myself a nice gash in my middle finger.

Seeing my Swing Jacket begin to take shape makes this whole process feel incredibly worthwhile.  This is by far the most challenging sewing project I have ever embarked on, and there have been many moments that I have taken a step back and wondered if I might be getting a little ahead of myself.  But I think that about almost every project I start, doubting myself and the skills I have sought out, acquiring only through practical experience.  And 9 times out 10, I surprise myself and come away with renewed confidence.

So, without speaking too soon, so far, so good... But who knows what the next stitch has in store...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

SSS'11: Days 17 & 18

It's no secret that I'm running out of daily outfit photographing steam... This is all I have to show for the last  five days in self-stitched-style ~

day 17 evening

Day 17 (my brother's birthday dinner): me-made silk Sorbetto top and houndstooth pencil skirt.

day 18
Day 18: me-made jersey Swing top, knitted snood and crochet basket.

So from now on, I am still sticking to my pledge to wear at least one item of me-made clothing every day of September, but will only be posting photos of the blog-worthy outfits.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Simple Pleasures

I am a firm believer that it is the simple pleasures, the little joys in life, that make all the difference.  You just have to notice them.  Forget the fleeting rush of a new pair of £700 shoes; the contentment that comes with being able to see the wonder in life's miniest miracles is really the key, I think, to lasting happiness.

Autumn is finally here (which, for me, is a constant source of joy in its own right), and while the days here are still warmish, late nights and early mornings are getting pretty damn chilleh.  Like, not-wanting-to-get-out-of-a-warm-bed-at-seven-in-the-morning kind of chilly.  So if the antidote to cold evenings is sleepy tea and a hottie, the way forward on a frosty morning is a healthy, hearty, warming breakfast to ease you into gear.  So yesterday I made a big batch of granola (I like mine with hot milk...).  At the risk of sounding like a hessian-clad, hairy-legged, free-lovin' hippie... as I mixed up the oats, nuts, flaxseed, wheatgerm, raw cacao, oatbran, etc etc health food shit etc, I felt so completely and blissfully aware of all the nutrition and natural goodness I was packing into my family's breakfast...

And the best part - waking up this morning to my boy saying "Mama wake up!  Let's go have a bowl of that licious ganola you made!"   And the contentment I felt as I sleepily watched him guzzle it up, knowing that no shop-bought granola could ever compare to Mama's Homemade Granola; not in nutritional value nor love content.  I was like, totally blissed out, man.

SSS'11: Days 14 & 15

Making the most of the September sun...

day 14 daytime

Day 14 (day): me-made jersey empire-line dress, made from a 1970s nightie pattern.
Day 14 (evening): me-made swing top and circle skirt, made from a 1950s pattern.

day 14 evening

day 15

Day 15: me-made striped swing top.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

SSS'11: Days 10, 11 & 13

A quick run down of the weekend in Self-Stitched outfits...

day 10

Day 10: Short Sorbetto Top & Fuchsia Silk Tulip Skirt (made from a self drafted pattern in 2004ish).

day 11

Day 11 (my sister's birthday): Pleated Maxi Skirt on me (left), Cotton Shirting Sundress on my sis (made from a self drafted pattern in 2007ish).

day 13

Day 13: Cotton Shirting Layered Big Pleats Skirt (made from a self drafted pattern in 2004ish).

What happened to Day 12...?  Well... After a weekend of fabulous birthday parties and a family sleepover at my Mum's, Monday 12th was pretty much spent in PJs.  

I'll take this moment to add that, while I am doing my best to be me-made every day, my lack of homemade comfort clothes is making it hard to dress for daily life with a toddler.  But maybe that's made up for by the fact that every evening, just like any other evening, we all cosy up on the sofa in our Monster Granny Square Blanket and, more often than not, handknit socks.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Christmas Came Early

Receiving vintage patterns in the post is always exciting.  You saw the little pictures on the website, checked the size, filled up your cart, and probably had to dramatically cut it down before hitting the Checkout button.  Then, you wait.  And usually quite a while as all the good stuff seems to be overseas...  But then, one day, you go to your Mum's for lunch, and lo and behold!  She has a massive box full of VINTAGE FANCY DRESS SEWING PATTERNS.  All for me. Sigh.

Kids patterns, men and women too, all holidays/themes/Disney characters represented, and a wide variety of sizes too.  I haven't even begun to count them yet but there are definitely more than 50 patterns. More than 50 fancy dress patterns!! I could get seriously carried away here.  A new mini on-the-side career possiblement? Custom-made, vintage inspired costumes (with none of this!).  Either that, or just a dressing-up box to be the envy of all my son's friends, and mine too for that matter.

Friday, 9 September 2011

SSS'11: Days 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

Things have been quite uneventful here on the Self-Stitched-Styling front these last few days... Having spent most of my time spring cleaning, at the local recycling/landfill site and picking fruit and veg at a Pick-Your-Own Farm, my silk wiggle skirts and 50s tea dresses have not really been in such high demand.  Instead, determined to stick to my pledge of wearing at least one item of me-made clothing a day, this week I have been mostly wearing Swing Tops and jeans (days 4 & 5). With a few exceptions...

day 6

Day 6: Jersey Circle Skirt. Nothing exciting here, a pretty standard Autumnal outfit, but I was compelled to photograph it simply because this is the first skirt I ever made. And I love it. The seamless viscose jersey drape, I guess what can only be described as a fireworks print, and just the sentimentality of it being my first.

day 7

Day 7: Trudging through a field of sweetcorn in me-made skirt, Bucket Hat and garter stitch snood.

day 8

Day 8: Again, Swing top... But I was cold so I threw on my Pickles cardi.

Luckily for my fancier frocks waiting their turn, I have some exciting plans in store for them this weekend...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Jammy Almond Muffins on a Sunday Afternoon

After a massively salty Sunday lunch of gammon and roast potatoes, we were all left craving something sweet.  Not wanting to go down the heavy road of chocolate or frosting, I came up with a recipe that I think perfectly bridges the gap between fruity, light(ish) Summer baking and richer, Autumnal comfort cakes.  

~ Jammy Almond Muffins ~

110g butter or dairy-free spread
110g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract
40g plain flour
100g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 generous tbsp plum jam (raspberry or apricot would work too)
flaked almonds for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Line a muffin tray with 9 muffin cases.
In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.
Slowly add in the eggs and almond extract.
Mix in all dry ingredients.
Mix in the jam, and spoon the mixture into the muffin cases.  Sprinkle a few almond flakes over each muffin.
Bake for about 15 mins, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

SSS'11: Day 3 (and a new pair of trousers...)

The main thing lacking from my homemade wardrobe is trousers.  In fact, I've never made a pair of trousers for myself.  And the ones I've made for other people have been basic PJ style pants.  When it comes to trousers, I usually just have a favourite pair of jeans that get worn until threadbare and then get replaced with something pretty much identical.  Booooring.  So, having stumbled upon over 4 metres of deep purple corduroy on ebay which I won for little more than £3, I figured now would be the perfect time to have a little experimentation...

I started off very cautiously, terrified of screwing them up and wasting so much great fabric.  This was one of those projects that, as I looked at all the pieces cut and skim read the instructions, really filled me with fear and self-doubt.  I wasn't sure if my sewing skills were up to the challenge.  I even got that slightly deflated feeling as I began to think that maybe I'd been a bit too ambitious.

the original waistband before it got unpicked

But au contraire, my friend!  I am now feeling very smug and suitably grooooovy in my new, purple, corduroy, high-waisted, wide-legged, smokin' hot trousers.  

sept 3rd

And the best part?  The common problem associated with high-waisted pants such as these...?  No camel toe...!

amended waistband

Self-Stitched: Swing Top, High-Waisted Pants 

I'd just like to add that I felt very Self-Stitched this morning too, as I made a start on my Herringbone Cowl, wearing my Sorbetto nightie and a cardi hand knit by my Great-Grandmother...

sept 3rd am

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