Cable tied duo

I have completed my cable cushion! I love the texture that can be achieved by knitting, it is astounding just how many variations of pattern that can be made with two simple stitches. 
I used a very chunky yarn, in soft pale cream – it was satisfying as the knitting grows so quickly! I did not manage to copy the pattern, rather making my own using the technique. 
I chose to use crochet for the back as the tweed yarn was only two ply, I would still be knitting until next year it was so tiny! The effect of the two textures add interest. 
I always use a single crochet to stitch the cushion together, it makes a lovely edge and creates more of a contrast between the crochet back and the knitted front

As each stitch is worked together it makes the finish tidier. 
The button edging was created afterwards using crochet which handles buttonholes easier than knitting techniques. I also added a slight curve / frill to the edge. 
The crochet back is wider to create a pillowcase effect, folding over inside covering the cushion. 
While I enjoyed this project – I could not help but consider how expensive it is to knit or crochet, the wool was approximately £7 per ball! I used two balls for this project but fortunately I had the buttons in my own button box. 
So when I came across a cable scarf in a charity shop it gave me an idea…..
This cable cushion is made like a patchwork quilt with the cable squares rotated at 90 degrees. 
I zigzag stitched the edges to prevent the kitting from fraying and then used one longer piece as a flap for the back. 
I wanted a contrasting back re-using this old white jumper. The bottom edge meant I could use it for the opening – there was no need to hem the open edge. 
The back looks like this – and this cushion was made for £5. I love up cycling – it gives me a real thrill. 

A great source for cabling instructions and lots of knitting techniques can be found here

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Sew Vintage

I have a passion for vintage tea cups and when I spotted this one at a local  craft fair I could not resist. This is not just a tea cup: lift the pincushion lid and you will discover a little sewing kit.
The needle case is a needle felted jammy dodger; there is also a reel of cotton and a tiny pair of scissors! 
I leave the needles treaded: one with white cotton and one with black ready for the little emergency sewing – the time you want to go out in your favourite dress and the hem has come down, or a button pops off at the last minute, this little sewing kit is ready and waiting. 
The little needle felted jammy dodger is easy and fun to do, the tutorial will be on here soon if you fancy making your own. 

Lovely lazy Saturday

Saturday mornings are a pleasure all of their own, it is waking up with that feeling you don’t have to rush anywhere. Weekend breakfasts are lengthy, tea in a tea pot, tea cups and the Guardian Quiz. (Only three correct this week!) I love scotch pancakes (or dropped scones if you prefer), these are extra good for you because they are from my low GI cookbook, I also make them with a little fruit sugar rather than normal sugar. They are filling and mean I can often last out to lunch. 
You simply put two heaped tablespoons of SR flour, Wholemeal Flour and one table spoon of porridge oats and Fruit sugar into a bowl. Add half a teaspoon of baking powder and mix well. Then add two large eggs to the centre, gradually bringing in the dry ingredients, add milk gradually until you have a thick batter. 
Heat a griddle or frying pan, and brush with  a mixture of oil and butter. (Butter creates a lovely buttery flavour to the pancakes, but you have to turn the heat down a little otherwise it smokes). Put a tablespoons of the mixture on the griddle – keeping them slightly apart. Watch the mixture turn from glossy to dull, then turn over to cook the other side. Leave on a kitchen towel to soak any excess oil, delicious to eat while warm. 

I have almost finished curtain wrestling, – I can’t call it sewing there was simply too much material! Double width, 90″ drop and lined with black out lining! I had to sew on the dining room table in order to have support for all the fabric! I shall let them hang for a while and then finish the bottoms. As you can see my beloved Bernina is back in action! 

One tip I learned from Maria from Clothkits is that she keeps a little pin cushion on her machine, it is an ideal place! This little lovely was bought at a craft fair quite a few years ago, it sits perfectly on that spot! It might be my imagination but I did not have quite so many pins on the floor afterwards! 

Cake is also the perfect pick me up – the rain might have been pounding on the windows, but you can’t beat a nice home made Victoria Sponge, cuddled up on the sofa, yet another pot of tea close at hand, watching a good film. 
I used cocktail sticks to create a little design on the top. 

It looks like a firework! I used the plum jam I made a few weeks ago, it was nice and tart and a great contrast to the sweet icing. 
The weather outside might be frightful, but home is so delightful! 
Happy Autumn

Cloth Kits Sewing Bee

  

One of the wonderful things about living in West Sussex is that there are four marvellous fabric shops in Chichester, one of which is Clothkits. The brand started in the late sixties was hugely popular with printed fabric patterns for children and adults alike – it was bought by a large company in the eighties and remained dormant for 17 years until Kay Mawer rescued it and opened the ClothKits shop in Chichester. It is absolutely wonderful, old patterns that brought back nostalgic memories of childhood sewing, combine with a beautiful vibrant collection of patterns that have brought the brand on trend for the current wave of stitchers. 
So when this invitation from Cloth Kits arrived in my mailbox I could not resist 
Become a SEWING BEE!    
Professional Finishing Techniques for Dressmaking


Can you already sew?Join Maria Pulley and learn some top tips for turning your sewing into something to be proud of!

This hands on one day workshop will equip you with a bundle of professional techniques in dressmaking. 

The course tutor Maria Pulley was an inspiration as soon as she stepped into the spacious workroom – she was wearing a wool dress of her own design that was beautiful and fitted her  like a glove. 

Maria began the course by asking us about our sewing skills and what we wanted out of the course – she was willing to adapt the course structure to meet our needs.  We were quite a range of skills from beginner to more experienced, yet everyone was thrilled to be learning – and the work room was a buzz of enthusiasm. 

The classroom environment was perfect: large, bright and cheery, each student (8 of us in all) had a machine to ourselves the aspects of the machine were explained to us so that we all felt confident. The large cutting out table gave another working area where Maria explained the techniques together with a huge box of material scraps for us to practise on. Instruction sheets for each technique that were very clear in by the end of the afternoon each student had completed samples to go with each hand out. 



Closed seam – overlocked edge

Understitched facing on curved edge – the understitching does really make a huge different to the finish 

Two curved edges – this technique is very useful for princess seams in particular

Open seam with top stitching along both sides

Piped seam these were beautiful and easy to accomplish

closed seam with top stitching – topstitching looks lovely but precision is key

French seam – right and wrong side  these are useful in lingerie or sheer fabrics, or if you want to encase raw edges. They are a wonderful finish which makes a dress superior to off the peg garments. 
Welt pocket / buttonhole – I have wanted to learn this technique for a long time, I simply adore the effect and it makes a button hole a feature. 
I would recommend the classes,  they are superb value, the class size was just right together with a  constant supply of hot drinks kept us refreshed. I can’t wait to enrol for another course. Maria was a very talented seamstress and teacher. I have been sewing now for over 20 years, but I learned so much, Maria made sure everyone went home confident and enthusiastic. 

Just for the frill of it

There are times when I get a little carried away, this little tea cosy is a prime example! It is simply frilling! I wanted to learn several fringing techniques as well as creating gathers, so I thought this little project was a way of playing with the stitches and having something to show for all that hooking! 

 These lovely little loops make a nice fringe – yet are very simple to do. 

There are two layers of frills at the top, made with different lengths of stitch, double crochet and treble crochet. The white edge is a scallop shell stitch.

The second frill is a treble crochet, it creates a fan like effect, edged with another colour it separates the stitches even further. 

A little drawstring bow gathers the frills around the pot lid – a ribbon of crochet is made with a simple chain – threaded through treble crochet loops. 

There really is a tea pot under there! 
I know that it is totally OTT but there are times when a little frivolity doesn’t do any one any harm! 
….
Pattern is available free of charge if you fancy a frill of your own! 
just pop a comment on the blog. 

Downton Abbey

Sunday evening viewing is full of gorgeous inspiration for anyone who enjoys dressmaking – the costumes for Downton Abbey are sheer joy that brings out the little girl in me who loves to dress up! It is no wonder that the costume designer Susannah Buxton has won many awards, as well as praise from the editor of vogue and the Royals themselves. 
The picture above is from the first season, you can see that the Edwardian style has a defined waist, and I simply adore the accessories: the hats have been wonderful, right through to the lace gloves and pretty little white shoes. What I love about this style is that it is all about line – there are echos of Jane’ Austin with the way the fabric skims the body shape – but the accentuation is at the waist in the Edwardian era rather than under the bust line of the Regency period. 
Looking in more detail at Mary’s dress it is such a wonderful example of clever use of stripes, the framing of the bodice works so beautifully against the lines of the skirt and the bodice sides. I also love the small detail that the sleeves are curving, but the cuffs are completely straight. The stripe effect is then softened by the lace collar – exquisite. 
This dress makes stunning use of both drape and design, the placement of the stars work so beautifully down the body, and I love the way the top and bottom half are in symmetry with the diagonal lines. 
Lady Mary’s riding habit brings to mind some of the opulence of the Victorian era: the full skirt and emphasis on the waist. The photograph on the horse allows us to see it is very similar in scale to the crinolines of the late 19th Century. It is a pity that I was unable to find a close shot of the military style braiding that went over the jacket, it gave a beautiful elaborate detail that was so reminiscent of the victorian era. 

The later riding outfit is toned down more it is a simpler cut with less dramatic line – the skirt does not appear so full yet the quirkiness of these outfits are revealed in the ‘mannish accents’ the top hat, the cravat and the the depth of the collar. I think this is a little glimpse into Mary’s playfulness, what comes across is that while she appears to be well mannered, her style reflects an understated humour. 
Of course what really stole the first series was Sybil’s trouser suit, the colour and the richness of the embroidery were breathtaking, enhancing Sybil’s skin tones. You can see further detail on the daily mail website

I also love the way that the older characters have remained within their own sense of style, the middle white suit is beautiful as is the hat. Her ladyship wears the most exquisite outfits that are more traditional and refined version of the girls and suits her Ladyship very well. While the dowager’s outfit has reminiscence of an earlier style – which reflects her character. You can see how talented the costume designer is – she has created outfits which work with the characters to give us a more rounded opinion – the outfits support the acting rather than working against it. You can see more details of the dresses in the second series on the Downton Abbey Addicts website. 
As we move through the era we see the development of the twenties styling coming through, this is a period of drape. 

I love this outfit and the use of the buttons, especially the contrasting ones across the waistline. I think this would work beautifully on a pencil skirt that you could wear today. 
The elegance of this outfit shows how beautifully the fabrics are combined, chiffon and velvet. This takes us beyond our notion of twenties ‘flapper style’ with fringing – the costumes are elegant and well beyond the simplistic – it is the details once again that fill my heart with joy. 
What epitomised the development were the wedding dresses. Mary’s dress gives very little emphasis, giving an elegance line, where the beauty would have been in the movement, the way the fabric flowed. 

I believe that Edith’s dress just has the edge, the beautiful detail on the hip and the elegance of the satin and chiffon allows Edith to shine out for once. I hope we see Edith get a better deal on costumes, I think she deserves a break poor girl. 
One plea I would like is that Susannah writes a book so we can pour over these details without hogging the TV. Thank you Susannah you really do bring me joy! 
I have written a piece of revamping a hat, Downton style – later in the blog! 

Cable tied!

Do not adjust your set, the picture is yellow! I print out my patterns in yellow to help me to read them, I am beginning to wonder though, if I might be a little number dyslexic! Pretty aren’t they? A friend of mine made each one in a lovely Aran wool and they inspired me so much I thought I might take up knitting needles again. 
When I was a child I was a fierce knitter, my barbie had the most elaborate fair isle jumpers imaginable – ok she was lucky that she did not have to move her arms, as they seemed to come up as fair isle straight jackets but I loved knitting. I would make complex patterns in my head, and stitch them out in my small scale of twenty or thirty stitches. 
One stumbling block to all knitting however, (no I won’t mention the toddler’s jumper I tried to knit after I was married, I think there was something wrong with my scale – I could produce a whole range in straight jacket knitwear, but there isn’t much call for that). I digress – my stumbling block was cabling, it looked too complex, confusing, I had seen people using short needles and could not make it out. However, inspired by the beautiful cabling in my friend’s cushion I vowed to give it a go. 
Several you tube videos later  (this one is very good) and a brief lesson from a 96 year old, I finally mastered the technique. 
This is an experimental piece, I wanted to play with the technique – changing the width of the cables from four stitches to two and creating a purl dip that you can see in the middle of the third section. I love cabling – it creates a whole different texture, one that I can hopefully explore successfully. 
I have experimented with increases and decreases, as well as twisting from the front, (knit row) to the back (purl) row. Now I have mustered the technique I hopefully picked up the needles for another great challenge – following a pattern. Hence the dyslexia, I try – I really do to follow someone’s instructions but I hit a blank – or it somehow doesn’t work. After a few rows of *following, going wrong, un picking, picking up – knitting* repeat * several times over, I picked up my crochet hook. 
I will show you how it grows until you see the finished article in the meantime see if you can guess what it is! 

Changing shape

It occurred to me when I was looking at the designs at the V&A that the desirable women’s shape has altered a lot since the fifties for a more androgynous masculine shape, it was clarified when reading slip of a girl’s blog, where she discussed Vanity Fair’s double page spread on lingerie advertising.

What strikes me the most is that modern lingerie has none of the glamour of previous decades, mostly because the models have very small hips, the style does nothing to enhance the body of anyone who is less than ‘ideal’

 

Compare the two shapes and you will see that the vintage model is more curvaceous. The modern model has a bottom half that cuts across the widest part of her body, which is not very flattering when you are more than a size zero.

You can see this even more in this version there is a small dip in the waist but it is very small compared with the vintage model – you can tell more by the inside curve, the modern model’s body is almost a straight line. The vintage lingerie enhances the shape, finishing at a narrower part of the body, where as the modern version, while the panty line is slightly higher, still does not emphasise the waist. Also the bust is pushed out in the vintage model where as the modern bra pushes the bust upwards.

It is almost as if the female figure has lost its curves and become almost masculine in its shape. This drive for size zero causes a lot of anxiety for women and I am not at all sure that men find it equally appealing. What was noticeable mostly when people watching is that clothing has become androgynous too, jeans and tee shirts are the norm and it seems we have lost our differences between the sexes.

Become sexier than this?
I am not for one minute suggesting that one shape is superior to another, but I think each shape had its decade in the last century. When you consider the first line of women in the picture above they would suit the flapper style perfectly – it was a decade where women minimised their busts, and emphasised the hips, leaving the waist hidden. However, fabrics such as silk and chiffon softened the effects – together with rich embroidery – it was all about drape and flow. 
The next three decades from the 30’s to the 50’s returned to enhancing the waist once again. 
Then the sixties were about showing legs hemlines were high and A line skirts and dresses skimmed the upper body rather than drawing attention to it. It was also when we began to see thinner models such as twiggy becoming the desirable shape. 
The seventies and eighties seemed to nod back to romantic periods, the seventies in particular was looking for a folksy style of dress, with gypsy skirts and smocking. The marriage of Diana and Charles heralded a whole retro victorian/romantic style for the eighties and Laura Ashley with her reinvention of victorian style was extremely popular.  
What is interesting about today’s fashion is that women are free to decide how they want to dress choosing self expression over the high street. Most women want their own individual look, and are having the confidence to put an outfit together themselves. In fact it is all about creating your own style and if necessary making things, or re-inventing the old, to reflect your own sense of style. 
beauty is in the eye of the beholder
While advertising may present an image of the ‘ideal’ woman it delights me that women are now having the option to accept they differ from the norm and love themselves as they are without fighting their natural shape with dieting or exercise. Beauty does begin from within and knowing your body shape and working with it, rather  than trying to fit into a style that just isn’t you, is a whole lot less stressful. 
I believe that glamour is all about emphasising your best features, and we all have them. 
“Why change? Everyone has his own style. When you have found it, you should stick to it.” Audrey Hepburn. 

Let slip

The epitome of femininity is enfolded in silk, satin and lace – past decades women had multitudes of layers, petticoats, corsets and undergarments that were the foundations for the dress or outer garment.

I am a lover of the full slip – it has all but disappeared in shops these days, but you can still purchase them in M&S. What a slip or petticoat does is create a slippery surface on which your outer garment can flow. It covers up the unsightly bump of a waistband – or a bra closure giving a smoother silhouette. Silk and Satin are perfect for reducing the amount of static that can be generated with modern fabrics – (avoid if you can the synthetic satin as this actually increases static). There is nothing more frustrating than having the line of a lovely dress ruined as the fabric clings to your legs.

This picture is of the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor: I feel the picture epitomises graceful femininity of the 1950’s – the fabrics are soft and sensual, enhancing her curves. I think it contributes to the art of seduction. We see sex on our screens all the time, but what we rarely see is sensual seduction – the slow process of a man discovering a woman’s body, of allowing him to be the explorer – peeling back the layers of softness – the sensuality comes from process of touch – the anticipation of what lies beneath.

Just look at the beauty of the lace in this slip, wearing something as lovely as that would make me feel like a woman!

There is nothing more sexy for a man to catch a glimpse of a little bit of lace peeping below a hemline – it gives a small glimpse into what may lie beneath, rather than the overt on display shelf for all to see. A man, I believe, whats to explore unchartered territory, and have something for his eyes only – which is why peeling back the layers feels like a flower opening up  at his fingertips.