Sunday, January 25, 2015

Are you insane? Do you seriously expect me to wear grey out of season? I'd rather hang.

YO! Hello everyone! What's happening, boys and girls?! I'm having a very chilled out Sunday evening, drinking gin and watching NYPD Blue - which, it turns out, is still wonderful even after the death of my TV husband Bobby Simone. Ah, still though. Can we take a moment to think about Bobby Simone?

Awwwww yeah.

I was ill for most of the week, intensely busy at work and having trouble sleeping. It's not been the best. I had a stomach bug, which left me very depleted in energy, as did the long work days. But I've had a lovely weekend. Nic and I went to London yesterday afternoon to do some fabric shopping on Goldhawk Road and to have dinner with friends in Greenwich and today we've just been straight chilling and watching Nashville. Which, omg. I've loved season 2 even more than I loved season 1.

Juliette Barnes is my girlfriend. Obviously the character I identify with the most is the high-maintenance bitch.

I've been too tired to sew this week. Too tired to knit, even - I've been trying to cast on the sleeves of my Agatha cardigan but have actually lost count now of the number of times I've had to frog that shit. I'm really struggling to get the lace pattern right on the short rows - would appreciate tips on that - but last Sunday, I did sew a new dress. Here it is!

The Ceramic Hippo dress* - By Hand London Anna dress in Liberty 'Clara' poplin, worn with Irregular Choice 'Windsor' shoes

Another Anna dress. Yay! I've had this Liberty poplin in my stash since September, when Katie very kindly picked it up for me from the Ray Stitch sample and clearance sale. I think it was £25 for two metres, and after the Ray Stitch ladies tweeted a picture of it, I knew it had to be mine. It was so kind of Katie to go along and grab it for me! Anyway, it's been patiently waiting for the right pattern since then but I became more and more sure that it had to be an Anna dress. So Anna it was.

Very little indeed to say about this dress, which I made last Sunday afternoon. Just that it makes me happy.

It makes me so happy that I had to pull this silly face

One of the things about being known for having a large shoe collection is that you run the risk of being given shoe-themed gifts. Now this isn't always a bad thing - getting gifts is lovely and it would be churlish to suggest otherwise - but I'm not normally interested in shoe-related paraphernalia. I don't own books about shoes, or shoe-shaped earrings. There is a lot of nasty shoe-themed crap out there. Luckily, my friends have good taste so apart from one horrible shoe-themed calendar that I got in a secret santa thing years ago, I haven't had to worry about having to pretend to like things like shoe-shaped phones or wine holders or whatever. 

I like this fabric, though. It's almost abstract enough not to be shoes, but then BAM. Shoes. As shoe-themed things go, it can stay. 


The main thing this fabric has me wondering is whether I can pull off wearing blue tights with yellow sandals. NO NOT REALLY. It looks great in the print, though. I don't normally sew with or wear much black, but of course the great thing about this is that I can wear it with lots of colours. It's going to work well in the last weeks of winter but I think it will see some wear in the spring, too. And I have shoes of every colour to wear it with!

I'm often asked how many shoes I have and how I store them all. The truth is, I don't know how many pairs I have (just as I don't know how many dresses I have) because I am both very good at buying shoes, and fairly ruthless at getting rid of the ones I don't wear. But it's true to say that I could do with more storage in our little flat.


This is a small cross-section of my shoe collection.


I keep some in the wardrobe, although it's hard to keep them neat in here...


Some live on top of one of the bookcases in the living room, alongside the complete Laurel and Hardy and my beloved O'Donaill dictionary.

The eventual plan is to maybe get another Ikea Billy bookcase to house some more of my shoes, as well as some more books. A more sensible idea would be not to buy any more shoes but that seems unlikely.

Anyway - I had a far more articulate blog post planned than this one when I took those photos earlier today but a combination of gin and crying (not because of the gin, but because of NYPD Blue) has kind of chased the words away. Here's another picture of my dress instead:


I think I am becoming somewhat addicted to Liberty poplin. Yeah I like the tana lawn and everything, but the poplin is the boom ting to sew with. It's so crisp and well-behaved, and it is SO nice to wear. After years of kind of holding out on the Liberty love, I get it. Any more of it I see, I'm buying. In case you can't tell from the photos above: when I like something, I LIKE IT.

Now, I'd better mosey on. I have a long-ass day at work tomorrow and I need to go and get mentally ready for it. I'm going to do that by watching an episode of Maid Marian and Her Merry Men. Night!

Here's me.

*Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference. It's not that obscure, but bonus points anyway.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.

Yo yo yo! What's the haps, people? The craic here is limited. I've been working from home today, feeling ill, and spent most of the day on my own scowling at my work laptop, plotting what to buy to cheer myself up. I didn't buy anything though. Not yet, anyway. You know you're not having the best day at work when doing the washing up at lunchtime is a treat though, right?

I did have a lovely weekend, though. The potato and rosemary pizza Nic and I made on Friday night was a resounding success (I mean: potatoes on a pizza. What's not to like) and then on Saturday we went over to Birmingham for an afternoon out.

At the station, I got my favourite kind of train ticket:


I keep these tickets every time I get them because they're just so fantastically rude. I like to think I'll start handing them out to people who are behaving badly, but really I just use them as bookmarks.

Anyway, we had a great day out in Birmingham. We had a mooch around the shops, lunch at Cafe Soya (where we bumped into Helen and her husband) and then had waiter service to the Hepburn sofa in The Electric while we watched Whiplash. The day was only slightly marred by the football hooligans delaying our train home, but at least I was entertained by the man from Cork who was sitting opposite us on the train. He explained to us how narrow-minded women were before going on to tell the hilarious awful story of how, as a teenager, he shot his friend's dog. Oh, and another dog as well. I should have given him the VOID card, really, but I wanted to keep it.

I was supposed to go to Birmingham again on Sunday to see Whiplash again - Nic is writing about it - but I ended up feeling ill so spent the afternoon dozing on the sofa, watching NYPD Blue and sewing. Not a bad weekend, all in all, and I even managed to get photos of another dress I made back in November. I've worn this dress pretty much weekly since I made it, but for some reason never managed to get photos of it. Lame.

Androzani dress - By Hand London Anna bodice and skirt from Vogue V8998, worn with Irregular Choice Little Miss Oh shoes. You can't quite see them in this photo but my tights are gold lurex, and they're from Topshop.

The dress isn't lame: I am. I love this dress, which is evident by how many times I've worn it since I made it in November. The fabric is African wax cotton, which I bought in Fancy Fabrics on Goldhawk Road at some point in the summer. I think I bought it the day we went to the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition at Barbican. Anyway, I bought a 5 metre length of it for £15 and I gave half of it to my friend Lauren. Then it sat in my stash for a while, during which time I wondered if I had bought a ridiculously loud fabric that I would never sew:


But then I remembered that I am me and I had a wax fabric sewing binge, sewing this and the Stone Flower dress on the same weekend.

There wasn't anything too wild involved in matching the Anna bodice up with the gored circle skirt of the V8998. They didn't fit together exactly and I ended up having to increase the side seams of the skirt a fair bit to get it to match to the bodice neatly but I tapered these back out to 5/8 where the skirt hits my hips, to keep as much fullness in the shape as possible.

We were caught in the act of taking these photos by one of our neighbours. He was very sweet and called across the street to me that I looked very pretty but he couldn't hide his understandable amusement at the whole endeavour.

The gored skirt of the V8998 works really well with the body of the wax fabric. I love the pairing, and the other dress I made using it - the Bedelia dress - is another one that sees weekly wear. I'm going to London on Saturday and am going to try to make it along to Goldhawk Road to replenish my stash with wax cotton because I love sewing with it and wearing it.

I do occasionally look at the camera. VOID.

That is the craic with this dress. I need to go back to the Anna bodice and make a few tweaks to it - I'd like to take a tiny bit of width out of the centre front and also to shorten it by a fraction. It's grand from the front but it feels a tiny bit long in the back. Then I'm thinking of revisiting this combination with some more Liberty Carline poplin that came through my letterbox last week. 

As I sewed the dress, Nic was busy listening to a soundtrack record our friends Rick and Lauren gave him for his birthday last year:


Yes. That IS in fact a double album of the score to Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. And yes, it IS as weird as it sounds. Rick and Lauren give such good gifts - for my birthday they gave me an Inspector Morse record and a Star Trek: The Next Generation record. Anyway, it's a very strange and very atmospheric record and it was oddly fitting for the fabric I was sewing with, which reminded me of the bright primary colours of Androzani Major. And, you know, isn't the swirly pattern a bit like Sharaz Jek's monochrome gimp mask?

More like STYLIN' Jek, amirite?!

Right-o. I must take my tired self to bed. I know I'm feeling off-colour because I have had a new gin to try and some gin-based chocolates waiting to be sampled since Saturday. This is most unlike me! I must rest up so I can get back to my former powers.

I was going to leave you with a hilarious Caves of Androzani gif, but that serial is kind of serious. Here's a Dalek instead. Night all!


Friday, January 16, 2015

This online slang dictionary says it's short for "amazing." Or it's a club drug made from a tooth whitener. Either way you win.

Heeeeeeey it's Friday! Has this week not lasted, like, a MONTH?! I mean, seriously? It may have felt this way because it was another week of all-day meetings, and another week with two days sequestered in a central London basement. I really struggled to get through this week - it was such a slog - so getting to Friday felt like a minor triumph. Of course I celebrated by buying shoes. This is me, after all. Tonight Nic and I are making potato and rosemary pizza (because: omg) and watching Fast And Furious. I'm all about Vin Diesel at the moment, it would seem.

Anyway, that's the craic there. It hasn't been a bad week, just an exhausting one. The very cold weather isn't helping much. I think the mild weather lulled me into a false sense of security because I am NOT enjoying the cold at all. We haven't even had snow in Leamington but I am more than ready for the spring. Those shoes I bought today were more sandals, obviously. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you'll know I don't really do sensible winter clothes, although mostly I get by with layering up and wearing tights. I made this dress back in November when it was still pretty mild, but didn't get around to photographing it today, when it was not.

Stone Flower dress - By Hand London Kim bodice and skirt from Deer and Doe Belladone dress, worn with Irregular Choice 'Abigail's Party' boots

If this fabric looks familiar, it's because it's the same as I made the Ankara dress from in July last year. I had around two metres of the fabric left and, pretty soon after making my second Belladone dress I hit on the idea of adding the skirt to a different bodice. This is mainly because, while I usually tend towards a fuller skirt, I really loved how the skirt of the Belladone looked and how quick it was to sew.

Here's a picture of me looking goofy as fuck with my hands in my pockets. SQUEE POCKETS etc etc

I have very little to say about this bodice/skirt combination. They work well together, I think, and I think this would work really well as a party dress with a fancier fabric than this cotton. It was really too cold to be wearing this dress today, but I was able to wear it when the weather was still mild and it'll keep now until spring.


In fairness, I'll probably wear it with a cardigan in warmer weather. I wear cardigans about 95% of the time. I'm wearing one now. Oh, and these are my other glasses. Again, I like how they look in real life - the frames are a really bright blue - but I just cannot get used to how I look in photographs with my glasses on. Still, you know, being able to see is pretty sweet.

Also, I can't believe I haven't worn these on the blog yet, but check out my sensible winter boots:


I tried to buy sensible flat boots, I really did. No, that's a lie, I totally didn't. I kept seeing how amazing Lucy Liu looked in ankle boots as Joan Watson in Elementary - which, if you haven't watched it, you totally should - so I bought these sequinned ones with ribbon laces. I have wellies too, though, for if the weather gets really bad. Stripy ones, because I couldn't find sparkly ones.

Right, look, it's Friday night. I need to go and make pizza. Happy weekend, everybody!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

I'm so gorgeous, there's a six month waiting list for birds to suddenly appear every time I am near!

YO! Hello everyone! Well, I hope we have all managed to get through the first full week back at work after Christmas (I know not all of us, but I think this describes this week for many people). I've had quite a strange week. For me personally, it's been fine, but for my family it's been a tough week for a few reasons. I was glad to get as far as the weekend and a much-needed rest. I worked at home on Friday, which was lovely. Not only did I get to spend the day working on our lovely new sofa (it's still a total novelty. I love it) but I wasn't spending the day either in a basement meeting room with no windows or in a 6th floor meeting room with no windows. January kind of sucks in my job, for the basement meeting room reasons.

Of course the weather is frightful, what with the high winds and all that. Leamington doesn't tend to suffer quite so badly on this score because the town is in a hollow, but it was still windy enough to make me call the wind a dick because my hair kept blowing into my glasses and getting caught in the hinges. I only have about 9 hairs so I can't afford to be losing them in my glasses, you know? Still, tenacious article that I am, I still ventured out to get photos of a recently completed dress for this blog. I know, I'm good, aren't I. Instead of accolades, I'll accept cash gifts or shoes.

Anyway, yeah. Photos! So, you might remember that before Christmas I said I had plans to make a shirt-dress in some Liberty 'Carline' poplin I had stashed. I did! I admit, I put it off and put it off - for a few days around Christmas it was really cold and the prospect of sitting at my sewing machine did not appeal. But, once I sat down to make it I really enjoyed it. The shirt-dress pattern in question is McCall's 6696, made famous by my girl Clare and made up in Liberty Carline by Dr Mary Danielson  and the people's sweetheart, Heather B. This dress is kind of a sewing blogger bonanza, because the fabric came as the result of a blogpost by Katie, in which she linked to an ebay seller who has great deals on pre cut lengths of Liberty fabrics. Discovering this seller - Kat's Fabrics - is both great and terrible, because it has given me a bit of a Liberty habit. In any case, when I saw a 3.5 metre length of the red Carline in poplin, I bought it without hesitation and with a shirt-dress in mind. Winner.

The dress took me two days to make because there are quite a lot of steps, and I was really into slowing down. The pattern has you do a lot of hand-sewing, although you could omit a lot of it in favour of top-stitching. I love hand-sewing, though, so I found this super enjoyable. I even hand-sewed stuff I wasn't supposed to, like the hem. Enough yakking, though, here's the dress:

Montague Terrace dress - McCall's 6696 in red Liberty Carline poplin, worn with Irregular Choice No Place Like Home heels

YEAAAAAH I LOVE IT. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy sewing this dress - I found it so satisfying to sew - I just adore the print and the feel of the poplin. I made my wedding dress from the Carline tana lawn and it is beautiful, but the poplin is possibly a more suitable weight for a shirt-dress. It is crisp and holds the pleats well, and it made sewing the collar really easy (as did Andrea's tutorial, but I think we all know that). You can bet your bum I'll be keeping my eye out for more Liberty poplin. 

The dress itself isn't perfect. I'm really happy with the finish but the fit could be better. There are a variety of options for the bodice because you can choose based on your cup size. Going by the finished measurements, I toiled the bodice in a size 10 with the smallest range of cup sizes. It's difficult to toile this dress without making the whole thing, though, because of the order of construction. That being the case, the toile didn't tell me the whole story. While I think I cut the correct size, I should have shortened the bodice. This isn't such an issue from the front, but you can see a fair bit of excess fabric through the back:


I have since sewed another one of these dresses with the bodice shortened and it has made a positive difference, but I think I could still also stand to take a little bit of width out of the back. I removed the gathers from the top of the back bodice piece, but left in some slight gathering at the small of the back. I like the effect. The excess fabric doesn't look so bad in these photos though and, to be honest, most of the time I'll be wearing this dress with a cardigan so I am really not at all fussed.

I really went all-out on the red accessories here! The wicker apple bag is from Ollie and Nic and the cardigan is by Hell Bunny

I omitted both the pockets and the belt-loops from this pattern because I can't be bothered with pockets and I don't wear belts. However, because I omitted the belt loops I did move one of the buttons so that it is in the centre of the waistband - the pattern calls for it to be placed above the middle, presumably so that there is room for a belt. Nic bought me the buttons from Pete's Sew Good in Birmingham Indoor Market, and they're red shell buttons. I love them! 


You might be able to see the buttons better in this photo of the bodice. You can also see why I was calling the wind a dick. THANKS WIND. You can also see more clearly that the bodice is a smidge too long from the excess fabric under my bust.

I can certainly see why this pattern has been so popular with so many seamstresses. It has its flaws - for one thing, I think the instructions could have been better - but it was so enjoyable to sew. The pattern pieces all fit together perfectly and I really enjoyed the different order of construction. The dress has a cute retro feel without being costumey, and it is super comfortable to wear. I will wear the shit out of this dress, fitting issues notwithstanding. You know a pattern is a winner when, immediately after finishing one, you cut out another straightaway!


It's hard to get photos in town without people staring at you - like, what is wrong with people? Cameras are not new technology! But this was the first time I had an animal photo-bomber. Nic and I went to Jephson Gardens to take these photos and this little squirrel guy was very curious about the whole operation. He was shortly afterwards joined by a pigeon.


So, all in all, I'm really happy with this dress. It ticked off a few firsts for me - although it wasn't my first shirt-dress (I made a Pauline Alice Cami dress a few years ago) it was my first time making plackets, my first time sewing a McCall's pattern and my first full shirt-dress. I think that's not too bad!

I did the largest piece of hand-sewing while watching a DVD that Nic had bought me for Christmas: a film about Scott Walker called 30 Century Man. I discovered Scott Walker as a teenager - mainly because he was such an influence on Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy - and have loved his music ever since. It was a very thoughtful gift, and a really fascinating documentary. Unlike the execrable BBC4 programme about Kate Bush that I watched last year, this film actually had some interesting insights into the man and his art - mainly because the film is largely composed of interviews with Scott Walker himself, and with people who actually have intelligent things to say. And, you know, footage of the recording of The Drift, in which you see a man punching a side of pork to make a sound for one of the songs. Stuff like that. But anyway, yeah, that's where the name of the dress comes from!

So anyway. That's the craic there. I am going to dander on here. It's Saturday afternoon and we have friends coming round later: I have some very important nothing to get done in the meantime. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, boys and girls!

I know I have put eleventy pictures of me in this post, but this one is for Nic. He insisted on taking photos with my coat on because he liked the way the colours looked together. He's quite the stylist.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now, a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.

Hey hey and Happy New Year everyone! I hope your holidays were everything you hoped they would be. The alcohol poisoning incident and a bout of insomnia (ugh) aside, mine really were. This year was the first time Nic and I have ever spent Christmas together and it was just wonderful. We stayed in Leamington and, while it was strange not to spend the festive season with my family, it was fantastic to finally start our own traditions. We did the Christmas food shopping and the last few bits of present shopping on the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas, went to the pub with friends on Christmas Eve and, rather than watching a festive film, watched A Perfect Murder.  In fairness, we tried to watch Scrooged but it was just too much Bill Murray. I mean, I like Bill Murray, but there is just too much of him in that film. And there is no such thing as too much Michael Douglas, amirite?

He's so disgusting. I love him. Also, we have the same birthday. I'm slightly younger.

I think A Perfect Murder is an underrated classic. For one thing, Michael Douglas being evil is Peak Michael Douglas. He plots with his wife's lover to have her murdered, but it goes wrong. Then, Poirot comes in and solves the shit out of it. Well, kind of. Gwyneth Paltrow really does the solving, Poirot just gives her some line about putting the crime together in lots of ways and not being able to find the missing piece or some shit. I think the best thing about it though, is the "art" perpetrated by Paltrow's lover, Viggo Mortensen:

"art"

Viggo Mortensen made this art himself, you guys. In a studio owned by Dennis Hopper. I love that.

So anyway, that got our Christmas off to a cracking start. On Christmas morning Nic and I opened our presents, lazed around eating chocolate and went for a walk before cooking dinner together in the evening. It was just perfect.

A few days before Christmas, I sewed myself a dress to wear on Christmas Day. Now, real talk: I wore this for a few hours between taking off my pyjamas and putting my pyjamas back on. A pretty woven dress in a light-coloured fabric is not what you want to be wearing when you're eating a roast dinner that involves gravy. Well, maybe you do. I don't.

Nora dress - By Hand London Kim dress in Michael Miller flamingo fabric, worn with Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon bow shoes

Now, another reason why this dress didn't get worn for eating Christmas dinner is that it is pretty snug. This is partly down to the fact that, because this is a border print, I cut the whole thing on the crosswise grain and partly because it was Christmas and I have my winter coat on. I doubt very much that I will wear this dress a lot between now and the spring, by which time it will fit better because I won't be eating cheese three times a day. Still - I should also say that it looks tighter than it actually is. Although this fabric is gorgeous it is one of those that just always looks wrinkled. 

It is gorgeous though, isn't it?!

flamingos!

I bought the fabric from The Village Haberdashery. I'm not sure if they have any in stock at the moment - I know the first bolt of this sold really quickly - but I believe that they're getting more in soon. I bought two metres and used most of it to make the dress. The flamingos run along one selvedge and I used the entire length of the selvedge for the skirt. I have a bit of the cloud print left, which I might make a cushion cover or something out of. I had to cut the bodice cross-wise as well to get the clouds running the right way up:


I haven't taken any photos of the inside but the bodice is lined with pale pink cotton and I finished my seams by turning and stitching. Luckily there was enough room between the bottom of the flamingo print and the edge of the fabric so that I could give the dress a reasonable hem without sacrificing any of the print. Bonus! I wore this dress with one of my lovely Christmas presents from my parents-in-law; a cherry-blossom print scarf:

Goofy. As. Fuck.

So, that's my Christmas dress. Not at all Christmassy, but that means I can wear it during the summer as well. Logic!

The in-between time between Christmas and New Year was very quiet. After a mild few weeks it became very cold so we just holed up in the flat with DVDs, books and chocolate, venturing out only to see friends and potter around the sales. I had the most middle-class Leamington Boxing Day ever by buying a pair of wellies in Joules (not even in the sale) and then having a coffee in Carluccio's.

Nic and I don't tend to make much of a fuss on New Year's Eve and this year was no exception - we went to Coventry with our friends Amy and Barney to go to Ikea and then have late lunch/early dinner in the (completely awesome) noodle bar in the Bull Yard. Nic's grandparents had very kindly given us some money for Christmas, which we decided to put towards buying a new sofa. We've lived in our flat for six and a half years and it's almost entirely furnished with Ikea furniture. Our sofa had been a Klippan. It was great for the budget we had when we moved in and it did good work, but it was definitely time for an upgrade to something we could both comfortably stretch our legs out on! We ended up buying a new sofa, rug, bedside cabinets and a coffee table and then, you know, mini Daim bars and plates and lamps and stuff. We came home and built the bedside cabinets and then saw in the New Year drinking a bottle of Moet - the last bottle of champagne from our wedding - and watching After The Thin Man.

My New Year's Resolutions are much the same as Nora's: Must scold, must nag, mustn't look too pretty in the mornings.

For two Ikea delivery men, 2015 started by nearly dying carrying a sofa up five flights of stairs. For us, it was building a sofa hungover and totally rearranging the living room. We went for the Karlstad sofa in 'husie orange' and it is AWESOME. It's bigger than the sofa we had and although it would have fit in the same place, we thought we'd give the configuration of the living room an overhaul while we were at it.


I now have a little knitting corner, lit by the orange anglepoise lamp that Nic bought me for Christmas. Also: bright green shag rug. I love it! And here's one of the sofa:

Apologies to those of you who follow me on instagram: you've already seen these.

Orange has kind of been an inadvertent theme - as well as the orange lamp Nic bought me for Christmas, we ended up buying orange lamps for the bedroom:


The lamps are called Skojig and they're from the children's section. Somewhat embarrassingly, on the Ikea website they're in the section along with accessories for children aged 3-7 but WHATEVER because they're excellent and the on/off switch glows in the dark. I love lamp.

So I've ended up spending the first few days of 2015 giving the flat a deep-clean and rearranging things. I also ended up rearranging the furniture in the bedroom and it's given the flat a new lease of life. We rent so there's not much we can do in terms of decorating but the new furniture has made the place feel fresh and new again. 2015, we're ready for you!

Right. I must be off as it's the last night of the holidays and I want to celebrate with a gin and tonic and a trashy DVD. I wonder if it's too soon to watch A Perfect Murder again. Probably not, right?


Here's to being totally fucking evil. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Aaaaah BRILLIANT! A load of people in a stable, Ted. It's the one thing I didn't expect.

Hello, and happy Christmas everyone! I hope you've all been having a fun and festive time. I have - it's so nice to finally have some time off work! I've been thoroughly enjoying having some downtime at home with Nic - it's been made even better by the amazing faux-sheepskin lined slipper socks my parents sent me as part of my Christmas present. It's been hard to want to leave the house because, much as I love my shoes, I kind of don't want to take these things off. It's going to be hard going back to work, but thankfully I don't have to worry about that for another week. Yay!

The run-up to the holiday itself was pretty eventful. I was working until the 17th and was in all-day meetings in London for the last few days of work. I had anticipated that these would be utterly horrendous - the ones the previous week had been - but thankfully, actually, they turned out to be grand. They were long and totally exhausting days so by the time I met Nic at the end of the working year I was basically a husk of my former self! Immediately after finishing work, we got on the train down to Folkestone to spend a few days with Nic's family. Rather than staying with Nic's parents, we opted to go for an airbnb rental as both of us had been having trouble with insomnia. This proved to be a good decision for a lot of reasons, not least of which being that the place we stayed was so lovely! I woke up on my first day of the holidays to fresh coffee in a little sitting room with a sea view:


We had a great few days in Kent and it was a good way to start the holidays. Unfortunately, a combination of exhaustion and maybe a bit of overexcitement led to my downfall on the Friday night. After having afternoon tea with Nic's family, we had planned to meet our friends Mr and Mrs S for some drinks. I drank a bit too much too quickly - not all that much altogether, but clearly too much for my body to handle (I had four drinks in total and a sip of a fifth, which I then spilled) and I ended up giving myself alcohol poisoning. It was really horrible and although Nic had to call the paramedics, I thankfully didn't have to go to the hospital. I was tremendously embarrassed and ashamed as well as being thoroughly surprised, but the reaction I had to the drinks was not at all normal.

Anyway, it could have been worse. Despite being violently and copiously sick, I managed not to be sick on myself or on anyone around me, nor was I sick on Nic's lovely new vintage coat. The paramedic was amazing and not at all judgmental although of course I felt awful that he had to be called. I was conscious the whole time so I don't think my drink was spiked and although I felt horrible the next day (and indeed, I was still being sick the next morning) by the afternoon I was well enough for us to travel back up to Leamington as we had planned. I do like to have a drink but I hate being drunk, and I really hate that I got alcohol poisoning because, you know, I'm really too old for that kind of carrying on. Ah well, live and learn.

The rest of the holiday has been MUCH more chilled out. Nic and I spent the few days before Christmas seeing friends, doing some last bits of Christmas shopping and watching Christmas specials of our favourite TV programmes. On the Monday before Christmas we spent the day with Rick and Lauren, who cooked us an AMAZING Christmas feast, and I wore a Christmas dress! I had been dithering for a while over whether or not to sew a festive-themed dress, mainly because I didn't want to end up with a dress I could only wear a few days a year. But then my friend Hattie sent me a parcel containing some subtly festive fabric, so it had to be done!

Hattie dress - Christine Haynes Emery dress with skirt from Simplicity 1873, worn with Swedish hasbeens heart sandals

I'm still trying to get used to what I look like in photos with my glasses on - although I have finally been able to get used to the glasses themselves! Anyway - yes, the dress. It's festive and wintry without being too overtly Christmassy, so I think I will be able to wear it past the festive season. And it has reindeer on it!

I totally forgot to get a close-up of the print, but here's a photo I took when the parcel Hattie sent arrived.

The fabric is a cotton poplin and it doesn't have any details on the selvedge, I'm afraid, but Hattie bought it for me in Leeds market and I have since seen it in Coventry Indoor Market as well - in fact, the lady there also has it in bottle green! It is really nice quality and it handled really well, softening up a little bit after pre-washing.

As the fabric was 60 inches wide I thought it would be a good chance to try out the full pleated skirt from Simplicity 1873, and it paired up perfectly with the bodice from the Emery dress. This was a perfectly simple sew - just what I wanted for a Christmas dress!

I look like a dick here. But I'm a dick who can see things. So I'll take it!

So there's not much to say about the making of this dress anyway. I wore it for a massive Christmas dinner with Rick and Lauren on Monday and then again on Christmas Eve for a massive Business Lunch with our friend Char in Kayal. EXCELLENT PERFORMANCE, DRESS. It performed better in that regard than the beautiful dress I made to wear on Christmas day which, for pattern placement reasons, is cut on the cross grain and is correspondingly lacking in ease of any kind. No room for a roast dinner in there. This one, though - nut roast and then a white chocolate cherry bombe thing and no issues. It's good to have the odd dress like that in the wardrobe. 

I think it looks good with my sandals, too, which were the one thing I bought in the Black Friday sales:

Yes, I know. But I also don't care. 

The other thing that is very special about this dress is the kindness with which it came to me. I've never met Hattie - she's a Twitter friend that I have come to know through Nic (who has met her) and it was extremely kind of her to send me this fabric. From what I know of her through our chats on Twitter, this seems to be totally characteristically kind and awesome of her. It's also characteristic of many of the wonderful people I have met through Twitter and through blogging over the years - a good number of whom have gone on to become good off-screen friends too. I've shared some wonderful times in 2014 with people I have met on the internet and through sewing and I continue to be humbled and grateful by how lucky I have been to do this. These people reached out to me in the most incredible way at the beginning of the year with Sew Dolly Clackett, organised by Sarah. I still don't really know what to say about that - I mean, I still can't believe it actually happened! It was intense and pretty overwhelming, but it was incredibly touching. It was a lot of fun looking through the flickr pool to choose the winners, as well!

I guess 2014 has been kind of a shitty year globally, but it's been a wonderful year personally. I feel like both Nic and I have hit our stride in lots of areas of our lives. It's been a great year for me work-wise because I've continued to be challenged and stretched by my job and I have really enjoyed that. I worked hard to be promoted in September and although the increased responsibility and - forgive the business speak - accountability is a big deal for me, I was ready for it and am grateful for it. 

Of course I've been sewing lots and I think that this year I have made progress in learning about fitting. It's still a challenge - and I guess it always will be - but that's fine. I had a bit of a falter recently about sewing and blogging but a bit of a break from both was all that was needed for me to get my enthusiasm back! I'm very proud of lots of the things I made this year, but of course the thing I love the most is my wedding dress:


Because, you know. Not only did I make it for the best possible reason and for a very wonderful day, but it feels like me in so many ways. It wasn't a technically challenging dress to make, it didn't take months, it's not couture and it's not perfect. But oh my word, I loved making it and I loved wearing it.

Getting married was also something that made 2014 pretty great.


Our wedding photos were taken by our friend Fiona Murray. She's moving away from Leamington soon and I'm going to miss her! I love all of the photos she took of our wedding but I think this one is especially great. I can't remember what it was that Nic was saying that was making me laugh, but this is us. He makes me laugh all the time and we've had another good year together. You can't ask for much more than that.

Well, it's getting late and it's time for bed. I'm getting my taste for blogging back so I hope to be back again soon - possibly before we say goodbye to 2014, but possibly not - so I will say goodnight and see you later.


This will be me in 2015. Just you wait.

Monday, December 15, 2014

He was one of the good ones. Like Clint Eastwood in a beard, but fatter.

Hello hello! I hope everyone is grand. I'm not too bad: tired and eagerly anticipating finishing work for Christmas, which I do on Wednesday. Before that I have to get through two days of what will most likely be an absolutely hideous meeting, but then it's going to be PURE PARTY CENTRAL over here. By which I mean: a lot of sleeping and knitting, some drinking, some sewing, and then more sleeping. Hurrah for the holidays!

I have had a busy few weeks. This time of the year isn't party season for me, but it's a very busy time at work and of course it's just a busy time socially. I was in London last week for another (slightly different) Two Days of Basement Meeting Hell and was able to make the most of it by having drinks with colleagues and a lovely evening out in a fancy bit of London with Nic. My hotel was in South Kensington, so we had a wonderful meal in Rocca on Old Brompton Road. The food was delicious and the evening was surreal and fun - Nic and I were maybe the only people in the restaurant without a hereditary peerage - or at least that's what it felt like - so it was a bit like being in our very own episode of Made in Chelsea. Very pleasing indeed. I'm staying in the same hotel this week so I'm sure we'll get out for an equally fun meal and, best of all, I can have a cinnamon bun from Gail's for my breakfast. That might sound trivial, but it's thoughts like that which are helping me face what are going to be a very difficult couple of days.

So that is the craic there. I'm running on fumes at the moment so I will be very glad to get through the next few days and then I hope I can get back into the swing of sewing and blogging, you know? I have a few fun projects lined up for over the break, including a McCalls 6996 shirtdress in red Liberty Carline poplin - see Mary from Idle Fancy and, obviously, Heather B for my inspiration. I made a toile of the bodice a few weeks ago and I need to revisit it, but I'm saving myself for when I can sew this dress at my leisure. It's considerably more involved than my usual sewing and, while it's not my first shirt dress, I'm hoping to learn some new techniques. Mainly I'm looking forward to having the time and mental energy to do that, so roll on the holidays!

I also have plans for at least two more By Hand London Kim dresses, which are just so much fun to sew. And it's a Kim dress I have to show you guys today! You've already seen one - but it was my second one - the Scarlett dress. I was a one of the testers but had so few comments to make on the drafting that my test version is very close to the finished pattern - so I'm going to blog it.

Together Alone dress - By Hand London Kim dress in wave print cotton from Birch Fabrics, worn with Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon shoes

Yeah I went straight for the full-skirted version because OBVIOUSLY. I was paired up with Josie from Fabric Godmother, who provided the fabric. I chose this Japanese-inspired wave print from Birch Fabrics. It's a bit different for me in that the print was smaller, but there was something about it that I just kept coming back to when I was picking the fabric. The print is stunning:


And there are my pin-tucks, which I admit are almost totally lost in the print. I knew they would be, too, but I wanted to sew the pattern as instructed so, pin tucks it was. I like them but they're fucking time-consuming on a skirt this wide, and a bit fiddly over that distance. I think I would only sew them again if they were going to be more obvious on the skirt.

Actually the pin tucks were the only bit of the pattern I had any trouble with. I (again) doubted my tape measure with this dress and cut this dress in a size 10. I didn't toile because I think princess seamed bodices are easy enough to fit on the fly, but I had to dismantle the bodice of this dress once I made it and sew it in the size 8. Job done, and I'm really happy with how this dress fits me.


It's not perfect - as you can see, the neckline does stand away from my body slightly. That may be a little bit to do with the fabric choice - this is a pretty crisp medium-weight cotton - but it could very easily be solved with a bit of cotton tape in the neckline. There's a wee bit of excess fabric under the bust, which could be solved by adjusting the princess seams at that point. But you know, nothing major. Oh, and I like the back, too:

That's not too bad, right?

I have made three and a bit Kim dresses since I got the pattern - I say three and a bit because I combined the Kim bodice with another skirt - so the pattern is already well in rotation. It's a fair bit lower-cut than I usually like - being so short, it's something I'm often a bit self-conscious about - but I must admit that I really like the shape of the neckline on me and it's hardly obscene, is it?!



I have even worn this dress to work with a cardigan, and I added a scarf for when I was in meetings and wanted to look a bit more formal. My workplace has a pretty relaxed dress code though and to be honest, the print on this dress is so much less 'conversational' than a lot of my clothes that no-one passed any remarks on it. All good!

That's Kim. The next one I have planned is going to be a border print one, in this outstanding Michael Miller flamingo fabric I have just bought from the Village Haberdashery. I know. It's not even officially winter yet and I'm still/already sewing summer clothes. Not sorry.

Right. I'm going to motor now because I've got stuff to do. I'm going to leave you with a photo, though. I got new glasses on Friday. I'm short-sighted and have worn glasses since I was a teenager, but I only rarely wear them out of the house because I didn't like the glasses I had. I finally had an eye test a few weeks ago and picked up two new pairs of glasses on Friday. I've been making an effort to wear them all the time and getting used to them is weird. The prescription is stronger but also being able to see clearly over distances is not something I've been used to, so it's kind of been like being drunk. Or like Father Jack when he sobers up. I'm still not sure if I like how they look in photos, but I might start wearing them in photos anyway.

So TL;DR. I got new glasses and now I look like this:


DORP! No, not really. They're not too bad, are they?!

Right-o. See you all later. I need to figure out why I'm still on this feckin island.