Great British Sewing Bee special – excited!

I totally love this programme, so I’m delighted to see that there are three Sewing Bee specials for Children in Need on 21, 23 and 24 October!

I’ve been doing my own bit of sewing this week – I’m definitely ‘in the zone’. This means I’ll sicken myself, and do no more sewing until New Year.

With the Sewing Bee in mind, I decided to try out one of the patterns by Tilly Walnes, who was a contestant on the programme a couple of years ago and blogs at Tilly and the Buttons.

I chose the Coco pattern as I liked the shape and felt it would be something I could make several times in different fabrics, and also because I’ve never sewn with knit fabric and I was really keen to have a go.

The pattern includes variations for a tunic or top, with additional details such as a roll neck and pockets. And there are different sleeve length options too.

I decided to go for a simple top with a standard neck and no pockets, with three quarter length sleeves, as I’m always pushing up long sleeves!

The pattern itself comes in a lovely, colourful packet and is printed on thick, substantial paper, with a colour instruction booklet. I measured myself and chose the appropriate size, then traced the pattern onto plain paper.

I’d chosen a mustard coloured Ponte Roma fabric which has a slight stretch. I bought it from a local fabric shop for about £7 a metre which is a bargain as it’s lovely, thick fabric.

It was easy to cut out – I weighed the pieces down onto the fabric and used a cutting wheel, which I think is more accurate.

Tilly gives very clear instructions about how to make up the top, and keep the fabric from stretching too much which can often be a problem.

She also gives lots of handy tips, such as using a zig zag on horizontal seams to allow them to stretch while putting your garment on.


Wonky pin there!

I used my overlocker to finish off the seams, but the fabric didn’t fray at all so this isn’t crucial, I just enjoy having nice tidy ‘guts’ to my garments!

It took me about 3 hours in total, and I have to say the sizing was really accurate – it fits brilliantly well, particularly across my chest. I had to take it in a bit further around the hips but I knew this in advance from measuring myself.

And here’s the finished article!


All in all it was a lovely, easy make and I can see myself making lots more in the future. It has also inspired me to try more of Tilly’s patterns, and also to move out of my comfort zone and try using new fabric and techniques.

Sewing machines

What sort of machine did you learn to sew on? My mum had one of these vintage Singers – from the 1950′s I think – and I did my very first sewing on that. Although it always had a very temperamental tension, which caused no end of frustration!



I wish we had kept it – just for old times sake really! I do sometimes look for them on Ebay – maybe f I ever have enough space to display one. I remember it weighing about a tonne!

But the very first machine I ever owned was one of these – a Little Betty!



They were made in the UK I think, and although they didn’t have a bobbin they worked by sewing chain stitch, where the hook on the foot plate would catch the top thread. I’m desperate for one of these – as soon as I see one in good condition I’m going to have it! It brings back such happy memories!


Today, I’m sewing on a bog standard, entry level Janome, which I got about 20 years ago (!) when the vintage Singer finally gave out. At the time it was under £100, and actually it has been brilliant. Easy to thread, no tension problems. It might not have all the bells and whistles that some machine now have, but for everyday sewing it works fine. And really, how often do you really need all sorts of fancy stitches? Mine has got about 10, and I’ve only ever used straight stitch and zig zag!

The equivalent on the market today is the Janome J3-18, which is £139 from Sewing Machines Direct. It’s pretty much identical to mine.



The only drawback is that it has a four-step buttonhole (which means it sews all four sides of the buttonhole separately, with you moving the needle at the end of each step). It’s ok, but you have to be SO careful not to make a mistake – a bit stressful when the buttonholes tend to be the very last step of finishing a garment. So an automatic buttonhole would definitely be on my wish list if I ever need a new machine.






Sewing for children

I’ve always loved sewing – my earliest memories are of my mum cutting things out and stitching them up on her old Singer machine.

Because money was tight when I was growing up, my mum made most of my clothes, and lots of her own too. So when I had kids I fully expected to follow in her footsteps.


But that was where fate stepped in and handed me three boys. Although I have made bits and pieces over the years, most notably for my youngest, there is undoubtedly less opportunity to practice my sewing skills with male children, than if I’d had three girls!

And with Rowan now approaching the grand old age of four, I can see the days of dinosoar print trousers and fleece dungarees rapidly receding into history.

But because I still enjoy making kids clothes I’m trying to get an Etsy business up and running, which will allow me to continue doing what I enjoy and perhaps provide me with a job of sorts. So sorry for the blatant advertising, but here are a few of my recent makes:


Dinosoar trousers. Isn’t this print fabulous? So colourful!



Brushed cotton pinafore with cotton polka dot half lining. This brushed cotton is lovely and warm for the winter weather and I adore the pattern – this is exactly what I would have chosen if I’d had girls!



Hedgehog patterned cord with rose print cotton lining.


This is a bit more summery – but I still reckon you could get away with it with tights or leggings and a long sleeved top under it.



Cute Cath Kidston dog print flannel trousers.



Red Riding Hood fleece cape. This is reversible, with red and white spotted cotton on the reverse side.


And finally, how cute are these Russian  dolls?!


Love Sewing Kimono Pattern


I picked up Love Sewing magazine the other day which had some great patterns and ideas in it. There’s quite a few I want to try but the easy kimono seemed a good place to start as it was pretty straightforward and I already had a few pieces of suitable fabric lurking around.


It needed something with a good drape, preferable viscose, and I settled on this lovely autumn coloured stuff which was a bargain Ebay buy a while ago. Love the colours!


Love Sewing has used a fab Liberty silk satin for their make which I just love, but it’s £22 a metre which scares me off in case I spoil it during sewing!


The pattern has just three sizes – small is 8/10, medium is 12/14 and large is 16/18. Actual sizes in cm and inches would be useful though, so you could check your size exactly. Not so important for a loose fitting piece like this but it would be for other more fitted projects.



I went for the medium. The pattern came with the magazine, printed on good quality paper so there was no printing out to do. I cut it straight out and followed the cutting guide to cut out the fabric pieces. The viscose is quite slippery so I used a cutting wheel and mat under it. This stops the fabric siding so much and means you don’t have to pick it up as you would if using scissors, so it makes your cutting easier and more accurate.


The pattern was easy to follow. It tells you to do french seams, which basically mean you sew up your seam with wrong sides together, trim the raw edge, then turn the garment over and sew the seam again with right sides together as you normally would – this means all the raw edges are enclosed so no fraying seams! I’d never done this before so it was good to try out a new technique. The instructions were clear and it has made the finished garment much neater.



I used the overlocker on the shoulder seams so you could do this for speed if you wanted, but the french seams do make it look much more finished, especially as the style means it’s likely to blow open and the inside might be on show. Here’s the contrast between the french seam and the overlocked one.


It took me about 3.5 hours in total which is really quick – the longest stage was at the very end where you have to slip stitch by hand right around the inside of the collar.

And here’s the finished result! Yes, I am that sad that I had to wear it straight away!




Autumn Crochet


I’m determined to do a bit more crochet over the winter. I’ve got into a terrible habit of spending hours on blogs and Ravelry, tagging projects I want to do which leaves no time to actually crochet! So less surfing and more action is called for.



My first project is  Cherry Hearts’ striped gloves. I’ve done them in a variegated yarn which has worked really well, although it does split a bit. The pattern is brilliant and really easy to follow, so I’m sure I’ll be making some more. Even better they are quite quick to crochet up.





I love the buttons, it’s hard to see but they have a slight sparkle to them, and they’ve got a lovely little clover-type hole in the centre. Mind, the 14 buttons needed cost more than the ball of yarn which was just £3.99!

I’ve used Adriafil Knitcol DK in 049 Picasso Fancy which has worked really well.  I think I’ll make a striped pair next in some basic double knit, plus some plain black ones with multi coloured buttons.


To go with them I’d also like to try Cherry Hearts’ Riot Pattern scarf, although it’s knitted rather than crocheted. Actually, all the patterns on this blog are great – well written with lots of pictures and easy for beginners/improvers like me!



What is currently in your WIP basket?

Colouring in for grown-ups





According to an article recently in The Telegraph, French women have latched onto a new trend – colouring in – after cunning marketing gurus began promoting the books as ‘anti-stress’ aids. Apparently the French are among the biggest consumers of anti-depressants in the world, hence the success of any alternative therapies across the Channel. Having just returned from my hols near La Rochelle, I can support the fact that French bookshops and newsagents are awash with books of mandalas, Islamic and Celtic designs just waiting to be attacked with a felt tip or a trusty Crayola.


In fact, British artist Johanna Basford has just released Secret Garden – An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book, a luscious 96 page anthology of hand drawn gardens, plants and flowers just begging you to take a quiet half hour with a coffee, cake and coloured pencils. I should know because I’ve bought it.



Inspired by these masterpieces and keen to find outlines which fully appeal to my tastes, I’ve begin drawing a few myself. I’m ridiculously pleased with my first attempts, and I’ve not even begun to colour them in yet!



98 days left……

Seriously?! 98 days left til (whisper) Christmas?! I’m excited and horrified in equal measure. But to celebrate reaching this milestone point of the year – and because now the kids are back at school I’ve got time to do it – I decided to do a bit of light festive crafting. Nothing too heavy, you understand, but a little drawing and watercolour.


I’m thinking of making these into cards? First of all Brighton Pavillion in the snow:

And a rather random reindeer:


I’m thinking an abstract Christmas tree might work quite well. Or a three Kings scene?

Monday menu

Ok, so I’m back on the blogging wagon after a bit of a break. And what better way to start than with food? Here’s my menu for the week:


Monday – breaded chicken, pesto pasta and broccoli. I’m constantly trying to get the kids to try new things and pesto pasta is such an easy standby. So combining it with something I know they’ll eat – hence the breaded chicken – has to be a winner, right? I’ll let you know.

Tuesday – Chicken casserole in the slow cooker with tomatoes, lentils and served with rice.

Wednesday – Toad in the hole with filled jacket potatoes and carrots.

Thursday – home made pizza, salad and garlic bread.

Friday – Chilli con carne made with stewing steak, rice and tortilla chips.


I’m also going to get baking again after a hiatus during the school holidays. But in order not to stuff my own face with calorie laden goodies I need to make stuff I’m not too keen on. Hmmm, difficult. Flapjack maybe?



Rainy day wear

The weather here has been terrible today – non stop rain. Where is the sun?! So inspired by the dull skies I’ve chosen the best of all the waterproof macs out there – just in case we need them this summer. Fingers crossed we won’t!

All these images are on my Polyvore account.

Mac - £119 Joules
Jeans £26 Next
Converse £47 Next
Top £20 Joules
Bag £30 Zara
necklace £35 Next
Scarf £5 River Island

Mac £120 Seasalt
Top £9.99 John Lewis
Jeans £39 TopShop
Bag £30 Nelly
Necklace £15 H&M

Top £30 John Lewis
Mac £119 Boden
Shoes £40 Next
Bag £110 Boden
Necklace £75 Stella and Dot
Trousers £59 Boden

Monday menu

Monday – Lemon and parmesan chicken

This was inspired by a ready meal I saw in M&S – just as easy to make it yourself. Take your skinless chicken breasts and place in shallow dish. I like to add some cherry tomatoes and red onion wedges too.

Whizz up some breadcrumbs from preferably stale bread in a food processor (or by hand if need be). Add some grated parmesan, juice from a lemon and some olive oil.

Mix it all together and spread over the chicken, with some extra olive oil drizzled on top. Cook at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes, until cooked through.

Serve with salad and new potatoes.

Tuesday – indoor barbecue 

I was hoping to be able to barbeque this week – it’s such an easy tea, the kids eat lots and all the mess is outside. But the weather has put paid to that, so I’ll just do the same food but indoors! For fun I might put a picnic blanket down on the kitchen floor and let the kids pretend they are outside.

Wednesday – spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread and salad

Thursday – home made soup

This is a quick tea because Thursday is the night we have lots of activities. This soup can be made in huge batches and frozen in portions, then microwaved when needed. The kids like it with garlic bread. It’s fab because it’s a whole meal in one!

You need:

1 ham joint

Selection of veg, diced – carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, turnip, peas

A large handful each of lentils and barley.

Put the barley in a small pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour and a half. At the same time, simmer the ham in a large pan of water for the same amount of time.

Remove ham from the pan and add the veg and lentils, bring to boil then simmer for 20 minutes. While this is cooking chop the ham into small pieces.

Once the veg is cooked return the ham to the pan along with the cooked barley. You can eat it as it is, or blend it to make a smooth broth, which my kids prefer. Allow to cool then freeze.

Friday – chicken curry.  I usually make this in the slow cooker, with onions and carrots finely chopped into the sauce. You can also add raisins or pineapple. Then I mix a little plain yoghurt into the children’s portions so it’s not too hot. Serve with naan bread and mango chutney.