Stop press: New sewing accessory range at John Lewis!

So I made my usual lunchtime pilgrimage to John Lewis yesterday to stock up on wool and generally just lust after fabrics and whatnot in the haberdashery dept, when I was quite literally stopped. in. my. tracks. after witnessing the wonder and awe that is the new ‘Vintage by Hemingway’ range of sewing accessories exclusively for John Lewis.

I’ve been looking for something to keep my growing collection of yarn and crochet hooks in. I did have my heart set on a vintage style knitting basket (basically a fabric bag set on a wooden frame), but then I saw THIS:

Vintage by Hemingway Sewing/Knitting box

Isn’t it amazing? I love the superbly elegant art deco illustration and check out the inside print!

Filled with crochet goodies!

There’s loads of room for wool, needles, accessories – all sorts. And it stands up beautifully on my Edwardian fireplace…

On the fireplace...

At £30 I think this is a bit of steal. There are similarly vintage-style purses and bags priced from about £9 I think. I wish I could show you the full range but I can’t seem to find it online.

I wonder if the release of the range has something to do with the new 1920s-style ad campaign by John Lewis? Wouldn’t it make a perfect gift for a fellow stitcher? Oh why can’t there be some sort of community place where significant others and family members of us seamsters can go to get ideas of what to get us for Christmas and birthdays? I suppose Amazon wish list is a bit like that as I think you can add items that aren’t necessarily sold on Amazon. Does anyone know of any specifically crafty alternatives though?* I would be amazed if someone bought this for me, but too late as I simply had to have it, there and then!

* Flash of inspiration later – what about a shared Pinterest board!!?? I may have to set one up immediately (sighs at potential hours wasted invested in setting up of said board).


Sewing room: Before and after

“My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry ’til a more convenient season.” Mary Todd Lincoln

Yes dear readers, I have been procrastinating a bit this week. I’ve not had a go on my sewing machine since I came back from holiday, except to run up a quick ruff for my niece’s Elizabethan project.

But there’s been a perfectly good reason! This was the state of my sewing room a week ago:


What. A. Bloody. Mess. I am ashamed of myself. The wires! The fabric stash! Ugh. Check out that cabinet. What a beast. Let’s take a look inside it.

Inside cabinet

Now you may not believe it, but when I bought this cabinet on eBay for £100 I was dead chuffed with myself for coming up with such a clever solution to tidy away everything out of sight. Hah! What a fool am I! I got the idea from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross, one of my first sewing books. But wait – this is HER version of it.

Mine never quite… lived up to this. It also blocked out a lot of light from the wee side return window and restricted my ‘sewing elbows’. It was time to get rid. Off it went to a lovely gentleman called Adam on Freecycle, and off I went to Ikea to purchase more suitable pieces. And now…da da da daaaaaaah – here is my new and improved sewing room!


Feel the zen. Feel the potential. Ahh I love this so much. I spent an hour in here yesterday just pootling about and looking at things. Here – let me take you on a wee tour. Do you have the time?

Expedit bookcase

The stash has been tamed – you can see I’ve got some there in the top bit and further down behind the threads but the rest is in the wicker baskets. Second shelf down to the left is the haberdashery, replete with gadgets and gizmos I bought on a whim and don’t know how to use yet.

Books and patterns

Here’s my little library of sewing books. Yes that is Sewing for Dummies! You can probably just make out a tiny yellow book beside the patterns – Yeah, I made it myself! by Eithne Farry. I blame her for starting me off on this path. TBH I wouldn’t be seen dead in some of the things I made from that book but it was an excellent resource for someone who was frightened but fascinated by sewing. And of course – there is the new bible of sewing clothes – the Colette Sewing Handbook. To the right I have my modern and vintage patterns. Renfrew – I yearn for you. But you’ll just have to wait damn it.

Let’s move to the desk!

Sewing desk

Ahh how tidy it is. (That won’t last long.) The radio is tuned to BBC Radio 4 at the moment, if you were wondering. I can’t get BBC6 music as it’s not digital. I like to imagine I will improve myself as I sew but I’ll bet I turn it over to Radio 2 the first chance I get.

Pattern cutting and marking tools

The drawer directly underneath the machine houses my pattern cutting and marking tools.

Sewing machine tools

And the drawer to the right has all my little sewing feet, needles and tools, plus a combusted package of hooks and eyes (damn those evil things – I know Jane will agree with me there).


Here’s my (rather uninspiring pinboard). This needs to be a lot more colourful than it is at the moment – any suggestions on how to brighten it up?

One last thing: I popped my head round the door this evening to have another little look and sigh, and I spotted a little gift had been left on my desk:

Awh – from the husband! What a sweetie. He popped over to the garden centre today to get it. He gets mucho brownie points for this one.

Well that’s it – hoped you liked the wee tour. I can promise you I will no longer be procrastinating and will THROW myself into the Minoru tomorrow.

Pay day sewing treats for me

Ooh isn’t it nice when you can treat yourself to a few wee knick knacks  you desperately want need? I paid a little trip to John Lewis at lunchtime today (oh WHY have they put the haberdashery beside the children’s toys, WHY?) to pick up some sewing fripperies essentials. I just thought I’d share them with you:

Gadgets 'n' gizmos

Item 1: A seam gauge

I’ve wanted one of these for ages. What can I use it for? I don’t know yet but I’m going to find out. Doesn’t it look immensely anachronistic? It’s practically surgical!

Item 2: Proper hooks and eyes

Because I’m sick of bending the rubbish pound shop ones I currently have when I rip them out of their string-tied packet, and because I currently appear to have two eyes for every hook. I think the cats have developed a taste for them. They sure love those glass-headed pins…

Item 3: Rivets/grommets/eyelets

What the heck do you call these little fellas? In any case I’m going to make some fabulous belts next year (hopefully) so I’ll need me some reinforced holes to poke the thingy through.

Item 4: Button box

This rather ugly little compartmentalised box is going to transform my ragbag of thrifted and gifted buttons into a colour-coded haven of orderliness. That is the hope, dear readers. The reality will be three colour coded buttons in each bit and an overflowing ‘spare’ bit. But we dream.

Tonight I’ll be working on the second of my mystery Xmas presents. After wrestling with the first one, punching the wall, re-reading the instructions 100 times and then working it out myself (note to Butterick – please make your ‘easy’ patterns easy to understand for beginners?) the second is proving a cinch. Hope to share the results with you next week after I present them to the unsuspecting recipients.

I’ll also be wearing mostly leggings tonight as I make my first ever croqui, as recommended by the Colette Sewing Handbook which I’m steadily working my way through. (I keep re-reading bits as it’s so.damn.good.) You wear tight fitting clothes like leggings and a vest top, take a picture and then trace around your outline so you get a realistic view of your body. You then use it as a template for designs and inspiration. Ali from Wardrobe Reimagined has just done it and it looks like such a good way of working out whether you’ll suit a particular style or just coming up with ideas and sketches for future projects. I may share, if the results aren’t truly dreadful…

What are you up to this week? And have you treated yourself to any new sewing gadgets or gizmos. Ooh do share – I love a gizmo.

Welcome to sewing nirvana

Yesterday was a momentous day. I’m so excited. Yesterday, five years after moving into a two bedroom flat so I could have a dedicated sewing room, I got it. Check. It. Out.

My sewing room - yay!

It’s not big and it’s not luxurious, but it’s all mine. Previously we had a futon in here for guests staying over but we’ve moved it into the living room now. I love it so much. I’m going to festoon the walls with pretty pictures and postcards and I’m going to make a set of cafe curtains for the window. See that chair? I found it on the street. I think I’ll paint it grey and make a cushion for it. The laundry basket to the right has all my bulk fabric (the stuff I’ve bought metres and  metres of and never used plus linings, fleeces and calico) and just above the cupboard to the left is my special fabric, my fat quarters (an American term for a quarter yard of fabric – perfect for napkins and small projects) and my Liberty sale finds. It’s so nice having it out on display. Hang on, I have a better picture.

Fabric stash shelf

Do you like the vintage Japanese paper flowers? I got about 20 of them from a vintage fair in Bethnal Green. Myself and my friend Tanya of Strikk Handknits screeched our way through an afternoon of retro bliss. I planned to use them for wedding table decorations but it never happened. The decorations that is, not the wedding.

So this weekend I think I’ll mostly stay in this room. In fact last night I just sat in it with a large glass of wine and a cat, thinking about all the stuff I’m going to do here. I need a radio, for one thing.

Any suggestions on how to make it more homely? What have you got in your sewing space that you just couldn’t live without?

P.S. I think I’m becoming addicted to blogging. I’m sure I’ll calm down after a while but for now I can’t seem to stop. Apologies for overloading you with information at the moment!

Paperwork? What paperwork? Oh that paperwork…

How do you organise your sewing projects? Do you keep a list and a timetable of what you want to do, approach it methodically and with plenty of prep so you have everything to hand? Or do you do what I’ve historically done and arrive at your sewing desk on a Saturday morning in your pyjamas with no breakfast in your belly (just a cuppa tea) and no preparation, throw everything from the dining table onto the floor and start an ill-thought out project only to find halfway through that you haven’t got the right thread, needles, fabric or skills? Cue tiny tantrum and a stomp back to bed for a pity party with the cats.

I’ve started trying to get a grip on what I want to do, so I don’t start a million projects at once and so I know what I need beforehand. And I’m a sucker for a nice notebook so I got this little Liberty fabric-covered beauty to try to organise myself and get inspired.

My sewing notebook

I’ve written a series of ‘sewing resolutions’ on the inside cover – I’m not going to share them all because they’re a bit naff. But one of them is not to spend more than £50 on fabric in a month. That sounds like a lot doesn’t it? But if you’ve ever been browsing through sites like Backstitch, Fabric Rehab or even Ebay then you’ll know what I mean when I say £100 can go just like that. Poof. Gone. Oops. Plus I work on Regent Street so I’m right by Berwick Street’s plethora of cloth emporiums and not far from John Lewis’ haberdashery and textile floor. I don’t even need to watch my step on the escalators anymore. And it’s four floors up. If I’m quick I can make it in six minutes.

What I have found though is that when I take the time to write up a project before I start, it begins to take form and structure in my imagination, and I start to think about how it will look, feel, what embellishments I might add, how can I adapt the pattern I’m using etc.

For example, I’ve promised my mum an apron for her new kitchen. Previously I would have just rifled through my fabric stash, pulled out something that vaguely suited and got down to it, probably stopping along the way because I’d run out of something or other and casting the unfinished project back into  stash, doomed to wait until another moment of inspiration struck. This time I’ve noted where I’m getting the pattern from (online), how much fabric I’ll need (so when I’m out and about and spot the perfect match I can get the right amount instead of buying too much), what notions I need and how I’ll go about adding little touches like the pockets or the neck… string? What’s the right term for the thing that goes round your neck on an apron? Neck strap? Sounds dodgy. Anyhoo, back to pockets.

Apron project page

Is a wide across-the-hip pocket the best way to go? Would my mum prefer two wee pockets either side? What about a touch of rick rack or contrast piping to jazz it up a bit? I’ve got Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Carol (of Angry Chicken) which has a whole section on apron pockets so I’ve put a note there to remind myself to check it out.

I still think I have a long way to go before I hit these sort of standards in planning and productivity, although eventually that’s my plan.

Project list

In the meantime I’ve started this list so I can see what’s ongoing and what’s been finished. (Another resolution is to make one thing every week, no matter how small. We’ll see how that goes.) I’m also going to start snipping little bits of fabric and adding them to each project page so I remember what I’d earmarked for each item.

But for now, this works for me. What works for you? Have you got any tips for a beginner in sewing admin?

Take a deep breath…


Ooh where to start, where to start…? Ok, this is my first blog post ever. Well that’s not entirely true as I have to do one for work but that’s completely different as I’m writing for ‘da man’ and it’s not about me at all. So I’m almost a blogging virgin, so to speak. Or at least I’ve done it but it didn’t really count and I never inhaled anyway and god let’s get out of this metaphorical cul-de-sac…

So – first blog. Ever. Almost. I’m going to take a tip from the best (i.e. look back at first posts by my favourite bloggers and nick some ideas) and give you a snapshot of my sewing life, as it stands right now.

I’m getting back into sewing after a few abortive attempts in the past ten years and am really (I mean really) getting into it now. Most of this is down to some fantastic, inspiring, super-funny blogs like Tilly and the Buttons, Casey’s Elegant Musings, Angry Chicken… you can see most of them to the right of this post actually. Some of it is down to finally having the kind of job where I can relax when I get home and not worry about work and colleagues and office politics. Some of it is down to feeling like I want more out of life than a job where I can come home and relax and not worry about office politics. A lot of it is down to not being able to find the kind of clothes I like in the shops and a huge chunk is down to not finding the kind of home ware  I like in the shops. So that’s about 210% why I’m back into sewing. I was never very good at maths.

But also, I want to get good at sewing. I want to improve on my very basic skills and be able to approach a new project with a good dose of confidence. I want to make cute buttonholes, sexy zips… I want to set sleeves dammit. I want to make trousers! Yes! Trousers!

But enough of all that. To celebrate my first post I offer you a glimpse of my sewing desk. It’s less a desk and more of a cupboard. Actually, it’s just a cupboard, who am I kidding?

My sewing cupboard

Hang on – that’s a bit messy. Let me just…

Tidied sewing cupboard

That’s a bit better.

But it’s great, and one day it will be magnificent cos I’m going to paint it see? I’m going to sand that behemoth down and paint its sorry ass in some nice Farrow & Ball. I got it off ebay for £100. It used to be a computer console cabinet and probably belongs in some nice Barrett home on some nice suburban estate in Swindon but right now it’s in my kitchen in North London. It’s unbelievably handy because it has a pull out bit that used to be for keyboards but is now perfect for a sewing machine.

Et voila - no mess

And I’m a messy bugger, so the fact that I can shut away my mess without having to tidy up after myself is fabulous.

Cat in sewing cupboard

Occasionally I shut one of the cats in there by accident, which isn’t so great. But there’s some lovely warm fleece in there and probably some leather so they’ll never go hungry or cold.

So that’s me and my sewing space, and why my hiatus is over. What about you? Have you dipped in and out of sewing, always feeling like you’ve never quite got the hang of it? What’s made you take a deep breath and plunge back in?