A quick fabric stash busting idea

So after reading Marie’s What do you do with your fabric scraps? post I was determined to get rid of a couple of scraps of fabric that I’ve had in my stash for, like, ever. Marie’s idea to sell fabrics on ebay is ingenious, but I wanted to use mine (and was too lazy to start measuring, neatening and folding fabric ready for selling to be quite frank with you!).

It was only when I was clearing out a couple of drawers for the baby’s bits and bobs that it occurred to me – drawer linings! Mere moments later (if we discount the days spent waiting for a staple gun to arrive of course but we’ll gloss over that) the scraps were used and the drawers looked much prettier, ready for the infinite cuteness that is a baby’s wardrobe.

Um, so i could do a tutorial but you’d probably shake your fist at me and shout DO YOU THINK I’M SOME KIND OF IMBECILE THAT DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO FOLD FABRIC AND POINT A FRIGGIN STAPLE GUN? so I won’t do that.  But yay! Fabric – you are so busted. And I now have a staple gun. Hear my DIY roar.


Another Walthamstow haul

On Saturday morning I had a bit of time spare before my in-laws came for a flying visit, so what better way to while away a couple of hours than nip over to Walthamstow market for a quick fabric hoover?

I had a £50 budget and came away with over 23 metres of new prints and a tenner change thankyouverymuch. I was after some jersey and some interesting/quirky prints for pretty dresses. Was Walthamstow up to the challenge? You betcha. Here’s the haul:

Three metres each of this adorable swiss dot in hot pink and lavender. I’m going to draft a simple nightie using the neck yoke and gathered neckline of New Look 6864.

Bargain: £1.50/metre

Three metres of this pretty red star-spangled jersey knit, to be used for New Look 6802.

Bargain: £2/metre

Two metres of this black star-spangled jersey, to be used either for Renfrew or Rie. Can’t decide. May have to buy more jersey!

Bargain: £2/metre

The love affair with petrol blue and polkadots continues with this pretty cotton – three metres were purchased. For any possible number of future projects.

Bargain: £2/metre

Gasp! In tribute to Team GB’s amazing success at the old rowing and boating malarkey I’ve snapped up this cute sailing boat fabric – no idea what it is though. I’m positive it’s man-made but it has a lovely drape and a soft almost velvety feel to it. A pretty shift possibly?

Bargain: £1.50/metre

Forgive the dull pic – this is much prettier in real life. Birdy fabric – three metres of. Definitely man made and possibly quite flammable, but pretty nonetheless.

Bargain: A shocking £1/metre

And finally a fun three and a half metres of this purple/orange polkadot craziness. Disappointingly the selvedge is ripped in several places and some of the purple has washed out a bit after pre-washing… but perhaps it can be used for wearable muslins.

Bargain: £2/metre but worked out slightly less as we realised the selvedge issue in the shop so I was given a free half metre!

Not bad eh? Have you had any sewing bargains recently?

Never look a gift horse in the mouth…

A rather amazing and wonderful thing happened to me last week. A fabric shop based in East London, called Our Patterned Hand, got in touch with me. Having followed the blog for a while and knowing that I was a local stitcher (local as in London and north of the river I guess!) they made the unbelievably generous offer – any fabric of my choosing from the shop, gratis, in return for just a mention on the blog.

The shop in Broadway Market

Now, I’m not proud and this is the first offer I’ve ever received from a fabric or haberdashery supplier so obviously I bit their giving hand off at the wrist. Soon I was arranging a time to pop over to the store, located in the midst of the hipster heaven that is Broadway Market. If you haven’t sampled this amazing unique place yet, I urge you to take a Saturday or Sunday morning visit there for a coffee and a wander. The food stalls are out of this world, there are lots of little vintage furniture stores and stalls and it’s just fascinating sitting back and watching all of human life pass by.

I lurked for a while at the back of the shop listening in while Hannah, an unflappable woman, answered queries about needles and fabrics, books and binding. I was discovered in my lurkery by Leanne, the owner of Our Patterned Hand, who had so kindly made the offer.

Leanne the owner - her 10 year old daughter made that top you know!

Leanne the owner – her 10 year old daughter made that top you know!

Leanne’s background is in fashion, she worked as a pattern cutter for many years before starting a family so the shop is very much geared towards dressmaking fabrics with interesting and quirky prints, Liberty lawns and poplins, Irish linen and Harris Tweeds.


Nicely laid out fabrics

It’s also the first fabric shop where I’ve noticed a mirror hanging up so you can check the fabric against you.  Now I know this is a tiny detail but can anyone say they’ve noticed this in other fabric shops?  I know there isn’t one in John Lewis haberdashery, and pretty sure there’s not one in McCulloch & Wallis or the Cloth House, or any of the fabric shops in Walthamstow market. We’d never consider a clothes shop without a mirror, yet we’d happily buy metres of fabric that we’ve not even checked against  ourselves? Anyway – I thought it was a brilliant idea and I guess it must come from Leanne’s fashion background.

Downstairs there’s a good size studio that caters for small sewing classes and workshops such as How to Make a Gypsy Skirt or How to Make a Kimono Jacket (tip: I’ve seen one of these jackets  in the studio and they’re gorgeous so that’s tempting me something rotten).

The studio downstairs

The studio downstairs

Well stocked haberdashery

Is that tie-dyed bias binding? Amazeballs!

Back upstairs, alongside the amazing fabrics there’s also a well stocked haberdashery, book section, pattern selection and an absolute treasure trove of buttons. Check out this window display.

Buttons, buttons everywhere

Buttons, buttons everywhere

But what did I choose, you’re asking? With all this fabulous fabric to pick from, surely you picked a digitally printed Liberty silk?! Or the finest Irish linen?! Oh no dear readers, I was in the market for something specific – fashion fabric for my Darling Ranges dress, after I finish the wearable muslin that is. I needed something soft and with drape, not too stiff. And something with an interesting pattern. With Leanne’s expert help I picked out three metres of this rather humble but adorable handwoven hand blocked vegetable-dyed Indian cotton, sourced from Gujarat in Western India. And how do I know all that? Because the guys at Our Patterned Hand like to tell the story behind the fabric – they pretty much know all there is to know about every single bolt – check out the website for further proof.

Hand blocked Indian Cotton - tulip pattern

Hand blocked Indian Cotton – tulip pattern

I’m so delighted and grateful to Leanne and Hannah for letting me have this for nothing – it really is ridiculously generous of them. And it also gave me my first opportunity to do a Q&A with someone who’s in the business, so watch this space for a interview with Leanne coming up!

If you’re in the area, pop in and say hello, It’s one of the friendliest fabric shops I’ve been to, never mind how busy it always seems to be. Definitely worth a visit.

The best laid plans…

…can easily be derailed by the arrival of some new treasures. I had previously scheduled all my sewing projects into a nice well-ordered list. But these little beauties are just crying out for some attention and threaten to disrupt ‘the list’. Oh well, never mind. But look at the shiny new things!

Striped seersucker

I went for an innocent browse in The Cloth House in Berwick Street last week and ended up coming home with two metres of this charming striped seersucker. Isn’t it just so Missoni? I love the colours – they’re unusual together and the texture of the fabric is so tactile. I keep stroking and scrunching it. I’m so enamoured with the vintage pattern I used for the Mad Men dress challenge (Simplicity 5961) I’m considering making another version using the seersucker almost straight away. Speaking of the Mad Men dress – here’s a better quality sneaky peek than the one I put up last week. You can tell I’m dying to reveal it can’t you?

Mad Men dress

I also received a couple of delightful vintage patterns in the post last week:

Simplicity 6535

This is such a sweet little A-line dress, especially with view 2’s neckline. I’m thinking of using this wonderful Japanese cotton that was donated to me by a lovely lady named Cassy. Possibly with a cream/ivory contrast neckline.

Japanese cotton

I’ve been searching for a pattern to recreate this blouse. It’s a vintage blouse from either China or Japan and it’s got the most beautiful ruffled neck which is one of my favourite looks.  Sadly the arms are a bit tight and the fabric is becoming a bit bobbly in certain places so it’s time to try and recreate the magic! A good look at the design reveals it’s actually just a simple low collared shirt with ruffles attached.

Vintage blouse

and here’s the pattern to (hopefully) do it:

Vintage Vogue pattern

What about you? Do you find your plans are constantly being reprioritised depending on what pretty new thing has caught your eye?

Guilty as charged!

Eurch. (yes that’s an official word in that I just coined it – Ed) Why does the interweb torment me so with amazingly pretty things, useful things,  outrageously gorgeous things? My monthly budget for sewing is supposed to be £50 and that’s supposed to include things like patterns, notions and occasional tools as well as fabric. Do I stick to it? Do I heck. Weekly budget more like. But it’s not my fault you see. In almost every purchase the seed of temptation has been planted by another scheming blogger, intent on crushing my willpower and emptying my coffers. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, examine the evidence before you, if you will.

Cascading hangers

Exhibit A: Cascading hangers – two packs from Amazon inc delivery £13.98

Blogger temptress: Did You Make That?

Police report: After observing the defendant’s superlative Sorbetto storage skills, StitchandWitter felt compelled to follow suit. Within two days she had taken receipt of said items and had corralled several garments into colour coded blocks, not only startling herself with her new-found storage utopia but also inadvertently leaving more room in the wardrobe for the cats to hide.

Verdict: Guilty!

Sublime stitching by Jenny Hart

Exhibit B: Sublime Stitching by Jenny Hart (£8.44)

Blogger temptress: Tilly and the Buttons

Police report: The suspect not only tracked down StitchandWitter’s musings on where to find a good book on embroidery, but proceeded to tempt the unwitting victim with pictures of a certain raccoon, described as ‘adorable’ by all who witnessed it. To add insult to injury, the suspect provided a link to a well-known book superstore where the victim surrendered her credit details and subsequently purchased said item.

Verdict: Guilty!

Exhibit C: Marc Jacobs silk crepe de chine (3yds – £31)

Blogger temptress: The Selfish Seamstress

Police report: By this time the victim was so inured to suggestive messaging from the blogosphere, she was unable to recognise or fight off the manipulative advances of the suspect. Selfish Seamstress not only extolled the virtues of the fabric in question by presenting salacious images of handbags, summer dresses and other fripperies, she also presented a link to a well-known marketplace where such goods are exchanged for hard-earned cash. Again the victim, defenceless and by now almost senseless, made a financial exchange.

Verdict: Guilty!

So you see – it’s really not my fault, is it? Is it?

Holiday show and tell – with worms!

Whilst staying in Luang Prabang on my recent holibobs, I cycled to the outskirts of the town to a textile gallery and weaving centre called Ock Pop Tok, beautifully situated right on a peaceful bank overlooking the Mekong.  Founded in 2000 by a local Lao weaver and an English photographer, the centre aims to preserve traditional Laotian methods of weaving and silk-making. You can check out the ladies while they weave away on their looms, take a class yourself, browse the gallery and shop or even stay at the centre. We just rocked up on our bikes to check out the shop and gallery, but one of the lovely staff offered to give us a quick tour, so we jumped at the chance.

To those of a nervous disposition – look the feck away now!

Readers – these are silk worms. And I touched them. They’re not slimy at all – they’re quite soft and benign. Which is nice to know considering they go on to make the most beautiful silk – see below. They eat mulberry leaves all day and then after about six weeks they go into the chrysalis stage, spinning a fine silk cocoon around themselves. Unfortunately (and I make no comment on this since I love meat and wear leather shoes etc) to get this cocoon for our silk-making purposes, the worms are not allowed to advance to ‘moth’ stage but are instead killed by heat, in order to preserve the silk.

The silk is then dyed using a variety of natural substances – leaves and bark, plants and even something called a ‘forest potato’. The sheer variety of colours using these dyes was amazing – just one dye can produce a range of colours just depending on how long you boil it for.

These beautiful colours are then selected to make stunning Laotian textiles – scarves, wall-hangings, clothes, bags, you name it. When we visited there were just a few ladies weaving away (it was a Saturday) but there could be up to twenty looms all going at the same time.

The centre is based on ethical, fairtrade principles. Interestingly, we were told that whilst silk weaving is very much a female skill and practice, bamboo weaving is something that traditionally Lao men were skilled in. Sadly much of this artistry is being lost, whether it’s down to Western influences of commerce and big business or because there are less and less traditional ‘country’ village practices and events that call for traditional textiles as part of the festivities. The centre’s aim is to preserve and encourage those skills and get a fair price for them in the process. Many of the products were quite expensive, even by Western standards, but when you compared the quality of the items to the cheaper (mostly mass -produced and imported from China but marketed as ‘traditional’ and ‘artisan’) products in Luang Prabang’s night market, you could see and feel the difference.

It was such a lovely afternoon I thought I’d share my few pics of it with you. If you ever get the chance to go to Laos I’d heartily recommend a visit. I only wish I’d had enough time to take a class in weaving. But then it’s not a very portable hobby is it?!

Random acts of kindness

Happy Valentine’s everyone. Did you all get my card? No? Dammit Royal Mail has gone to the dawgs I tell you…

I’ve been gradually getting back into the swing of things after my trip. I’ve fallen asleep three nights in a row on the sofa though! How come it takes longer to adjust to your old time zone than it does to your holiday one?

Anyhoo, I was finally compos mentis enough to start opening my post yesterday. To my delight, one of the packages was from the wonderful Marie of A Sewing Odyssey; I won her marvellous pattern giveaway just before I jetted off. What a fabulous home-coming present it was too.

Marie's pattern giveaway

Don’t you just love the detail across the yoke on the McCalls? Is that pin tucking? I adore it. And the Vogue dress is so glamorous – these will both be PERFECT for summer. Thank you so much Marie for these and your lovely note!

Also yesterday I received a truly unexpected present – of two rather gorgeous fabrics, from Japan no less! They were donated by a friend who had earmarked them for table linen but had since decided to go down the minimalist all-white route. My luck was in! Two metres or so each of this beautiful cotton. Love the patterns. Cassy, I salute you!

Cassie's fabric donation

Of course I’m tempted to use both of these for the Violet but I must desist from making up this pattern AGAIN for the time being. I’m so, so hideously behind on the Minoru sewalong. I’ve only cut out my fabric so far – how bad is that? By the time I finish this coat we’ll be breaking out the BBQ!

There won’t be much sewing done this weekend either as my lovely sis and niece are popping over from Belfast. We’re going to scare ourselves witless at the Blood and Tears tour of London’s darkest, bloodiest history,  click our heels together at a Wizard of Oz matinee and have a pint of Guinness on the beach at Whitstable. Howzat for a weekend?

Ooh and this was my Valentine’s pressie – we usually don’t do presents but he knew I wanted it – and it’s on vinyl. Hooray! It’s Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny: Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose. I heartily recommend a listen. I first saw this little lady about four or five years ago in Hoxton, on her own with just a guitar. Now she’s got a full band. She is unbelievably talented and I regularly lurk her, so look out for me at London gigs! Thanks husband xxx

Beth Jeans Houghton