Wednesday, 30 May 2012

DIY Couture: a launch party

Last night saw the long awaited launch of Rosie Martin's very first book - DIY Couture: Create your own fashion collection. I was lucky enough to be invited to the party (which was hosted by The Make Escape; a new monthly craft-along held at the Hackney Attic) as Rosie had featured my shoes from way back when throughout the book. As well as seeing Rosie again, another highlight of my evening was meeting Karen and Tilly, both incredibly talented seamstresses whose blogs I have followed and admired for years - but I think I may have slightly overwhelmed them with my starstruck ramblings... Sorry guys!

Rosie's philosophy is simple and inspired: eliminating the need for a pattern, she gives clear visual instructions showing you how to cut and sew 10 basic items of clothing, including wardrobe classics such as a circle skirt, a hoody, a pair of trousers and a Grecian dress.

Despite being an avid sewing pattern afficionado; having collected vintage patterns for the last ten years, been delighted and inspired by the new crop of contemporary sewing pattern designers, and, oh yes, having just launched our own brand spanking new sewing pattern company, I am still a huge fan of DIY Couture.  Just as I love leafing through my boxes of neatly packaged patterns, unfolding that delicate tissue paper and spending blissfully meditative hours precision-sewing, I can just as often be found ducking into my studio late at night, grabbing my scissors and some fabric off the shelf and getting stuck right in ad hoc.

What I love most, however, about DIY Couture: Create your own fashion collection is how Rosie so beautifully illustrates the versatility of home sewing, inviting us to reinterpret her instructions according to our own vision. From one set of ten staple shapes she has created eight collections, each so different from the other that you'd be forgiven for thinking they were completely different designs altogether.

Rosie's book is available to buy now from Amazon, and you can also buy her individual instruction booklets direct from

Monday, 28 May 2012

Finally, the Big Reveal!

Some of you may have noticed a bit of unusual activity round these parts... Infrequent posting, sly hints at big things a-brewin'...  If you had imagined that for the last nine months I had been scheming and plotting, working late into the night, designing, sewing, writing, basically carving out my dream job - then you'd be right!  I give you... (drumroll please!) ...By Hand London.

By Hand London is an independent sewing pattern company aimed at beginner and intermediate sewists. Designing patterns inspired by the stylish women we know and admire, our brand is all about championing individual style and celebrating strong femininity. Released in bi-annual collections, it’s your own customisable fashion line!

My business partner Charlotte and I will be launching our very first collection of sewing patterns in October 2012, and until then we will be documenting the process on our brand spanking new blog,, where we will also be talking about fashion and individual style, championing the ladies we love and are inspired by (and the boys too!), as well as sharing as many DIYs we can muster, and believe you me, the "DIY ideas" list is looooong! Having just gone live last week, the blog is still pretty bare, but swing by for a DIY fringed belt tutorial, some delicious ice pop recipes and a DIY bandeau top tutorial. I value and appreciate the opinion of you, my wonderful readers, above all, so I would be eternally grateful for your feedback and advice.

While I will be saving my more fashion/style/repurposing ideas for the By Hand London blog, I will still be posting here, with a focus on home, family, my recipes (sorry Marie!), knitting & crochet, bloggers challenges and my personal projects & makes. Basically keeping my home and working lives on separate blogs!

I can't even tell you how excited I am to get really stuck in, I have never felt so creatively alive and inspired! I only hope that our blog and sewing patterns which will be launched in October (yes, there will be a party!) will be met with the same enthusiasm and excitement that Charlotte and I feel.

PS. To all you talented sewists: as we approach the launch, we will be offering up a handful of copies of our patterns to be road-tested. To get your name in the hat, please leave a comment below!

Sacher Tortelets

Disclaimer: I am not claiming even for a second to have nailed the original Sachertorte recipe.  What follows is merely an homage to a cake not only riddled with childhood memories, but possibly one of the most delicious and elegant I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

Sacher Tortelets (makes 12)

Ingredients as for my chocolate cupcakes


Apricot jam
200g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

Following the method for my chocolate cupcakes, prepare the mix and spoon into cupcake cases, filling them half way. Then add a teaspoon of the apricot jam and cover with a final dollop of the chocolate cake mixture.

Bake at 180 degrees for 25 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before carefully removing the paper cases.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and while it is still runny, dip the tortelets in upside down, coating the entire cake, except for the bottom.  Carefully place on a plate and into the fridge to set the melted chocolate.

Once the chocolate has set, remove from the fridge and serve at room temperature with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

I was very happy with how these guys turned out.  Despite being dairy-free and with a ground almond base, which I'm sure a genuine Sacher is not, they actually tasted very similar to how I remember a Sachertorte should taste.  The slightly bitter dark chocolate coating is a welcome contrast to the sweetness of the apricot jam and although the chocolate should not technically be completely hard, I like the way it securely holds these little tortelets together, snapping ever so satisfyingly as you take a bite...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

In Dangerously Tassled Territory

I'm having a pretty intense love affair with fringing at the moment... It could quite possibly be getting out of control.  Especially when we're talking about fluorescent orange fringing and stretch denim... It wreaks of tacky cowgirl.  But it feels amazing!!

Yet another of my beloved pencil skirts (see previous variations here, here & here), this one was made from some scraps of dark stretch denim (found on eBay for a pittance), upon which I stitched rows of the 6" deep fringing.

The denim is a major first for me, not only have I never sewed with denim before but I think I may have actually once upon a time vowed never to wear/own/look at a denim skirt.  Nothing against denim skirts, I've just never liked the cut-off jeans miniskirt look, or the ~dare I say it~ slightly frumpy look of a boxy denim knee-length skirt.  But this... This is more like it!  The sculpted form of the wiggle skirt is so perfectly accentuated by the heavy stretch denim, to the point that it actually feels like wearing some kind of figure-control contraption!  And the fringe... Oh, how I love the fringe.  So bright and happy, so silly yet supremely sexy... it patters as I walk.  I can't even stand still when I wear it - it just wants me to dance!

In other news, Me-Made-May is coming along but proving a nightmare to photograph.  If I were wearing outfits like this every day, I would probably be more inclined to do daily photoshoots, but sadly most days it's just jeans + swing tops + minoru + various snoods.  So instead of boring you with mundane shots of my everyday dressing, I will do a Best Of MMM roundup at the end of the month. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Finally something practical!

After having failed miserably at my Monday morning plan of sewing up some easy wearing bits and instead getting way too carried away with star-print tulle and sheer skirts, I swiftly made up for it by whipping up - and by whipping up I literally mean it took about as long as it takes to whip cream - a super easy, super practical black viscose jersey dress.

Scoop neck, drapey fit and quarter circle full length skirt.  Simple as that.  I don't even really have much else to say except that it is beyond comfortable, makes me feel as though my legs go on forever and I'm going to make at least a million more in all kinds of colour/skirt combinations.  In fact, right now I'm thinking about this dress in a certain aztec jersey... What do you reckon, Marie?!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Pants on parade

I was supposed to be making practical stuff today... But then I started thinking about see-through skirts with big knickers underneath.  As you do.

image source
Ulyana Sergeenko SS12

Ulyana Sergeenko AW11

I wondered if it might be a look I could pull off.  I've never been one to shy away from out-there oufits, so I figured why the hell not, grabbed some star-print tulle, some leftover ivory dupion silk for a waistband, and got sewing...

I love the way the concept of having your knickers on display is significantly sexed-down by having used a demure, princess-y fabric, and as a result I don't feel that it comes across as a slutty outfit (please correct me if I'm wrong here!), or even particularly sexy for that matter.  In fact I think it looks quite sweet.

Even though my entire bottom is on show.
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